Four Popular Jagannatha Ratha Yatra Festivals Outside Of Puri
ISKCON Kolkata Ratha Yatra 2023ISKCON Kolkata [Official]/Facebook

Four Popular Jagannatha Ratha Yatra Festivals Outside Of Puri

While the famous Jagannatha Ratha Yatra festival is held in Puri, Odisha, other places in India too celebrate it. So, even if you cannot make it to Puri, you may visit other places where it is celebrated with no less fervour

In many temples of India, chariot festivals (also called car festivals), held in honour of the presiding deities, are part of the annual calendar. These festivals hold significant cultural and religious importance too. The Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath held during the monsoon (June-July) is celebrated across the country. The most famous festival being that of Puri in Odisha. In keeping with the festival at Puri, similar Ratha Yatras are held in Odisha, West Bengal and many other states. Here is a list of four such popular Jagannatha Ratha Yatra festivals that you may visit in case you are not able to make it to Puri.

Mayurbhanj, Odisha

Odisha has a long list of places that are famous for their annual Jagannatha Ratha Yatra or the Chariot Festival. One of them is Baripada in the Mayurbhanj district (carved out of the former Mayurbhanj kingdom). The chariots roll out from the 16th century Hari Baladev Jew Temple built by Maharaj Baidyanath Bhanja. While the rituals followed here are same as that of the Jagannatha Temple of Puri, there is one exception. To commemorate the International Women's Year in 1975, it was decided that the chariot of Goddess Subhadra would be pulled by women only. The tradition continues even today.

Mahesh, West Bengal

Rathayatra Festival in progress, Mahesh
Rathayatra Festival in progress, MaheshDept of Tourism, West Bengal/Facebook

Mahesh, on the border of the more popular Shrirampur town about 30km away from Kolkata by road), celebrates its Rath Yatra with great enthusiasm. Dating back to the 14th century, it is said to be the second-oldest chariot festival. Here too Lord Jagannath departs for the aunt's house, accompanied by Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. According to records, the chariot festival was introduced towards the end of the 14th century by Kamalakar Pipilai, a close associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. However, neither the original temple nor the chariot survived. The chariot was built and rebuilt several times. The one that we see today was built by Martin Burn Company in 1885, paid for by East India Company’s Diwan Krishnaram Basu. Made of iron, the four storey chariot is 45 feet tall.

Kolkata, West Bengal

Launched in 1972, the Ratha Yatra organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is one of the most popular events of Kolkata. The chariot rolls out from the organisation's Kolkata based temple, travels across parts of the city, and settles down at a predesignated spot. After reaching the venue, the idols are kept on a dais for public viewing. On th day of ultorath, the chariot carries the idols back to the main temple. Religious discourses, disribution of prasad, and a fair is held during the festival at the venue. In 2024, the festival will be held at the TAI Brigade Parade Ground (near Park Street Metro Station).

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

The Ahmedabad Rath Yatra is a prominent Ratha Yatra in India. It is considered the third largest Rath Yatra after Puri and Kolkata. Every year, on the designated day according to the Hindu calendar, the ancient Jagannath temple in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad witnesses the commencement of the annual Yatra. Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra, and his sister Subhadra set off on their journey in majestic chariots. The grand Rath Yatra procession takes a predesignated route, and concludes late in the evening.

Note: Usually, the Jagannatha Ratha Yatra attracts a huge crowd. So be prepared for it, especially if you have children in tow. While pulling the ropes of the chariot is seen as a merit-achieving exercise, it can be dangerous if you are not able to run in sync with others - so it is better to watch from far. Be prrpared for the rain and carry appropriate rain gear.

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