Jagannath Puri Ratha Yatra 2021: Date, Time, History and Significance
Jagannath Rath Yatra festival is falling on 12th July 2021, Monday with the Bahuda Jatra aka Ulta Ratha (Return Car) on 20 July 2021, Tuesday. It is one of the largest and the most-celebrated festivals of India that happens at the renowned Jagannatha Temple in Puri, Odisha where millions of devotees arrive to take darshan of Lord Jagannatha. The festival date is determined in line with the Hindu Lunar Calendar. It generally falls on Dwitiya Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Ashada month (June-July).
Lord Jagannatha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is revered by the Vaishnavas (followers of Vaishnava sect). The word Jagannatha means Lord (Natha) of the Universe (Jaga). He is worshipped along with His brother Balabhadra and His sister Devi Subhadra. The reason why Jagannatha temple is visited by millions of devotees is that it is located in Puri which one of the four Hindu pilgrimages called as Chara Dhama. It is said followers of Hinduism must visit these four pilgrimages once in a lifetime so that all their sings get washed off and they attain ‘mukti’ liberation from the pangs of the material world.
The Lord’s nature is such that He has unlimited qualities confirmed by all the Vedic scriptures as well as scriptures of other religions as well. In the Bhagavad Gita (7:6), the Lord Himself shares the secret about His transcendental nature: Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. All the energies of the Lord are nirguna, that which is beyond the gunas (modes) of material nature; spiritual. Everything visible is His quality, His energy. Therefore material manifestations such as earth, stone and wood all emanate from Him. The Gita describes these manifestations as the Lord’s external or inferior energy. However when the materials such as stone, wood are combined to create Pratima or Murtis (idols) the Supreme Lord, they become divine being no longer of the inferior nature. The Lord Jagganath’s idols used in the Rath (Cart) Festival are all divine.
Prayers and Japa during the Festival:
Since Lord Jagannath is a divine form of Lord Vishnu, one should offer prayers to the Lord by being a part of the Yatra. As a devotee, you can help pull the chariots. If visiting the Ratha Yatra is not possible, one can simply chant on the Tulasi beads at home in the early morning and remember the Lord in the mind. Also, you can wear a Nineteen Mukhi Rudraksha bead which is ruled Lord Narayana (Vishnu) along with Seven Mukhi Rudraksha bead ruled by Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Jagannatha who visits Gundicha temple in search of Lord Jagannatha after four days of the Yatra. You can also wear a Ten Mukhi Rudraksha bead as this Rudraksha bead is ruled by Lord Krishna (Vishnu). Remembering the Lord with these Rudraksha malas is as auspicious as praying to the Lord in temples. However one should be a part of the Ratha Yatra and seek blessings of the Lord by helping pull the carts.
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Meaning of Jagannath
The name of Lord Jagannath (Sanskrit) is formed of two separate words, "Jagat" or "Jagan" meaning Universe and "Nath" means Lord or Master, combined together it means "Lord of the Universe". As per Odia language names like "Jagadbandhu" which means Friend of the Universe and Jaga are obtained from the name "Jagannath". In addition, the iconography of Lord Jagannath has produced popular names with which Lord Jagannath is referred to like:
- Chakaakhi or Chakanayana means “With round eyes" Kalya means “the Black-colored Lord"
- Darubrahman means "The Sacred Wood-Riddle"
- Sarvabhishta-pradayin - One who fulfils desires
- Daruedebata means "The Wooden God"
- Chakadola means "With Round Pupils"
Dina Krishna Joshi has derived that the name "Jagannath" comes from the word 'Kittung' which is from the tribe Savaras or Sora people. He has specified this theory because according to him, the people of the Vedic times settled in tribal areas and from the tribal language to give the name "Jagannath". Contradiction of this theory is brought forward by O. M Starza, who says that 'Kittung' phonetically does not match with the word Jagannath.
History and Origin of Jagannath
Lord Jagannath is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna. The explanation of why Jagannath's idol is made from wood, referred locally as the Daru Brahma, is stated in the Puranas. It is believed that because Lord Vishnu's avatar Lord Narasimha had appeared from the wooden pillar so the wooden murti of Jagannath. Also He is worshipped with Narasimha hymns. Lord Vishnu's another avatar of Vamana is celebrated in Jagannath in the Bhadra (August-September) month. It is said that Tulsidas who worshipped Lord Rama, visited Puri and worshipped Jagannath as Rama.
Lord Jagannath is worshipped and revered by the Tantric sect because of His icon which have geometric patterns, mandalas and suit the Tantric concept of worship. The Shaivites and Shaktas consider Him Bhairava that is Lord Shiva and is supposed to be the consort of Goddess Vimala. Jagganth temple at Puri has priests from the Shakta sect too. Sage Markandeya stated in the Markandeya Purana that Lord Shiva and Jagannath are the one and same.
In Vedic literatures:
Rig Veda has a hymn which refers to a wooden log, which is 'Daru' afloat as apurusham, in the ocean. The Sanskrdit scholar of Vijayanagara Empire, Acharya Sayana explained the word 'apurusham' as 'Purushottam' and the wooden log, Dara, served as the creative idea for Lord Jagannath. With this theory the in mind Acharya Sayana infers that Lord Jagannath originated in 2nd millennium BCE.
There are some evidences which gave rise to the hypothesis that Lord Jagannath had Buddhist origins. For example, it is said that there is a relic in the Lord Jagannath which has a tooth of Lord Buddha. Though it is a popular tradition in Theravada Buddhist shrines to store relics, such as tooth, bone of dead Saints however this is not proved as the relic at Jagannath remains uninvestigated. However this suggestion is not accepted as Jainism and some tribal religions have the traditions of preserving the relics of dead.
The Jagannath temple's Stupa-like structure, the similarity of the Chakra placed on top of the temple spire which looks very similar to the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists and the famous Jagannath Rath-Yatra precession are also circumstantial evidences which connect Lord Jagannath shrine to Buddhist origin. The Mahayana Buddhism has a traditional procession which is similar to the Jagannath Rath-Yatra procession, as described by Faxian, a Chinese pilgrim who visited India in ancient times. Further the season when Jagannath Ratha Yatra is celebrated is approximately around the same time when the processions traditionally welcomed the Buddhist monks for their annual monsoon break.
One more piece of evidence is that just like Buddhism never believed in caste system and embraced all religion and caste, similarly at Lord Jagannath's shrine there is no bias about any Hindu caste or sect.
The assumption that Lord Jagannath of Puri may have been of Jain origin is supported by suggestions made by Pandit Nilakantha Das that as per Jainism, Jagannath means "World personified" and is from the Jain term Jinanath. Also the term 'Nath' is used for Jain Tirthankaras.
Because there are twenty two (22) steps leading to Lord Jagannath's temple it is considered a symbolic representation of the twenty two (22) Jain Tirthankaras. The Jain Hathigumpha inscriptions mention that on the Kumara Hill of Khandagiri-Udayagiri region the practice of worshipping some relic existed. The location indicated coincides with the location of Jagannath temple. Annirudh Das infers that the original idol of Jagannath was 'Jina' of Jainism and that Mahapada Nanda had shifted Jina from Kalinga to Magadha.Starza writes that the restoration of the Jagannath temple by the Jains is mentioned in Jain texts but it's not validated with other information of date etc. Evidence of Jaina images in and near the Jagannath temple complex brings to light the Jain origin of the Jagannath deity; however it may have been added at a later time. Lack of concrete evidence to support the theory of the Jain origin of Jagannath has resulted in the fact that nothing is established to prove the Jain origin of Jagannath tradition, says Stanza.
The theory of Vaishnava origin is based in the iconography of the Jagannath which coincides with the fact of the Vaishnavas traditionally worshipping the black-colour idol of Lord Krishna and Balarama as white color deity. The third of the triad at the Jagannath Shrine is Goddess Subhadra or Goddess Lakshmi, representing the Divine feminine to Lord Jagannath as per Vaishnavism. The Goddess was originally called Ekanamsa, who is said to be the foster sister of Lord Krishna.
The Tribal origins of Jagannath are connected with the characteristic of the Jagannath deity not having a human-like or animal-like form. The fact that the idol of Jagannath is carved from wood is also indicative of it being of tribal origin. As per ancient Hindu texts idols or murtis of deities were to be designed in metal or stone, wood was never recommended. In the Jagannath shine, the priests have incorporated the service of 'Daitas' who are non-Brahmins and is supposed to have roots in the tribal tradition, as 'Daitas' were the ancient Sabara tribe, spelt as Soras. Till date the Daitas are privileged to be the first ones to view the newly made Jagannath idol from wood replaced in approximately every 12 years and also Daitas serve the first offerings to the Jagannath triad.
Some historians and scholars have commented that the locals have claimed that Jagannath is the tribal wooden deity 'Kittung' who was later included as Jagannath by the Brahmins. But has not been accepted by some as they state that Kittung was crafted from burnt wood and had entirely different specifications, so cannot be Jagannath. Yet another theory is about the Anga pen deity of a tribe belonging to Central India have features very much like the Jagannath icon but is a Kali deity and has some bird and snake featuring as part of the form of the deity, which negates this theory too. The tribal deities Stambhesveri or Kambhesvari may have influenced the Jagannath deity as per some scholars but is refuted as this deity is adopted by the tribals but originates from Shaiva deities.
Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra Story:
As per Vaishnva texts, the core nature of Lord Jagannath is mysterious. Though it is difficult to attain Him but the scriptures, which are His manifestations, mention that if a devotee takes two steps toward the Lord, the Lord takes four steps toward the devotee. Lord Jagannath is merciful, liberal and accessible to anyone who wishes to develop love for Him.
Once upon a time King Subal, a great devotee of the Lord, asked a sculptor to carve a form of Lord Krishna honoring the Lord’s appearance on His divine chariot at Kurukshetra when the Lord was joined with His Brother Valaram and Sister Subadra. The sculptor agreed to fulfill the King’s wish but on a condition that he be allowed to work in his room alone, with no distractions or disturbances. The King consented.
As the time lapsed, the King went on becoming impatient for he was too eager to see the Deity of the Lord. He wanted to offer obeisance to Him for He is the Lord of the universes (Jagannatha). When he reached to the point of being absolutely impatient, he opened the room wherein the sculptor had been carving the deities only to see the idols and a cloud of smoke. The sculptor had in a flash disappeared leaving the King astonished. However, the Deity Forms of Jagannath, Valaram and Subadra were so captivating that he almost forgot that there was a sculptor here. The deities made by that sculptor are what we see at Puri during the Rath Yatra festival.