Puri, the city of temples in the eastern Indian state of Odisha is a tourist hot-spot as it attracts devotees and holidaymakers, all the year round. This beach city on the east coast is one of the most holiest cities in India, as it has numerous temples devoted to various Hindu gods and goddesses. Every year during the month of June or July, Puri gears up for the mega festival of Jagannath Rath Yatra, where three wooden chariots belonging to Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra are pulled by lakhs of Hindu devotees who congregate during this time of the year in this small beach town. It is an ancient Hindu ritual when Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra come out of the main sanctum sanctorum of the ancient Jagannath Temple in Puri and visit their maternal place where they stay for a week, and return back. This entire festival or event is marked by extensive celebrations throughout the state of Odisha, West Bengal and Gujarat where people come out in numbers. Sweet dishes and vegetarian ‘Bhog’ are prepared for the Lord, as men, women and children enjoy the day by singing and dancing to the tunes of religious songs.
Songs, Dances and Merry Making
In Odisha, especially in the beach city of Puri, people come out in lakhs to witness the annual Rath Yatra, which is a feast for the eyes. It is a sea of humanity during this day of the year, as every roads leads to the Jagannath Temple where the action begins. Men and women dressed in their best of attires flock to this ancient Hindu temple in Puri, to get a glimpse of the Lord and get his blessings. They sing and dance all the way to the temple, with the hope of pulling the sacred rope of the chariot which is considered auspicious, just to touch. It is a majestic sight to view the three large chariots in a riot of colors, all handcrafted from pure wood. Women and girls can be seen wearing colorful silk sarees, kurtis and salwar kameez, offering prayers to the Lord in front of the temple. Every year, more that ten lakh devotees come to Puri from all over India and abroad, during this time of the year. It is regarded as one of the biggest Hindu festivals in India, apart from Diwali and Durga Puja. It is a congregation of lakhs of individuals who come from all walks of life, irrespective of color, creed and financial position to witness something utterly grand in spectacle.