Rath Yatra 2024: The Grand Tradition of Lord Jagannath’s Journey

Jagannath Rath Yatra: The oldest of the festive tradition in India This grand event is held every year in the coastal city of Puri, Odisha and all type of devotees as well as tourists across from the country visit this place. The Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival is celebrated in devotion to Lord Jagannath, an avatar of the Almighty Vishnu who visits his aunt Queen Gundicha Temple every year. The ensuing Rath Yatra shall be grander and may well accommodate fun with more amount of spiritual soul. In this article we will discuss the story, importance and preparations for Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024.

Historical Background

The Rath Yatra of Jagannath has a history that continues for several centuries. It has a long standing tradition rooted with Odisha’s ancient culture and religion. Historical records suggest that the Rath Yatra was first observed in the 12th century by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, who commissioned and built up to what is now known as The Jagannath Temple. Nonetheless, references to the festival that seems similar can be debated in many of ancient scriptures hinting at a tradition dating back even further.

In the Rath Yatra, these 3 gods of Jagannath, his older brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are worshiped. The deities are considered to live in the wdbos sanctum of Jagannath temple most of year. But Rath Yatra is when they come out so as to be amongst their devotees, thus indicating the Lord leaving his divine abode and moving across with common man.

The Gajapati King of Puri performing the Chhera Pahara ritual with a golden broom

Significance of the Rath Yatra

Jagannath Rath Yatra is a grand religious celebration, associated with Hindus. It is said that attending or participating in the Rath Yatra can cleanse one of all sins and lead to spiritual salvation. This annual sojourn is termed as their visit to their aunt’s house, i.e., the Gundicha Temple.

The Festival also epitomizes equality a virtue well enshrined in Hinduism. People of all communities participate in pulling the chariots during Rath Yatra. The activity of pulling the chariots by which ‘Chhera Pahara’ is distinguished, as highly auspicious. It represents the bridge between all castes of human beings and preaches unity as well as brotherhood among them.

Preparations for Rath Yatra 2024

The preparations for the Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024 begin months in advance. The most crucial aspect of the preparation is the construction of the three massive chariots for Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra. The chariots are built anew every year using specific types of wood, including phassi, dhausa, and simili. The construction process is carried out by skilled craftsmen and carpenters, who follow traditional methods and measurements prescribed in ancient scriptures.

The chariots are adorned with intricate designs and vibrant colors. Each chariot has a specific name and design:

Nandighosha: The chariot of Lord Jagannath, which is 45 feet high and has 16 wheels.

Taladhwaja: The chariot of Balabhadra, which is 44 feet high and has 14 wheels.

Darpadalana: The chariot of Subhadra, which is 43 feet high and has 12 wheels.

In addition to the construction of the chariots, extensive arrangements are made to accommodate the millions of devotees who flock to Puri for the festival. Temporary shelters, medical facilities, and security arrangements are put in place to ensure the safety and comfort of the pilgrims. The city of Puri undergoes a significant transformation during this period, with streets being cleaned and decorated to welcome the deities and the devotees.

The Rituals and Ceremonies

The proceedings of the Jagannath Rath yatra revolve around a lot of rituals and ceremonies which are held with great respect for puja and tradition. It commences with the ‘Snana Purnima,’ also known as the bathing ceremony of the deities. Different idols from the sanctum are taken out on this day and is anointed with 108 kanjyani pottu. Following this ritual, the gods are said to fall sick and they shall not be allowed a public view for next 15 days known as ‘Anavasara.’

On the other hand, during Anavasara period special medicinal havan is performed on them to treat their illness. For the devotees of Lord Jagannath, this is also an important time as they can worship Patti Dian (traditional paintings) at home which are images of God in place. After the Gods and goddesses take their places atop the chariots, Cehera Pahara ritual takes place. The Gajapati King of Puri, known as the first servitor of Lord Jagannath sweeps the arms with a golden broom and sprinkles holy water. This act indicates the king is but a servant of God.

The chariots are dragged to the Gundicha Temple from Jagannath temple through the Grand Road (Bada Danda) which is over 3 km long by thousands of devotees. Throughout the journey one can be heard Merlin around with joy of ‘Jai Jagannath’. Deities stay at Gundicha Temple for seven days and then return to Jagannath temple in a similar way known as ‘Bahuda Yatra’.

Traditional Gotipua dancers performing in front of the chariots during Rath Yatra

The Cultural Extravaganza

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is not just a religious event but also a cultural extravaganza. The festival is accompanied by various cultural programs, including traditional music and dance performances, folk theater, and art exhibitions. The streets of Puri come alive with the vibrant energy of the devotees and the festive atmosphere.

One of the highlights of the cultural aspect of the Rath Yatra is the ‘Gotipua’ dance performance. Gotipua is a traditional dance form of Odisha, performed by young boys dressed as girls. The dance is a precursor to the famous Odissi dance and is characterized by its acrobatic movements and intricate footwork. The Gotipua dancers perform in front of the chariots, adding to the visual splendor of the procession. The festival also provides a platform for local artisans and craftsmen to showcase their skills.

The Spiritual Experience

For the devotees, participating in the Jagannath Rath Yatra is a deeply spiritual experience. Many devotees undertake the pilgrimage to Puri with a vow, seeking blessings and fulfillment of their wishes. The Rath Yatra also offers a unique opportunity for devotees to engage in acts of charity and service. Many individuals and organizations set up free food stalls, known as ‘bhog’ or ‘prasad’ distribution points, where thousands of pilgrims are served meals. This act of feeding the devotees is considered highly meritorious and is an integral part of the festival’s ethos.

The Impact on Local Economy

The Jagannath Rath Yatra has a significant impact on the local economy of Puri. The influx of millions of pilgrims and tourists during the festival period provides a substantial boost to the hospitality, retail, and transportation sectors. Hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants witness high occupancy rates, and local businesses thrive on the increased demand for goods and services.

The festival also generates employment opportunities for a large number of people, including artisans, craftsmen, laborers, and service providers. The construction of the chariots alone employs hundreds of skilled workers, who take pride in their craftsmanship and contribute to preserving the traditional art forms.

Devotees pulling the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra during Rath Yatra

Environmental and Safety Measures

Efforts are made to minimize the use of plastic and promote the use of biodegradable materials. Awareness campaigns are conducted to educate the pilgrims about the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene during the festival. Waste management systems are put in place to handle the large volume of waste generated during the event.

In terms of safety, extensive security arrangements are made to manage the massive crowds and prevent any untoward incidents. The local police, along with volunteers, work tirelessly to ensure the smooth conduct of the festival. Medical camps and emergency services are set up along the procession route to provide immediate assistance to those in need.


The Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024 promises to be a grand celebration of devotion, tradition, and cultural heritage. The festival’s rich history, elaborate rituals, and vibrant cultural festivities make it a truly unique and spiritually enriching experience. If you like reading this article then please consider reading our article about Shashlik.