RATHA YATRA, the ancient festival of chariot journey by Jagannatha, the presiding deity of the great temple Srimandira at Puri, is one of the grandest spectacles on earth. Jagannatha and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra ride three colourful chariots in their annual sojourn to their garden house and birthplace, the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for seven days before returning back. Full of drama and a panoply of rituals and ceremonies, RathaYatra is rooted in ancient traditions, myths and legends and embodies the most colourful elements of the classical and folk cultures of the Indian subcontinent and the Odisha region. It is the most succinct manifestation of the intangible heritage of India, alive and vibrant today at the great pilgrim town of Puri on the east coast of India, one of four most sacred cities of the country.
This illustrated book is a comprehensive account of RathaYatra, the great socio-cultural and religious event and phenomenon unique in the entire world. It provides the background on the syncretic faith represented by Jagannatha, his origin and strong links with the heritage of aborigine tribes and an account of the NabaKalebara ceremonies, celebrating the periodic renewal of the bodies of the presiding deities, most recently held in 2015. Rich in detail, the book covers a wide span including the sacred geography of Puri, legends surrounding the temple, the unique architectural style of the temple complex, the elaborate preparatory summer festivals leading up to the main festival and the process of making the chariots with its associated special ceremonies spread over two months. The book brings alive every stage of the intricate rituals and ceremonies of Ratha Yatra lasting almost two weeks and gives a complete portrayal of the different phases of the grand festival including a comprehensive account of the installation of the chariots, journey of the deities from within the temple to the chariots, their ceremonial sweeping by the king of Puri, the pulling of these to the Gundicha temple, the stay there for seven days, the return chariot journey, the donning of the golden appearance by the deities and their final return inside the sanctum of Srimandira. The book is based on extensive research and documentation of over a decade and a ringside view of the festival for over twenty-five years by the author.