Ratha Yatra Special: Symbolizing Devotion and Idol Worship



Rath Yatra, also known as the festival of chariots, is an important Hindu festival celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion. It originated in the ancient city of Puri in the eastern state of Odisha, India. The festival marks the journey of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple. The grand procession involves devotees pulling elaborately decorated chariots, which symbolize unity and love for the divine. In this article, we will learn about the rich symbolism and role of idols in Rath Yatra.

Significance of Ratha Yatra

The Rath Yatra holds immense spiritual significance for the devotees, who believe that pulling the chariot brings blessings and ensures a prosperous life. The festival symbolizes devotion, faith and unity among people transcending social and economic barriers. It is an occasion that celebrates the divine presence of Lord Jagannath and reminds us of our spiritual journey towards self-realization.

Mythological Origins

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, along with his siblings, set out on a journey from their abode at the Jagannath Temple to meet their maternal aunt at the Gundicha Temple. The festival symbolizes Lord Jagannath’s love for his devotees and his desire to be among them. The journey is believed to renew and strengthen the bond between the Lord and his devotees.

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The Rituals and Preparations

Months before the festival, skilled artisans and craftsmen engage in intricate planning and preparations. They create huge wooden chariots adorned with vibrant colors and intricate carvings. They dress the deities in lavish attire and adorn them with precious ornaments. Devotees clean the chariots and perform various rituals to sanctify them. One of the main rituals involves the “Chhera Pehnara” ceremony, where the Gajapati king, believed to be the representative of Lord Jagannath, cleans the chariots with a golden broom and sprinkles scented water.

Symbolism of the Chariots

The chariots used in the Rath Yatra procession carry deep symbolism. Lord Jagannath’s chariot, called Nandighosh, represents the universe. It is 45 feet high and has 16 wheels, symbolizing the 16 phases of the moon. Balabhadra’s chariot, Taladhwaja, represents the human body with its seven components, and Subhadra’s chariot, Darpadalan, symbolizes the mind. The pulling of the chariots signifies the desire of the devotees to invite the divine into their lives.

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Also Read: Guru Purnima Meaning, Specials, and Fasting 2023

Idol Worship in Hinduism

Idol worship forms an integral part of the Hindu religion. Devotees establish a tangible connection by using idols of deities, which serve as physical representations of the divine. Believed to symbolize the energy and presence of the deities, the idols make it easier for devotees to focus on their devotion and seek blessings. Throughout the year, devotees carefully prepare and worship the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra in the Rath Yatra. During the festival, they place these idols on chariots and carry them in a grand procession.

The Sacred Journey

On the day of the festival, lakhs of devotees gather to watch and participate in the Rath Yatra. The chariots are pulled by ropes, and people from all walks of life come forward to lend a hand. The procession covers a distance of about three kilometers from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple. Devotees sing devotional songs, dance and chant the name of the Lord, creating an atmosphere filled with devotion and joy.

Spiritual Significance

Rath Yatra is not only a religious event but it also has deep spiritual significance. The journey of the deities from one temple to another reflects the importance of moving from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light. It symbolizes the human quest for enlightenment and the removal of obstacles in the path of spiritual growth. The festival serves as a reminder for individuals to begin their inner journey and strive for self-realization.

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Devotees’ Participation

Rath Yatra is a festival that encourages active participation of devotees. People of all backgrounds and ages come together to pull the chariot, disregarding any distinction of caste, creed or social status. The festival promotes inclusiveness and unity, fostering a sense of equality and love among the participants. Devotees consider it a privilege to be a part of the grand procession and actively participate in the rituals and festivities.

The Festival’s Impact

Rath Yatra has a deep impact on various aspects of the society. Let’s explore some of the key effects:

Spreading Divine Grace:

This festival spreads the divine grace of Lord Jagannath far and wide. Devotees believe that watching the chariot procession and taking darshan (blessings) of the deities can bring immense spiritual benefits and fulfillment in their lives.

Embracing Unity and Equality:

The Ratha Yatra is an example of unity and equality, as people from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate. It breaks down the barriers of caste, creed and social status, promotes harmony and understanding among individuals.

Preserving Tradition and Culture:

Rath Yatraa is deeply rooted in ancient traditions and culture. The festival plays an important role in preserving and promoting the rich heritage of Odisha and Hinduism. It serves as a platform for passing on cultural practices and customs to the generations to come.

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Promoting Tourism and Economy:

The grandeur and uniqueness of Rath Yatra attracts tourists from all over the world. The festival has become an important tourist attraction, contributing to the local economy through increased tourism, hospitality services, and the sale of traditional crafts and cuisine.


Ratha Yatra is one such festival which beautifully combines devotion, symbolism and the spirit of unity. It represents the journey of the divine to connect with humanity and serves as a reminder for people to begin their spiritual journey. The vibrant rituals, grand procession and inclusiveness of the festival make it a truly unique and awe-inspiring celebration. By participating in the Rath Yatra, devotees experience a sense of deep connection with the divine, fostering love, devotion and spiritual growth.


What is the history behind Ratha Yatra?

Rath Yatra has thousands of years old history. It is believed to have originated during the reign of King Indradyumna of Odisha.

How long does the Rath Yatra festival last?

The festival usually lasts for nine days, starting on the day of the Snana Yatra (bathing ceremony) and ending with the Bahuda Yatra (return journey).

Can people of different religions participate in Rath Yatra?

Yes, Rath Yatra welcomes people from all religions to participate and experience the joy and devotion associated with the festival.

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What is the significance of the chariots in the procession?

The chariot represents the celestial abode of the deities during the festival. Pulling the chariot is considered an act of devotion and an opportunity to receive blessings.

Is there any other famous Rath Yatra festival other than Puri?

Yes, the Rath Yatra is celebrated in Kolkata, Ahmedabad, London and New York City, among other cities and countries around the world.

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