The Chariot festival originated in the holy city of Puri, India and has been celebrated for thousands of years. It is a grand culmination of a series of celebrations spread over the summer and the monsoon month and is the most splendid of them all.
This festival is popularly known as Ratha Yatra (ruh-tah yath-rah). The most remarkable thing about the chariot festival is that it is held not inside the temple but outside the temple on the road for the masses of people to see. Symbolically, the chariot festival is a journey from dark to light. This festival is celebrated at Puri with great care and grandeur.
The construction of these massive chariots takes place near the palace of the King of Puri and on the Chaturdasi (4th day after the new moon), preceding the day of the Ratha Yatra parade. The chariots are dragged to the main entrance of the temple in Puri.
The three chariots
This is the chariot of Lord Jagannath and is a little more than 33 feet high. It originally had 18 wheels representing the 'astadasa siddhi' or eighteen categories of spiritual success the Hindus long for. But to minimize its potential accidents, the number of wheels has since been reduced to 16. According to available accounts, 832 logs are required for the construction of this chariot. Jagannath's chariot is painted yellow and covered by red and golden cotton cloth.
This is the chariot of Goddess Subhadra and is a little more than 31 feet high with 12 wheels. According to available accounts, 593 pieces of wooden log are required for the construction of this chariot. This chariot is painted black and covered by red and black cotton cloth.
This is the chariot of Lord Balabhadra and is a little more than 32 feet high with 14 wheels. According to available accounts, 763 pieces of wooden log are required for the construction of this chariot. Balabhadra's chariot is painted blue and covered by red and green cotton cloth.
Brought to the west by the founder-acarya of ISKCON, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Ratha Yatra festivals are celebrated grandly in many major USA cities, as well as worldwide.
You too can witness and join these amazing festivals! Please check our schedule for dates and locations near you!