Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra – Its significance in Indian culture and mythology

India, the mystical land of festivals blesses its natives with gorgeous festivals each month. Not even exaggerating but Indians get to celebrate more than 2 – 3 festivals on most or every month. Right from lavish festivals like Holi or Diwali to smaller festivals like Purnima, etc, the life of the Indians totally revolves around festivals.

The vibrancy of the country makes us love it even more. People of all cultures and religions come together to celebrate all festivals. Over the years, the traditions revolving around each festival have changed and evolved which makes it even more interesting. Talking about festivals, one of the grander festivals in India is the Rath Yatra.

A great thing about all Indian festivals is that all of them have deep mythological stories attached to them. We celebrate each festival because of our Indian mythology which is again, very diverse. If you don’t know about the entire story of Rath Yatra, you have got yourself a deal here. To begin with, let us tell you that there is no procession in India as big as the Rath Yatra.

Date of Rath Yatra

This year it falls on June 20th. The date of the festival is decided as per the Hindu Calendar. It is celebrated on the 2nd day of Shukla Paksha in the Hindu month of Ashadha. Rath Yatra happens only on one day but the entire festival is of 9 days. Want to know how? Keep reading till the end. Also, this is an annual festival. It is one of the oldest festivals of India.

Who is it related to?

Rath Yatra is a festival related to Lord Krishna or one of his avatars called Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath is the main deity of a beach city called Puri which is in Bhubaneshwar. It is a coastal town in Odisha state and one of the major beach holiday destinations in India. There are two things very famous about Puri and they are Lord Jagannath’s temple and the Puri sea beach. Your trip to Puri is incomplete without visiting both of these places.

Well, the main Rath Yatra happens in Puri because Puri is the place where Lord Jagannath stays. But, the festival is also celebrated in many parts of the country where there are idols and temples of Lord Jagannath. Along with him, it is also related to his brother and his sister.

Meaning of Rath Yatra

If we had to simply explain the meaning of Rath Yatra in two words, it will be Rath meaning chariot and Yatra meaning journey. So, the festival is a chariot journey, of whom you ask? It is a chariot journey of Lord Jagannath. This is the largest chariot festival and the rate is pulled by thousands of devotees. It is a very exciting and eye-pleasing journey to watch.

But from where to where and with whom and why? Yeah, we get it, lot of questions! Keep reading to unfold the mythology right here.

The story behind the Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra is also known as Jagannath Yatra because it is the journey of Lord Jagannath. The festival is about Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balabhadra or Balaram, and his sister Goddess Subhadra. So, on the Rath Yatra (chariot journey), all three siblings go on their annual vacation (if you can say it in the simplest words). But, where do they go and why? Coming straight to that, right here.

So, all these three siblings go to their aunt’s place or Mausi’s place which is the Gundicha temple. Because of this reason, it is also referred to as the Gundicha yatra. They all go to their mausi’s place for 9 days. So, in this Yatra, all three siblings are taken by the devotees to their mausi’s place. The temple is also called as Mausi Ma’s temple because they call their aunt Mausi. The name of their Mausi is Ardhashosini.

The Gundicha temple is also in Puri and it is just 12 mins away from the Jagannath temple. So, the ride is a small one but with the crowd and activities, it takes the whole day. During the rest of the year, the Gundicha temple is quite vacant but on this day, it is also filled with devotees as they all end their journeys at this temple where they drop off their God. The Gundicha temple is also deeply cleaned before this festival.

So, on the first day of Rath Yatra, the three deities are taken from the main Jagannath temple and they are kept in the Rath. Each diety has a Rath for themselves. They are then carried to their but’s place and this journey is the main Rath Yatra. The Yatra starts in the morning time and it has to end before nightfall which means that all three Raths must reach the Gundicha temple’s gate before nightfall. On reaching the Gundicha temple, all three deities remain inside their chariots for the first day. On the second day, they enter the Gundicha temple and visit their mausi. They stay there for 7 days and return back on the 9th day to their main temple.

Other stories about the Rath Yatra

While most of the devotees believe that the former story that we told here is the actual story, but there are more stories attached to this Yatra. One of the very famous stories says that the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna who is Kansa (the most evil maternal uncle in the history of Indian mythology) had called these siblings to Mathura to kill them. For this, he sent Akrur out to Gokul with a Rath. And the Gods decided to visit him. So, the devotees celebrate this festival as their beloved God is moving out of Gokul.

There is one more story attached to this. So, it is believed that once upon a time the eight wives of Lord Krishna wanted to listen to the holy stories of Krishna and Gopi from Mother Rohini. But, she did not want to narrate this story. So, the wives convinced her a lot of the same to which she gave in and decided to tell the tales. But, she had a condition that while she would narrate the stories, no one except the 8 wives would listen.

So, she asked Goddess Subhadra, the sister of Lord Krishna to go near the door and guard it so that nobody could enter the premise. While she was guarding, Goddess Subhadra became entirely enchanted and so captivated that she did not notice that Lord Krishna and his brother Lord Balram standing in front of the door. She stood between those two, holding her hands apart as a way to stop them. At that very point, Saint Narada Muni came to that place and saw all three siblings standing there. He asked for their blessings which he got. Right from that time, it is believed that they reside in the temple of Puri for eternity.

Name of three Raths

How can we as Indians not have names and importance for each thing, right? The Rath Yatra festival is all about the Rath and hence they need to have names and importance as well. As we just told you that there are three raths, one for each deity to carry comfortably to their mausi’s place, the centre Rath is of Lord Jagannath. It is called Nandighosha. The Rath that carries Lord Balaram is called Taladhwaja. Finally, the Rath that carries their sister Subhadra is called Darpadalana.

Why do devotees take part in the Rath Yatra?

The devotees walk a distance of 3 km during this Rath Yatra. The devotees come to pull the chariot at least for a small distance. But, the crowd is in thousands so, it becomes impossible for most people to pull it. So, people try to bless themselves just by touching the path and taking blessings of the God.

If people can’t pull the rath, they are just walking in the procession from the temple or the final destination or at least for some distance. This is a ritual and people take part in it because of their beliefs and faith in God. Also, people take part in the Rath Yatra by offering fruits, water, etc to God and in return want his blessings for life. People believe witnessing the Rath Yatra and being a part of it will bring them prosperity, peace, and good health.

Devotees from all over the world visit Puri to take part in Rath Yatra or at least witness the grandeur ride of God to his Mausi’s place. The mass gathering is the soul of this festival. As they say, the more the merrier. Safe to say Rath Yatra is one of the biggest Indian festivals. During the entire procession, people keep chanting the name of God and dancing to his music. It is a very fun ride where they accompany their favourite God.

Spiritual Significance of Rath Yatra

So, to answer your question about why devotees pull the chariot or walk in the crowded procession, here, take the spiritual significance to understand it better. As per the Hindu scriptures, Krishna resides in our minds but due to our ignorance and attachment to worldly life and pleasures, we tend to forget this truth. This festival enables us to evoke the divine within.

What happens during the Rath Yatra?

So, the most important thing about the Rath Yatra is the Rath. The Raths in which the Gods are taken on their journey are heavenly decorated. It takes days to decorate the Rath and make it extremely gorgeous and comfortable for the Gods. The preparation of the chariots starts from the day of Akshay Tritiya, another festival in India. For each God and Goddess, one Rath is decorated and prepared.

So, all in all, three Raths are made ready for this grand festival. All of these three Paths are pulled by a rope. Flowers, motifs, paintings, etc are used to decorate the Rath and make them extremely delightful. On the day of the Rath Yatra, the Raths are lined up in front of the main temple in Puri and wait for the Gods to be put on them. The unique thing about the Rath is that they are decorated in a way that they are made as replicas of the temple. These chariots symbolize the perishable human body and highlight the truth of life.


Puri is one of the Chaar Dhaam spots in India. There are 4 holiest places in India which are called the Chaar Dhaam Yatra and Puri is one of them. This makes Puri one of the holiest places in India. It is Puri in which the grandest Rath Yatra is organised every year. This is the best time to visit this vacation destination.

India, the mystical land of festivals blesses its natives with gorgeous festivals each month. Not even exaggerating but Indians get to celebrate more than 2 – 3 festivals on most or every month. Right from lavish festivals like Holi or Diwali to smaller festivals like Purnima, etc, the life of the Indians totally revolves around…