A selection of popular questions about Rathayatra.
Questions answered here include:
- What is Rathayatra?
- What is the origin of Rathayatra?
- What is the inner meaning of the festival?
- Who is Jagannatha?
- How can I take a part in helping out with the festival?
Q. What is Rathayatra?
Rathayatra is a huge festival for Lord Krishna and His devotees. An extraordinary chariot festival that originates in Jagannatha Puri on the east coast of India and dates back over 2,000 years.
Everyone chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and dances in ecstacy as Krishna in His most merciful form of Jagannatha is pulled along on a huge wooden cart.
In London we have three carts, one for each of the Deities of Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Balarama.
At the end of the procession, there is a big gathering of devotees with feasting, stalls and spiritual entertainment.
Q. What is the origin of Rathayatra?
Rathayatra has been held for many hundreds of years at Jagannatha Puri in Orissa, on India’s East coast.
Image: Rathayatra scene from Sri Chaitanya-caritamrta
Millions of pilgrims come to the festival and new carts are built each year.
The original inner meaning of Rathayatra is very beautiful.
In His time on this Earth, Krishna grew up in Vrindavana, and had great loving friendships there with all the residents, including the cowherd boys and girls.
When Krishna grew up, He became a King and moved away from His childhood friends.
After many years the residents of Vrindavana came to see Him. But He seemed so different to the mischevious cowherd boy they all knew and loved.
So they kidnapped Him and tried to bring Him back to Vrindavana on a cart.
Being with Krishna like this they felt simultaneous loving emotions of closeness and separation.
The Rathayatra festival is a modern expression of this pastime.
Q. Who is Jagannatha?
Jagannatha is the worshippable form of the Lord for this present age, the Kali yuga!
This is according to various Vedic literatures including Srimad-bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta.
Q. How does Jagannatha appear?
There are two causes for his unique appearance.
First is the story of how Krishna appeared to King Indradyuma and ordered him to carve a deity from a log he would find washed up on the sea shore.
King Indradruma found an old brahmin carpenter to carve the deity, but the carpenter insisted that he not be disturbed while he was carving the deity.
The king waited anxiously outside his room, but after some time, all sound stopped.
Indradyumna worried what had happened, and opened the doors – to find a half-finished deity and the carpenter gone!
The second reason for Lord Jagannatha’s appearance is the story of how Krishna was evesdropping on the gopis as they spoke amongst themselves of His pastimes. And of how much they loved him.
As Krishna listened, His hairs stood on end, His arms retracted, His eyes grew larger and larger and He smiled broadly in ecstacy.
That is why Jagannatha looks as He does. With great big round eyes and a huge smile from ear to ear.
Q. How can I take a part in helping out with the festival?
You can come and join in. The festival is only possible by the selfless assistance of many volunteers.
Also you can donate to festival here.