Information about the history and background of Rathayatra.
Rathayatra is a celebration of love of God. The festival dates back to the Satya Yuga which pre-dates ancient history.
It originates from Jagannatha Puri in Orissa on India’s eastern coast. There the festival lasts a whole week with two processions and lots of smaller events in between.
In the western world, Europe and America the festival is usually a one-day event.
Rathayatra means reclaiming lost souls.
Ratha Yatra Lecture (San Francisco 1970) by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
“Just try to understand Jagannātha.
Jagat means the moving world, gacchati iti jagat.
The Sanskrit word gacchati means that which is moving—all these planets, the universe, the sun—everything is moving, and we are moving.
Jagat-nātha, nātha means master and proprietor. Therefore, Jagannātha means the proprietor or the master of all these movements.
And Balabhadra, Balarāma—bala means strength and rāma means enjoyment.
Balarāma means He who gives you spiritual strength for enjoying eternal blissful life.
Subhadrā—su means auspicious and bhadra means well-being.
Subhadrā, Jagannātha and Balarāma combined together are present here to reclaim you all from your miserable condition of life.
That is the purport of this Ratha-yātrā festival.
If anyone sees Jagannātha, Subhadrā and Baladeva on the cart, then he does not take birth again in this material world. Ratheja vamanaṁ dṛṣṭa.”
(7/5/70 San Fransisco Rathayatra)