The celebration of festivals in India takes place all year around, but from October to January it really “takes off” with festival celebrations.
In our series of Indian festivals, we have now come to the Puri Ratha Yatra festival - or wagon festival - which is a Hindu festival in honor of the Indian god Jagannath which in turn is a name of the Hindu god Krishna and a temple in Puri in the state of Odisha . Jagannath is one of India's largest temple complexes with approx. 6,000 priests and temple servants. In the temple, all caste differences are abolished among the pilgrims, but non-Hindus are not allowed there.
Every year in June / July, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists gather in Puri when the statue of Jagannath and his siblings Batarda and Subhada is pulled into their 14-meter-high wooden carriages. Several thousand temple servants pull the wagons from the main temple to a smaller temple, a distance of about 3 kilometers, and here they stay for seven days before being taken back to the main temple. The trip is in memory of Krishna's journey from Gokul to Mathura.
Once every nine to 19 years, when the “month of Ashadha” is followed by another month of “Ashadha” (known as "double-Ashadha"), a rare and special “Nabakalebara” ritual takes place. Meaning "new body", “Nabakalebara” is when the wooden temple idols are replaced with new ones. In the last century, the ritual was performed in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977, 1996, and 2015. The next “Nabakalebara ritual” will happen in 2034.
Legend says that those who are chosen for the honorable task of pulling the wagons are guaranteed a bright future.
During the procession in Puri, 100,000 of the followers and tourists come to watch the procession. Due to the extremely large number of spectators, over the years it has led to a number of tragic events such as spectators being trampled to death during the crowds.
Similar processions are organized in Jagannath temples around the world.
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