10 Reasons Why You Must Attend Ratha Yatra

Ratha Yatra or the Festival of Chariots is a special celebration dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of the Supreme Lord Krishna. Jagannath is composed of two words – Jagat (Universe) and Nath (Lord) and so Jagannath means the “Lord of the Universe”. In this festival which originated in the east coast of India at a place called Puri, Lord Jagannath, his older brother Baladeva (Balarama), and Their younger sister Subhadra, leave the temple on wooden chariots, which are enthusiastically pulled by tens of thousands of devotees, to visit the Gundicha Temple – which is about three kilometers away. This little vacation lasts for nine days, after which They return back home.
Ratha Yatra is a unique festival. Unlike other festivals where devotees go to the temple to visit the Supreme Lord, in this case, the Lord Himself comes out of the temple to visit His devotees and shower His blessings on all!
As we prepare to celebrate Ratha Yatra in Singapore on the 10th of September this year, here are top 10 reasons why you must attend Ratha Yatra and take part in this wonderful Festival of Chariots.


1. It is one of the oldest festivals of the world

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is one of the oldest grand festivals of Hinduism and also of the world, dating back to almost 5000 years. Even though times have changed significantly, ancient rituals such as the way the chariots are designed, built and pulled are still performed during this holy occasion. It is, therefore, an experience that will remain forever etched in the memories of all who take part in this festival.

Trivia: In the 17th century, the British first came to Puri and witnessed the Ratha Yatra festival in its full glory. Seeing the massive chariots, huge Deities, and immense and enthusiastic crowds pulling the heavy chariot, they thought it was something amazing. They called Jagannath – juggernaut, now a word used in the English language to mean “an overwhelming, irresistible force”!


2. Millions of people come from all over the world

The main festival, held in Jagannath Puri, is attended by millions of devotees, who come from all over the world – just to catch a glimpse of their Lordships and to pull Their chariots. Visiting the Jagannath Temple at Puri during the occasion of Ratha Yatra is considered to be extremely auspicious.

millions of people in jagannath rath yatraThis is similar to going on a pilgrimage to a holy place, and for devotees, this is something they must do at least once in their lifetime. While visiting Puri every year may not be feasible, joining the celebration nearest to where you live, is certainly possible!


3. It is a festival for all and sundry

Ratha Yatra is a festival of inclusivity. People of different nationalities, cultures, caste, languages and faiths participate in this festival wholeheartedly. The underlying spirit of this festival is that of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means – the world is one family. In fact, all who attend the festival, experience a surge in love and compassion for every living being and begin to realize that we are all children of God. Everyone becomes one in front of the Supreme Lord.This is seen in one of the traditions where the King (or a person of high esteem) sweeps the carts, thereby expressing his lowliness before the Lord of the Universe.


4. It is a global festival celebrated all over the world

The first Ratha Yatra performed outside of India was on 9 July 1967, in San Francisco, under the supervision of Srila Prabhupada. Today, apart from various parts of India, Ratha Yatra is celebrated in almost all the major cities of the world – Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Prague, Durban, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland, Budapest, Stockholm, Kuala Lumpur and over 170 other cities!Ratha Yatra Singapore


5. It will uplift your mind and soul

Those who gain the darshan of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Baladeva during Ratha Yatra and pray to Their Lordships with a pure heart and conscience, receive Their blessings and benedictions. The blessings of Lord Jagannath have the power to transform the lives of His devotees, remove all obstacles and negativity, and uplift their souls. Just hearing the congregational kirtan or chanting of His holy name during the festival is extremely potent and auspicious.Uplift your soul in Ratha Yatra


6. It is a grand celebration

Puri Ratha Yatra is famous for its scale and grandeur. Don’t be surprised if you look up into the sky and see three fifty foot high, silk peaked chariots cruising along, amidst waves of dancing and chanting celebrants. The huge crowd of devotees, who rejoice by raising their hands in the air as the huge chariots of Their Lordships are pulled forward, is quite a spectacle. It is one of the largest such events anywhere in the world.

Ratha Yatra of Lord JagannathRatha Yatra in Singapore, though smaller in scale, is nonetheless an event not to be missed. Getting to pull the Lord’s chariot would also be much more possible.


7. It is a march of peace and harmony

Ratha Yatra is not an empty ritual or mere imitation of a remote historical event – it is a manifestation of the spirit of oneness and a victory march of dharma or righteousness (good over evil). It is a perfect non-sectarian confluence of different schools of thought and grades of human consciousness. At a time when extremism and various negative tendencies are threatening mankind, Ratha Yatra serves as the perfect occasion to unite the world – as tens of thousands people march together in unison in a very joyous, peaceful and harmonious manner. This festival reminds us that the Supreme Lord is still watching over us, guiding us towards a better future.


8. You get to savour the Mahaprasadam

One of the greatest highlights of all Vedic festivals is the “mahaprasadam” (food offering made to the Supreme Lord) and the sumptuous vegetarian meal served to all. Apart from the spiritual significance of getting a share of mahaprasadam, the act of serving the same meal to every participant without any discrimination is in itself a great act of oneness and also symbolises how the Lord showers His blessings uniformly among all His children.

Lord Jagannath MahaprasadSavouring the Lord’s holy mahaprasadam moves one closer to moksha or salvation of the soul and cures one from the burden of their sins. It is, therefore, one of the many reasons that devotees throng Jagannath Puri during Ratha Yatra.


9. It is a way towards freeing oneself from the cycle of birth and death

In Narada Purana, one of India’s ancient scriptures, it is mentioned that participating in Ratha Yatra is equivalent to buying a ticket to the Supreme Abode – Vaikuntha – the planet without (vai) any miseries (kuntha) and full of transcendental happiness! Simply, by the sight of the Lord’s merciful form, the devotee will be blessed with purity of mind and spiritual elevation. It can also dissipate the sins committed by the embodied person in past births. By dancing, singing and chanting in the Ratha Yatra entourage, the participant will be elevated to a level of the yogis – enlightened monks. All these are the utmost blessings of the Supreme Lord Krishna which can transform one’s life completely.


10. You get to experience the spirit of Ratha Yatra

Intricate and overwhelming sentiments symbolise the grand Ratha Yatra festivities – connecting the event with the return of Lord Krishna to Vrindavana from Dwaraka to meet His childhood associates who are extremely dear to Him. At Puri, Krishna and His siblings dwell as living Deities to wipe away the sufferings of His devotees in this age of Kali Yuga. The Jagannath temple represents the royal palace of Dwaraka, and the Gundicha temple represents Vrindavan where His eternal associates – Radharani, the gopis and the gopas (cowherd boys and girls) reside. The visit of Jagannatha to Gundicha temple symbolises His return to Vrindavana, where everyone is gathered together with bated breath and extreme enthusiasm to meet the apple of their eyes and the love of their life – for whom they had waited for so long.

Spirit of Ratha YatraIt is said, that the residents of Vrindavan were almost lifeless without Krishna and that was THE MOMENT that they had been anxiously waiting for. This feeling of separation and excitement is the spirit with which we must approach this grand Festival of Chariots!


So there you have it, 10 reasons why you must attend Ratha Yatra! It is an experience of a lifetime not to be missed. You may have already started planning a journey to Jagannath Puri for the next Ratha Yatra.
Meanwhile, this year, come and join us in our very own Ratha Yatra celebration on 10 September at Yio Chu Kang Stadium, Singapore!