Ratha yatras brings an ocean of overwhelming happiness

published on July 4, 2011

V.Shanmuganathan

The Ratha yatrs or Temple car festivals are the oldest and continuously celebrated spiritual event.Temple cars are chariots  used to carry idols of Gods and Godesses. The Rathas are driven manually by rope ,pulled by thousands of worshippers  called devoted bhaktas.These beautifully decorated chariots  on wheels are called as Thiru Their  in tamil language.Every year during this period the splendidly decorated chariots  of Gods role down the streets accompanied by the devotees who chant vedha mantras or recite shlokas or sing bhajans and namasangeerthansms.

  During this festival,children are seen  on the streets dragging miniature versions of the chariots with tiny idols installed on them.Shops and houses are decorated with flowers, lights and rangoli.Special dishes and sweets are prepared.Most people refrain from   eating non-vegetariain  food.One of the basic and  significant feature of “Rathotsav” is that it is responsible to combine people under one common bond of unity.Various castes,communities,customs and traditions  are found to be assimilated in all these Rath yatras.

 Tamil literatures, specially dewarams and prabhandams mentions about these ancient car festivals in the temple towns such as  Thiruvarur,Srivilliputhur,Thiruvannamalai and Chidambaram.In tamilnadu there are 515 wooden temple cars are taken out for procession every year.The chariot of  thiruvarur is said to be the biggest one of its size .It is ninty six feet  tall and weighs more than three hundred tons.The thought content and the concept is also wonderful.According to vedhic faith ,the human body is the chariot and the soul is the deity installed in the chariot.The wisdom acts as  the charioteer to focus the life in the right direction.

 Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleshwar mandir possesses a huge wooden chariot for procession.Inside this temple,Ramana maharishi did his spiritual  sadana through out his life.Chidambaram nataraja temple celebrates the chariot festival twice in a year.one during this july month for “”Aani Thirumanjanam” and another at winter margazhi Thiruvadhirai utsav.

 The impact of this “”thiru Ther” is really unique cutting across all barriers.Mr.Karunanidhy was the chief minister of tamilnadu for many years and  used to take pride for his rational approach.He calls himself as an athiest or non believer of God.Some years back, he constructed a  memorial for Thiruvalluvar who composed 1330 verses of thirukural.During the course of planning, he instructed the architects to design the main structure in such a way that resembles Ratha or thiru Ther of thiruvarur temple, which happens to be his birth place.So the Impact of Rathotsavs penetrates even  an atheist’s mind.It is virtually unstoppable and tremendous, because these festivals are not simply rituals or routine affairs.It signifies a phenomenon and intense faith of all sections of people.Oflate , many more temples like Kanchi and Palani have golden Rathas.Lord Sri,Krishna of udipi has many types of rathas with silver and gold plates.

 Every year in Puri Jagannatha temple,three huge chariots are newly built for Shri,Krishna,his elder brother Balarama and his younger sister  Subhadra.Over 1000 logs of wood are brought from the Daspalla and Ranpur forests and more than 100 carpenters work for two months constructing the three chariots.A local textile mill provides nearly 2000 meters of cloth each year and  the chariots are radiantly decorated in colour.Very strong coconut ropes ,8 inches in diameter ,are used by the devotees to pull the chariot along the procession route.The nails,brackets and  fixtures are all made locally and the smiths work for a month on them.Murthies  are placed on the chariots  that are upto 48’feet  high and have 16 wheels.The mammoth wooden  chariots carrying the three deities pulled by thousands of devotees from the temple in Puri to  temple garden in nearby Gundicha ghar ,present a spectacular scene.

Temple cars towering silken conopies rise into the sky as drums  and symbols resound in joyous celebrations.People young and old joins with excitement ,their eyes brightens,sing and dance in the street, as if swimming in an ocean ,on full moon day wiith overwhelming happiness.

As far back as human records and memory extends the chariots of Lord Jagannatha  have rolled every year on the 10th  day  of the bright fortnight  of Ashada {july} in the town of Puri , the delight of millions of joyous pilgrims.On the day of the journey,people get up early morning and offer prayers to Jagannatha.The entire yatra is a symbolic humanization of God from his pedestal of glory to a more ordinary man’s level.The teeming pilgrims when they pull the chariot,absolutely there is no difference of high and low.All are equal before Lord Jagannatha.At the end God himself eats the food prepared by the last man of the society.The complete festival is organised to strengthen the emotional bondage  and the oneness of the people.

The annual ratha yatra of Lord Jagannatha  in Gujarat has been going on for the past 133 years.Earlier it used to be only in Ahmedabad and now it has spread all over Gujarat.It is celebrated with devotion in a peaceful and joyous atmosphere.Now a days, this is celebrated all over the world wherever Hindus are living with gaiety and grandure.


 Taking inspiration from this ancient car festival, V.H.P.organises Rath yatras in socailly backward areas.Local deities,Devi Parvati and karthikeya are decorated in chariots taken to villages in Tamilnadu,Orissa ,Rajasthan and Andhra.This has  created a feeling amongst the people living in those villages that since God himself has come to their doorstep, there  remains no difference of higher and lower castes in hindu society.Due to  these rath yatrs ,a group of dalits who had embraced alien faiths,came back to hinduism in Tamilnadu.In the same way,several thousands of converted vanavasis came back to hindu fold on Orissa and Rajasthan.

The people who participate in this  spiritual ,cultural and social endeavour feel the presence of God in themselves and enjoy their original blissful life. Lord Jagannatha is the most loving and kind form of the almighty.Even those who hardly understands the philosophy behind Ratha Yatra becomes free of many life times of karma just by seeing or taking part in the festival.One can even become liberated due to the spiritual potency of Lord Jagannatha’s presence.

 

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