The Annual Jagannath Rath Yatra will be held on 13th January, 2017 (Friday) under the auspices of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Chennai Chapter. The chief guest for the event is Mr. La. Ganesan, M.P. (RajyaSabha) along with Special Guest Mr.Chadalawada Krishna Murthy(TTD Chairman) and Mr. M. Chakravarthy (Vice - President, Tamilnadu BJP).
The RathYatra will start from Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore at 2:00 pm and will reach the venue Chetpet, Kuchalambal Kalyana Mandapam by 3:30 pm. The procession will go through R.K Mutt Road, Royapettah High Road, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, Cathedral Road, N.H. Road and Village Road.
The history of Sri Jagannath Rath Yatra festival in Chennai dates back to 1983. The opulent and grand chariot was built by a Canadian devotee, HG Rasananda Das with substantial contribution from Mr.Krishan Myer of Automac, Ambattur. Mr. Ramesh Prasad, Managing Director of Prasad Studios has given space within the studios to park and protect the Rath when not in use.”
During the procession, ISKCON will distribute about 10,000 plates of prasadam to the general public. Everyone is invited to join and pull the Rath, which is by far the biggest Rath Yatra in Chennai. Many school children across the city will participate in the Yatra.
According to Mr. Das, of ISKCON “This is the biggest Rath Yatra in Chennai. We have been doing this annual ritual since 1983. We take pride in bringing this wonderful and colourful parade which gives an opportunity for people to come together and pay their respects to the Lord Jagannath. Onlookers are taken by surprise to see Lord Jagannath on a colourful cart, pouring out his mercy. People excitedly wait for the Prasadam (sweets) given away from the Rath.
The spectacular festival of Rathyatra was originally celebrated in Puri. It is from the 1970s that His divine grace A.C.Bhakthivedanta Swami, (ISKCON founder acarya) transplanted this festival to almost all the major cities in the world including those in India. From ISKCON's inception, RathYatra has been annually organised in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, London and other cities around the world. People of different backgrounds and faiths get the opportunity to see The Lord and serve him personally. The devotees dance in front of the Rath and bathe the participants with the Holy names of God.
The sacred city of Puri is one of India’s most popular on the pilgrimage tourism map. Situated along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, it is well known for the grand temple of Jagannath. Jagannath, meaning The Lord of the Universe, is seen here along with his brother Baladev and sister Subadra.
The most important festival in the land of Puri is the RathYatra. RathYatrais signified by Lord Jagannath giving his Darshan to all the citizens by riding on a gigantic cart. Held annually, thousands of devotees gather to pull Jagannath, Baladev and Subadra, seated on different chariots ,with the ropes attached to the Rath. The popular belief is that the devotees are able to pull The Lord only out of their love and not by mere physical strength.
From the time of its inception, the majestic chariots continue to be decorated as prescribed by Vedic tradition. Covered with bright canopies made of yellow cloth with stripes of red and black ,It is indeed quite a sight to see the chariots lined across the wide avenue in front of the majestic temple. The chariots have well designed wooden wheels which pull Jagannath's cart measuring almost 45 feet in height. One can see hundreds of devotees pulling the cart crying out, the praises for the lord: "Jay Jagannath! Jay Jagannath!"
The people take the Yatra as an opportunity to glorify their beloved Lord, Krishna. Traditional drums are placed to which artists perform graceful dances depicting the past times of Jagannath. Jagannath and his siblings are carried to the famous Gundicha temple where, according to the century old practice, he 'freshens up' for nine days; after which he is brought back to the temple in a similar procession. During their nine day stay, their servants repaint their features making them even more bright-faced. After the festival, attendants reinstall the Deities in their former places on the temple’s main altar. They remain there until the next year’s Ratha-yatra.
The RathYatra is a symbolic procession reminding the devotees about Jagannath's merciful nature, and it is animated way of showing his eagerness to see his devotees. During the festival, the King sweeps all around the deities and cleanses the road on which Jagannath is carried, a century old tradition even followed today. It is a symbolic form of signifying that Jagannath, the supreme Lord views everyone equally and not differentiating based on status or sect. The benediction for those who pull the cart of Lord Jagannath is that they have no rebirth again, as is stated in the Puranas ,"rathecavamanamdrstvapunarjanmanavidyate".