Puri Jagannath festivals

About Jagannath Temple

The Puri temple is built on a gigantic raised platform in the heart of the city, the temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high -including the 0 height of the platform. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates, facing the four directions6-puri-jagannath

  • Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology Aruna is the the charioteer of the Sun-god, The world famous Konarka temple was designed in the form of a stupendous chariot and this monolithic pillar with the beautifully carved Aruna seated on its top was installed right in front of the porch of that temple. When the temple was abandoned and there was no presiding deity in it, this pillar was removed from Konarka to Puri and was fixed in front of Jagannatha temple where we see it now.

Source: Skanda Purana, the Brahma Purana and the Narada Purana. Even in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata

History of Temple

Three deities namely, Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra worshipped in the Puri temple.

The place where each one of the four Mathas has been established by Sankara is known by the celebrated name of dhama which literally means, a sacred place. Puri is the dhama of eastern India. It is the traditional belief that a Hindu should visit these four dhamas at least once in his life and the prevailing practice is that, after visiting the other three dhamas, one must visit Puri dhama. The records maintained by the Pandas in the Puri temple.

  • The main temple in Puri is surrounded by about 30 temples, small and big, the pilgrims visit and offer worship in almost all these temples before they are taken to the Jagamohana or the porch to see the presiding deities in the sanctum sanctorum.

Jagannatha is not the only deity worshipped in the temple, though it is known as the ‘Jagannatha Temple’. But along with Jagannatha, two others namely, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are also worshipped here. Besides, Madhava, a replica of Jagannatha, Sridevi and Bhudevi are also installed in the sanctum sanctorum and worshipped.

Puri Shree Keshtra

Puri Jagannatha is known by many , names, viz., the Srimandira, the Bada Deu1a. The temple of Jagannatha is one of the tallest monuments in the entire sub-continent of India and its height is about 214 feet from the ground (road) level. It stands on a ‘raised platform of stone, measuring about ten acres.

The largest crowd in Puri is seen during the Car Festival of Jagannatha which takes place every year sometime in June-July.

  • Jagannatha represents all the gods and goddesses known to the entire Hindu world, either directly or indirectly.
  • He is considered to be the highest object of worship by the followers.
  • Jagannatha represents an integration of all important Hindu cultures which flourished in India, namely, the Vedic, the Puranic, the Tantric, the Smarta and the Vaisnava, along with Jainism, Buddhism and that of the aboriginal tribes. The Vaisnavas of all schools all have great faith in Jagannatha.
  • The Mahaprasada (the offerings to the deities in the Puri temple) is a wonder of the Hindu world in as much as it is free from any kind of discrimination pertaining to the castes of India. Persons of all castes do partake Mahaprasada from the same plate.
  • Adi Sankaracarya visited Puri by 810 A.D. founded the govardhana Matha, Puri has gained special significance as one of the four dhamas of India.


The festivals of the temple draw huge crowds not only from Odisha but also from other states of India. The festivals are, no doubt, occasions of great religious experience and devotional fervour but they are also occasions for trade, industry, and commerce and business activities in Puri.

Chandana Yatra :

This festival takes place in the month of Vaisakha and continues for 21 days. But technically speaking, it is a festival of long 42 days.The rites observed on the other 21 days are simple and less significant. In the first half period of 21 days, the representative images of the god are taken in a procession to the famous tank called Narendra Pokhari. They are taken round the tiny lake in beautifully decorated and illuminated boats twice each day. Thousands of people enjoy the festival with great delight.

Snana Yatra:

This festival takes place in the full moon day in the month of Jyestha, popularly known as the Deva Snana Purnima. This – is the first occasion in the course of a year when the wooden images of the three principal deities of the Puri temple, are brought out of the sanctum sanctorum in a procession and placed on the Snana Vedi . (described earlier) and are bathed with 108 pitchers of water. The usual daily rituals continue thereafter in the Snana Vedi. On this occasion Jagannatha and Balabhadra are dressed like Ganesa with the head of an elephant. From the Deva Snana Purnima till the second day of bright Asadha, the deities are not to be seen on the ‘Ratnavedi’ in the sanctum. They are worshipped secretly. Preparations for the Car Festival would be in progress and the deities would be seen only for a few hours before they are taken out of the temple to participate in the Car Festival.

Ratha Yatra:

The Ratha Yatra of Jagannatha is commonly known as Car Festival. It is also known as Gundicha Yatra. According to the tradition current in Odisha, Gundicha was the name of the queen of Indradyumna, the legendary builder of the first temple. As Gundicha had initiated this festival, it is known after her name. 5-rath-yatra-puri-jagannathThis festival of international fame takes place in the month of Asadha (June – July) every year. It is a nine-day festival, when the deities are taken to the Gundicha temple located at a distance of about 3 kms. from the main temple along the Grand Road in three gorgeously decorated chariots, specially made for each of the three deities. Normally, the chariots reach the destination (the Gundicha temple) by the evening on the first day of the festival and on the ninth day, the deities are brought back to the main temple on the same chariots.

Thus, the deities practically spend full seven-days in the Gundicha temple. The return journey is called Bahuda Yatra and is performed on the same manner ,as Ratha Yatra.Certain other religious rites are performed on the chariots on that day including special dressing of the deities after which the deities are taken back to .the sanctum sanctoram. Logs of wood for the chariots are obtained from the forests of Dasapalla located at a distance of about 200 kms. from Puri The chariots are dismantled after the festival is over. The special names of these three chariots are as follows : (i) Jagannatha – Nandighosa,'(ii) Balabhadra Taladhvaja and (iii) Subhadra – Devadalana. The colour of the fabrics used to decorate the chariots are yellow, green and black respectively, mixed with red. The order of movement of the chariots from the temple gate towards the Gundica temple are (a) Balabhadra, (b) Subhadra and lastly, (c) Jagannatha. The deities are taken from the temple to the chariots in a swinging manner, which is locally called Pahandi. They are made to swing forward and backward in the process of which there is a little forward movement in each effort. After the deities are seated on their respective chariots, the Raja of Puri sweeps the floor of the chariots (locally called Chera Pahanra) and this is a great attraction during the Ratha Yatra. This signifies that even the highest sovereign power of the country is only a servant , before the God. After the sweeping ceremony is over, the charioteers are seated on the respective chariots, the horses (four in each chariot) are tied and the ropes (usually four in each chariot) are fitted. A huge log is used as the break of each chariot. Then the people are allowed to pull the chariots in .the order mentioned earlier, irrespective of caste, creed, sect, religion and sex distinctions. This liberty indicates that the god is equal for every person on earth and grants equal opportunity to all. This festival also signifies that, the deities desire to come down to the level of the common people for some time and move with them. It is said that Gundica temple was the place where Jagannatha had his first manifestation in the present form and therefore, it is the birth place of Jagannatha.

Sayana Ekadasi :

This festival takes place in the month of Asadha, when the deities are still in their chariots in the Lions Gate after the Return Car Festival. On this occasion, the images of Vasudeva, Bhubanesvari and Narayana are taken to the chariots. After some rites are performed there, these images are taken to the ‘chamber of slumber’ for enjoying complete rest for four months.

Daksinayana Sankranti:

This festival takes place on the day of Karkata Sankranti. Special rites are performed on. this occasion.

Parsva Parivartana Ekadasi:

This festival takes place in the month of Bhadra. The deities enjoying sleep change sides on this day.

Deva Utthapana Ekadasi:

This festival takes place in the month of Kartika. On this day the deities rise from their sleep. Besides, it is a very sacred day for the Hindus. Parvana Sasthi: This festival takes place in the month of Margasira. This is locally known as Odhana Sasthi. The deities are covered with thick cloths till the month of Magha.

Dola Yatra:

This festival takes place in the month of Phalguna. The representative Deities are taken in a procession to a dias called Dolavedi located outside the main temple and special rituals are performed.

Damanaka Chaturdasi :

This festival falls in the month of Caitra. On this day, the deities pay a visit to the celebrated garden of Jagannatha Vallabha Matha, where they pick up the tender leaves of the Dayana plant un-noticed by anybody and put them on.

Makara Sankranti:

This festival falls in the month of Pausa. The deities are specially dressed on this occasion. Boiled rice mixed with candy and the juice of some fruits is offered to the deities. This festival has some agricultural significance.

Pusyabhiseka :

This festival falls on the full moon day of the month of Pausa and deities put on royal dress on this occasion.


This festival falls in the month of Vaisakha, when special rites are performed.

Apart from these important festivals, there are about 50 more festivals that are observed with great enthusiasm in an atmosphere of profound religious fervour. Some of these are :

  • Jhulana Yatra – Swing festival for seven days.
  • Sola Puja – Special esoteric worship in the Vimala temple for sixteen days.
  • Rama Navami – Birth of Rama incarnation.
  • Kumara Purnima. Janmastami – Birth of Krisna.
  • Krisna Lila – The exploits of Krisna.
  • Ganesa Caturti – Birth of Ganesa.
  • Radha-Astami – Birth of Radha.
  • Vamana Janma (or Sunia) – Birth of Vamana.
  • Ananta Caturdasi – Birth of Ananta.
  • Dwitiya Osa – This is specially observed in the temple of Laksmi. In Odisha ‘Osa’ means religious fasting.
  • Dasahara – Takes a way ten sins.
  • Navanna – Taking of new food.
  • Dipawali- Offering of lamps to forefathers.
  • Prathamastami.
  • Vakula Amavasya.
  • Sri Pancami – Special worship of Sarasvati.
  • Sivaratri Sacred day for Siva.
  • Asokastami.
  • Maha Visuva Sankranti – Also known as Pana Sankranti in Odisha. Pana means sweet drink.
  • Nrusingha Janma -Birth of Nrusingha.
  • Sitala Sasthi – Marrige of Siva.
  • Rukmini Harana Ekadasi – Marrige of Krishna
  • Details on these may be locally collected.

The Chariots

The three chariots of Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc. customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla, by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privilege for the same. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi. These are collected near Puri and then transported by road.

The three chariots, newly constructed every year and decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. Covered with a bright canopies made of stripes of red cloth combined with those of black, yellow and blue colours, the huge chariots are lined across the wide avenue right in front of the majestic temple close to its eastern entrance, also known as the Sinhadwara or the Lion’s Gate.

Lord Jagannatha’s Chariot is called Nandighosa. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven feet diameters, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. Lord Jagannatha is identified with Krishna who is also known as Pitambara, the one attired in golden yellow robes and hence the distinguishing yellow stripes on the canopy of this chariot.

The Chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called the Taladhwaja, the one with the Palm Tree on its flag, has fourteen wheels, each of seven feet diameters and is covered with red and blue cloth. Its height is forty-four feet.

The Chariot of Subhadra, known as Darpadalana, literally trampler of pride, is forty-three feet high with twelve wheels, each of seven feet diameters. This Chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth, black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother goddess.

Around each of the chariots are nine Parsva devatas, painted wooden images representing different deities on the chariots’ sides. Each of the chariots is attached with four horses. These are of different colours – white ones for Balabhadra, dark ones for Jagannatha and red ones for Subhadra. Each chariot has a charioteer called Sarathi. The three charioteers attached to the chariots of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra respectively are Matali, Daruka and Arjuna.


The journey of the deities to the world outside, starts with an elaborate royal ritual called Pahandi – literally, going forward in a step by step movement to the accompaniment of several devotees beating the ghanta, kahali and telingi baja.

The ghanta is a type of a gong, shaped like a flattish hollow bowl, and is made of kamsa, bell metal, an alloy of brass and zinc. A small baton like stick made of a hard but flexible piece of cane is used to beat the simple musical instrument. The ghanta is made by traditional artisan groups – kansaris, who live in villages not far from Puri. Kahali is a type of trumpet while the telingi baja is a simple drum, a percussion instrument played on both sides with canes.

The famous saint poet Salabega has immortalised the feelings of the devotees as they wait every year for fulfillment of their desire to see their dear dark darling, Kalia Dhana seated on his resplendent Chariot – Nandi Ghosa. Salabega had gone on pilgrimage and had fallen sick. He couldn’t return in time to see his darling Lord on the chariots and cried out in anguish from 750 miles away. He prayed to the Lord to tarry a while on the bada danda, the Grand Avenue till he could reach back to see the Lord. The compassionate Lord stayed on his chariot which could not be moved an inch forward till Salabega reached Puri and joined the devotees in prayer.

As Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra are quite heavy, a wooden cross is fixed to their backs and thick silken ropes are tied round their heads and waists for their ceremonial procession – a ritual known as Senapata lagi. The deities during the anasara period are actually placed in the audience hall – Jagamohana and not in the sanctum – or deul on the elevated platform, their normal seat. From there the deities are moved first on to the sata pahacha or seven steps, outside the northern door of the natamandapa or the dancing hall. During the outward movement from the temple to the chariots, the procession of the deities is in a row and is known as dhadi pahandi or a group movement. All the deities move simultaneously. At first Sudarshana, the celestial wheel of Krishna-Vishnu, is brought out and placed in the chariot of Subhadra followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and finally Jagannatha.

The blowing of kahali, the clang of the ghanta, and the beating of the telingi baja in a unique rhythmic movement slowly rising to a crescendo herald the beginning of their movement.

The two brothers, Balabhadra and Jagannatha are decorated with large, elaborate floral decorations called tahia. These are like huge crowns or tiara but are fixed at the back of their heads. These are made of a variety of white, orange and lotus flowers, leaves and pieces of cork fixed to a semi – circular heart shaped bamboo frame. The two brothers decorated with the tahias are carried forward in a slow, swaying movement, giving the illusion of a huge elephant gracefully and gently stepping out. The privilege of providing these tahias is with the Raghavadasa matha- a monastery associated with the temple. Hundreds and thousands of devotees eagerly await a glimpse of the deities. As the deities step out of the main entrance of the temple, the Sinhadwara – Lion’s Gate, the teeming devotees, bhaktas go wild with ecstasy, chanting the name of the Lord in a loud chorus. The chant Haribol – literally means to utter the name of Hari, the Lord.

First comes Sudarshana who takes its place on the chariot of Subhadra. He is followed by Lord Balabhadra. Much smaller, Subhadra, the yellow-golden coloured younger sister of Jagannatha and Balabhadra, follows soon after. Short and slim, in contrast to her two brothers and much lighter, the lady is carried on the shoulders in a supine state. Her movement is much faster and the daitas carrying her almost rush through the process in a running movement. At last comes Lord Jagannatha, darling of the devotees, in a regal procession. Dancers perform traditional Odissi dance to the accompaniment of mardala and mridanga, traditional Orissan percussion instruments, as the procession moves forward. Devotees also perform sankirtan, ritual group chanting of the names of Lords with rhythmic jumping movements.

Chhera Pahanra

The second phase of the festival is an equally colourful and elaborate ritual is known as Chhera Pahanra. The Raja, King of Puri, Gajapati Divya Singha Deva is informed of the deities having taken their places on the chariots through a messenger specially deputed by the temple officials. The young, handsome King, clad in spotless white, carried in a silver plated palanquin leaves his palace and comes in a small procession on the grand avenue led by a caparisoned elephant. He climbs the chariots one by one. He first offers his prayers to the deity seated on the chariot. He then cleans the platforms with a golden broom, sprinkling flowers and fragrant water on the surface of the chariot.

The ritual goes back several hundred years and is a symbol of the subjugation of the temporal to the spiritual. The emperors of Orissa, beginning with the valiant Anantvarman Chodagangadeva in the 12th century, had declared themselves to be the rauta, servant of Lord Jagannatha and ruled the land as His representative. The ritual is also a public demonstration of the unique philosophy of integration and unity symbolised by Lord Jagannatha. There is no distinction of caste, creed or any other barrier during the entire festivities. After cleansing of the chariots by the Raja and his departure to the palace, the wooden horses, brown, black and white, are fixed to the three chariots. Thick ropes made of coconut fibre and 250 feet long are tied to the individual chariots.

Chariots Pulling

The final ritual in the celebration is the pulling of the chariots. The chariot of Lord Balabhadra is pulled first followed by that of goddess Subhadra. At last the grand moment and the climax of the day’s celebration is reached when the chariot of Lord Jagannatha, Nandighosha starts its spectacular journey to the Gundicha temple. Thousands of devotees who patiently wait the whole day for this blessed moment are ecstatic with joy and pull the chariots with a sense of fulfillment.

In ancient times, the Ratha Yatra of Puri employed six chariots as compared to the three at present times. A river once flowed between the Gundicha House and the Jagannatha temple. Three chariots stayed in readiness on the other side of the river to receive the deities from the three chariots that transported them from the main temple.

Bahuda Jatra

There, in their Garden House, adapa mandapa, also known as their place of birth, the deities stay for seven days. On the ninth day of the festival, Bahuda Jatra, the grand return journey takes place. On the way back they stop for a short while and partake of poda pitha, a type of cake made of rice, lentils, jaggery and coconut, offered by their aunt, mausima. On reaching back the main temple, the deities, on their chariots, don the golden attire or the suna besa, with hands, arms and crown made of solid gold. They are also offered sweet drinks, adhara pana, on huge cylindrical earthen pots reaching up to their lips. They are taken down from the chariots in a ritual descent to enter the temple.

The temple gate is however shut upon Lord Jagannatha by his celestial consort Laxmi. Her anger, jealousy and frustration is articulated by her companions, represented by a group of servitors from inside. Another group representing Lord Jagannatha responds with entreaties and endearments. After re-enacting this drama of daily domestic tiffs of mere mortals, the celestial couples finally make up, and the temple door is opened and the deities return to their bejeweled throne, the ratna sinhasana.

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