Ulto Rath Yatra:The Majestic Return Journey of the Puri Jagannatha Chariot

The Ulto Rath Yatra, also known as Bahuda Yatra, signifies the grand return journey of the Puri Jagannatha Rath Yatra chariots from the Gundicha Temple after a glorious eight-day procession. This sacred event concludes the highly revered Jagannatha Rath Yatra festival, drawing devotees from far and wide. With meticulous preparations and elaborate rituals, the Ulto Rath Yatra holds immense significance in the religious and cultural fabric of Puri, Odisha.

Preparations and Sanctification

The preparations for the return journey commence on the seventh day of the Ashada month. After the morning puja at the Gundicha Temple, the three garlands offered to the three deities, namely Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra, are carefully retrieved. Subsequently, the three chariots are sanctified and positioned at the Saradha Bali, where the Dakshina Moda ceremony takes place. During this ceremony, the chariots are expertly turned around to face south, marking the beginning of the return journey.

Technical Expertise and Positioning

The process of turning the chariots is a highly technical task executed under the guidance of skilled craftsmen involved in the chariot-making process. Special gears are employed to facilitate this intricate maneuver, requiring the chariots to be pulled half a mile before being positioned correctly. The chariots designated for the return journey are then brought near the Naka Chana Dwara, adhering to a specific order. Subhadra’s chariot occupies the middle position, flanked by Balabhadra’s chariot in the west and Jagannatha’s chariot in the east, forming an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.

Ratha Bhoga: Offering of Dry Snacks

As an integral part of the Ulto Rath Yatra, a unique ritual called Ratha Bhoga takes place. Special dry snacks are offered as prasad at the end of the Dakshina Moda ceremony. This culinary offering holds symbolic importance and further enhances the spiritual experience of the devotees partaking in the festivities.

Chara Malas and Preparations

The day preceding the return journey holds its own significance. Chara malas, traditional garlands made of hay, are meticulously attached to the chariots. These garlands are then placed inside the sanctum sanctorum before the deities, invoking their blessings for a safe and auspicious journey back. The subsequent preparations involve the fitting of a wooden frame and Senapati Lagi onto the chariots, signifying the readiness of the divine entourage.

Vibrant Festivities and Divine Departure

Amidst an atmosphere brimming with joy and devotion, various cultural performances adorn the occasion. Traditional dancers present captivating dances as offerings to the deities, adding to the divine aura. Acrobats showcase their skills, while performers don attires depicting characters from ancient epics and puranas, such as Hanuman. With the Naka Chana Dwara serving as the exit point, the deities gracefully emerge, adorned with Taihas and other exquisite accessories, ready to embark on their majestic chariots.

Sacred Procession and Auspicious Halts

The murtis (idols) of Madana Mohana, Rama, and Krishna are reverently carried to the chariots of Jagannath and Balabhadra by the priests, symbolizing the union of divine manifestations. As the afternoon approaches, the magnificent pulling of the chariots commences, where countless devotees participate in this pious act, considered an honor and a blessing. During the Ulto Rath Yatra, the chariots of Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra make several significant halts along their route. One such halt is at the Mausima Temple, dedicated to the aunt of Lord Jagannatha. Here, the deities are offered “poda pitha,” a special sweet delicacy made of rice, coconut, lentils, and jaggery, as a token of love and devotion.

Another noteworthy stop occurs before the palace of Gajapati, where the chariot of Jagannatha halts for the Lakshminarayana Bheta, a divine meeting with Goddess Lakshmi. This sacred encounter symbolizes the reunion of Lord Jagannatha with his consort, ensuring harmony and prosperity in the lives of devotees.

The Final Destination

After traversing the sacred path and blessing the devotees with their divine presence, the chariot of Jagannatha finally reaches its ultimate destination. This arrival marks the completion of the Ulto Rath Yatra and the culmination of the magnificent Jagannatha Rath Yatra festival. Devotees rejoice, immersed in the overwhelming spiritual experience, as they witness the triumphant return of their beloved deities to the Gundicha Temple, their abode until the next year’s grand procession.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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