The Jagannatha Rathayatra is one of the major festivals and attended by millions of pilgrims at Sri Ksetra, Puri Dham. For fifteen days, Lord Jagananth remains in seclusion with Maha Lakshmi to enjoy pastimes with her. Now, having taken her permission, He comes out to ride upon His Ratha, and thus performs pastimes for the pleasure of His devotees.
The fine, white sand that covers the road to the Gundicha temple resembles the banks of the river Yamuna, and the small gardens on both sides look just like those found in Vrindavana.
The pullers of Jagannatha’s Rath are known as Gaudas. These gaudas pull the Rath with great pleasure. Sometimes the Ratha stands completely still, and will not even budge an inch, in spite of being pulled vigorously. Thus, the chariot moves by the will of the Lord, and not by the strength of any ordinary persons.
After remaining in Sundarachala for nine days, the Lord returns to Nilachala.
Lord Caitanya took part in RathaYatra in an ecstatic mood. He also discussed Jagannatha katha and His lila in Vrindavan with His intimate associates, such as Srivas Thakur and Svarupa Damodara and performed sankirtan with great ecstatic exuberance.
Ratha-yatra celebrations in Mayapur
At the Rajapur’s Sri Jagannatha Temple, Their Lordships getting dressed in nice outfits and adorned with beautiful ornaments and flower garlands. Amidst a roaring kirtan and in big procession, They are seated on three different chariots. They come to Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir and shower their blessings there for the next seven days. Sometimes even a small chariot with Jaganntha, Baladev, and Subhadra Mayi deities comes in front, pulled by the children. Jagannatha-astaka is recited and wonderful kirtan accompanies the chariots.
Every evening, during the seven days of a festival, lamps are offered to Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra and all the ladies blissfully serve Lord Jagannatha by offering a nice bhoga they prepare daily for pleasure of the Lord.
After seven celebration days, the return Ratha Yatra (a.k.a. Ulta Ratha) takes place with pomp and splendor, returning to Rajapur temple.