Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Niladri Bije - Ratha Jatra

Ratha Jatra or Ratha Yatra or Rath Yatra, also called the ‘Chariot Festival' of Puri Shree Jagannatha is a centuries-old festival of Odisha, India. It finds mention in many ancient texts like the Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, Kapila Samhita, Bamadeva Samhita, Niladri Mahodaya etc. 

Ratha Jatra is celebrated all over the world now.

This annual festival is celebrated on Asadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Asadha month, the third month of the Odia calendar).

The rituals have been held systematically as per the tithi for hundreds of years. The preparations start early. The first lot of wood for constructing the Rathas reaches by Basanta Panchami, and Puja (Ratha Katha Anukula) is done. 

The construction of the chariots starts on the day of Akshaya Trutiya (the third day of the bright fortnight of the month of Baisakha). Skilled artisans and craftsmen construct the Rathas following centuries-old traditions. The size and specifications of the Rathas are fixed.

Ratha Jatra is the journey of Lord Jagannath, along with brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from their abode, Shreemandira, to their birthplace, Shree Gundicha Temple. Thus, this is also called Gundicha Jatra.


Many think that Ratha Jatra is a one-day festival and the festivities end that day. 

Ratha Jatra is also called Navadin Jatra (nine-day Journey). 

Some think all the rituals end on the ninth day i.e. on the return journey called Bahuda Jatra.

However, the Ratha Jatra festivities come to an end on Niladri Bije- the twelfth day of the commencement of the journey. 

The journey starts on the second day of the bright fortnight of Asadha that is celebrated as Ratha Jatra. The deities are brought out of the temple in a spectacular procession called Pahandi. Adorned with Tahias, their rhythmic motion enthralls all as they make their way to their respective chariots. The siblings travel from the Ratnabedi to Janmabedi- from the Shree Jagannatha Temple to their birthplace, the Shree Gundicha Temple that is about three kilometers away.

The Rathas are pulled by lakhs of people along Badadanda, the Grand Road. The Rathas reach the Shree Gundicha temple. The next day, the deities enter the Gundicha Temple in the Pahandi style.

On Hera Panchami, the fifth day of the Ratha Jatra, Devi Lakshmi goes to visit Her husband, Shree Jagannatha. She goes to the Shree Gundicha Temple with much pomp and show in a procession in the evening of the Asadha Shukla Shashti (sixth day of the bright fortnight in Asadha). However, being unable to converse, and feeling neglected as His door gets closed, She is angry with the Lord. Breaking a part of His Nandighosha Ratha, She returns to Shreemandira via a lane called Hera Gohiri Sahi without any fanfare.


On the sixth day of the Ratha Jatra, the Rathas are turned around to face South towards the Shree Jagannatha Temple, indicating preparation for return journey.

In accordance with rituals, the deities stay for seven days at their birthplace, and return to their abode on the ninth day of the Ratha Jatra. Their return journey is called Bahuda Jatra. On the Bahuda Jatra, there is Pahandi of the deities to their respective Rathas that are pulled to their abode. Conducted on the Dasami tithi (tenth day of the bright fortnight of Asadha) also called Bahuda Dasami, the return journey is similar to the Ratha Jatra. 

On their way back from the Gundicha Temple, the deities stop for a while near the Ardhasani Temple called the MausiMaa Temple (Aunt's abode), where they are offered the Podapitha, which is a special traditional dish of Odisha.

The three Rathas are pulled by thousands of devotees and they reach the Singhadwara (Lion’s Gate of the Shree Jagannatha Temple). There is Lakshmi Narayana Bheta- a meeting between the divine couple- Maa Lakshmi and Shree Jagannatha.


The next day, on Ekadasi tithi, the deities are attired in golden costume which is known as Suna Besha. It is the tenth day of Ratha Jatra when the deities look resplendent adorned with golden ornaments, and their golden appearance dazzles all. 

On the eleventh day, deities are offered pots full of traditional drink on the Rathas. The long cylindrical earthen pots filled with drink reach their lips. This is called the Adharapana ritual- Adhara means Lips and Pana means drink. The pots are broken and the drink flows down to satiate the divine forces and guardian spirits residing in the Rathas.

The last day of the Ratha Jatra is the Niladri Bije. This is the twelfth day (Dwadasi). There is Pahandi of the deities, and Shree Balabhadra, Shree Sudarshana and Devi Subhadra gain entry inside the temple to reach Their seats on the Ratnasinghasana (Bejeweled Throne). However, still upset about not being taken along for the Ratha Jatra, Maa Lakshmi does not allow Shree Jagannatha to enter inside the temple. Her servitors close the door. There is a Lakshmi Narayana Kali (Fight) i.e. the Lakshmi Narayana Bachanika. A dialogue/conversation is enacted between servitors of Maa Lakshmi and Mahaprabhu Jagannatha. Mahaprabhu ensures Manabhanjana (appeasement of anger) of Maa Lakshmi by offering Her gifts like Rasagola. 

Niladri Bije marks the arrival of the deities to the sanctum sanctorum, and the end of the Ratha Jatra. With the re-entry of the deities into the temple, the Ratha Jatra concludes.

Many were unaware of such rituals before we started celebrating #RasagolaDibasa on Niladri Bije on social media starting Nabakalebara Ratha Jatra 2015. 

From 2015, Padma Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik has been creating "Rasagola Dibasa" sand-art in Puri, Odisha. Many got to learn about the the Niladri Bije ritual of Shree Jagannatha and the importance and socio-cultural link of Rasagola with Odisha. 


We have been celebrating Niladri Bije as the Rasagola Dibasa i.e. a day for Rasagola
However, many are yet to know about the different rituals associated with Shree Jagannatha and Ratha Jatra, including offering of Rasagola by Shree Jagannatha to Maa Lakshmi and also offering of pots full of Rasagolas by the devotees on the same day i.e. on Niladri Bije. 
Despite Odisha’s continuing tradition, there are many debates online whenever Rasagola (Rasgulla) topic comes up. This is despite Odisha having earned the GI Tag for Odisha Rasagola on July 29, 2019.
Celebration and sharing by all can make everyone aware.

Key Ratha Jatra Dates this year:

Ratha Jatra- 12 July 2021

Hera Panchami- 16 July 2021

Sandhya Darshan- 19 July 2021

Bahuda Jatra- 20 July 2021

Suna Besha- 21 July 2021

Adharapana- 22 July 2021

Niladri Bije- Rasagola Dibasa- 23 July 2021

The Odia version of this article has been published in the Sakala newspaper, Sindura, Ratha Jatra special issue dated - 18-24 July 2021.


Requesting all to please use hashtags 
#RasagolaDibasa #EndRasgullaDebate and share information about our rich Shree Jagannatha Sanskruti and Odisha’s incredible gifts to the world like the Rasagola. 

Ratha Jatra is like the journey of life. 

May Mahaprabhu’s grace make everyone’s life’s journey grand just like His Ratha Jatra and end on a sweet note with gifts like His Rasagola.

Ratha Jatra is a Sweet Yatra.

More posts about Rasagola Dibasa here.

PC: Shree Jagannatha Temple, Puri & Padma Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik

Did you know about all these rituals and days of Ratha Jatra?

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