Puri Rath Yatra: Reincarnation of Idols

The formation of new idols and destruction of the old idols symbolizes reincarnation.

Vedic chants are chanted continuously outside the area where the new idols are being carved from the neem wood. Once they’re completed, the new idols are carried inside the inner sanctum of the temple and placed facing the old idols. The supreme power (Brahma) is then transferred from the old to the new idols, in a ritual known as Brahma Paribartan which means changing the soul. This ritual is carried out in privacy. The priest performing the ritual is blindfolded, and his hands and feet are wrapped in thick layers of cloth, so that he can’t see or feel the transfer.

Once the ritual is complete, the new idols are seated on their throne. The old idols are taken to KoiliBaikuntha and buried there in a sacred ceremony before dawn. It’s said that if anybody sees this ceremony, apart from the priests who perform it, they will die.

Afterwards, the temple rituals recommence as normal. Flowers and new garments are given to the deities, food is offered, and pujas (worship) are performed.

Every year, three huge new chariots are made for the idols to be transported on during the festival. It’s a very detailed process that takes place in public, at the front of the royal palace near the Jagannath Temple.

18 days before the Rath Yatra festival starts, the three idols are given a ceremonial bath with 108 pitchers of water. This is known as Snana Yatra and it takes place on the full moon in the Hindu lunar month of Jyeshtha. In 2018, it falls on June 28. It’s believed that the deities will get a fever after the bath. Hence, they’re kept out of public view until they appear, renewed, on the new moon in Ashadha. In 2018, it falls on July 12. The occasion is called NavajoubanDarshan.

The Rath Yatra is a community festival. People don’t worship in their houses or fast. When the gods return from their journey, they’re decorated and adorned with ornaments of pure gold and given a nourishing drink, before being placed back inside the Jagannath Temple.