Annual Sri Jagannatha Rath Yatra in Puri
God is actually able to ride on the Rathayäträ cart, and in His form as the Deity, bestow His blessings upon all. Who can deny God if He wishes to appear before us? Lord Jagannätha is Kåñëa Himself – He rides on, and the devotees feel pleasure at heart, and all persons factually receive His blessings on the occasion of Rathayäträ.
Yoga means to link with God in loving exchange. Lord Kåñëa teaches in Bhagavad-gétä (6.47) that the highest yogé is “he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service.” The Rathayäträ Festival is a potent transcendental stimulus for developing love of Godhead. The Rathayäträ procession—the gigantic, opulently decorated Deity cars and thousands of people chanting Hare Kåñëa and dancing ecstatically—can attract even the materialistic person. By becoming attracted to the Supreme Lord in His form as Jagannätha one loses his attachment to the illusory happiness of the mundane world. Thus simply by seeing the Deities, simply by hearing the transcendental sound vibration of Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare, or simply by tasting foodstuffs offered to Kåñëa, anyone can begin his progress back to Godhead without difficulty. And by applying his energy in understanding the Kåñëa consciousness movement and participating in glorifying the all-blissful Lord of the universe, one can revive one’s eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated – “Real religion is that which awakens unconditional, unmotivated love for the Lord from within our hearts. The love for God, which is dormant in the heart of all living beings, can be awakened by chanting of holy names of the lord.”
Externally, Rathayäträ is spectacular—colorful and entertaining. Yet the Gauòéya Vaiñëavas, the followers of Lord Caitanya, see in the Festival of the Chariots much more than just a happy event. The pulling of the cart by the Lord’s devotees symbolizes the attempt of the Vrajaväsés, especially Rädhäräëé and the gopés, to bring Kåñëa, Balaräma, and Subhadrä back to Våndävana. Today those who take part in a Ratha-yäträ festival can share in the feelings of Kåñëa’s devotees who drew Him back to Våndävana with their love.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada very simply explained the meaning of Ratha Yatra. He said that Ratha Yatra is the meditation on bringing Krishna back into our hearts. Krishna resides within the heart of all living beings, but we have forgotten Him. The real purpose of spiritual life is to make our heart a suitable home for God to reveal Himself to us. If we are inviting God to reveal himself in our hearts it must be clean. But if our hearts have accumulated the dirt of lust, envy, arrogance, greed, anger and illusion then He will not be happy to reveal His home within our heart. The purpose of every great spiritual path in this world is to help one another to honestly and sincerely clean our hearts, to cultivate the character of humility, charity, love for God and compassion to all beings.
That night, Jagannatha spoke to the king in a dream and reassured him, explaining that He was revealing Himself in that form out of His own inconceivable desire, to show the world that He can accept offerings without hands, and move around without feet. Lord Jagannatha told the king, “Know for sure that My hands and feet are the ornament of all ornaments, but for your satisfaction, you may give Me gold and silver hands and feet from time to time.” Devotees now worship the same “unfinished” forms of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in Puri and in temples around the world. These forms are part of their eternal pastimes.
Narada Muni, during his conversation with King Indradyumna, explained to him about the origin of the strange form of Krishna as Jagannatha, which he had fortunately seen once before.