Several stories throw light to the Rath Yatra…..
Krishna “Literally means Black” is the eighth incartion of Vishnu, born to Devaki and brought up by Yashoda. The purpose of his incarnation was to destroy his evil uncle Kansa who had unsurped the throne of Mathura. Krishna played a crucial role in Mahabharata and fully revealed his divinity to Arjuna, the son of Indra.
Krishna is also said to be known by the name Bhagwan Jagannath . He was invited to take part in the battle of Kurukshetra and “Rathyatra” is celebrated as an important event for this moment. Krishna and his brother went from Gokul to Mathura and the Gopis and Gokul dwellers give them a hearty see off as they leave in a “Rath” with Akurji. Kansa, the maternal Uncle of Krishna had called him with a malicious intention to kill him This day of departure is celebrated as Rath Yatra by devotees.
Another says, Lord Krishna vanquished evil Kansa and gave the devotees Darshan in Mathura, in a chariot with his brother Balaram.
In Dwarka, the victory over evil is celebrated with devotees showing the sister Shubadra the city in a chariot alongwith Krishna and Balaram.
Once in Dwarka, Lord Krishna’s eight queens requested mother Rohini
to narrate the divine episodes of Lord Krishna with the Gopis while he was in Vraj.
For a while Rohini did not agree. Finally, after a lot of insistence she gave away. However, considering it unbecoming of Subhadra to hear such episodes (Leela), she sent her to guard the palace doorway. Yet the Vrajkatha soon absorbed Subhadra. Soon, Lord Shri Krishna and Balaram arrived at the doorway. With arms wide apart, she stood between the two, preventing them from entering. However, from where they stood, Rohini’s katha soon engrossed them all! Just then sage Narad arrived. Seeing the siblings standing together like murtis, he humbly prayed, “May the three of you grant darshan in this manner forever.” The Lord granted the boon. And the three eternally reside in the Jagannath Mandir in Puri.
There’s also an interesting story of Krishna becoming Sarthi of Arjun’s Chariot in Mahabharata and giving him Life’s advice.
A story which has been passed on from mouth to mouth,
concerns about what happened after the cremation of Lord Krishna’s mortal body…
When Shri Krishna was being cremated in Dwarika, Balaram overcame with grief and dashed into the ocean with Shri Krishna’s partially cremated body. Subhadra too, followed both the brothers. At the same time, on the eastern shore of India, King Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri had a dream that the Lord’s body would float up to the shores of Puri. He should build a huge Temple in the city and make the wooden idols (murtis) of Shri Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra. The bones (asthi) of Lord Krishna’s body should be placed in the hollow in the back of the murti. The dream came true. He found the splinters of bone (asthi) and took them. But the question was who would carve the murtis. It is said that the architect of the gods, Vishwakarma arrived as an old carpenter. He said that while carving the murtis nobody should disturb him and if anybody did, he would stop work and leave. A few months passed by. One day, being impatient, Indradyumna opened the door of Vishwakarma’s room, who vanished instantly as he had said. Despite the incomplete murtis, the king consecrated them, placing the holy cinders of Lord Krishna in the hollow of the murti and installed them in the Temple. Every year a grand procession is carried out with the murtis of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in three gigantic floats. The floats are pulled by devotees from Janakpur to the mandir in Jagannath Puri. The murtis are changed every twelve years, the new ones being incomplete too.
The Jagannath Mandir in Jagannath Puri is one of the four most sacred mandirs in the four directions of the Indian sub – continent. The other three are: Rameshwar in South, Dwarka in West and Badrinath in the Himalayas. Probably the mandir in Jagannath Puri is the only mandir in the world housing murtis of three deities who are siblings – Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra.
The statues of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra are found in Jagannathpuri in Orissa which is worshipped with great fervor during Rathyatra. The Jagannath Mandir in Jagannath Puri is one of the four most sacred mandirs in the four directions of the Indian sub – continent. The other three are Rameshwar in South, Dwarka in West and Badrinath in the Himalayas. Probably theTemple in Jagannath Puri is the only Temple in the world housing idols (murtis) of three deities who are siblings – Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra.
Rath in Hindu Scriptures is meaningful…Body Rath, Samsara Rath & Life Rath…
Katha Upanishad (1/3/3-4) – the Body Rath
Yama, the Lord of Hell reveals to young Natchiketa the Rath with which one can attain Brahma-vidya – knowledge of Brahman.
Atmanam rathinam viddhi shareeram rathameva tu,
Buddhim tu sarathim viddhi manaha pragrahameva tu.
Indriyani hayanyahur vishayansteshu gocharan,
The atman is Rathi – owner of the `chariot’ – the body,
The intellect is the Sarathi – driver,
The mind is the rein,
The senses are the horses, and
The Panch Vishayas – material objects of the five senses – are
the fields of pasture for the horses.
i.e. The person whose Sarathi – intellect – is wise, whose mind fully controls the senses, can traverse Samsara to reach the desired goal – the Lord’s abode.
Ramayana – The Samsara Rath
Lord Ramachandra describes his chariot to Vibhishan, with which he is always victorious:
Courage and tenacity are its wheels,
Immutable truth and character are its flags,
Strength, discrimination, self-control and charity are its horses,
Forgiveness, mercy and equanimity are the reins, and
Devotion to the Lord is its Sarathi.
With such a chariot one can surely traverse Samsara.
Mahabharat- The Life Rath
Shri Krishna says in the Gita (18/78) that, where there is
The ultimate essence of the chariot stories is that the Jiva(soul) should unwarrantedly surrender to the supreme Sarathi – God or the God-realised Sadhu, if he wishes to successfully traverse the yatra(Journey) of life, Samsara.
“Aham sarvasya prabhavo, Mattah sarvam pravartate
Iti matva bhajante mam, Budha bhava samanvitah”
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in my devotional service and worship me with all their hearts”
Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi performs ‘Pahind Vidhi’ and the age-old tradition of pulling the chariot of Lord Jagannath.