Today is the day when the Jagannath Rath Yatra shall adorn the roads of Udaipur thronged with masses of devotees hailing Lord Krishna’s avatar. Three different chariots carrying Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram and Their sister Subhadra will pulled through the streets marking the day commemorating the single occasion on which Srimati Radharani met Krishna.
The story of the origin of Rath Yatra is in itself very interesting. For many years Lord Krishna had ruled as a King of Dwarka exhibiting splendor of His capital, the power of His army, the brilliance of His court, and the beauty and refinement of His queens (all the opulence of Godhead).
On a solar eclipse, Krishna had left Dwarka with His brother Balaram and sister Subhadra at the head of endless linage of chariots, elephants and palanquins to Kurukshetra. After a considerable amount of time the Vrindavana vasis, hoping to see their Krishna again, hailed to meet Him at Kurukshetra with Yashoda Maiyya and Nanda Maharaja.
After the celebrated meeting, the residents of Vrindavana, along with all the gopis pulled the chariots of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra in an ecstatic mood to take them back to Vrindavana. That was the first Rath Yatra ever.
Puri itself, with its majestic temple, is Dwarka, and Gundica, set in rural gardens, is Vrindavana.
Many devotees wonder about the wide eyed and no limbs appearance of Lord Jagannath. The story behind such an incarnation is equally interesting.
The Skanda Purana relates that King Indradyumna had quested to find a deity form of Krishna after dreaming a beautiful blue deity named Nila Madhaya.
After several hurdles he was able to build a temple for Krishna in which Vishvakarma (the architect of the demigods) arrived under disguise to carve the deities in 21 days but disappeared before the ensured time period limit collapsed. Indradyumna noticed that he had left the work incomplete.
The deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra were without hands or feet. The worried King was visited by Jagannath in his dream later to be assured that He was revealing Himself in the very same form to accept offerings without hands or feet. Since then, the same unfinished forms are worshiped in temples all around the world.
There is one more account in Skanda Purana itself for their appearance which says that once Srimati Radharani, Krishna’s parents Nanda and Yashoda and some Vrindavana vasis had met Krishna in Kurukshetra.
And Lord Balaram’s mother Rohini narrated Krishna’s childhood tales to the queens of Dwarka. She had posted Subhadra on the door to prevent anyone from entering; Krishna and Balaram had later arrived and had eavesdropped on the conversation. The narration made them ecstatic and they were overwhelmed suddenly and their feelings were exhibited externally by their eyes dilating and their heads compressing with their retracting limbs.
Such transformation was followed by Sage Narada Muni praying to Lord Krishna to appear like this again. And the Lord said, ‘I am full- all the epics in one. Yet I surrender to the wish of my devotee and come in whatever form he wants.’ And He appeared as Nila Madhava to satisfy Vishavasu and as Jagannath in the deity form in Jagannath Puri to satisfy Narada Muni.
Jagannath is no one else but the ecstatic manifestation of Krishna, who appears in His most merciful form to help us go home, back to Godhead. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada has introduced the Jagannatha Rathayatra in many cities around the world to uplift the conditioned souls from the spell of Maya (illusion).
By engaging in the act of pulling the Lord’s Ratha, His devotees in the mood of Radha-dasyam, perform the act of taking Krishna back to Vrindavan – back to Srimati Radharani. There are incredible benefits of participating in the Rath Yatra. Some of them are listed here:
-By seeing the most merciful form of Lord Jagannatha, mainly recognizable by His two large round lotus eyes, one will make rapid spiritual progress and gain instant purification.
-If anyone even glances at the Ratha Yatra chariot passing and stands up to receive the Lord, he can purge all sinful results from his body.
-If anyone follows the Rath when the Deities pass in front or from behind, even if he is born of a lowly family, he can achieve opulence equal to that of Lord Vishnu.
-By engaging in dancing and chanting during the Ratha Yatra parade, one can uplift one’s soul beyond all meditations.
-By performing any activities to help making this festival a success, one is granted the full blessings of the Lord.
-By donating one’s time, effort – One’s home, family and friends will be fully blessed forever.