The Jagannath Temple at Puri is among the most revered Hindu religious sites in the country. The sanctum sanctorum maintains a long history of religious and cultural antiquity. Preparations for the Rath Yatra, held every year, start early with the making of new chariots. The festival that lasts for a good 15 days attracts thousands of devotees, however, this year due to Covid-19 restrictions no devotee is permitted to visit the site. The ritual of pulling the chariot on July 12 was completed only by the servitors of the temple who had undergone Covid-19 tests before the festival.
Many devotees are disappointed as they won’t get a chance to pull the chariot or touch the rope. But do you know why people are so anxious to touch a mere rope of a chariot?
Devotees believe that the holy chariot of Lord Jagannath is the embodiment of the god himself whose soul lies inside the deities placed on the chariots.
This is the only occasion once a year when the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balbhadra and Goddess Subhadra come out of the temple to give an audience to the devotees. As non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple this is the only occasion for all to get a glimpse of the trinity. Devotees feel this is the only occasion to feel the blessings of Lord Jagannath and thus every visitor wishes to touch the rope that is fixed to the chariot to pull it.
Devotees consider that touching the rope of Lord Jagannath will cleanse all their sins and free them from the cycle of rebirth, as believed in Hindu religion. The devotion is so much that a few decades ago devotees used to sacrifice their lives after suddenly coming under the wheels of the chariot. However, the temple administration has taken all measures to prevent any such incident.
Symbolically, it is also said the chariot acts like the mind where the Lord teaches his devotees how to be the charioteer of one’s mind and how to direct and control it.
The chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are made from the wood logs of Neem and other trees. Later after the Rath Yatra is completed, the chariots are dismantled and used as firewood in the temple’s kitchen.