On Sunday, June 25, a large crowd from various Indian communities gathered to celebrate Rath Yatra at Shri Jagannath Temple of Greater Chicago in Aurora, IL.
The Ratha Yatra was preceded the day before when rituals like Netra Utshav, Nava Jauban Darshan were conducted, ending two weeks of Anabasar (seclusion) of the four deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Sudarshan.
On Rath Yatra day, the morning rituals began with Surya Pooja, Kalasa Sthapana, Dwarpal Pooja, Nabagraha Pooja, and sodasha upachar pooja of Lord Jagannath. After offering of special Bhoga Naivedya , prayer, and Arati, according to a press release from the temple.
The deities started the Yatra from the main temple to chariot in a colorful procession called ‘Dhadi Pahandi’ where a group of ardent devotees lined up to carry the deities in ‘Pahandi’ procession amid the reverberation of traditional instruments like the ghanta, mridunga, jhanja, conch, and chants of ‘HariBol’.
“Pahandi” started with Lord Sudarshan leading the line followed by eldest brother Lord Balabhadra, youngest sister Devi Subhadra, and Kalia Thakura Lord Jagannath at the end.
All deities were placed on the elaborately decorated chariot. A traditional process of ‘Cherapanhara’ was conducted by Manash Rout. In Puri, the original hub in India where the main Ratha Yatra takes place, the King of Utkal performs this privileged duty of “Cherapanhara” in which the king, the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, sweeps around the chariots and cleans the area before the Raths roll on the grand road.
Several devotees offered puja and coconut to Lord Jagannath on the chariot. It is said that devotees get salvation (“Rathe tu Bamanam drustwa, PunarJanma na-Vidyate” ) by seeing Lord Jagannath on the chariot.
After all rituals were completed, the yatra started, the chariots being pulled on Corporate Blvd along with the roaring sound of instruments, and ‘HariBol’ chant. On the way, ‘Pana’ and ‘Pitha’ are offered to the lords. After one hour on the road, the chariot returned to the emple and deities were moved out of chariot to Gundicha Temple in ‘Dhadi Pahandi’. Final Pooja and Arati was offered to conclude the festival for the day.
Devotees were served food after the yatra was over.
The Ratha Yatra festival lasts almost four weeks beginning with Lord’s Snana Yatra on Deba Snana Purnima. On June 11th, Sunday Debasnana Purnima festival was celebrated in Shri Jagannath temple, Aurora, in which the murti was bathed dressed up in the costume (Gajanan Vesha). Lord stayed in seclusion without regular worship and public view for two weeks until Netrotshav and Naba Jauban Darshan.
The entire Rath Yatra event was organized and managed by the board members of the temple, Pradip Nayak and Neel Nanda, along with a group of dedicated volunteers of Sri Jagannath Society of Greater Chicago.