Ratha Yatra

By: Bijaya Ketan Sahu

Ratha Yatra: A symbolic representation of life’s journey towards divinity.
The holy land of Odisha, whose dust says “Jagannath”, air says “Jagannath”, ocean, river, stream say “Jagannath”.
The centre of Odishan culture is Lord Jagannath. The icon of Odishan philosophy is SriJagannath. Literature of Odisha starts with Jagannath. Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu is in Odishan devotional song, music, art, thinking and day to day life of a Odia. Perhaps Odisha is the only geographical region in entire world where king becomes sweeper on service of Lord Jagannath. Why he would not be, because real king of Odisha (Utkal/Kalinga) is Lord Jagannath. Perhaps Jagannath is the only deity across the universe who comes in form of His original idol (mul vigrah) to give holy darshan (glimpse) to His dearest devotees.He is known as Patit-pavan, the lord who can give Moksha (salvation) to even fallens. His another name is Purusottam, the fulfiller best. His holy abode is also known as Purusottam Puri which can liberates from bondage of illusion.
The lord whose everything is great. His holy abode is known as Srikshetra (glorious abode), His temple is SriMandir (glorious temple), His road is called as Bada Danda (grand Road), His flag is known as “Patit-Pavan” Bana (the flag which can liberate to fallens), His kitchen is known as “Ananda Bazar” (the market of divine pleasure), His sea know as “Mahoudadhi” (the great ocean) etc. Lord Jagannath who can fulfil all the gaps in mind and gives internal happiness. Hence he is Sat-Chid-Anand.
Ratha Yatra festival symbolically represents the journey of life. In a continuous journey of a soul or jeeva (the living being) from birth to death, it’s body is just like a chariot. On that chariot supreme God seats as param-aatma (the supreme soul). God is rider for the living chariot and the soul is just like voyage of that bodily chariot. So obeying command of the rider (the lord) if voyage (living entity himself) walks on the path of the life, then the life would be fruitful. This is the essance of Ratha Yatra.
In holy land of Puri, Sri Chaitanya’s preached his holy devotional and philosophical thought is known as dwetadweta (Dweta+Adweta) vaad. Sri Chaitanya’s holy ideology is also known as “Achintya Bhedabhed” tatwa. In same holy land of Puri, Adi-Sankaracharya had also preached his philosophical thought is known as Adwetavaad. Adwetavaad says Soaham (I am He-the absolute) or Brahmosmi (I am Brahman-supreme soul). During sadhana this realization comes after certain level, but if devotion is lost, this practice becomes very dangerous as it may create pride or Ego which is an obstacle for further Sadhana.
Yug-Purusottam SRI SRI THAKUR ANUKUL CHANDRA, also warns us in HIS holy written book Satyanusaran that you may say Soaham or Brahosmi but hold it on devotion else you may fall down… (Sri Sri Thakur Anukulchandra, Satyanusaran – The Pursuit of truth).
The theory of “Dwetadweta vaad” preached by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabu which is based on complete devotion or surrender to Lord. According to this theory the soul may be similar to supreme soul-the absolute in it’s appearance but not by potency, quality or power, just like Ocean and drop of water. Drop of water and Ocean had made up with same elements. But drop of water is a part of Ocean . So according to this theory jeeva (living entity or aatma) is a part and parcel of Lord not equal to Lord. Lord or God is source of jeeva. Soul has come from Him (supreme soul) and should attain moksha unto him.
Lord Jagannath himself is the supreme personality of Godhead and source of all Avatars (Avataree) so all most all avatars and seers of Aryavarta has praised Lord Jagannath. Sri Sankaracharya who is said to be an Avatar of Lord Shiva, has come to Purusottama Dhama (Puri) and established his main Ashram named as Gobardhana Mutt here. Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had also come to Puri during the period of ruler of Orissa Gajapati Pratap Rudra Dev and spent his last part of human incarnation in the holy environment of Shriksetra (Puri). Similarly Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Sri Sankara Dev (Assam) has come to this holy city.
All most all Purusottamas has also come to Puri. That is why Puri is called as Purusottama Ksherta. In fact this Puri name is derived from the Word Purusottam. Once this Puri town was named as Purusottam, and Lord Jagannath is also called as Purusottam. In many old epics, both Puri and Lord Jagannath is named as Purusottama. Purusottama is the original name of both Lord Jagannath and Puri-Dhaam it self. Neelachal, Shrikshtra are only the adjective names of Puri, but these are not the original names.
This word Purusottama has two meanings:
Pura means “The body”
Isha means- Lord or husband
So,Purusha means Lord of the body “The Soul”
Now Uttama means “The best”
So Purusottama means “The best among all souls”, i.e-The supreme soul him self(Param Brahma)
Generally Lord Vishnu himself and his human incarnation is called as Param Brahma or Purusottama.
Pura means “ The village, town or a particular place
Isha means- great
So, Purusha means The great Places,i.e the pilgrimages(Tirtha stanas)
Now Uttama means “The best”
So Purusottama means “The best among all holy places”
Puri is the most and greatest holy places among the four sacred adobes in India (i.e Rameshwar, Badrinath, Dwarika and Puri). The lords of all the three places besides Puri is called as Lord of that particular Places (Like Ramanatha, Badrinatha, Dwarikanatha) but the lord of the Puri is not called as Puri-Natha or Neelachal-Natha,in fact he is Lord of the whole universe,so he is called as Jagannath (Jagat-Natha). The greatness of Puri is also described in also below Sanskrit quote:
“Gangaya jalam muktih,
Banarasya stalam muktih
Jale stale va vyome
Muktih Purusottame”.
It means – The water of river Ganga gives salvation,the land of Baranasi gives salvation but all land,water and air of Purusottama (Puri) gives salvation. So many saints wishes to spend there last days of life in Purusottama Kshetra.
So the Purusottama Kshetra it self is Purusottama. It is written in a Oriya Devotional Poem by the great vaisnab devotee Sri Jagannatha Das (To whom due to his great inner devotion that is reflected in Odia Bhagavat written by himself, Lord Sri Chaitanya honored him as name AtiBadi means the greatest among greats).
It is written Pancha Sakha literature of Odisha:
“ଧାମ ଯେ ତାର ନାମ ହୋଇ
ତାରକବ୍ରହ୍ମ ସେ ବୋଲାଇ”
It means The lord Jagannath has the name as his abode (Dhaam). He himself named as Purusottama and his abode is also named as Purusottama. Purusottama kshetra is Purusottama it self by name.And these two Purusottamas (Nama and Dhama, English-Name and abode) both are Taraka-Brahama (Which can give the liberation from bondage of illusion i.e-the salvation).
It is clear that according to Jagannath consciousness only Purusottama is the main source to get salvation and also his holy leela kshetra (the abode of his divine leela) can gives mukti (salvation) “Rathe tu Bamanam drustwa punarjanma na lavyate”. It mens A man has not to take birth again if he sees Purusottama in chariot, during Ratha Yatra.
The internal meaning of chariot is our body or the heart where supreme Lord is seated. So we have to feel our lord through out our body, mind and heart!
In a Sanskrit quote it is written:
“Aatmanaam Rathinaam Viddhi,
Shareeram Ratham eva tu,
Buddhim tu Saarthim Viddhi,
Manah Pragraham Eva cha”.
It means: Soul becomes the Voyager, the body becomes the Chariot, Wisdom becomes the Pilot and Will the Strategist! 
The above Sanskrit quote tell us how Ratha Yatra or Purusottama Jatra is deeply related to our life so it is also called Jeevan-Jatra. And the basic aim of this Yatra for a Jeeva (The being) to accept Purusottama.
One of the great personality of Odisha Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das has told:-
“Bisheshe Utkale nahi prayojana
Utkal ra neta nije Narayana”
Means there is no other leader (King) is required for Utlal because the leader or king of Utkal is Lord Narayan (Jagannath) himself. Here he actually has written the name of Utkal pointing out to whole world and whole human being.In a wide sense according to him God is only the master of whole human being and no one else. The essence of Ratha Yatra is actually that.
Lastly, may the supreme God bless us to move forward in our life by establishing HIM in the chariot of our life. May we all attain the supreme bliss just by practicing our divine activities (Sadhana) of devotion at His holy lotus feet.

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