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Vacationing in Puri During Ratha Yatra Festival

Published: 28/07/2015

Puri Ratha Yatra on MapHow to spend 2,3 or 5 days in Puri during this Puri Ratha Yatra - the busiest time of the year in Puri? What does it feel like to be in Puri during this auspicious festival? What are the must-do things that any traveler should know about? Which locations are preferred for hotel stay during the Ratha Yatra? And where to dine while you are in Puri? Find out how you can make the best of your Puri trip from a veteran travel expert with over 25 years of travel experience in Puri.

2015 Puri Ratha Yatra

Puri is a favorite for travelers that want to mix pilgrimage with tourism - which is a typical goal among many Indian tourists. Considered as one of the four most important dhams for pilgrimage, the Jagannath Temple in Puri is revered as a highly sacred temple in the country. Puri also offers attractions such as the beach, hundreds or thousands of year old historical monuments and world heritage sites that make it a heaven for world travelers. The Ratha Yatra of Puri is one of the most popular festivals in India. The chariots of the three deities from the Jagannath Temple are taken out from the temple in an elaborate procession to their respective chariots. The three huge and colourfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees on the Grand Road (Bada Danda) to the Gundicha temple, some two kilometers away. The deities return to their temple after a stay of seven days.

So what makes this year's trip during the Ratha Yatra extra special? It coincides with the year of the Nabakalebar. This is the year when the wooden idols of the Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudharshan are renewed (new idols made). This is a rare occasion which happens once every 12 to 19 years. The last Nabakalebar was in 1996. The Nabakalebar Ratha Yatra of 2015 commences on the 18th July. More than a million (10 lakhs) people attended the festival last year. The attendance is expected to be much more than that during this year's chariot festival. (Tips: If you wish to avoid this huge crowd, try the Bhauda Yatra on the 26th July which marks the return of the chariots and lord jagannath to their main temple. The Bhauda Yatra attendance will be less than half of the 18th July day).

The day of the Ratha Yatra is the busiest day of the year in Puri. Most of the devotees and tourists throng the main street (Bada Danda or the Grand Road) of Puri, which is about 2 kms long and stretches from the Jagannath Temple and the Mausima Mandi (the final destination of the chariots). Every nook and corner, every balcony on every building - residences and hotels alike- along with every inch of space on the main road and side alleys are completely packed with humans. All the roads to and from Puri are completely blocked on the day making it impossible to get in or out of Puri for late planners. Devotees from around the country are on the streets celebrating this special occasion with kirtans and bhajans. The festival is shown live on various national and international TV channels.

Continued in Part 2
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