|carved wooden chariot base. vallayapatti agraharam, www.panoramio.com|
|the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu, April, 2015. . www.thehindu.com|
|Base of a chariot, chinna Thirupathi. en.wikipedia.org.|
Above image (2): The newly decorated car of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu, April, 2015. introduced for the ............
Above image(top): Intricately carved wooden chariot base. vallayapatti agraharam, near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. www.panoramio.com
Rathothsavam or Ratha Utchavam is an important temple festival celebrated in numerous Hindu temples across India. Also known as Car festival, it is a spectacular religious event associated with various Vishnu, Shiva and Sakthi (goddess) temples. In all Ratha Yatra (ratha means chariot; yatra means journey), the temple paraphernalia will precede the chariot and may include some of the following - caparisoned elephants, horses, bulls, cultural and Bhajan groups and Nadhaswaram (wind instrument) and Thaavil (percussion) as in the case of Tamil Nadu. The temple procession will also include a contingent of Vedic pundits attached to the temple led by the priests. Chanting of mantras enhances the spiritual atmosphere, prevailing during such holy events. In the state of Tamil Nadu, the annual Ratha Utchavam festival is commonly referred to as Ther Thruvizha.
|Three chariots (rathar), Puri temple, oldest in India.www.newindianexpress.com |
|400 plus ton Azhi ther (rath),Thiruvarur,. www.thiyagarajaswamytemple.tnhrce.in|
The timing of such annual chariot festivals varies from temples to temples across the nation. So are traditions and designs of the wooden chariots and decoration of upper deck where the deities are seated. The chariot is tastefully decorated with different varieties of flowers, flags and festoons. For example at Tirumala Balaji temple, Andhra Pradesh, Rathotsavam takes place on the penultimate day of the nine-day annual Brahmotsavams. In the case of Puri Janganath temple, this spectacular Chariot Festival is held in the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Odisha), on the second day of the lunar fortnight that falls during June-July. The Skanda Purana also fixes the date of the Ratha Yatra as the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadha called Pushyami Nakshatra by astrological calculations. This internationally famous Rath Yatra, festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. At Sri Andal temple, Sri Villiputhur, Tamil Nadu, the car festival (in local parlance Ther Thiru Vizha) is associated with the ‘Aadi Pooram’ (August) festival that marks the birthday of the presiding deity Sri Andal Thayyar, daughter of Periyazhar. She composed devotional hymns in praise of lord Vishnu and later merged with the lord. It is a big event in this part of the southern state - 12 day-long celebrations beginning with flag hoisting mostly in August.
|Sri Andal temple, ratha, Sri villiputhur, TN ther ottam. 2013.Sri www.thehindu.com|
Though the car festival here had been taking place for more than 162 years, since 1985 it has been held consecutively - for the past 29 years. As for the Thiyaraja Swamy temple, Thruvarur, Azhi Ther - chariot one of a few heaviest and tallest Chariots (Ratha) in India, the annual festival is held in the month of June. The base of the chariot has more than 400 beautifully carved wooden icons. The famous Sri Natarajar Temple of Chidambaram, T. N celebrates
|Udipi Sri Krishna temple, Ratha. canopy different.|
|Udipi Sri Krishna temple, Swamiji, Pejavar mutt blessing devotees, www.daijiworld.com/|
the chariot festival twice a year; once in the summer (Aani Thirumanjanam, which takes place between June and July) and another in winter (Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai, which takes place between December and January). Lord Krishna of Udipi Sri Krishna temple, Karnataka, has five temple cars, namely Brahma ratha (the largest), Madya ratha (medium), Kinyo (small), silver and gold rathas.
The Rathotsavam (Chariot Festival), that is an annual gala event, is a tradition that goes back to several centuries. No matter where it is held, the festival is always conducted with gaiety, splendor and utter devotion. Normally such grand festivals start on an auspicious day only and prior to that Vedic Pandits perform homams - special prayer before holy fire for the success of the festival and for the welfare of the people. The oldest rath yatra in the world is
that of Puri Jagannath temple followed by rathyatra of Mahesh, Jagannath temple, Serampore, west Bengal.
|rathyatra of Mahesh Serampore.calcutta-kolkata-asim.blogspot.in|
Tradition has it the god and goddesses are colorfully dressed in various styles, befitting the occasion and, during the fete, they are taken out of the temple for a celestial ride around the temple on the streets normally called Sannidhi streets in Tamil Nadu. Such streets are broad enough to accommodate the huge moving ratha and are well laid to take the weight of the chariot. Utchavar idols - representation of idols in the Srikovil or Sanctum are used for this purpose. The huge chariot moves along as the devotees chant God's name in chorus and pull the big, specially made rope connected to the mammoth chariot. In many case such heavy chariots need additional pushing from behind to tackle gradients and huge bulldozers are used for this purpose. The belief is that pulling the chariot carrying the deities will wash off sins and drive away our inner negative thoughts and instill confidence in us to face challenges in life.
The spiritual significance of the Ratha Yatra as expounded in the Upanishad is the festival perceives the human body as Rath (chariot) and the God as the Sarathi or driver who drives the chariot of body and takes it on a journey or yatra to material existence or Bhavasagar. Spiritually speaking, the soul goes along with in the Rath - body, and the intellect is totally devoted to God, the driver of the chariot towards the material existence. The wheels of the Rath or chariot are personification of valor. The horses, symbolic of the Vedas, are synonymous with vigor, charity, tolerance, self-discipline and discrimination (to know the right and wrong). On the other hand, the reigns of horses are pity, equanimity and forgiveness.
"Rathayatra celebrated in West Bengal". The Hindu. 4 July 2008.