Jagannatha Puri is one of the four major dhamas or holy places mentioned in the Vedic Puranas. Here the Lord resides in His form as Jagannatha. The temple of Lord Jagannatha is considered to be one of the most important temples in India. It is certainly one of the most spectacular temples in Asia. Puri is important to the Gaudiya Vaisnavas because it was here that Sri Caitanyadeva resided after he took sannyasa.
The temple of Jagannatha has been in existence for thousands of years but the present temple was built by King Anangabhimadeva in the 12th Century.
Puri is well known as home to one of the world’s most unique religious festivals, Rathayatra which is held during June/July. Lord Jagannatha, along with His brother Baladeva and His sister Subhadra-devi, are carried from the temple in great pomp and placed on huge wooden chariots (rathas) Thousands of pilgrims and spectators take part in this event and pull the chariots from the Jagannatha temple along the entire length of the Grand Road ending at the Gundica temple. The Deities remain there for nine days then return to the main temple on the tenth.
The three chariots are built a new annually excluding the Kalasa, 14 subsidiary deities, charioteers and horses. 1072 pieces of logs (i.e.phasi, dhaura, maie, simili) are brought from Dasapalla and Ranpur forests. Nearly 125 temple carpenters (including helping assistants) work for 58 days at the Mahakhala (in front of the palace) and chisel out 2,188 pieces of wood for the construction of three chariots. The construction work commences on the Akshaya Trutiya. Each chariot is covered with new cloths of radiant colour. Orissa Textile Mills provides nearly 1090 meters of cloths for this purpose. The chariots are fastened with four long sturdy ropes (each 240′-250′ with 8″ diametre) each so as to facilitate the devotees to pull them.
The Kerala Coir Corporation provides specially manufactured coconut fiber ropes. Iron nails, brackets, clamps, etc. used for this purpose are indigenous prepared by the native smiths near the Dolavedi and it takes them more than a month. The Rath’s superstructure (above the wheels) contains eighteen pillars and roofs at various stages which are known as bhuin, potala, parabhadi, etc. There are 34 components of the chariot. Each chariot contains nine parswadevatas (subsidiary deities), two dwarapalas (door keepers), one sarathi (charioteer) and one presiding deity of the crest banner (dhwaja devata), all made of wood.
Jagannath Ratha Details :
Jagannath Ratha Name : Nandighosa
Number of wheels : 16
Total number of wooden : 832
Height : 13.5 Miter
Color of cloth wrappings : Red Yellow
Guarded by : Garuda
Name of the Charioteers : Daruka
Name of Flag : Trailokyamohini
Name of Horses : Shankha, Balahaka, Shveta, Haridashva.
The Ropes : Sankhachuda
Presiding Nine Deities : Varaha, Govardhana, krushna, Gopi-Krushna,
Nrusimgha, Rama, Narayana, Trivikrama, Hanuman and Radra.
Balabhadra Ratha Details :
Balabhadra Ratha Name : Taladhwaja
Number of wheels : 14
Total number of wooden : 763
Height : 13.5 Miter
Color of cloth wrappings : Red & Blue
Guarded by : Vasudev
Name of the Charioteers : Matali
Name of Flag : Unnani
Name of Horses : Tibra, Ghora, Dirghashrama, Swarnanava.
Name of Ropes : Basuki
Presiding Nine Deities : Ganesha, Kartikeya, Sarvamangala, Pralambari, Halayudha, Mrutyunjaya, Natamvara, Mukteshwar, Sheshadeva
Subhadra Ratha Details :
Subhadra Ratha Name : Darpadalana
Number of wheels : 12
Total number of wooden : 593
Height : 12.9 Miter
Color of cloth wrappings : Red & Black
Guarded by : Jayadurga
Name of the Charioteers : Arjun
Name of Flag Flag : Nadambika
Name of Horses : Rochika, mochika, Jita, Aparajita
Name of Ropes : Swaarnachuda
Presiding Nine Deities : Chandi, Chamunda, Ugratara, Vanadurga Shulidurga, Varahi, Shyama Kali, Mangala and Vimala.