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The most important festival of Odisha, Ratha Yatra or the Chariot Festival (earlier known as Car Festival to the Europeans), is held on the 2nd day of the bright half of Äsadha" which falls in June-July every year with religious grandeur at Puri, the seashore town in Odisha. The presiding deities of Sri Mandira, the main temple, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel Sudarshana are taken out from the temple precincts in an elaborate ritual procession, called Pahandi and seated on three colorfully decorated huge chariots, which are then drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand road to the Gundicha temple, some three kilometers away to the North. After a stay for nine days, the deities return to their abode in the same way. The Return Journey is called Bahuda Yatra. Also known as Gundicha Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Navadina Yatra, Dasavatara Yatra and by a variety of other names, Ratha Yatra is the grandest festival of Odisha. Everything is on grand scale befitting the great Lord.
Full of spectacle, drama and color, the festival is a typical Indian festival of huge proportions. For the devote and believers, it is considered the most auspicious occasion. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious and saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival. The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages. In fact, there is a famous Odia song which says that on this occasion, the chariot, the wheels, the grand avenue all become one with Lord Jagannatha himself. It is rarely that the presiding deities come out of the sanctum for such ritual journeys. The Rath Yatra is one such rare occasion. This is also a rare opportunity for the non-Hindus who are debarred from entering into the temple to see the deities and even touch them.