A bird's eye view of the infamous Bahuda Yatra | Milaap

A bird's eye view of the infamous Bahuda Yatra

Bahuda Yatra refers to the return car festival where the three sibling deities wrap up their nine-day sojourn in Sri Gundicha temple and return to their abode at the 12th century Jagannath shrine, 3 km away on the Grand Road also called as Bada Danda or Saradha Bali by the locals.
It was the first chariot festival of the new idols after their Nabakalebara (or rebirth) which made it unique. The new idols of Lord Jagannath, elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra started their journey on their respective chariots or cars to their 12th-century shrine.
To witness this internationally famous festival, a tsunami of devotees were present on the spot. Starting from the Bhubaneswar railway station till Grand Road each place was tightly packed with the devotees. Puri seemed like a suitcase tightly packed with devotees from various backgrounds and varied cultures.

View of Bhubaneswar railway station and inside the trains during the Bahuda Yatra time.

With curiosity in my heart to learn more about this world-famous festival, I started my journey from Bhubaneswar. The station which is though normally less populous was overly crowded on that day. Many special trains were set for Puri also many trains’ tracks were changed towards Puri so that everyone reaches there conveniently from every corner. I normally avoid the crowd, but the enthusiasm that I found on everyone’s face changed my perception. I couldn’t even find a place to hold onto in order to stabilize myself in the moving train but still, I enjoyed it. Because of being stout I had to peep up in order to see the faces of others and whenever I did that I found a variety of hands holding onto the handles hanging from the roof of the train or onto the doors and seats. In that tight atmosphere too where there was every chance of getting you out of your breath still there was a unique peace on everyone’s face and anticipation to watch the sibling lords on their wheeled vehicles.

View of Puri railway station along with proper guidance and instruction for the comfort and convenience of people.

Soon I reached my destination to start my exploration. Every facility was being ensured to assure the comfort and convenience of the devotees. Information centres were established right starting from the station till the grand road in addition to the free food facilities and sheds which were arranged for the convenience of travellers.

Shelter, food and water spray were being provided to people from time to time.

Variety of vendors eager to sell their products

As there was a huge chunk of devotees present to satisfy their thirsty eyes to see the lords, there was also a huge mass of shopkeepers, small cabin sellers, and vendors ready to grab a major portion of the devotees pocket and expand their profits and business. As this is a golden opportunity for people to expand their income.

Few vendors selling their products on Grand Road.

As soon as I reached Shri Gundicha temple I came to know that the deities were boarding their chariots with full enthusiasm. There was the sound of gongs, kirtans, people hailing the name of the lords, people dancing in the vicinity performing traditional dance and the media was also on its full force providing full coverage to the occasion. The journey was about to start.

View of the chariots at Shri Gundicha Temple with full media coverage.

People immersed in doing Sankirtan (a musical form of prayer) and dancing near the chariots.

From there I started my expedition to view the scene of Grand Road just before the journey. I was astonished to see small models of the chariots being made and worshipped just like the big ones. Even a few children had also made a rath (chariot) of their own and were very happily revolving around it and performing various rituals. Ladies were lighting diyas (earthen candles) on the roads even in the scorching heat, which literally gave me sunburn without losing the enthusiasm and performing various rituals.

Small models of the Chariots made by people and few children.

People lighting diyas and performing prayers on Grand Road.

As we have traffic lights the chariots are also no behind. They too have their own traffic lights and traffic police of their own to signal the move and halt of the chariots. Whenever there was a green signal i.e. the green flag was being waived people would just pounce upon to pull the cars and whenever the red flag was being waved they would stop accordingly and again return back to their peace mode from their energetic mode.

The green flag signalling to move the chariot.

The red flag being held on the chariot signals the halt of the chariot.

During the journey, another interesting fact was the cars would stop midway in front of a temple named as Mausi Ma temple. It is being considered in mythology that she is the aunt of the three lords and she had made one wish that whenever they would be on their yatra or journey they would always stop near her to visit her, eat food made from her hands and then leave. So, the lords would stop there to have Poda Pitha which is a typical Odia sweet dish which seems like a cake piece and is very tasty. That temple was decorated with colourful flowers and the scene was mesmerizing.

The whole of the Mausi Maa Temple was decorated with tons of flowers.

Then slowly I went ahead on the Grand Road and saw each and every building be it a hotel, shop, house, etc finding it to be neatly decorated. Everywhere there were banners wishing a Happy Bahuda Yatra. Even the small stalls were also well presented. The famous sweet of Puri known as Khajja was present everywhere. There were numerous stalls of this sweet trying to attract customers by continuous shouting and hawking regarding the best quality of their khajja

Khajja, the mouth watering indeginous sweet dish of Puri.

From there I moved ahead and came near Shri mandir or the present Jagannath temple. The scene was breathtaking. The entrance of the temple was beautifully decorated with various kinds of colourful flowers. Wherever my eyes went, it was covered with beauty. My heart almost skipped a beat after seeing the scene and I felt like my visit was worthy after seeing it. There I felt how different it is to see something over television and to see it through your eyes right in front of you and admire its beauty.

The mesmerizing scene of the Shri Mandir or Jagannath Temple.

Even the chariots were also hugely decorated. As we have a name of each variety of car that we board similarly these chariots also have a name of their own and their own features.
The elder brother went first in the row in his 44-feet-high chariot being called “Taladhwaja”  or “Langaladhwaja”. It has 14 wheels and 763 wooden pieces are being used here. It is wrapped in red and bluish-green cloth and the flag on top is called Unnani. It is guarded by Basudev and the sarathi or charioteer is Matali. The rope is called Basuki Naga and the horses are Tribra, Ghora, Dirghasharma, and swarnanabha.

The chariot of Lord Balabhadra.

The elder brother is being followed by sister Devi Subhadra in her 43-feet-high chariot known as Darpadalan or Devadalan or Padmadhwaja. It has 12 wheels and 593 wooden pieces being used in it. It is wrapped in red and black colour cloths with the flag on top being called Ndambika. It is being guarded by Jayadurga with Arjuna being the charioteer. The rope is called Swarnachuda Naguni and the horses are Rochika, Mochika, Jita, and Aparajita.

The chariot of Devi Subhadra.

At last comes the chariot of the younger brother i.e. Lord Jagannath seconding the 45-feet-high car called as Nandighosha or Garudadhwaja or Kapiladhwaja. It has 16 wheels and 832 wooden pieces used in it. It is wrapped in red and yellow colour cloths with a flag on top called  Trailokyamohini. It is being guarded by Garuda with Daruka being the sarathi or charioteer. The rope is called Sankhachuda Naguni and horses are Shankha, Balahaka, Suweta, and Haridashwa.

The chariot of Lord Jagannath.

As per the custom, the three raths (chariots) would come near the Shri Mandir (Jagannath temple) and the deities would stay there for a day on their chariots. Then Devi Lakshmi who is the wife of Lord Jagannath would welcome the sibling deities to their abode. Here in Puri, there is separate Jagannath culture. And in this festival, it is believed that there is no religious barrier and people from other religions can also come see the deities and also offer prayers during the yatra. Also the form of prayer and devotion that is being offered to these deities is also a kind of unique one. It is known as Sankirtan that is through loud music from huge bells, gongs, dhols, etc and people will be performing traditional dance and they pray by singing and dancing. Also, there is a practice of raising both hands whenever they hail the name of the lords here. The scene is energetic and enjoyable. The whole festival is worth seeing at least once in this lifetime and it provides peace to your mind, heart, and soul.