Ratha Yatra, the grand and colorful festival of chariots, is held on Asadha Sukla Dwitiya i.e. the second day of bright fortnight of Asadha (June-July) every year. Millions of devotees from different parts of the country and abroad witnessed the spectacle of world famous Car festival of Lord Jagannath at Puri. This festival is also known as 'Gundicha Yatra' and 'Ghosha Yatra'. As per the prevailing tradition, 'Gundicha' was the Rani (queen) of Raja Indradyumna, the legendary builder of the first Jagannath temple. She had initiated this grand festival. Hence, this festival is also known after her name.

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On this day, the three deities are taken out from the main Temple, placed in three gorgeously decorated chariots and start their journey to Sri Gundicha Temple. The chariots are dragged by thousands of devotees from the Lion's gate of the Jagannath temple to Sri Gundicha Temple which is located at a distance of 3 kilometers. The 3 kilometers Grand Road , known as 'Bada Danda', between Jagannath Temple and Sri Gundicha temple, looked like a sea of humanity as the devotees pumped to have a glimpse of the deities on the chariots.

Three colorful Chariots parked at Lion's Gate
Three colorful Chariots parked at Lion's Gate

At Gundicha Temple the deities remain for 7 days and perform their return journey on the 9th day which is known as 'Bahuda Yatra'. The three chariots reach back the main temple in the evening. On the next day, the three deities are attired in costumes of glittering gold ornaments and are worshipped by millions of devotees. This is known as the 'Suna Vesha'. Next day morning, the three deities go back to their original place of the temple. Their arrival into the sanctum sanctorum marks the end of the Car festival.

More than a religious festival, the Ratha Yatra is an eternal celebration of the divine values of love and compassion, of equality and fraternity. The general public is allowed to pull the chariots irrespective of caste, creed, sect, and religion and gender distinctions. This liberty indicates that the deity is equal for every person on earth and grants equal opportunity to all. Also, the festival signifies that the benevolent deities' desire to come down to the level of the common man to share the joys and suffering of the common folk and to travel with them on the Grand Road for some time to reach Sri Gundicha Temple.

It is believed that the significance of these Chariots can be understood through the concepts in the holy text of Katha Upanishad. According to this text, the Chariot resembles the body of the Deity and the Idol of the Deity placed inside the chariot resembles the Soul of the Deity.

Three colorful Chariots parked at Gundicha Temple
Three colorful Chariots parked at Gundicha Temple

The Ratha Yatra is the grand finale of a series of festivals spread over the summer and the monsoon month.

Festivals associated with Car Festival


Akshay Tritiya festival marks the beginning of the famous Car Festival of Lord Jagannath. Akshay Tritiya festival is observed on the third day of the bright half of the lunar month of 'Baisakha' of the traditional Hindu calendar. On this auspicious day the carpenters start building the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabadra and Subhadra. This day also commences the famous Chandana Yatra.


Snana Yatra festival is observed on the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha (May-June). This is the bathing festival of the deities. On this day, the three deities move in colorful processions to the Snana Mandapa (Bathing pandal) where the deities are bathed with 108 pitchers of water drawn from a well near the Northern Gate. At the end of Snana Yatra day, the deities are supposed to fall ill (fever) and do not return to their pedestal. They stay away from the public view for a period of 15 days. This period is known as 'Anabasara' or 'Anasara' in local language. After this period, people get the first glimpse of their deities on the day before Rath Yatra, on this day the deities are re-painted and brought to the main platform for the devotees to see and pay homage which is called 'Nava Yauvana Darshan'. This is also known as 'Netrotsava'. Next day, the Ratha Yatra Festival is observed.

Finally comes the Ratha Yatra on the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadha.

A commemorative postage stamp issued by India Post on Car Festival (Rath Yatra), Puri
Postage Stamp on Car Festival
Issued by: India Post | Issued On: 12th July 2010 | Denomination: INR 05.00

Previous Car Festival dates

Car Festival 2003
1st July, Tuesday
Car Festival 2004
19th June, Saturday
Car Festival 2005
8th July, Friday
Car Festival 2006
27th June, Tuesday
Car Festival 2007
27th June, Wednesday
Car Festival 2008
4th July, Friday
Car Festival 2009
24th June, Wednesday
Car Festival 2010
13th July, Tuesday
Car Festival 2011
3rd July, Sunday
Car Festival 2012
21st June, Thursday
Car Festival 2013
10th July, Wednesday
Car Festival 2014
29th June, Sunday
Car Festival 2015
18th July, Saturday
Car Festival 2016
6th July, Wednesday
Car Festival 2017
25th June, Sunday
Car Festival 2018
14th July, Saturday
Car Festival 2019
4th July, Thursday
Car Festival 2020
23rd Jun, Tuesday
Car Festival 2021
12th July, Monday
Car Festival 2022
1st July, Friday
Car Festival 2023
20th June, Tuesday

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Basanta Panchami, Akshaya Tritiya & Ratha Anukula