New Delhi: The auspicious Rath Yatra or chariot festival commenced this year on July 4. The 15-day long holy festival is celebrated with a lot of gusto and energy at the temple town of Puri in Odisha. The place witnesses a massive crowd of devotees during this time and the authorities keep a close eye on security arrangements.
The Rath Yatra or journey of the chariots has a huge religious significance. During the month of Asadha in June or July, the presiding deities—Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are taken from their Puri temple to Bada Danda and complete the distance of almost 3 km to Shri Gundicha Temple on huge chariots respectively.
While the deities travel on chariots driven by many people, devotees and onlookers pay their obeisance and seek the blessings of the Lord queuing for darshan. The Rath Yatra is also known as the Shri Gundicha Yatra.
But have you ever wondered why the idols of the famous Puri temple have unfinished hands? Well, there are various beliefs associated with the origin of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra's idols.
The idols of the god inside the Puri temple is of a particular type. It is not made out of any metal or stone, rather neem wood is used to carve the idols beautifully.
The idols of Lord Jagannath depicts the Lord embodying features of a large, square-shaped head, big eyes and unfinished limbs. There are several legends related to the origin of how the lord came to reside at the Puri temple in Bhubaneswar.
One of the popular stories which is associated with it reveals why the hands and limbs of the lord's idols are unfinished.
The legend behind the unfinished hands and limbs of the idols:
It is believed that King Indradyumna wanted to build a temple of Lord Vishnu but he wasn't certain about the shape of the idol that would represent the Lord. He was then asked by Lord Brahma to meditate and pray to Lord Vishnu himself as to what form would he like to embody.
After deep meditation, God appeared in his dream and spoke about a particular floating wood log near Bankamuhana in Puri and his image would be made out of that log. After this dream, Indradyumna rushed to the spot and found the wooden log. However, to his surprise, he couldn't get his artists to make idols out of it – no matter what.
The tools of the artisans broke every time they tried to cut the log. This was the point when Ananta Maharana (carpenter Bishwakarma/Vishwakarma) appeared and offered to help.
However, Bishwakarma had one condition. He said that he shouldn't be disturbed while carving out the idol until it is finished. So, for two weeks, he employed himself in the divine task in a locked podium without anyone's interruption. But after two weeks, suddenly the sound of work stopped coming from inside the podium to which wife of Indradyumna – Gundicha said that they must go in and check if he is fine.
Although the King didn't want to, he had no option but to enter inside. However, to their surprise, when they got in, they found no carpenter and only unfinished idols. He immediately repented his act. But a divine voice – probably of Lord Vishnu himself, told the King that he shouldn't regret and install the unfinished idols as it is and Lord shall make himself visible to the devotees in this form.
Ever since, the idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are worshipped in unfinished form.
In the month of Asadha (June or July), the idols are brought out onto the Bada Danda and travel all the way to the Shri Gundicha Temple in huge chariots. Devotees in lakhs throng the streets to get a glimpse of the lord and seek their blessings.
The temple town of Puri is adorned beautifully during this festive time as thousands of devotees turn out to visit the divine abode of the lord and seek the blessings of God Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra.