Amidst the entire fan fair that surrounds the mela of the Jagannath Rath Yatra, the three deities Krishna Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balabhadra make their way out of the shrine of Puri. Whether they go on vacation or to their aunt’s house or to Krishna Jagannatha’s birthplace is still a speculation on the original myth. What appears to be a complex mammoth wooden structure covered with cloth to almost look like the very temple on the move could hold far more significance than just a wooden structure that transports the Gods to their heavenly abode. It is unfortunate that the emphasis is put on the Rath Yatra or Rath Tana which starts in the afternoon and not on the invoking ceremony in the morning that is the Ratha Prathistha of the Rathas themselves.
The Rath is made to look like a temple, that which traditionally represents the original temple with a platform. The wooden platform has wheels embedded within it with ropes that get pulled by the devotees. This is no ordinary Rath, it is the very character of the Lord Jagannatha Krishna enshrined into the wood that makes up this giant structure.
What’s obvious about this Rath is the towering vimana(roof) that houses the deity within with horses that pull this chariot. What is not obvious is the shape of the floor of the Rath which is far more symbolic than a few logs of timber held together. The Rath Yatra may appear to be a joy ride for the Lord and his family on three Raths being pulled all the way for Puri Jagannath mandir with drum beats and song, with folk dance and color celebrating the journey of the Lord, but it is a little more than just all the fun.
The answer to this might be found in the Brihat Tantra Sara, a large compilation of Tantrik texts that suggest that Krishna appears as a full bloomed tantrik devata with his own yantra/mandala. This yantra has the Krishna Mantra in the center:
Krishnaya Govindaya Klim sadhya Gopijanavallabhaya Svaha|
This mantra which is the essence describing the potency of Lord Krishna Jagannatha is the epicenter of the mandala the form of which can also be the “naksha” or floor plan of the Rath. The Rath where the main idol of Lord Krishna is kept is within the center of the floor plan. Surrounding it is an imaginary six pointed star, where the beeja mantras of Krishna, i.e. Shreem and Hrim alternate each other thrice, as part of the design of the mandala symbolic in nature and embedded within the floor and could be given life to during the morning ceremony. Scattered in logical order around the points of the hexagonal star are the letters of Sri Krishna:
Klim Kri shna ya Na mah
Within the 8 petals of the yantra is the longer mantra of Shri Krishna:
Namah Kamadeva| ya Sarvajanapriya| ya Sarvajan| sammohana| ya Jvala Prajvala| Sarvajanasya Hri| dayamavamsham| Kurukura Svaha||
Surrounding the 8 petals are the Matrikas or the letters of the sanskrit alphabet and in the angles of the protecting walls are the beeja mantras Shreem and Hrim again.
The Rath is sacred; the floor of the Rath is of a peculiar shape, a shape that has approximately 12 pointed ends which form this protective wall resembling the Krishna Mandala, and also reflects the temple ground plan on which the wooden temple stands. The sacred space between the protective external walls and the hexagonal star in the center contains the very letters of praise to Lord Jagannatha, within the lotus flower with 8 petals around the circle of potency, but what we see are a crowd of priests who are seen all over this sacred space.
This is the character of Lord Krishna Jagannatha, this is His power, and this is Him represented by the entire Rath from the floor to the shikhara of the Rath. What we see is the schematic tribal version of the Lord within this sacred space, completely decorated and seated atop his Rath, and though this vision of the Lord sits at the epicenter of this mobile throne, the very essence of the Lord is symbolized all across the flood and in the air that surrounds Him.
The Rath is the very embodiment of Lord Krishna Jagannatha and his family, it is the very element of their presence as they sway through the air purifying it with sound and light. The Lord in all his prana, housed in this very Rath drives through the Indian countryside of Puri. This land is blessed, to see the very Lord mingle with his people.
Jagannathpur temple - Ranchi - anything but Juggernaut.
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