Home > The Story – A Festival with an ancient history

The history of the festival

The Festival of Chariots (also known as Ratha Yatra) has its origins in ancient times in the Indian city of Jagannatha Puri, where it holds great cultural and religious significance. As an annual event in the cities calendar, it has for thousands of years been part of the heritage and religious tradition surrounding the deity of Jagannatha that has been passed forward from one generation to the next.

This festival is the one occasion in the year, where the much revered deities of Jagannatha (Krishna), His brother Baladeva and Their sister Lady Subhadra are brought out of Their monumental temple to bestow blessings on all who witness Them. As an act of religious devotion (and in some cases great curiosity), pilgrims have journeyed to Puri from across the Sub-Continent, and more recently from across the globe, to glimpse Jagannatha and pull the ropes of His colossal chariot.    

The festival comes to the west

In the late 1960’s, the Festival of Chariots was brought to the west for the first time, by the efforts of the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON). Spreading through its network of Centres and Temples it has now become a global phenomenon, being celebrated in every major city across the globe.