Rathayatra, Hindufestival of India, observed by taking an image of a deity in a procession (yatra) through the streets in a chariot (ratha). This affords darshan (auspicious viewing) of the deity to worshippers who, because of caste or sectarian restrictions, are not admitted to the sanctuary. It also dramatizes the Hindu conviction that however much the power of a deity’s image may be associated with a particular familiar place, that power has a wider orbit as well.
The most-famous Rathayatra festival is that of the god Krishna, worshipped as Jagannatha, which takes place at Puri in Odisha and at Shrirampur in West Bengal. Many similar festivals for other deities are observed in India and Nepal. Important images may be carried on elaborately carved wooden chariots, which are often extremely large and heavy, requiring hundreds of worshippers to pull them, while village deities may travel on far simpler, lighter palanquins.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn.