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The Ratha Yatra
or Car Festival of Lord Jagannath takes place once a year at Neelachal
Srikshetra in Puri, Odisha on the second day of the month of Asadha
(June-July) according to the Hindu calendar. During the festival the Lords are
consigned exclusively to the care of the non-Brahmin Sevayats, particularly of
aboriginal Savara origin. Radiantly decorated wooden chariots called
Nandighosa, Taladhwaja and Devadalana respectively with
Lords Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Balabhadra and their sister Goddess Subhadra,
the presiding deities of the Sri Mandir, leave the sanctum sanctorum, pulled by
millions of people. Of the three chariots, the one of Balabhadra moves first,
followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. The procession ultimately reaches
the Shri Gundicha temple, where the deities sojourn for a week. The return
journey, Bahuda Yatra, takes place on the 9th day or Asadha Sukla Dasami. In a
similar protocol the three deities are brought back to the main temple amidst
lots of rejoicing and singing of devotional songs in Oriya known as "Bhajana"
and "Jananas According to Sanskrit literary sources the Car Festival was in
vogue in the 9th century even before the present Puri temple was constructed.
Lord Jagannath was the presiding deity of the tribals known as Savara. In the
Oriya Mahabharata written by Sarala Das, Jagannath has been known as "Sarvarinarayan".
Scholars are of the opinion that when Gaya was a principal centre of Buddhism,
Puri was also flourishing as an equally important centre devoted to Buddhism.