Rukuna Rath Yatra: Delving into the Legend and Significance of Lord Lingaraj’s Car Festival

Today’s dawn heralds the commencement of the revered Rukuna Rath Yatra, a cherished tradition at the heart of Bhubaneswar, Odisha. In the colorful mosaic of Odisha’s festivals, chariot-pulling ceremonies occupy a cherished place, eagerly awaited by devotees from far and wide. Among these, the Rukuna Ratha Yatra of the Lingaraja Temple holds a preeminent position, occurring annually on the auspicious day of Ashokastami.

The Rukuna Yatra, occurring on the eighth day of the Chaitra month at Ekamra Kshetra, carries within it layers of legend and spiritual significance. Ekamra Kshetra has been a revered site of Lord Shiva’s worship since time immemorial. During this festival, Lord Lingaraj embarks on a majestic procession to the Rameshwar temple, a journey laden with profound symbolism. Dubbed the Papa Binashi Yatra, it is believed that devotees cleanse themselves of sins by witnessing Lord Lingaraj atop the chariot, an act imbued with divine grace.

The festival’s roots delve deep into the annals of myth and lore. According to the Ekamra Purana, the tale of Lord Ram’s pilgrimage to Ekamra, present-day Bhubaneswar, resonates with significance. Seeking absolution for ‘Brahma Dosha’ accrued from slaying Ravana, Ram, under the guidance of Kulaguru Basishtha, worshipped Tribhubaneswara (Lingaraj). In a divine revelation, Lord Shiva instructed Ram to establish four Lingas, including Rameshwar, thus laying the foundation for the festival’s genesis.

Another legend intertwines with celestial intervention against the demon Tripurasura, wherein Lord Shiva was bestowed with a celestial chariot named Rukuna to vanquish the malevolent force, accompanied by the divine consort Shakti or Rukmini.

Yet, the allure of the Rukuna Rath Yatra transcends mere legend; it is alive in its rituals and fervor. Maa Bhubaneswari accompanies Mahaprabhu Lingaraj in the chariot, symbolizing the eternal battle of good over evil. Devotees, driven by fervent faith, pull Lord Lingaraj’s chariot alongside the charioteer Brahma, enacting a sacred journey of devotion and purification.

Today’s festivities commenced with the Mangala Alati ritual at the break of dawn, followed by ‘Abakasha’ and ‘Sahanamela.’ The ‘Pahandi’ and ‘Ratharudha’ rituals of Lord Lingaraj will ensue at 12.30 pm, with the grand chariot-pulling ceremony slated for 3.30 pm, marking the crescendo of this divine spectacle.

As the streets of Bhubaneswar resonate with chants and hymns, the Rukuna Rath Yatra stands as a testament to Odisha’s vibrant cultural heritage and unyielding spiritual fervor, inviting devotees to partake in the timeless journey of faith and devotion.

Police discussed strategies to tackle traffic regulations, security, and parking issues. They emphasized managing the impending heat wave conditions effectively. A significant deployment plan includes twelve platoons of force, two Additional DCPs, six ACPs, 15 inspectors, over 50 sub-inspectors and ASIs, along with more than 100 constables and home guards.

The temple administration introduced special parking arrangements, and NGOs set up water kiosks for devotees’ convenience amid rising temperatures. Measures like spraying water on devotees were put in place. Police collaborated with the Fire Brigade Department, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, and Servitors’ Body to ensure smooth ritual completion.

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