Every year the car festival (Rath Yatra) at Puri in Odisha is celebrated on the second day in the bright fortnight (suklapaksha) of the month of Asadha (June-July). This year it falls on June 21, 2012. This an auspicious day and is attended by more than million people drawn not only from different parts of India but from other countries too. Everybody gets a chance to have the holy darshan of the lord, and everybody gets an opportunity to pull the chariots.
On this day the three deities, Lord Balabhadra, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Jagannath are taken out in a procession in specially decorated chariots, made by special wood brought from Dashpala, an earstwhile state, along the river Mahanadi. The journey covers 2 km from the main temple to Gundicha temple. They stay there for nine days and return to the main temple through their Mausi Maa temple. Lord Balabhadra leads the procession on his chariot Taldhwaj, followed by Subhadra on Darpadalan and then Lord Jagannath on his majestic Nandighosh. These two brothers are very possessive of their only sister and protect her. The temple city Puri wears a festive look, devotional music tearing apart the ears of the devotees. Lovely devotional songs of Saal Baig, Sadanand, Saria, Gopalkrushna and other poets fill the air of Puri. This procession is telecast by many national and international TV channel with excellent running commentaries. The Gajapati King of Puri cleans the path leading to the chariots by a gold broom, signifying the dignity of labour.
There are many legends, many stories and myths around this great festival. It is said that whoever touches the chariots and pulls the rope on this day gets a direct entry to the heaven and becomes free from the cycles of birth and death.
The beauty of the traditions is that the deities are considered no different from the humans, and are treated as such by their devotees. The devotees chide them, get angry with them and some even abuse them. That is the peak of devotion.