The annual RathYatra coincides with the RathYatra in Puri. As per tradition elephants have the first glimpse of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra and lead the procession. The Chief Minister of Gujarat performs the ‘PahindVidhi’ or the symbolic cleaning of the path for chariot of Jagannath for the rathyatra, after which the procession begins. The rathyatra entourage passes through different parts of the city of Ahmedabad covering a distance of about 14 km. The yatra halts at Saraspur, where the locals offer ‘MahaBhoj’ to the entire encourage of devotees of Lord Jagannath. It is celebrated as ‘Lokotsav’ or public festival of the state of Gujarat.
RathYatra is a huge festival celebrated in Gujarat. As the name suggests, during the festival huge wooden floats are prepared and the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Balram and Goddess Subhadra are placed in them. There is a stirring tale behind the commencement of the festival. According to the Bhagwatpurana (Hindu Scripture), Lord Krishna’s metarnal uncle Kansa sent Akrur to bring the Lord and his elder brother Balram, to Mathura from Gokul. When all of them were ready to leave for Mathura, the Gopis and Gopals blocked the way of their chariot.
On being consoled by the Lord, they bid him a weepy and painful farewell. Since that day, the Festival of RathYatra is celebrated in the memory of the overwhelming separation. It is observed in various cities of Gujarat with great pomp and zeal. However, the RathYatra at the Ahmedabad city of India is the biggest. Magnificent floats are built, in which the idols are placed with great devotion. These chariots are taken around the city in a huge procession and the floats are decorated with garlands. The chariots follow the music bands and BhajanMandlis, which sing devotional songs in the Lord.
Decorated elephants, gymnasts and acrobats performing astonishing acts are a feast for the eyes. They are accompanied by numerous Vaishnavite sages, headed by the Mahant of Jagannath Temple. When the procession moves through the narrow streets of the city. People sprinkle rice and gulal on the idols to pay their homage. The devotees participating in the Yatra are given prasadam, in the form of raw sprouted moong beans. Quite a number of times, the floats are hand pulled by the devotees, crying out loud the name of the Lord. The RathYatra is a festival immersed with sentiments for the Lord.