Rath Yatra is a huge festival celebrated in Gujarat. Rath means chariot and Yatra means journey. As the name suggests, during the festival, huge wooden floats are prepared and the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Balaram and Goddess Subhadra are placed in them. There is a stirring tale behind the commencement of the festival. According to Bhagvat Purana (Hindu scripture), Lord Krishna’s maternal 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 Rath Yatra is celebrated in the memory of the overwhelming separation. It is observed in various cities of Gujarat with great pomp and zeal. However, the Rath Yatra 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 Bhajan Mandlis, which sing devotional songs in the praise of 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 Rath Yatra is a festival immersed with devotional sentiments for the Lord.