THE RATH YĀTRĀ In the Light of Kathopanishad

THE RATH YĀTRĀ In the Light of Kathopanishad


In the Light of Kathopanishad

Jnana Ranjan Dash, San Jose, Ca

    On July 18th, 2015 the annual Rath Yātrā (march of the chariot) was celebrated all over the world. At Puri in Odisha, a crowd of unprecedented size poured in to watch the millennium’s first Naba Kalebara (a new body for the Lord) that came after 19 years. In the North American continent alone, there were 23 locations celebrating the Rath Yātrā on the same day.


 What is the significance of this journey? Kathopanishad depicted this beautifully which also became the inspiration for Vyāsa to compose the Bhagavad Gitā with Lord Krishna as the charioteer.


During the dialog with Nachiketā, Lord Yama says:


ātmanam rathinam viddhi, sariram ratham eva tu,

buddhim tu sārathim viddhi, manah pragraham eva cha (1.3.3)


Know the ātman as the Lord of the chariot, who sits within it and know this body as the chariot. Know the intellect as the charioteer and the mind as, verily, the reins.


indriyāni hayān-āhuh, visayāms-tesu gocarān,

ātmendriya-mano-yuktam, bhoktety-āhur manisinah (1.3.4)


The senses are the horses, and their roads are the sense-objects. The wise call him the enjoyer when he is united with the body, senses and mind.


Harmony between our intellect and the mind is important for this body to function properly. If our mind is stressed with negative thoughts of desire, anger, greed and jealousy, then our body will suffer from ailments. Every year, the Rath Yātrā is supposed to remind us of this fact.


The Naba Kalebar is also a reminder of the temporary nature of this body whereas the ātman (in-dweller) is eternal without birth and death. As Lord Jagannāth adopts a new body, the “brahma” or soul gets transferred from the old body to the new. This is depicted in the Bhagavad Gitā (2.22: vāsāmsi jeernāni..)


Upanishads are the foundation for many rituals such as the Rath Yātrā.




{Readers may write directly to the author on or Editor}