Rath Yatra is a major Hindu festival celebrating Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu & Lord Krishna). It is held at Puri in the state of Orissa, during the months of June or July (the date varies due to the Hindu lunar calendar) and hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees travel to Puri from all over the world to participate. The word Rath means chariot; and Yatra means a journey or a pilgrimage.
Most of the city's society is based around the worship of Lord Jagannath and the ancient temple is by far the most important structure in the area. The festival commemorates Krishna's return to his home in Vrindavan(an ancient forrest area in Madya Pradesh where the deity spent his childhood) after a long period of separation from the people there.
Throughout the rest of the year the deities Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra are worshipped within the temple where only Hindu’s of Indian origin are permitted. On the day of the Rath Festival they are paraded through the streets so that everyone (including tourists) can have the good fortune of viewing them.
Three massive (almost 50 feet high), richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri. This commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram, and their sister Subhadra to the Gundicha Temple which is situated about a mile from their temple. New chariots are built every year for this purpose.
The spectacle of thousands of Hindu’s pulling the ropes of these colorful chariots and the accompanying chanting and music has to be seen to be believed - the English word "juggernaut" originates from the Jagannath Rath Yatra.
The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs with drums, tambourines, trumpets and other musical instruments. Children line the streets through which the chariot will pass and add to the deafening chorus.