RATH YATRA' (CAR FESTIVAL ) is one of the most prominent traditional annual 'Yatra' of Lord Jagannath (Lord of Universe) celebrated at Sree Kshetra (Puri) in orissa and other places where Jagannath Temple has been established and deties has been installed and worshipped.

The origin of Jagannath Cult goes back to very remote antiquity when the present Lord Jagannath used to be worshipped AS 'NILA MADHAB' OR NARASINGHA' by a Pre-Aryan and Pre Dravidian Savara Chief Viswabasu with his family members and followers in the richly wooded 'BLUE HILL' (NILGIRI) which was also known as 'Narasingha Kshtra' in Puri. In the process of Aryanisation of the Savara deties. King Indradyumna of Malya, according to Jagannath Puranic mythology, constructed the present 'SREE MANDIR' (Temple) at 'SREE KSHETRA'(SREE NILACHALA) in Puri. At the instance and request of the king, Brahma installed the wooden images of Lords Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan in this newly constructed 'Sree Mandir' representing the four Vedas like SAM VEDA, RUK VEDA, YAJUR VEDA and ATHARB VEDA respectively.

After the installation of the Lords by Brahma in the Sree Mandir at Sree Kshetra (Puri), Lord Jagannath, who is also called Purushottama (The Supreme Soul) HIMSELF Ordained his Princpal devotee, the king Indradyumna to observe, among others, this most important 'Gundicha Yatra' at the specified date of the year, which will be known world over as 'Rath Yatra'.

Since then, as wished by Lord Jagannath, This Rath Yatra is celebrated every year. The significance of the this legendary 'Rath Yatra' is that the Lords Jagannath , Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan are taken in very well decorated wooden chariots to Gundicha Temple at Narasingha Kshetra, the place of birth of Lord Jagannath where he lived an used to be worshipped (by Savara Chief) for a long time as 'Nilamadhab' before the lord was brought from there and installed as Jagannath in Sree Mandir constructed by king Indradyumna. The Lords stay in 'Gundicha' or 'Mausima' temple for 9 days enjoying all delicate foods and return to Sree Mandir on the 10th day which called ' Bahuda Yatra by the same wooden chariots. During this festival period the Lords are brought outside, the Sree Mandir once in a year, to enable the general public including the persons having access or no access into the Temple to pay homage and to have darshan of the Lords invoking their blessings and seeking salvation.

The ritual procession of the Lords in most colourful and well decorated wooden chariots is preceded more importantly by 'Pahandi' and 'Cherrapanhara' where the Lords one after another in a row are graciously taken in pahandi or procession by the temple priests with Cherra Panhara (sweeping the path of the Lords) seva by the 'ADYA Sevak' who leads the Pahandi or procession up to the wooden chariots.

In puri this auspicious Seva is traditionally performed by the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri who is the Adya Sevak of Lords. In other places this seva of the Lords is done by prominent personalities or men of status and position.

The procession of 'Pahandi' and 'Cherapanhara' leads the Lords to the decorated wooden Chariot (s) which is/are drawn manually by the devotees after the puja in vedic rites. In puri there are three such chariots of different hights and names, one each for Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. In most other places particularly Delhi there is only one chariot for all four deities in view of the limitations of space, wide, open and straight roads.