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June 27: Ratha Yatra This Hindu festival occurs on the first day of the full moon in the month of Asadha. The most famous example of the celebration occurs in Puri in the state of Orissa on the eastern coast of India, where it is also known as the Jagannath Festival.

For a year, the people of Puri have been building three huge chariots - and huge means huge. Each looks like a temple on wheels. They are 13 metres high and it takes 400 men to pull each one through the streets.

On the chariots and sheltered by red and gold canopies are statues of the Hindu god Krishna (who is also known as Lord Jagannath or "the Lord of the Universe"), his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra.

Normally, these statues are kept in a temple but for the festival they are placed on the chariots and pulled along the wide main street of the town with crowds banging gongs and cheering while the Raja (or Prince) of Puri sweeps the ground in front of the statues to show that all people are equal in the eyes of Krishna. This procession commemorates a long pilgrimage Krishna made when he came to earth as Lord Jagannath.

At the end of a week during which the statues are kept in a garden temple at the other end of the town, the chariots are broken up and the wood is distributed to the many pilgrims who come to Puri for the festival, and to temple kitchens to be used as fuel. Then work starts again on building next year's chariots.

Follow up Discuss: Why do we have festivals and processions? Which ones are religious? What is the purpose of secular processions and parades, such as the Notting Hill carnival and football team tours in open topped buses?

More about Ratha Yatra can be found at webonautics.comethnicindiafestivalsratha_yatra or at www.indolink.comKidzratha (a site designed for young people).

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