jagannath puri odisha
Rath Yatra 2016: Wishes, messages on Twitter for festival beginning July 6. Pictured: Hindu devotees attend Rath Yatra, a religious procession, in the eastern Indian city of Puri.Reuters

The Ratha Yatra is a Hindu festival celebrated across India to mark something that could well be compared to today's children visiting their doting relatives during vacation. Lord Jagannath (a form of Lord Krishna), Balaram (also Balarama or Balabhadra) and their sister Subhadra visit their aunt for nine days, and their journey to and from this aunt's house is what marks the two main days of the festival.

The festival is celebrated at the largest scale in the seaside temple town of Puri in Odisha, and this year the two important dates fall on July 6 -- when the idols of the three deities will be taken the their aunt's house at the Shri Gundicha temple -- and July 15, when they will return.

The preparations for the festival start well in advance, with the three chariots or rathas -- after which this festival is named -- being prepared and elaborately decorated. Lord Jagannath's chariot, called Nandighosh, is 45.6 feet high and has 18 wheels. Balaram's chariot Taladhvaja is 45 feet tall and has 16 wheels and Subhadra's chariot Devadalana stands at 44.6 feet and has 14 wheels.

On both days of the festival, the erstwhile ruler of the kingdom used to sweep the path in front of the chariots with a gold-handle broom, while sprinkling sandalwood powder and water along the way. This was done to symbolise that all are the same in the eyes of Lord Jagannath, and the tradition is still followed.

The festival can be watched live online at several places, including the government website dedicated to it: Rath Jatra. There is also the provision of sending e-greetings on the website: Send e-greetings.

The events on both days can also be watched live online on DD National.