The Rath yatra festival has been traditionally celebrated annually in Jagannath Puri, Orrisa, where Lord Jagannath along with His sister Subhadra and elder brother Baladeva paraded through the streets of the city. This practice and festival still takes place in Puri and since the late sixties all over the world.
The pulling of Rath cart during the Rath yatra procession by the devotees symbolizes the attempt of the residents of Vrindavan, especially the cowherd boys and girls, to bring Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra back to Vrindavan, the holy dhama near Mathura, UP from Kurushetra.
The first Rath yatra outside India was initiated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (founder of ISKCON) on July 9, 1967 in San Francisco. The Lord of the Universe (Lord Jagannath) now parade in major cities all over the world such as London, Paris, New York, Durban, Rome, etc.
People around the globe are becoming attracted to the joyful and colorful Rath yatra festival. Thousands throng the streets to pull the giant chariots, chant and dance and enjoy tasty prasad given to all joining in a celebration to honor the appearance of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra.
At the height of Indian summer, right at the beginning of the Monsoon, the Lord of Puri goes to his garden palace for the annual summer vacation. Originally the festival has its foundation in the residents of Vrindavan bringing back their Lords, Krishna, Balaram and Lady Subhadra from Kurukshetra.
Of all the festivals, the Ratha Yatra of Jagannatha is the most famous. This takes place on the second day of the waxing phase of the moon of the asadha month. Jagannatha ordered King Indradyumna to take him to his birth place, the Gundica Mandira (symbolically Vrindavana), on this day.
Jagannatha's ratha is marked with a cakra and garuda, is yellow in color, with four white horses. The protecting deity is Nrsimha.
Baladeva's cart is blue, with a palm tree insignia, and four black horses. The protecting deity is Sesa.
Subhadra's cart is black, with lotus insignia, protected by Vanadurga.
Sudarsana is carried out first and placed on Subhadra's cart. In succession Subhadra, Baladeva, and Jagannatha are moved to their carts using silk ropes. After being situated on their carts they are decorated and worshipped. Midway on the journey, the carts stop, the deities are bathed in pancamrta and cool water, and naivedyam and aratrika are offered. On arrival at the Gundica Mandira, aratrika is offered, and then the deities enter the temple for rest.
On the fifth day of the lunar month, called Hera (looking for) Pancami, Laksmi comes looking for Jagannatha with Siva and her maid servants. When the servants of Jagannatha see her at the first gate of the Gundica Mandira, they close the door of Jagannatha's bhoga mandira so that she cannot see him. She becomes angry and breaks a piece of Jagannatha's ratha. After taking a meal she returns to the main temple.
On the ninth day of the moon, the return Ratha Yatra takes place, and Laksmi and her servants come to meet Jagannatha. Jagannatha gives her his garland to appease her.
Several days later on dvadasi, Laksmi closes the temple doors in anger and her servants quarrel with Jagannatha's servants. After Jagannatha concedes defeat, the doors are opened again.
Such is the reverance, the fun, the mysticism, and overall bliss of Rathyatra in Jagannath Puri.
ISKCON Salem also celebrates Every year this wonderful festival on same day like Puri.