Through the streets of Puri to the Mausi Maa Temple|Mausi Maa Temple, Dihatelasara, India | Map
Be there when it begins
The start of the procession is the most spectacular part. Devotees leave their homes after performing Puja (prayer) early in the morning to watch the Pujari (Hindu priest) arrive on elephant to bless the chariots with water. When the chariots set out, the crowds begin chanting, blowing horns and conch shells, and jostling to get a good view. Though it’s all a bit hysterical, this is the peak of the festival’s spirit—don’t miss it.
In addition to being one of the four places a Hindu needs to go to attain spiritual salvation, Puri is also just a wonderful place to visit, with local handicrafts for sale, a beautiful beach, and lots of culture in the form of museums, libraries, and theaters.
Puri has many worthy lodgings, but a homestay will allow you to experience the festival more authentically, since your host family will fill you in on all the local customs, the best places to eat, and what the Rath Yatra rituals mean to them. A trusted site for finding the most authentic homestays in India is The Other Home.