2021 marks the 614th year of a unique festival of chariots known as Goncha. It is specifically celebrated in the district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh state. This is just a variation of widely celebrated Rath Yatra in Puri. Goncha gets its name from dialect modulation of Gundicha- wife of the legendary King Indradyumna, who built the Puri Jagannatha temple.
There are many versions as to how the Bastar tribe started celebrating the festival. The King of Bastar, Maharaja Purushottam Dev visited Puri temple in 1408 on the occasion of Rathyatra known as ‘Gundicha’, which over time got converted to ‘Goncha’ in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. The king of Odisha gifted Maharaja Purushottam Dev, a 16-wheeled chariot, and gave him the title of ‘Rathadhipati’. 360 Aranyak Brahmin families from Odisha came to Bastar under the homage of Maharaja Purushottam Dev. These 360 families brought with them several idols of Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadradevi to Bastar Chhattisgarh. 22 idols of Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadradevi were consecrated in a single temple at Jagannath Temple in Jagdalpur.
Maharaja Purushottam Dev offered its 4 wheels to Lord Jagannath as homage and returned to Bastar with a 12-wheeled chariot. The 12 wheeled chariot was very heavy to pull so in 1810, it was separated into an eight wheeled and four wheeled chariots. The latter is called phool rath. From that time, the ritual of Rathayatra (chariot procession) during Goncha and Bastar Dussehra at Chhattisgarh got started. Bastar is the only place in Chhattisgarh where three chariots are made to carry 22 idols of Lord Jagannath, Balrama and Subhadra.
There are several customs associated with this Chhattisgarh Festival. The tribal people make a pistol using tukki or bamboo. It is a mock weapon that is constructed by them to follow the tradition of the tribe. The fruit pengu is used as a bullet. They use the pistol and the bullet, actually a bamboo stick cut in the shape of a pistol and a fruit to strike each other. Tupkis are used as Guard of Honour for Lord while in chariot procession. They are a source of unlimited joy for people. They find it very thrilling and exciting. Like Diwali, tukki sounds fill the atmosphere with fervor. The celebration of Festivals like these brings to the forefront the ethnicity of this part of the country.