Build up to Shri Jagannath Rath Yatra

Guest Post by Subrat Mishra, a recently superannuated civil servant and friend writing his first ever blog...

It all begins on the auspicious day of Devasnana Purnima when the divine Trinity, Shri Jagannath, brother Shri Balabhadra, and sister Devi Subhadra, in order to get a little respite from the scorching heat of the summer, decide to indulge in a bit of water sport. They take a luxurious bath with one hundred and eight kalashas (pots) of holy, consecrated, perfumed, cold water and then get a soothing anointment of fragrant sandalwood paste.

Ritual Bath (Source: Google Images)

To add to the fun and frolic, they take up Gajanana Besha or Hathi Besha (elephant adornment) and revel through the afternoon. Then, as would be expected, the sniffles and sneezes start building up slowly and culminate in a full-blown fever (viral, perhaps). Now the Rajavaidya enters the scene, does a few clinical examinations, and promptly dispatches the deities to the Anasara Ghara (isolation ward), where they are to quarantine for fifteen days. Goodbye Ratna Singhasanaand hello infirmary bed; goodbye ChhappanBhog (fifty-six-course meal) and onto sick diet comprising of bland liquid, and semi-liquid food, and bitter unpalatable Dashamula (herbal medicine). The isolation period starts from Devasnana Purnima and lasts till Ashadha Amavasya when the deities recover from their illness and attain Naba Joubana (New Youth)

Gajanan besha (Source: google images)

What happens outside the isolation ward is also interesting. Life goes on even in the face of great catastrophes; what about a little illness of the Lord of the Universe? When the main deities retire sick, substitute deities take their appointed place. They are called Patti Dias (Pattachitra paintings of the three deities – Basudeba for Balabhadra, Bhubaneswari for Subhadra, and Narayana for Jagannath), brought from the house of Chitrakaras. The Mahajanas also bring their own substitute deities – Dola Gobinda, Rama, and Nrusingha for Balabhadra; Sridevi and Bhudevi for Subhadra; and Madana Mohan and Krishna for Jagannath. The seven deities along with the three Patti Dias are called the Dashavatara Thakura. All these ten deities are placed on a cot where they are given a ritual bath with Panchamruta and offered Vallabha Bhoga. During the Anasara period, all the daily rituals of the temple take place before these ten deities.

Patta dias (source: google Images)

Back to the main deities who are decked up in Naba Joubana Besha(Youthful Rejuvenated adornment) on Amavasya, symbolizing that they are now fully cured, rejuvenated, and fit as fiddle. As soon as the Bahuda Bije(Ritual Return) of the Dashavatara takes place, the devotees, after a restless and anxious fortnight, can have the delight of Divine Darshan once again, this time in their Naba Joubana Besha. For this purpose, the Bigrahas(Idols) are repainted with fresh colours.

Naba jaubana Besha (source; google Images)

It is no rocket science to realise that, after fifteen days of isolation, staying away from their devotees, and their favourite delicacies, the Lords and Devi are thoroughly bored, restless, and desperate to go out; what would be a better place to visit than their Summer Garden Retreat – Shri Gundicha Mandira, which is also their birthplace. The temple is named after Gundicha Devi, Queen of King Indradyumna, who commissioned the building of the three Idols. Legend has it that in this place, on a special platform called Maha Bedi(the Great Altar), in a closed chamber, the Celestial Sculptor, Vishwakarma, in the disguise of an old carpenter, carved the Idols from the Divine Daru (a Sacred Log of Neem wood).

Finally arrives the D-Day, Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya (the second day of waxing fortnight of the month of Ashadha). The Supreme Lord and his Divine siblings embark on this momentous journey, ensconced in three huge, colourful, majestic chariots, swept clean by the Gajapati Maharaja himself, worshipped by His Holiness Shri Shankaracharya and surrounded by zealous servitors. Pulled with devotion and fervour by thousands of devotees, The Juggernaut marches forward amidst the rhythmic beatings of drums and cymbals, the resounding echo of blowing conch shells, and a crescendo let loose by a cheering, chanting, singing, and dancing sea of frenzied humanity gone berserk for a glimpse of their beloved Jaga Kalia(the Dusky Jaga),Chaka Dola (The Round-Eyed one), Bada Thakura (Great God).

Just an ordinary story. Happens all the time to people ,getting drenched, getting fever, isolating, resting, recuperating, getting well, getting back to life, going on a pleasure trip et al.  But it becomes extraordinary, ethereal, and almost magical when such mundane worldly affairs are attributed to the Supreme being. Why is the Divine humanized and taken through the whole maze of earthly existence, human trials and tribulations, frustrations, and elations? Why is the Supreme Godhead displaced from His Bejewelled Throne to the confines of the sick bay? Then, why again is He treated, tended, nursed back to health, and taken on a trip in a grand procession?

Behind all these rituals lies a great love story, that exalting, ecstatic, rapturous love story between the human and the Divine. How else can an ordinary human perceive and conceive, let alone love the Nirguna, Nirakara, Anadi, Ananta, Param Brahma, The abstract Super Consciousness, beyond space, beyond time, beyond shape, and beyond attributes.

Yes, the human has to conceive and perceive God in his own image the same way as God creates humans in his own image. Perfection can be admired, even idolized. but Perfection cannot be loved. So, God has to be brought down to the level of human imperfection to be loved, to be adored, to be adulated. The Supreme being is no less in the throes of love. So, the Unmanifest manifests Himself, the limitless limits Himself, the Faceless puts on a sublime square face with immense, hypnotic, round eyes, all for Love as Love is bigger than any power, Supreme or Divine.

 Jagannath Swami,Nayana pathagami,Bhabatume.

Photo by THu00c1I NHu00c0N on


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