Hera Panchami: Indignation of a neglected wife

Guest Post by Subrat Mishra, a recently superannuated friend diving into blogging slowly and steadily….

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and even the Almighty Lord of the Universe enjoys no exemption from this existential crisis. He too cannot escape the wrath of Devi Lakshmi for His peccadillos and infractions.Barely three days after His wedding, on the day of Debasnana Purnima, our Lord chooses to ignore His newly wed wife and spend a merry time with His siblings having a great bath with 108 pitchers of cold water. Inevitably they fall ill and retire to the Anasara Ghara or the isolation room for treatment and recuperation. Naturally, the newly wed bride is sad and forlorn. After 15 days of treatment in quarantine, He, along with His brother and sister, emerges hale and hearty, full of vigour and vitality. In a celebratory mood, they promptly embark on a pleasure trip, to His summer garden retreat, Shri Gundicha Mandir, in a grand procession, ensconced in magnificent Chariots pulled by adoring devotees in a zealous frenzy.

As the legend goes Gundicha Devi, Queen of King Indradyumna of Malava (who commissioned the original Jagannath temple in Puri as well as the Idols of the three deities) was a great devotee whom the Lord promised to visit every year. Another popular belief is that Gundicha is Jagannath’s much adoring maternal aunt. Whatever may be the case, needless to say that the deities are petted and pampered, fed with their favourite delicacies and entertained with songs and dances by temple Devdasis (now there are no more Devdasis or Maharis as they are called in Odia, so the rituals are performed by the servitors).

But what is happening to the lonesome bride, Goddess Lakshmi, all this time? Well, She is royally ignored, utterly excluded, and simply brushed aside. According to one legend She was locked up in the storeroom while the sibling Deities made their escapade. But another legend says permission was sought from and granted by Devi Lakshmi for one day only. I tend to go with the later view as I firmly believe that the Omniscient One, repository of all wisdom, would not dare do such a foolhardy thing as locking his formidable wife in the storeroom and yet expect to be received back in Shrimandira intact, unscathed, all in one piece.

Any way four days elapse and the siblings are not back home yet, neither have they sent any information. No prizes for guessing the mental state of Goddess Lakshmi. Her anxiety and concern have now turned to fury at Her husband’s audacious, refractory transgressions. But before taking matters into Her own hands She chooses to consult Goddess Bimala, considered the Tantric Consort of Jagannath and the guardian of the Temple complex. Bimala advises Her to keep Her emotions and fury in check, adorn Herself gorgeously, visit Her husband with a mixed visage of sulk and charm and then use the Mohana Churna, a mystic, magic powder to lure Him back to Shrimandira ASAP.

And thus begins one of the most exciting and interesting rituals on the fifth day of the Lord’s nine-day sojourn at Gundicha Mandir, which is called Hera Panchami. Hera means to see or to meet and panchami means the fifth day.

Goddess Lakshmi decides to visit Lord Jagannath and the devoted Shrimandira servitors carry Her representative deity Subarna lakshmi in a palanquin in a grand procession to the Gundicha Temple which halts near Nandighosha (chariot of Lord Jagannath). As Lord Jagannath, surrounded by his siblings, is in the midst of Sandhya Dhupa (evening offerings) rituals inside the temple, He does not get a chance to meet His wife. The Pati Mahapatra – a representative of Lord Jagannath welcomes the Goddess and escorts Her to The Jagamohana (assembly hall of the temple) for ritual worship.

This angers and annoys Mahalakshmi even more. With tremendous hurt and anger She throws the Mohana Churna at Her husband with a fond hope of getting Him back at Shrimandira post-haste.

As a part of the magic powder’s effect, the Pati Mahapatra offers an ‘Adhara Mala’ (a garland kissed by the Lord’s lips) to Goddess Lakshmi on behalf of Lord Jagannath assuring His return after three days. This is also called Agyan Mala (a garland of consent)

But this does not pacify the Goddess much. Seeing Her furious, the servitors close the main door of the Gundicha temple. Still miffed and angry She decides to return to the Main Temple. But in a unique and interestingly vengeful ritual, She orders Her attendants to damage a part of the Nandighosha chariot of Lord Jagannath.

Immediately after, like a truant child who has committed a mischievous act, the Mother of the Universe hides behind a tamarind tree outside the Gundicha temple and then escapes to Her Home Temple surreptitiously, not by the Grand Road but through a separate route known as Hera Gohiri Sahi.

The story does not end here. Realisation dawns on the Lord of the Universe that He has taken things too far and now is the time to make amends. So, on His order the chariots are reversed next day, and the preparations begin for the Bahuda Yatra (return Journey). Our most charming Leeladhar Jagannath knows very well what is in store for Him at the time of homecoming. He knows things will get tougher when He faces Devi on Her home turf a few days later and as such mentally prepares Himself for the most arduous task of Mana Bhanjana (placation). But that is another story for another day.

The Jagannath cult perceives and portrays Shri Jagannath as a human and humane God. The intrinsic beauty and the nuanced charm of His Bhaba Leela (worldly play) brings him into the hearts of his lovers, his devotees. They in turn, rapturous in the throes of love, celebrate their personal God with pomp and splendour, lavish their adoration, adulation, and attention; pamper Him and pander to all his imaginary whims. In the most ecstatic display of pristine love The Divine opens up with immaculate grace and the human merges with absolute surrender.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

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