Kids’ Org. :Gods Interact with Public
Intro : Nowhere else is a deity once installed and consecrated, taken out of temple.
Come Asadha (June-July), a Hindu month, people from all over the world throng to Puri in Odisha to see one of the most spectacular events, i.e. the Jagannath Rath Yatra. It marks the annual visit of Lord Jagannath (by which name Lord Krishna is known in Odisha) to his birth place, Gundicha Mandir. The caravan of Lord Jagannath, on the way, stops at their maternal aunt’s place – Mausima Temple – to take the meal of sweet pancakes, Jagannath’s favourite dish as believed. During his journey, Lord Jagannath is accompanied also by the celestial wheel called Sudarshan Chakra.
Lakhs of devotees converge at Puri for this festival. Idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken in giant size wooden chariots to Gundicha Ghar. The deities are kept there for a week and then returned to the temple. The journey back consists of another ritual, known as Bahuda Rath Yatra.
It is said that on this special day and for seven days afterwards, Lord Jagannath descends from His pedestal and mingles with His devotees. There are no barriers between Him and His worshippers.
Each deity has its own massive chariot, which is replica of the temple. The day before the rath yatra, the three chariots are lined up along side the Arun Stambha, an 18th century pillar, situated in front of the temple.
The colour of the chariots identifies the Deity it carries. Red and yellow are preferred for Lord Jagannath, red and green for his brother Balabhadra, and red and black for his sister Subhadra. (The colours of the Deities are black for Jagannatha, white for Balabhadra, and yellow for Subhadra.) The cart of Lord Jagannath is called Candradhvaja or Nandighosha (blissful sound vibrations). It is supported on 18 wheels and stretches approximately 45 feet tall. It is painted yellow with an emblem of Garuda. In addition, a chakra also distinguishes the cart.
The blue rath of Lord Balabhadra is called Taladhvaja (strong sounds) with 16 wheels and it is approximately 44 feet tall. It is drawn by four dark wooden horses and carries the emblem of Hanuman atop.
The black cart of Subhadra is called Padmadhvaja or Darpadalan (annihilator of pride) is supported on 14 wheels and is approximately 43 feet tall .It drawn by four red wooden horses. This chariot remains in the centre.
Each year these wooden Raths ( chariots) are constructed a new in accordance with religious specifications.The collection of wood begins from the day of Basant Panchami (February-March). The actual construction begins on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya (April).
The idols are made of wood , which is an exception to common Hindu iconographic deities of stone. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones every 12 years. Thick ropes attached to the axles of the chariots are used to pull the chariots.
The celebration and observation of the Puri Rath Yatra dates back to the period of the Puranas and the descriptions of the same can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
On the day of the rath yatra a special group of priests or servitors called daitapatis takes over the charge from the regular Brahmin priests of the temple. But the most popular ritual is perhaps that sweeping of the chariots by the descendants of the Maharaja, heralded by the gaily-caparisoned elephants, sweep the chariot platforms with a gold handled broom and sprinkle scented water. A humbling act, it symbolises that everyone is a servant of Lord Jagannath.
A couple of weeks before the commencement of the rath yatra the idols are given a ritual bath and kept in seclusion. During this period the temple remains close to the visitors.
In olden days people used to throw themselves beneath the giant wheels of the chariot to be crushed to death so that their place in heaven was assured. However that practice no longer exists.
People refrain from eating non-vegetarian food on this occasion. Nowhere else is a deity once installed and consecrated, taken out of temple. The Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri is the sole exception to this general rule. In fact during the yatra the chariots become mobile temples, which sanctify the city.
Lord Jagannath is said to have expressed his desire to visit his birthplace every year for a week. To another legend, Subhadra wanted to visit Dwarka, her parent’s home and her brothers took her there on this day. The yatra is believed to be a commemoration of that visit. According to the Bhagavad Purana, it is believed that it was on this day Lord Krishna and Balaram went to Mathura to participate in a wrestling competition, at Kansa’s invitation.
It is also said that once in Dwarka, Lord Krishna's eight queens requested mother Rohini to narrate the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krishna with Gopis in Vraja Vrindavan. Rohini agreed, however, considering it unbecoming of Subhadra to hear such episodes (Leela), she sent her to guard the Palace doorway. Soon, Lord Krishna and Balaram arrived at the doorway. Subhadra stood between the two, preventing them from entering. However, from where they stood, Rohini's narration of the transcendental pastimes soon engrossed them all. Just then sage Narada arrived. Seeing the siblings standing together like statutes, Narad humbly prayed, “May the three of you grant darshan in this manner forever.” And the three eternally reside in the Jagannath Mandir in Puri.
Chhera pahara is the most famous ritual associated with the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra . During the festival, the Gajapati King sweeps all around the deities and chariots. He then cleanses the road with a broom (gold-handled) and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder. The custom showcases that in the eyes of Lord Jagannath every devotee is equal be it the king or a commoner.
The mystery behind the preparation of Lord Jagannath prasadam is that it is made using earthen soiled pots kept one over the other on an earthen furnace.Amazingly the topmost pot being cooked first and then the next below. Daily 88 types of Bhogs are prepared in different phases, on special occasions and during festivals the number of items increases.The Jagannath temple kitchen at Puri is reputed to be the largest kitchen in the world, with 400 cooks working around 200 hearths to feed over 10,000 people each day.
(July 12, 2015, Page 48-49)