Lord Jagannath and Car Festival

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Car Festival of Lord Jagannath at Puri is a symbol of Orissa for the rest of India. It manifests Oriyan character and the Orissan Calender is punctuated by different festivals in different months around the central deity of Puri. He is the guardian of the erstwhile kings and the kingdom of Orissa. The king was known as Thakur Raja – The chosen ruler of the Almighty.
The then Utkal earlier name of Modern Orissa being primarily an agricultural land, its life and culture is governed by agricultural activities. The festivals of its presiding deity are also agriculture oriented in the sense that the daily, monthly and the annual rituals of the Lord are in keeping with different stages of farming such as : sowing, transplantation, harvesting and preservation of the Crops.
The third day after new moon of the month of Vaisakhya is very auspicious in the whole of Orissa, because on this day the farmers start their sowing the paddy in their corn fields. On this day Lord Jagannath celebrates the Chandanyatra that spreads over a period of twenty one days and that day the carpenters begin making the wooden chariots of the Lords. On the full moon day of the month of ‘Jestha’, the bathing ceremony (Snana Yatra) is commemorated. From the first day of the new moon of the month of Asadha, Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Subhadra retires to a secluded place known as ‘Anasara’ for a period of fifteen days. Then on the second day of the fullmoon of the same month, the World Famous Car-Festival begins and continues for a period of nine days. On the tenth day this festivals comes to an end as return Car-Festival
(Bahuda Yatra).
In this way all the year round we find different rituals and festivals being observed for Lord Jagannath. Out of them twelve festivals are important and require a special mention.
“Manchasnanam rathabaragatih sayanam Chayane dwe Paswabrutih Sayananibrutih Prabarah Pusyapuja, Dolayatra Damanaka Mahotakshya Puja Trutiya, Chaibayatra-bidhi nigadita dwadaseita narendra”.
As per sloka, the twelve festivals are (1) Snana Yatra, (2) Ratha Yatra, (3) Sayana Yatra, (4) Dakhinayan Yatra, (5) Parswoparibartana Yatra, (6) Utthapana Yatra, (7) Prabarana Sasthi Yatra, (8) Pusya Puja, (9) Uttarayana Yatra, (10) Dola Yatra, (11) Damanaka Chaturdasi Yatra and (12) Akshaya Trutiya Yatra.
Out of these twelve festivals the Car-Festival of Lord Jagannath is very important and popular too. It is world famous in all its aspects. On the second day of the full moon on the month of Asadha is the day on which the celebrated festival starts. It continues till the tenth day and for a period of nine days this festival is observed, that is why it is called Nine record yatra (Navadinatmika Yatra). It is also known as Srigundicha Yatra or Ghosa Yatra. Out of these nine days, Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Sri Balabhadra and sister Subhadra stays in the Adapa Mandapa of Gundicha Temple with Lord Sudarshan. Puri is known as Sri Purushottam Kshetra and it is noted in the Hindu purunas for a holy place having five points of pilgrimage within itself. Indradyumna is one of these holy points. During the Car-Festival of nine days people come here, take their bath, give incharity, meditate and performed Yagna and finally see Lord Jagannath in the Gundicha Temple. They also tonsure their heads in honour of the Lord. On the third day after the new moon of the month of Baisakhya (other wise known as Akshaya Trutiya), three wooden chariots are built for this purpose.
The Cars :
Lord Balabhadra Chariot has fourteen wheels, that of Devi Subhadra’s twelve wheels and Lord Jagannath’s sixteen wheels respectively known as Taladwaja, Devadalan and Nandighosa. After the chariots are built they are drawn to the front of the temples of Lord Jagannath known as Lion’s Gate.
The Food Offering and Homage :
On the day of the festival early in the morning offerings are made to the three deities, then Khechadi, Pitha, Takua and Kotha Bhoga are also offered to the Lords. After a rituals called Mailema, the daitapetis start the procession towards the chariot with Sudarsana, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath respectively. During the procession of the deities even if touched by an untouchable they are not defiled. The deities in their procession pass through Jagamohan and seven steps known as Satapahacha come to Ananda Bazar and then to Lions Gate, where again offerings are made which are known as Dakshinamurti Bandapana. Because at this time all the deities face towards the South and in different puranas and legends, this facing towards the South is described frequently and commem-orated. That is why here the deities are worshipped with burning lamps (Bandapana). Especially the Mahabharata of Sarala Das (Sabha-parva, IInd Vok P-368) merits out attention in this context. After twenty two steps are covered the deities mount their respective chariots. Then Madanmohan and Rama Krishna the other two moving images of Lord Jagannath are brought in a Palnquin. Ramakrishna is placed in the chariot Lord Balabhadra and Madan Mohan in the chariot of Lord Jagannath by temple priests. Prior to this Sudarshan comes to occupy a place in the chariot of Subhadra in a beautiful procession. Then all the three deities are decorated with Gold Jewellaries and garlands of sweet scented flowers.
Chherapaharna :
After the decoration of deities the Gajapati of Puri comes from his palace in an eye catching procession and sweeps the three chariots with broom, is made of Gold. This ceremony is called chherapaharna. First the King does obeisance to the Lord waving with a golden fan and after that sweep the chariots with Golden broom. Sandal scented water is spread and white sweet scented flowers are thrown. Then the cheerapaharna comes to an end. This is reminiscent of the Gajapati’s Expedition to Kanchi and winning Padmavati, the Kanchi princess.
Then long ropes are fastened to the chariots and pulling of the cars begin. On their way to the Gundicha Temple, the deities stop, in front of certain monasteries, where offerings called ‘Panti Bhoga’ are made to them. As soon as the Chariots reached the road leading to the Gundicha Temple all the deities are bathed with sacred water, this rituals is called Mahasnana. Again after the daily rituals are done all the three deities are taken to the Gundicha Temple in a great procession. From the day of Gundicha till the day of return Car-Festival all the deities regularly take their baths, wear new cloths and take Ballavsharpa Manohi.
Hera Panchami :
The fifth day of Car Festival is called Hera Panchami. It falls usually on the sixth day of after the day of full moon of the month of Asadha. On that day Sri Laxmi, the concert of Lord Jagannath comes out of the main temple and boards a palanquin and comes to the chariots near the Gundicha Temple passing through Lions Gate and Badadanda. There different Bhogas known as Ghosa Bidia and Dahipati are offered to her. Meanwhile inside the Gundicha Temple Lord Jagannath akes his lunch after being dressed with clothes and different offerings are also made at that stage. After the ritualistic ‘Arati’ the Lords are once again bathed with five nectars and the evening offerings are made to them. Then all the deities once again wear new clothes and get ready for the pomp and show. Just at the time when all the rituals go on inside the Gundicha Temple, Sri Mahalaxmi comes to the temple Gate called Jaya Vijaya Gate. A Garland from Lord Jagannath’s body is brought to her and then the daily offerings are made to the deities. Through Nakachana Gate Mahalaxmi’s palanquin passes and is placed in the shed of a Tamarind Tree. There she is once again offered different types of Bhogas consisting and Curd and Cakes. Then her palanquin is taken to the chariot of the Lord Jagannath. There out of jealousy she breaks the chariot of her husband Lord Jagannath because he had come to the Gundicha Temple with his sister Subhadra ignoring her altogether. In this way she expressed her protest and jealousy which we find in common house wives. A very popular legend is in vogue in this connection as Lord Jagannath did not take his concert Sri Laxmi with him and went to the Gundicha Temple with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Laxmi feels dejected. She tells of her sadness before Devi Bimala, which is quite natural on the part of a women neglected by her husband. Bimala knew Tantric methods of taming husbands, so she gave her some medicinal powder that can bring about hypnosis in Lord Jagannath. With the hypnosis powder in her hand, she goes to the Gundicha Temple and breaks the chariot disgusted and directs the charioteer to turn the face of the chariot towards the west.
‘Rasa’ is always performed in the premises of the Gundicha Temple on the Seventh, Eight and Nineth day of the festival. Flags with the staffs are also worshipped simultaneously.
Return Car-Festival (Bahuda Yatra):
On the tenth day Lord Jagannath with his brother and sister gets ready to return to his temple. First the chariot of Lord Balabhadra is drawn and when it reaches Bada Sankha, the chariots of Subhadra and Sri Jagannath are drawn respectively. Then the chariots of Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought straight to the front of the lions gate of the main temple. But Lord Jagannath on his way to the main temple halts infront of the temple of his Auntie and happily takes delicious cheese cakes prepared there. Then Lord Jagannath’s chariot comes halt near the kings palace. Just then Goddess Laxmi boards his palanquin placed near the seven steps and comes to the chariot of Lord Jagannath and looks at him with a frowning face. Again Goddess Laxmi is brought back below the Temple through twenty two steps (Baisi Pahacha) and again goes to the Jagannath chariot. Just at that time offering curds and cakes were made to the Lord. From there she collects through Daitapatis Lord Jagannath’s Garland known as Angyamala and comes back to Srimandir very quickly. After that the chariot of Lord Jagannath is drawn near the lions gate. Then all the three deities seat in their respective chariots on that day and also the next day infront of the lions Gate (Main Gate). On the day of the return festival some specific offerings like Adharapana are to be made, but it seems on the tenth day that could not be made because of want of time. The Lord with his sister and brother take the same on the eleventh day after the noon offerings. On the eleventh day the deities are adorned with all gold and precious stone jewelleries known as ‘Suna Vesa’. On the twelveth day ‘Niladri Bije’ is celebrated. Then the evening offerings are made and Sudarsana, Balabhadra and Subhadra usual, they are led one by one in a colourful procession into the inner sanctum of the temple. But Lord Jagannath confronts his angry wife as soon as she gets down from his chariot and moves towards the temple. Goddess Laxmi alongwith Devadasi come to Lord Jagannath and necessary offerings are made and then she retires to the store house of the temple as soon as Lord Jagannath reaches the Lions Gate, it is shut from within by Devadasis. Then a quarrel ensues between Lord Jagannath and his wife Laxmi. They exchange heated words through their respective agents suchas Daitapatis from the side of the Lord Jagannath and Devadasis from his wife side. Devadasis put the daitas into the great trouble.
As Goddess Laxmi shuts the door, Lord Jagannath wants to please her through flattery. But she is unshaken. At last Lord Balabhadra, the elder brother of Lord Jagannath comes out and intervenes. Lord Jagannath explains that it is a taboo to take ones wife with ones elder brother (Dedhasura) in traditional Oriya families. Therefore, he did not think it wise to take his wife with him to the Gundicha Temple as Balabhadra was with him, with sister Subhadra. He offers his angry wife many presents of Gold and precious stones. But Laxmi does not accept it saying that she is a poor man’s daughter and therefore unworthy of those ornaments (Laxmi is the daughter of Sea-God, the treasurer of all wealth’s but she calls herself poor out of sheer (Abhimana).
In this scene a striking feature of Oriya family life is reflected. Then Laxmi allows her husband to come when elder brother Balabhadra admonishes his younger brother Jagannath for his sheer negligence of his wife. After the doors are flung open, Jagannath enters in and the Rukmin Gainthal is unknotted there. Lord Jagannath and his wife Laxmi are symbolic of Orissan folk culture. In their relation and in Car-Festival, the common Oriya life, in all its aspects are reflected.

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