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Monday, June 26, 2017

Juggernaut rolls ! ~ the famous Rath Yatra at Puri Jagannath Temple

மாறிமாறிப் பலபிறப்பும் பிறந்து அடியை அடைந்து  உள்ளம் தேறி*

The aim of life is to reach Him by serving Him and those who do kainkaryam to Him.  Srivaishnavaite way of life is singing paeans, chanting divyaprabandham, doing service and having darshan at His various abodes.  For us, Kovil Thirumalai Perumal Kovilwould mean the divyadesams of ‘Thiruvarangam, Tirumala Thirupathi and Thirukachi’.  When we think of temples, the one at Thiruvallikkeni and other divyadesams – its tall gopurams, the divine Vimanas and the most merciful Moolava vigrahams and blemishless Uthsava vigrahams come readily to mind.  There are more ~those sung by Alwars being 108 Sri Vaishnava divyadesams and the centuries old temples associated with our Acharyars being ‘Abimana sthalams’.    

Just like our Kovil Ozhugu, there is Madala  Panji, a chronicle describing the historical events of Odisha Jagannath Temple.  In the state of Odisha [Orissa] lies the famous ‘Jagannath temple’ in Puri, situate on the east coast.  The moolavar idols of Northern India are different than the ones in South India, mostly in white marble.  Puri Jagannath is different – Perumal is made of sacred wood, which are ceremoniously replaced after few years.  The  Navakalevara  ceremony is an intricate set of rituals that accompany the renewal of the wooden statues.

The Puri  temple was built in the 12th  century atop its ruins by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Lakhs of devotees descend here at this holy temple town for this festival.

Inside the huge temple, the presiding deities are : Sri  Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Balabhadra (Balarama)  and the Goddess Subhadra constituting  trinity of deities worshiped at the temple. The temple iconography depicts these three Gods sitting on the bejewelled platform [ Ratnabedi ]  in the inner sanctum. Lord  Jagannatha is  the supreme God and the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire. The Deities are adorned with cotton and silk fabrics, Gold Ornaments studded with precious stones, flowers of different varieties, Tulsi leaves, sandal paste, camphor. These articles are used in the daily and periodical rituals.

Pic credit :

Lord Jagannath temple at Puri  is built on a gigantic raised platform.   The temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates, facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Simha dwara [Lions Gate]. The north, south and west facing gates are similarly known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate.  As one stands at the Simha dwara,  there is a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha,  associated with Aruna, charioteer of the Sun-god. 

The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning glory  is the 'Sudarshana chakra / Ssrichakra' (an eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. The vimana or tower is 215ft high, and in the evening, a temple sevaka  called Garuda sevaka climbs up to the tower to tie pieces of cloth on the flagpole. This chakra is visible from almost all parts of Puri and would appear to be facing you from wherever you are.  The flag atop is believed to flap in the opposite direction of the breeze.  

The temple is situate on expansive landscape and attracts crowds throughout the year; it swells by a few more lakhs during  the annual Rath Yatra.  Sure you have heard of the word ‘juggernaut’ which in English language is a literal or metaphorical of mighty force that is rolling.   The word is coined in an allegorical reference to the famous Temple Car of Puri.  The word has its origin to   Sanskrit Jagannātha ("Lord of the Globe", combining Jagat ("world") and Natha ("lord"), which is one of the names of Krishna found in the Sanskrit epics.

The annual Rath Yatra is celebrated in the month of Ashada [June-July] whence the Presiding deities Lord Jagannatha along with Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra – come out of the main temple for an annual sojourn on decorated chariots, travel to Gundicha temple about two and half miles to the northeast.

The festivity is of very huge proportion, living embodiment of the synthesis of the locals, showcasing the rich traditions of arts of Odisha.  Each year, the three chariots are constructed anew and decorated by a large group of dedicated artisans of carpentry, ironsmiths, tailors, sculptors, painters and other skilled.  The chariots of Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra called Nandighosa, Taladhvaja and Devadalana have 16,14, 12 wheels respectively and are over 40 ft tall.  They are tastefully decorated with painted wood carvings, Parsav devatas and a sarathi [charioteer], appliqué patterns, flat metal shape and profuse flower garlands.  The chariots have canopies of different coloured cloth.

Gundicha temple

The much awaited event – the ‘Ratha Yatra’ takes place on Asadha Shukla dvitiya, the 2nd day in the bright fortnight of the first monsoon month.  First in pahandi, the deities come out of the Temple to the blowing of trumpets, ringing of bells, claning of cymbals, beating of drums reaching a crescendo.  The Gajapati king of Puri sweeps the floor of each chariot with a golden broom, sprinkles flowers and fragrant water.  Then occurs the pulling of the Chariots after the wooden horses are tethered.

The chariot of Lord Balabhadra moves first, then Goddess Subhadra and then Lord Jagannath – a sea of humanity fills every inch of the grand avenue of Puri and lakhs throng the famed Puri for having darshan of this Rath Yatra.  The destination is the Gundicha temple, considered the birth place and their garden house.  The deities are kept and worshipped here for a week, then they ride their chariots back to the main temple. 

A visit to the holy land kindles our spirits and makes us feel happy enjoying the divine sublime atmosphere.  Here are some photos of the Rathas taken last year.

adiyen Srinivasa dhasan.

26th June 2017.

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