RITUALS CONNECTED WITH RATHA YATRA/CAR FESTIVAL
Arati, Avakasha, Rosha Homa (Puja in the Temple Kitchen), Surya and Dwarapal Puja, Sakala Dhup (Morning offering specially cooked food), Mangalarpana, Doralagi, Puspanjali and Tuli offering, Mailam Lagi, Unfastening of Deities and preparation for Pahandi.
PAHANDI (DHADI PAHANDI):-
The Deities are taken out, one after the other, in the following order – Sudarshan, Balabhadra, Subhadra and
Jagannath from the Ratna Singhasana in a ceremonial procession amidst sounds of Ghantas, Kahali and Telengi Baja. At the seven stairs (Northen exit from the Nata Mandap) the three Deities assemble, receive taya or Tahiya (a massive head gear made of Sola) offered to them by the head of Ragjhav Das Matha. Then one after other the three deities are ushered through the Ananda Bazar, Baisi Pahacha and Simhha Dwara and finally to their respective chariots as per the protocol that is Sudarshan, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath.
BEFORE THE JOURNEY :-
When the Deities are installed in their respective Rathas- Sri Jagannath in Nandighosh, Sri Balabhadra in Taladhwaja and Subhadra in Darpadalan- the following rituals are observed before the commencement of their Journey.
1) Chaka apasaras (circular cushions) are provided to the Deities.
2) Proxy divinities that is Madan Mohan and Rama Krishna are brought from the Temple and placed in Nandighosh and Taladhwaja respectively.
3) Two big chests containing provisions, raiment and other necessary articles for use of the deities during the journey and sojourn are kept in the chariots.
4) Chitas (Special head ornaments made of Sola and studded with artificial gems) and flower decorations are provided to the deities.
5) Chhera Panhara (moping of the Ratha plat form by the Thakur Raja of Puri). The Raja comes from the Palace in a decorated palanquin offers garlands, perform arati, pays reverential salute (danda ppranama), fans the Deity by the olden Chamara (flywhisk) and symbolically sweeps the plat form round the deities. Thus, the Raja as the fore most servitor performs the ignoble job of scavenger as a mark of utmost humility in the presence of the Lord of Universe.
6) Sarathis (three wooden charioteers one for each chariot) are then fastened on to the chariots by the Bhois.
7) Charas (impromptu wooden flights of stairs to the chariots) are taken out.
8) Wooden horses (Four to each chariot ) are yoked.
9) Lakhs of devotees, men, women, young and old irrespective of caste, creed and nationality scramble eagerly for a touch of the 250 feet holy coir cable to pull the chariots along the Three Kms long Grand Road to the terminal point at the Gundicha Mandira in the north-east. The devotees are also assisted by the Kala bethisa or professional chariot pullers.
THE JOURNEY (FROM THE LIONS GATE TO THE GUNDICHA MANDIR) :-
Taladhwaja, the chariot of Balabhadra moves first followed by Darpadalan and after that, Nandighosh. During the journey, the deities are presented with holy offerings on behalf of various Mathas and Institutions.
After the Chariots are parked in front of the Gundicha Mandir
a) The Deities under go a ceremonial Mahasnana.
b) They are dressed in Boirani Cloth.
c) Various offerings are made that is Bhoga, Arati, Bada Simhardhupa and Khandua Lagi etc.
GUNDICHA ENTRY (Next Evening) :-
a) The Vijaykahali (the trumpet announcing deities’ august entry) leads the procession of Goti Pahandi.
b) First of all, Madan Mohan and Rama Krishna are taken in side.
c) Mailam (Change of dress is conducted on the Rathas).
d) Daitas carry the Deities in side Gundicha Mandir ceremonially.
THE SOJOURN (In the Gundicha Temple for 7 Days):-
The Simhasana in Gundicha Mandir is known as Mahavedi or The Janmavedi. It is said that the deities were born here and here Raja Indradyumna conducted the historic aswamedha Yajna. The Temple is also known as the Mahavedi, the Yajna Mandap, the Janakpuri and Nrusimha Kshetra. During their sojourn in Gundicha the deities are dressed in Dasavatara Vesha.
HERA PANCHAMI :-
Sri Jagannath is yet to return to the Temple. Mahalakshmi becomes disconsolate. She goes to the Gundicha Temple on the 5th day (Hera Panchami). The main doors of Gundicha Temple are suddenly closed with a bang . She returns with a heavy heart and in a fit of anger breaks a small part of Nandighosh and returns the Temple via Hera Gouri Sahi.
BAHUDA YATRA (On the 9th Day):-
After spending a week in the Gundicha Temple, the deities start their return journey on Asadha Shukla Dasami. The preceding evening is exclusively meant for Sandhya Darshan. On the previous day, the chariots are placed South-West. The return journey follows the same protocol and schedule as is found during the Ratha Yatra.
At Ardhasani (Mausima), the deities are offered Poda Pitha(9 sweet cakes). Nandighosh halts at Ratha Khala (In front of Raja’s palace) where as Darpadalan and Taladhwaja move foreword and are parked at Simhadwara. In the mean while, Mahalakshmi steals a glimpse of Nandighosha from the Chahani Mandap, hurries to Lord Jagannath by palanquin, meets him, receives a loving garland and goes back to the Temple where she awaits Niladrinath.
1) On the day Bahuda the deities remain in their resp[ective chariots parked near the Simhadwara/
2) The next day (Ekadasi), the deities are dressed in glittering Gold (Suna Vesha) on their Chariots.
3) After the Strenuous Bahuda Journey, the deities are offered the most refreshing drink, framed as Adharapana in a huge container that almost touches the lips of the Deities.
4) Niladri Vije or Dwadasi Yatra.
After the evening ritual , the deities enter Niladri in Goti Pahandi. Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken to sanctum without any impediments, where as the entry of Jagannath is met with many a pleasant hurdle. Devadasis at the behest of Lakshmi close the main entrance for a spell and then they close the Jaya Vijaya Dwara and engage them selves in a pleasant repartee with the Daitas. After that, Jagannath is made to sit beside Lakshmi where a ritual of of re union is rehearsed and finally Lord Jagannath goes to the Ratna Singhasan and joins his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.