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  1. The Legend of Jagannath, Puri is an English documentary aired on Nat Geo. Rajeev Khandelwal takes us to Puri, Odisha to watch the famous Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. With him explore the magnificent architecture of the Jagannath Temple and learn how this yatra brings diverse cultures, faiths and mythology together. Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri involving moving the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra to the Gundicha temple, three kilometres away, for a period of seven days. The National Geographic Channel will air tonight an hour-long documentary The Legend of Jagannath showcasing this yatra while bringing to fore the legends and stories connected with the Jagannath temple (one of the char dhams sacred to Hindus), the gods housed in it and the devotional fervour of the faithful. The narrator, Rajiv Khandelwal, a self-declared atheist says, the film helped him understand the faith the people have, their fear of god and beliefs. “Seeing people coming from across the world on a hot and humid day, chanting, dancing, playing instruments and swaying, awaiting for a mere glimpse of the deities and touching the chariot is an amazing experience in itself.” He is right because you can see and feel the deep sense of devotion among the men and women, cutting across all barriers, in their eyes and gestures. Describing himself as an explorer, Rajiv plays the part to the hilt, displaying eagerness to learn while taking the journey of discovery forward. The journey featured in the film is special as it depicts the custom of replacing of old idols of the deities with new ones –– nabakalebra (new body) –– after 19 years, the very first this millennium. It conveys the message that death is inevitable, says Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, Master Kriya Yoga. “We live with pride, arrogance and stubbornness but here the Lord is saying, ‘I came and I am going. Get ready!’” What makes the documentary interesting is Rajiv showcasing behind-the-scene preparations while providing analysis of unique aspects and nuggets of information. Craftsmen who build the three chariots by shaping the wheels, axle and upper structure and carving intricate motifs rely on handspans for measurement and oral knowledge received from forefathers. Similarly the right of first service to yatra –– sweeping the floor of the chariot –– is vested in the King of Puri. Gajapati Maharaja Dubyasingha Deb, the present king says, “It symbolises that before the Lord there is nothing high or low and even the smallest of our acts should be dedicated at his feet.” Likewise, we gather that the sudarshana atop the temple is not just symbolic but protects the structure from lighting. Nicely woven into film is the legend and history connected with how the god worshipped by tribes became Lord Jagannath (lord of the Universe). Tracing the efforts of a central India king Indradymna in making the tribal god, Nila Madhava, a public deity, this story is shown in pictures making it distinct. Mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik’s insightful explanations make the proceedings interesting. Observing that Lord Jagannath belongs to the Vaishnavite tradition, he says, “This deity celebrates life and lives like a king. Getting up in the morning, bathing, wearing different clothes, he is served food.” Believed to visit Puri for lunch, the god is served an array of food items prepared from indigenous ingredients. That is how one of the biggest kitchens in the world came into being. Using 1000 earthen pots just once, 600 cooks prepare 56 dishes on wood-fired traditional stoves which after offering to the god, is distributed as mahaprasad. What is noteworthy is that even though the quantity of food remains the same, there is neither shortage nor wastage irrespective of the number of devotees. The documentary presents a larger than life spectacle in all its colour, customs and culture while emphasising how faith can endure what body cannot.
  2. The Jagannath triad are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Orissa, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The huge chariots of Jagannath pulled during Rath Yatra is the etymological origin of the English word Juggernaut. The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra.
  3. The deities, after the seven-day stay at Gundicha Temple, their garden house, commence their return journey. It is called Bahuda Yatra held on the tenth day of bright fortnight of Ashadha. The return of the chariots takes place in the same order as in the Rath Yatra. Balabhadra’s chariot moves first, followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. On his way back, Jagannath stops for a while at Ardhasani temple, popularly called Mausi Ma temple or the temple of Aunt. He accepts from the aunt His favourite rice cake, Poda Pitha. The three chariots pulled by thousands of devotees, reach back the Simhadwara in the late afternoon of the Bahuda day and the deities remain seated on their chariots. On the next day known as the Bada Ekadasi, the three deities, are attired in costumes of glittering gold and are worshipped by thousands of devotees. This form of the deities is known as the famous Suna Vesa. On the Dwadasi day, the three deities go back to their original place, the Ratna Simhasana, literally the jewelled platform, with the usual fanfare and the Pahandi style. Their arrival into the Sanctum sanctorum marks the end of the Ratha Yatra the grand festival of chariots.
  4. The Jagannath triad are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Orissa, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The huge chariots of Jagannath pulled during Rath Yatra is the etymological origin of the English word Juggernaut. The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra. The most significant ritual associated with the Ratha-Yatra is the chhera pahara." During the festival, the Gajapati King wears the outfit of a sweeper and sweeps all around the deities and chariots in the Chera Pahara (sweeping with water) ritual. The Gajapati King cleanses the road before the chariots with a gold-handled broom and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder with utmost devotion. As per the custom, although the Gajapati King has been considered the most exalted person in the Kalingan kingdom, he still renders the menial service to Jagannath. This ritual signified that under the lordship of Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign Gajapati King and the most humble devotee. Chera pahara is held on two days, on the first day of the Ratha Yatra, when the deities are taken to garden house at Mausi Maa Temple and again on the last day of the festival, when the deities are ceremoniously brought back to the Shri Mandir. As per another ritual, when the deities are taken out from the Shri Mandir to the Chariots in Pahandi vijay, disgruntled devotees hold a right to offer kicks, slaps and the derogatory remarks to the images, and Jagannath behaves like a commoner. In the Ratha Yatra, the three deities are taken from the Jagannath Temple in the chariots to the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for seven days. Thereafter, the deities again ride the chariots back to Shri Mandir in bahuda yatra. On the way back, the three chariots halt at the Mausi Maa Temple and the deities are offered Poda Pitha, a kind of baked cake which are generally consumed by the poor sections only. The observance of the Rath Yatra of Jagannath dates back to the period of the Puranas. Vivid descriptions of this festival are found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana. Kapila Samhita also refers to Rath Yatra. In Moghul period also, King Ramsingh of Jaipur, Rajasthan has been described as organizing the Rath Yatra in the 18th Century. In Orissa, Kings of Mayurbhanj and Parlakhemundi were organizing the Rath Yatra, though the most grand festival in terms of scale and popularity takes place at Puri. Moreover, Starza notes that the ruling Ganga dynasty instituted the Rath Yatra at the completion of the great temple around 1150 AD. This festival was one of those Hindu festivals that was reported to the Western world very early. Friar Odoric of Pordenone visited India in 1316-1318, some 20 years after Marco Polo had dictated the account of his travels while in a Genovese prison. In his own account of 1321, Odoric reported how the people put the "idols" on chariots, and the King and Queen and all the people drew them from the "church" with song and music.
  5. Golden attire (Suna Besha) of Lord Jagannath, July 2007. Прекрасное золотое облачение (Суна Беша) Господа Джаганнатха, июль 2007.
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