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Time to build rath, buy gold

Bhubaneswar, May 5: The auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, that is looked forward to by lakhs of Jagannath devotees, is here and people across the state are ready to observe the day with traditional fervour. Among other major festivities, the much-awaited event of making the chariot for Rath Yatra begins on this day.

While Akshay Tritiya is also a major agricultural festival for the state, people in cities can be seen rushing to shops to buy gold.

As the tradition goes in the holy city of Puri, the Chandan Yatra begins from Akshaya Tritiya and continues for 42 days, till Jyestha Purnima. A large number of devotees have already thronged the city to visit the Narendra tank near the Jagannath temple where the jala krida (meaning water sports for deities) would be on for 21 days.

Madan Mohan, the representative deity of Jagannath, and deities Sridevi, Bhudevi and Ramakrushna, along with the Panch Mahadevs (also known as Panch Pandavas) namely Yameswar, Kapal Mochan, Lokanath, Markandeya and Nilakanth, would make a trip on a chapa (a traditional boat) around the tank as a part of the water sport called chapa khela.

“This will be held in two sessions: during the day and at night.

“This is the first part of the Chandan Yatra and is known as the Bahara Chandana (meaning outdoor events). After this event concludes, the next 21 days will be celebrated indoors only in the Bhitara Chandana,” said Surya Narayan Rathasharma, an expert on Jagannath culture. “Chandan paste is also applied everyday on the entire bodies of all the divine siblings to protect them from the summer heat. The deities dress up in the Chandanalagi besa with specific costume for the occasion, known as Boirani and Patani that come from poet Jayadev’s village Kenduli,” he said. Special food is offered to Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra during this festival, known as Manduo.

Apart from the beginning of Chadan Yatra, the day is particularly important since the construction of the chariots for Rath Yatra begins (known as Ratha Anukula). After the aagyan mala or permission of Jagannath, Madan Mohan presides over the ceremony of beginning the chariot work by carpenters. The chariots take 60 days to be completed. Many devotees are awaiting the moment when the construction begins.

“It is a matter of great fortune to watch the commencement of chariot making for Rath Yatra. Since we knew there will be a huge rush, we had made arrangements for our visit on Akshya Tritiya more than a month ago,” said Mohana Sundaram, a pilgrim from Berhampur, here with his family.

In the villages, there is an array of festivities. People prepare the “Ghadi Patuli” or a pot of sweetmeats, which is distributed to children in the neighbourhood for the welfare, good health and good fortune of the family.

Temples and mutts in many parts of the state organise mass public feast of bhoga or food offered to gods and goddeses. The day is also celebrated as Parsuram’s birthday.

“The whole day is so auspicious, any venture can begin on Akshaya Tritiya on any time of the day with no reference of the almanac needed,” said Rathasharma.

One of the most important festivities of the day is the ceremony of worshipping Mother Earth by farmers for a good harvest.

Wearing new clothes and carrying paddy seeds in new baskets, farmers worship the farm soil and dig holes in the farm land. Then they plough and sow seeds ceremonially in what is called muthi chhuan or muthi anukula or akhi mutha. The celebrations however are not limited to villages or rural areas. People in cities throng jewellery stores and buy gold, since it is considered to be lucky.

Many stores have also laid platters of offers to woo customers for the gold rush.

“We are offering special discounts on making charges of coins and gold jewellery for Akshaya Tritiya since the demand to buy gold on this day is very high,” said Ajit Hans, proprietor of a city-based jewellery store.

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