|Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Festivities at the Gundicha temple are on in full swing as Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are residing here for the rath yatra festival. The hera panchami rituals were observed at the temple on Thursday.
Observed on the fifth day of rath yatra, the hera panchami rituals have a special significance in the nine-day festival. It is on this day that Goddess Mahalaxmi, wife of Lord Jagannath, pays him a visit and requests him to come back to the Sri Mandir (Jagannath temple). “The word ‘hera’ means ‘to see’. Since Goddess Mahalaxmi and Lord Jagannath see each other on this day after rath yatra, it is a very special occasion for devotees,” said Jagannath culture expert Surya Narayan Rathasharma.
On this day, a lavishly adorned Subarna Mahalaxmi, the representative deity of Goddess Mahalaxmi, is carried to the Gundicha temple from the Jagannath temple on a palanquin in a grand procession by sevayats. Here, she is received and felicitated by the priests of Gundicha temple, after which she is escorted to the sanctum.
“The Goddess is seated in front of Lord Jagannath in the sanctum where she is offered special prayers by the Pati Mohapatra sevayat. The ritual represents the request of the Goddess to Lord Jagannath to return to the temple,” added Rathasharma. “As a reply, Lord Jagannath gives an agyan mala (a garland of consent), which the Goddess carries and returns to her temple,” he explained.
One of the most interesting rituals was that the chariots that were so far facing the Gundicha temple after the advent of the deities on rath yatra, were turned towards the Jagannath temple, meaning the deities are ready for their return journey.
Another fascinating aspect is that during her return from the Gundicha temple, following the Goddess’ wish, one of her sevayats breaks a portion of the Nandighosha (Lord Jagannath’s chariot), in a ritual known as the ratha bhanga neeti.
“This is a beautiful ritual that shows the Goddess is upset about the fact that her husband left her behind and went on a vacation with his siblings. After breaking a portion of the chariot, she first hides it under a tamarind tree outside the Gundicha temple. Then she is carried to the Sri Mandir through a secret passage in the Hera Gohri lane,” said Rathasharma.