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Crowns made of devotion

Bhubaneswar, May 11: Flowers and leaves are all they need to create a crown. However, the women who weave the tahia, or the floral crown, believe that by doing so on a special occasion such as Chandan Yatra, they are offering their love to the Lord.

Prepared with devotion and offered with love, these crowns that the deities of the Puri Jagannath temple flaunt everyday during the ongoing Chandan Yatra festival, are unique for their beauty and perfection in craft.

The tahias are prepared by female devotees at the residence of Abadhuta Charan Das in Daitapada Sahi of Puri.

“Earlier, the royal household of Keonjhar used to make the tahia for Chandan Yatra. The queen herself used to create the crowns. But after the Privy Purse was abolished, this ritual was in danger of vanishing,” said Das.

“After few years, in 1952, a priest from the Jagannath Vallabh monastery in Puri went from door-to-door and requested devotees to take up the task. Since this process is quite intricate and time consuming, nobody came forward,” he said.

Das was just 15 when the priest reached his doorstep.

“My parents were ecstatic to offer service to the Lord. My mother insisted on taking up training from the priest. Since then, every year I get the flowers and the women in our house prepare the tahia. After my mother, my wife and sister took over the tradition. Now, even young girls and women in the neighbourhood have started making these colourful floral crowns,” said Das, who is now 76.

The tahia is adorned by Lord Madan Mohan, the representative deity of Lord Jagannath, who is taken for water sports and a boat ride during the Chandan Yatra festival that is held at the Narendra pond here.

Only certain flowers are used to make the tahia. These are collected by Das from different private gardens at dawn.

The women involved in the craft wear chaste clothes while stitching the flowers. They stitch jackfruit leaves together and use flower buds such as those of juhi, malli, champa, boula, ashoka phula, gendu and so on to create elaborate patterns on the crown. Whole flowers as well as petals are also used.

“It’s an immensely delicate process. So, only women are allowed to prepare the tahia. Since it takes time and we need to be ready with a tahia every evening during the 22-day Chandan Yatra festival, the work is shared by more than 20 women who weave the flowers as and when they get time throughout the day,” said Renu Mohanty, Das’s sister.

It takes about six hours to prepare a tahia. The women who create the tahia are mostly in the age group of 20 to 60. Most of the women who weave it are the ones who have observed the process over the years.

Crafting the floral crown gives these devotees immense pleasure. But every year when the festival comes to a close, these servitors are left teary eyed.

“It is a special feeling to craft the crown of flowers for the Lord. We rejoice every minute of the Chandan Yatra. But now that it will end soon, we will have to wait for another year to serve our Lord,” said Narayani Dasi, Das’s wife.

The Chandan Yatra will conclude on Sunday evening while the deity will adorn the floral crown for the last time this year on Monday.