Bahuda Ratha


Orissan Patachitra

Jul 17, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) —

On July 18th Jagannatha Puri Dham (today, in the west), the Lord's return Ratha departs Gundicha Temple to return to Jagannath Temple, traditionally set for the ninth day. Following the observance of Hera Pancami, the Badhuda Ratha is the next and final major element of the annual car festival.

On this day, when the three chariots are halfway home, Mahalaxmi, in an extraordinarily euphoric mood, appears on the Bhog Mandap of the main temple and steals a glance of the chariots moving along towards the grand temple. Over the course of this ritual, the deity of Mahalaxmi is taken out in a procession. This ritual observance is conducted by Gajapati Maharaj, who leads Her to the chariot of Lord Jagannatha. Here again, Mahalaxmi welcomes Their Lordships. Jagannatha, as usual, offers her a garland -- ajnya-mala -- as a mark of His earnest concern. Mahalaxmi then moves back to the temple.

As the three chariots in the usual process reach the Lions Gate of the temple, Mahalaxmi again appears on the Chahani Mandap to confirm that the Lords have arrived near to the entrance of the massive temple. Everything is alright so far. Having reached the Lion's Gate, Their Lordships give darshan to the eager devotees. The servitors perform some more rites while the Deities are still seated in their respective chariots.

Next Their Lordships are taken to the temple, and during this process, Mahalaxmi's expectations are frustrated, and she becomes again very angry and agitated. She has expected the Lords back to the sanctum sanctorum soon after their arrival at the Lion's Gate, and the delay caused by the various ritual observances conducted by the temple priests is is unbearable to the impatient Mahalaxmi. In her anguish, she denies Jagannatha Mahaprabhu entry to the sanctum sanctorum. The Lord, now well aware of Mahalaxmi's cyclonic mood, explains His predicament and the circumstances leading to the delay in His arrival in the temple.

According to the dialogue prevalent in North Orissa, Mahalaxmi, hearing the voice of Jagannatha, orders her maidservant to close the door of the entrance at the Jaya-Vijaya Gate. She orders:

    "Hey, Sakhi! listen. I hear the voice of the Lord outside. It appears He has arrived in the temple now. You move forth and close the door of the entrance. The Lord should not be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. Let Him remain outside!"

However Mahalaxmi, before giving this order, allows Badathakur to enter the sanctum of the temple. After all, he is her elder brother-in-law. How can she disrespect his elderly self? This sequence has been beautifully described in the Laxmi-Narayan dialogue published by Hari Arjuna. As per the relevant verse on this score, Mahalaxmi says to her maidservant,

    "Listen Sakhi! Let my elder brother-in-law enter the temple. But the black-hued Lord should stand outside and get drenched in rain".

Hearing all this, the Lord, stands outside like an unfortunate offender. To appease His infuriated consort, the Lord speaks this next verse in the divine dialogue:

    "Oh, the lotus eyed, the daughter of the ocean, open the door of the entrance; I am immensely distressed. Show me your splendorous face and mitigate my distress. I have brought for you this gorgeous piece of chitrameghi silk. This, I believe, will best suit your fair complexion."

Mahalaxmi is least moved by his cajolery words. She replies saying,

    "I do not like to hear your words of encomium. Hey, Niladribihari, go away from the temple now; go away with your loving sister. If you leave the daughter of Nandaraj alone, she will be forlorn and greatly distressed. See the face of your incorrigible sister; she has no mark of honour in her face. Don't you know, how she moved out first and mounted the chariot on her own? She is like a way-ward cow entirely unmanageable. She cannot correct her behaviour even if she is admonished for her aberrant ways."

Subhadra Devi does not mind the piercing words of her self-conceited sister-in-law. After all, she is like her own mother in the line of respectable relationship. But lo! To the Lord Himself, these were all serious aspersions.

Mahalaxmi again says:

    "Oh, Lord! The way you behave is your strange style of mannerism. I know, you cannot mend your manners. This is what your caste has actually taught you over all these years. Having stayed in Gopapura for long, you have picked up many unusual habits and the one you exhibit now is the display of your obsessive mind".

The Lord still maintains his calm. He swallows all her aspersions without a word of reaction. He does not mind what His consort says. In defence, He only proffers his explanation cozily, trying to convince Mahalaxmi on the points of His own submission.

In the words of the devotee-poet, Sridhar Das, this is the goal of life in the dealings between husband and his wife. The quality of adaptability is the sine qua non of a happy married life in household relationship. When the wife is intransigent, the husband should be flexible and calm going and adjust himself to the disparaging situation.

Now, undisturbed despite the continuing acrimony the Lord, as depicted in the Brahma Purana, makes an appeal to Mahalaxmi:

    "Hey, Devi! As you know, in Satya Yuga, Indrayumna built the temple. He was the fifth descendant of Lord Bhama. He consecrated our images on the Ratna Vedi in all devotion. His queen Gundicha was no less a devotee of mine. Satisfied with their devotion, I called upon them to ask for a boon each. You know very well, Indradyumna initially did not ask for any boon. After all he was an invincible emperor. He was not in want of anything in his world. Why should he need a boon from me? However, when I persisted in my wishful blessings, the king said that if I still insisted, the boon should be such that, after him, there should be no survivor in his dynasty to claim the temple as his own. Indeed! A stupendous boon! The queen was flabbergasted at the king's flamboyance. She had no other alternative. And so, adopting me as his son, she wanted me to make a commitment, that I should, once in a year, visit, her place and this visit shall, in future, be known as Gundicha Yatra after her name. In compliance of her wish, I am committed to visit Gundicha Temple once in every year as you know very well. So, Oh, Devi! You should not misunderstand me for my car festival, which is sacredly tied to a divine commitment."

This version is also included in the Deula Tola of Sisu Krishna Das.

As the transcendental drama comes to a close Mahalaxmi, having exhausted all her anguish, gradually calms down. As described in the dialogue published by Hari Arjun, Badathakur at last intervenes in the divine altercation. He speaks out to Mahalaxmi, while enjoying the transcendental situation:

    "Hey Bhadre! If my brother Jagannatha is a wrongdoer for lapses, if any, I too am not free from your accusation. Our darling Subhadra accompanied us because of the candid wish of both the brothers and not of Jagannatha alone. Subhadra cannot remain without her brothers. And so, you were left in the temple for the genuine reason best known to you. After all, you are the divine proprietress of the grand temple. Mind not my brother's mistake, if any. Now open the door and let my brother enter the sanctum of the temple."

With these words of Badathakura, the arrogance of Mahalaxmi breaks down like bubbles on the surface of water. Mahalaxmi now comes forward and offers the sacred light to her Lord. She finally receives the Lord at the Jaya-Vijaya Gate. And all the Deities are at last seated on the Ratna Vedi, the platform of Jewels, as before. Now, there is great jubilation all around in the temple. The devotees shout "Haribol!!" In the midst of drums, cymbals and other musical instruments, with conch blowing, the ritual of Lord Jagannath's annual Ratha Yatra is ceremoniously concluded.

Adapted from a description of Bahuda Yatra by Durga Madhab dasa of Bhubaneswar, from Orissan Review.


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