The most celebrated and respected festival of Odisha is the Ratha Yatra or the Car Festival of Puri. Ratha Yatra is the festival which consists many rituals. The following rituals performed from the day of Ratha Yatra till the deities start their return journey.
The journey of the deities to the world outside, starts with a spectacular royal procession called Pahandi Bije. This Pahandi procession of the deities is in a row and is known as ‘Dhadi Pahandi’ or a group movement. In Dhadi Pahandi procession the deities take rest whenever required during the journey to their respective chariots. All the deities move simultaneously one after the other in close succession.
First Lord Sudarshana, then Balabhadra, then Subhadra and lastly Lord Jagannath are taken out from the inner Sanctum. At the seven-stairs northern exit from the dancing hall, the three deities assemble and receive giant floral crowns, called Tahias. Then the deities are literally pulled, pushed and dragged in rhythmic movement with the accompaniment of the beat of cymbals, drums and chanting of their names in chorus by devotees.
Lord Sudarshana & Subhadra are carried on the shoulders but Balabhadra & Jagannath are carried all the way with little pauses in forward and backward motions. The deities are ushered through the Pata Agana, Ananda bazar, inner lion’s gate, Baishi Pahacha, lion’s gate, Gumuti, Arunastambha and finally to their respective chariots.
Gajapati Maharaj performed the sacred ritual ‘Chera Pahanra’. The Raja, King of Puri, Gajapati Divya Singha Deva is informed of the deities having taken their places on the chariots through a messenger specially deputed by the temple officials. The ritual goes back several hundred years and is a symbol of the subjugation of the temporal to the spiritual.
The king carried in a silver plated palanquin leaves his palace and comes in a small procession on the grand avenue led by a caparisoned elephant. He climbs the chariots one by one. He first offers his prayers to the deity seated on the chariot. He then cleans the platforms with a golden broom, sprinkling flowers and fragrant water on the surface of the chariot.
Hera Panchami is a domestic affair of the divine couple – Vishnu and Lakshmi. Hera Panchami is a unique ritual held during the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra. It is observed at the Gundicha Temple. Hera Panchami 2017 date is June 28. Hera or Hora means to ‘see’ and Panchami means the ‘fifth day’ – on Hera Panchami day Goddess Lakshmi travels to the Gundicha Temple to see Lord Jagannath. The visit of Goddess Lakshmi takes place five days after the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra.
Hera Panchami Festival in Puri pretty famous. The event is held on the arrival of the chariot of Goddess Laxmi. Once the chariot arrives a little damage is caused to the chariot of Lord Jagannath to signify Goddess Laxmi’s anger on the lord for leaving her alone in the temple. This event is watched with great fun and excitement by the devotees.