Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chandana jaatra.......

In the land of Jagannath it is said that "thirteen festivals fall in twelve months".. (baara maasare tera jaatraa).. Festival is very much required for the joy it gives in terms of not only fulfillment of religious needs but also, spending qualitative time together, social harmony, friendship and as many reasons you can give... Jagannath being the soul of Oriya culture, most of the festivals in Srikhetra (Puri) themes him. Well before Rathayatra and Snana Purnima the most important festival in Puri that falls in the month of Baisaakha (April-May) is Chandana Jaata/jaatraa or Chaapa. As Lord jagannath is believed having human feelings, in the summer he needs to get some relief from the heat inside his closed temple room (Gambhiri ghara). So he represents himself as Chalanti Pratima (living deity) Madanamohana and sets out for a pleasure boat ride in the Narendra Puskarini (Narendra Pond) along with other deities like Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Sraswati, Lord Shiva and other associated deities. There he gets a cool face pack of sandalwood.


Narendra Pond and the decorated boats


This festival Chandana Jaata continues for long twenty-one days. Actually from the very day of Akshyaya Trutiya the chandana festival begins. Before arrival of the deities the grand road gets cleaned and sanctified with water. From Srimandira every day in those 21 days beautifully decorated palanquins carrying the images of deities are taken by the Shebaayatas or worshipers and priests for Narendra Pond. On the way, to give shade, decorated "Chaamundia" or (arches) made of palm and coconut leaf is pre-arranged where the deities take a short rest and offerings from devotees. The sevakas blow conch cell, women sound hulahuli (a sacred sound of Hindu women) and traditional musical instruments like mrudanga, gini, jhaanja, kaahaali etc... There is also tradition of decorated royal elephant to follow the palanquins along with a group of temple dancers and musicians... But now a days I can neither see the royal elephant nor the group of gotipua dancers following the parade of holy palanquins.     


The decorated Palanquins kept under the Chaamundia for a short rest...





Close View of the Palanquins

I am sorry for not being able to capture the front view of the Palanquins as I could not cross the crowd.

There on the Narendra pond the deities after taking cool sandalwood bath get seated on the decorated boats and take several rounds of pleasure ride around the pond. The tank is profusely lighted and decorated with thousands of spectators enjoying the procession standing or being seated on the stairs of Narendra pond. The pleasure rowing  someday terminates at midnight and someday it would be finished early and the deities are taken back to their  respective temples. On the 21st day of the ceremony the deities row twenty-one times round the pond. It is a very beautiful festival not only observed in Puri, but also in other places in coastal Odisha.

 During the rowing ceremony singers sing the praises of lord in the devotional song ceremony arranged on the stage adjacent to the pond. I was lucky enough to get to participate in a chorus band for very traditional ancient Oriya songs performing for Chandana Jaatraa in the year 2000... One of my friends told me that in the group there was shortage of one singer and she requested me to join the group as she was aware of my interest in Odishi song and about my status of bathroom as well as kitchen singer. Fortunately after listening my voice the coach agreed to take me in their group. I am very bad at music yet could sing in that group and felt heavenly. I then could realise music is the best offering before God. It really felt great to sing in chorus on the stage meant for the singers to sing in praise of the Lord of Universe- Lord Jagannath. Even today I remember and sing those precious ancient songs versed by great devotional Poet Banamali Das of Odisha. The songs are very precious as those give some focus on the social life of the medieval Odisha of eighteenth century. 

In the following songs, poet Banamali has described the Chandana Yatra festival...

On both sides of adjacent roads various vendors use to display their hand made toys, utensils, other handicrafts  and food items which attract the people moving here and there.  In my childhood mud and wooden toys were widely sold which now a days have lost charm among the kids with the easy availability of plastic and mechanised/semi mechanised modern toys...

                                                                      
                                                                                          
Then my father would bring beautifully colroured attractive mud toys like oldman-woman, dancers, funny monkey, pet cat, Shiva- Parbati, little girl and boy, crawling Gopal, tiger, lion, birds etc... and we kids would decorate those somewhere we liked and played various innovative peaceful games. The sweet odour of those mud toys is yet fresh in my breath and the enamoring colour yet present in my eyes to make me search for it once again.....