... and other delicious tales as Lord Jagannath travels back with his siblings to his home, Jagannath Puri, writes Madhulika Dash.
Bahuda Yatra or the return trip may not hold the fascination as Rath Yatra that marks the beginning of the week-long holiday of the Holy Trinity to their aunt’s place – Gundicha (or Mausimaa Mandir as it is colloquially called), but that does little to diminish the celebration that surrounds the second chariot festival. In fact, for most Odias, it is the run down to Bahuda Yatra that is more engaging as it brings out the humane form of the Lord.
Take for instance, when Devi Vimala, an avatar of Maa Lakshmi, travels to Gundicha in annoyance of being left behind, and breaks the axel of one of the wheels of Nandigosha – the chariot of Lord Jagannath. The ritual is celebrated as Hera Panchami on the fifth day of the chariot festival and begins with the idol of Subarna Mahalakshmi being carried out in traditional style palanquin in a grand procession by the servitors to Gundicha.
Here, she requests Lord Jagannath to return home, which he accepts by giving a agyan mala (a garland of consent) which the goddess carries on her way back to her temple. It is on her way back that she breaks an axel of the Nandigosha wheel as a sign of anger, which often delays the chariot on the day of Bahuda Yatra. Fascinatingly, back in time it was for this reason that two Nandigosha’s were made. But the day isn’t about the breaking of the axel, pleased to have her daughter-in-law visit her abode, Goddess Gundicha also prepares a bowl of her favourite Chaula Kheeri and Kakara Pitha with Dalma.
It is almost ritualistic in Baripada to see every home make both the sweets on this day, with an inclusion of paanmahuri (saunf) in the Kakara batter to give it that calming fragrance. Foodlore has it that the inclusion of the paanmahuri was done on purpose. Of course, culinary custodian view this as a fascinating example of how to use food as peacemaker.
But the food fiesta at Gundicha temple begins way before the fifth day. On the second day when the Rath commence their journey, the holy kitchen of the Gundicha temple start preparing a slew of sweets to welcome the holy trinity. It ranges from Podo Pitha made in different styles to Ladoo made from flour, khoi and even soji – and a range of khaja to be distributed among the devotees.
The Mausimaa Temple in Baripada especially makes the sraddha ladoo – a delicious blend of jaggery and boondi – to welcome the deities. The third day of the festival is marked by the first Abhada (or cooked meal) in the temple as the idols enter the Adapa Mandap, the place where the three deities have grown up playing. It is here that they consume their first meal cooked by the supakara of the Gunicha temple and Mahasuara of the Jagannath temple.
Though less in quantity, the dishes are the same as the Mahaprasad made at the main temple – and is believed to be more tastier and fragrant than the latter. In fact, many believe the reason for this is because the Abhada – which is a thali of rice, meetha dali (sweet dal), ghanta (mix vegetable), khatta (relish), bhaja/ saaga bhaja (stir-fried vegetable or leafy greens) and kheeri (kheer) – could have originated in Adapa.
The rest of the week is filled with one or the other sweet prepared for the deities, especially Lord Jagannath – and the same is distributed to the devotees as well. Some of the regular dishes during this time is the Chatua – a sweet porridge made of roasted gram; Chuda Kadama – a dry breakfast preparation of fruits, rice flakes, ghee, kapur and jaggery; Khai ladoo, Pitha, Kanika and many others.
In fact, for the time the lords stay in the aunt’s place, the kitchen there makes the chappan bhog much the same way it is done in Jagannath Puri with a few unique additions like a different style of podo pitha, chunchi patra pitha, chitau pitha and such.
The vacation is the time when Lord Jagannath, who takes on a more human form, gets to taste all forms of pitha including saal patra pitha and biri pitha as well that are brought to him.
But it is on the tenth day when he along with his siblings leave their aunt’s place when the gourmet trail begins. On his way, while the lord’s kitchen provides them with season’s freshest fruits to have along with a bevy of ladoos including the delicious Magaaja Ladoo and Mohan Bhog (which is made with semolina) that has been packed by their aunt.
Of course, on the way they make a pit stop at Ardhasani temple, where they are offered Podo Pitha as a treat. The temple still makes the pitha the traditional way and is considered one of the best places to try this coconut-rice baked treat.
Post their meal the chariots carry on their way towards the Singha Dwar (Lion Gate). Glad on their safe return, Lord Vimala while welcomes the older brother (Lord Balbhadra) and the
sister-in-law (Devi Subhadra), she refuses entry to Lord Jagannath who is told to stay at the gate. Dressed in all its finery (the Suna Vesha is performed the same day), Lord Jagannath awaits his turn patiently sending sevayat after sevayat to convince her.
Away from his kitchen, Lord Jagannath with his sibling goes on a fast the next day which is considered the most auspicious Ekdasi – and eats only fruits. Unable to stay away from his wife, on the 12 th day the Lord, much like any married man, sends a gift of peace. A kudwa full of rasagolla that was traditionally brought from Lord Baladev Jew Mandir in Kendrapada, where it is said to have originated, and a Patta Sari. Eventually after two days and nights spend in the temple courtyard, finally the deities get to move into the temple, but only after being bathed with Adhara Pana (a drink made with dahi, doodh, misri, tulsi and cardamom powder). But instead of drinking it, the Pana is poured after a puja over the chariots thus cleansing it of any evil spirit and negativity.
With the lord finally inside the temple, devotees get to relish the rasagolla as the holy kitchen begins work after 13-days of lying idle. Thus, completing the journey of Rath Yatra that sees Lord Jagannath become human and then lord again.