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Bahuda Yatra: Lord Jagannath in Puri is returning to his temple today, read about the festival and rituals associated

Niladri Bije, the final ritual where the deities are taken back to the Ratna Singhasana ('Gemstone Throne' in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple) will be conducted on 4th July to conclude the Ratha Yatra festival for this year.

On the auspicious day of Devshayani Ekadashi, Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balbhadra and sister Devi Subhadra have begun their return journey to Shree Mandir from the Gundicha temple. The Jagannath Rath Yatra of Puri was commenced on 23rd June this year with a limited number of servitors amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The return journey or Bahuda Yatra will also have a limited number of servitors and is being conducted without the gathering of devotees or the general public.

The word Bahuda means ‘return’ in Odia.

After spending nine days in his aunt’s home, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra will return to their abode in the Puri temple today in their grand Rathas. Shree Mandir administration released the Yatra schedule according to which Bahuda Pahandi commenced at 8 AM and will continue till 10 AM. After that, Chera Panhara will take place between 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM, followed by the Bahuda Yatra.

Chhera Pahanra is the ritual where the Gajapati, the king of Utkala (Odisha’s ancient name) sweeps the Rathas of the Lord, a symbolic ritual conveying the meaning that Lord Jagannath is the true ruler of Odisha and the kind only serves under him.

Bahuda Yatra and associated rituals

There are many rituals involved in Bahuda Yatra. Mangal Aarti takes place early morning around 4:00 AM as the first ritual. After that, the priests perform Tadap Lagi and Rosa Homa. It takes around 30 minutes to complete both rituals and they are followed by Abakash and the Puja of Surya Dev. Before the Yatra, the priests worship the gatekeepers of the Lord Jagannath, known as Dwarpala Puja. It is followed by the Gopal Ballav and Sakala Dhupa that continues for about an hour. After that, the Senapatalagi ritual is performed. This is the time when chariots will begin their journey back to Shree Mandir.

The three grand Rathas will be pulled by servitors who have been already tested for COVID-19 cleared for the ceremony. The Yatras continue till afternoon and the Rathas are halted before the temple for two days. ‘Suna Besha’, where the three deities are decorated with a lot of gold ornaments, will take place on 2nd July, and Adhara Pana, on 3rd July. Niladri Bije, the final ritual where the deities are taken back to the Ratna Singhasana (‘Gemstone Throne’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple) will be conducted on 4th July to conclude the Ratha Yatra festival for this year.

File image of the Suna Besha or Rajarajeswar Besha, where the deities are adorned with hundreds of kgs of gold, via pragativadi

A victory of temple traditions

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is an age-old tradition. Every year thousands of devotees reach Puri to take part in the Yatra. Devotees pull three giant wooden chariots. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, only a limited number of people participated in the Rath Yatra. The Supreme Court of India banned the Rath Yatra in 18th June but later allowed the Yatra on 22nd June after widespread outrage and the temple administration’s assurance that the Yatra will be held without public gathering. The court asked the temple administration, state government, and central government to work together and ensure all the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health are imposed during the Yatra.

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