Bahuda Jatra: The Return Journey of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra

Bahuda Jatra- The Return Journey of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra

Bahuda Jatra (Odia: ବାହୁଡ଼ା ଯାତ୍ରା) is one of the most important and auspicious festivals in Odisha, India. It marks the return journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra from the Gundicha Temple to the Sri Mandir Temple in Puri.

The word 'Bahuda' means return in Odia, and 'Jatra' or 'Yatra' means journey. Bahuda Yatra takes place on the 9th day of Ratha Jatra, the grand chariot festival that celebrates the annual visit of the deities to their aunt’s temple.

The Rituals of Bahuda Jatra

The rituals of Bahuda Jatra begin early in the morning with the ceremonial procession of the deities from the Adapa Mandapa (the sanctum sanctorum) of the Gundicha Temple to their respective chariots. This ritual is called Bahuda Pahandi, which means return carrying. The deities are adorned with beautiful costumes and ornaments and are carried by the servitors amid chants and music.

The next ritual is Chera Panhara. This is performed by the Gajapati Maharaja, the king of Puri, who acts as the first servitor of Lord Jagannath. The king sweeps the platforms of the chariots with a golden broom and sprinkles sandalwood water and flowers on them. This signifies that even the highest authority is a humble servant of the Lord.

Gajapati Maharaja doing Chherapahanra in 2022 Bahuda Yatra
Source: Government of OdishaCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The final ritual is the pulling of the chariots by thousands of devotees who throng the Bada Danda (the grand road) to participate in this sacred act. The chariots are named Nandighosha (for Lord Jagannath), Taladhwaja (for Lord Balabhadra), and Darpadalana (for Devi Subhadra). The chariots are pulled with ropes amid chants of “Jai Jagannath” (Hail Lord Jagannath) and “Hari Bol” (Praise the Lord).

The Significance of Bahuda Yatra

Bahuda Yatra is not just a physical journey of the deities, but also a spiritual journey of the devotees. It symbolizes the return of the soul to its original abode after wandering in the material world. It also represents the reunion of the deities with their consort Goddess Lakshmi, who awaits them at the Sri Mandir Temple.

Bahuda Jatra also has some special features that make it unique and interesting. One of them is the stopover at the Mausima Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Ardhasani, the aunt of Lord Jagannath. Here, the deities are offered Poda Pitha, a special sweet made of coconut, rice, jaggery, and lentils. This is a gesture of love and gratitude from the deities to their aunt for hosting them for nine days.

Another feature is the Suna Besha, which means golden attire. This is a special decoration of the deities with gold ornaments on their chariots on the next day evening of Bahuda Jatra. The deities look resplendent and majestic in their golden attire, which attracts lakhs of devotees who come to witness this spectacle.

Sunabesha of Lord Jagannath
Source: Government of Odisha, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bahuda Jatra is a festival that celebrates the love and devotion of Lord Jagannath and his siblings for their devotees, and vice versa. It is a festival that showcases the rich culture and heritage of Odisha, and its spirit of harmony and brotherhood. It is a festival that fills everyone’s heart with joy and peace.

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