Sunabesha: The Golden Attire of Mahabahu

Sunabesha: The Golden Attire of Mahabahu

Sunabesha (Odia: ସୁନାବେଶ) is a special occasion when Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra are decorated with gold ornaments. Sunabesha is observed five times during a year, but the most famous and popular one is on the occasion of Ratha Jatra, the chariot festival of Lord Jagannath. This is also known as Rajadhiraja Besha or Rajarajeshwara Besha.

The History of Sunabesha

According to temple history, Sunabesha was introduced during the era of King Kapilendradeva in 1460 A.D. When the king returned home victorious after winning wars over the rulers of the Deccan (Southern India), he brought a huge bounty of gold and diamonds. He donated all the booty to Lord Jagannath and instructed the temple priests to make ornaments out of them to decorate the deities on the occasion of Rath Yatra. Since then, the deities are adorned with gold jewelry after their return journey from Gundicha Temple to Srimandira on Bahuda Jatra (the 9th day of Ratha Yatra).

Three Chariots on Sunabesha in 2022
Government of Odisha, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another legend says that Sunabesha was performed by Lord Jagannath himself to show his gratitude to his devotees for their love and devotion. He wanted to give them a glimpse of his divine form as the supreme lord of the universe, who is adorned with all kinds of jewels and weapons.

The Rituals of Sunabesha

Sunabesha is performed on the evening of the next day of Bahuda Yatra, after the deities reach their main temple. The deities are placed on their respective chariots outside the temple gate, facing towards it. The servitors then bring out the gold ornaments from the temple treasury and start decorating the deities with them.

The ornaments include gold crowns, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, rings, garlands, and lotus flowers. The total weight of the gold ornaments is estimated to be around 208 kg.

The deities look resplendent and majestic in their golden attire, which attracts lakhs of devotees who come to witness this spectacle. The devotees believe that seeing the Sunabesha of Lord Jagannath and his siblings bestows them with wealth, prosperity, and happiness.

The Significance of Sunabesha

Sunabesha is not just a display of opulence and splendor, but also a display of love and compassion. It signifies that Lord Jagannath is not only the lord of riches and power but also the lord of mercy and grace. He comes out of his temple to bless his devotees with his divine vision and presence.

Sunabesha also symbolizes that Lord Jagannath is the source of all wealth and abundance in the world. He is the owner and giver of everything that exists. He is also the protector and defender of his devotees from all evils and enemies.

Sunabesha is a festival that celebrates the glory and generosity of Lord Jagannath, who shares his wealth and beauty with his devotees. It is a festival that showcases the rich culture and heritage of Odisha, and its devotion to Lord Jagannath. It is a festival that fills everyone’s heart with joy and gratitude.

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