Chandan Yatra takes place in almost every city of Odisha, but it is particularly famous in Puri. In many parts of Odisha, it is held in the honor of Lord Jagannath. Chandan Yatra of India is a 42-day long procession, which is usually conducted during the Hindu month of Baisakh. In this yatra, the images of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Madanmohan, Goddess Sridevi and Goddess Bhudevi are brought from the temple and taken to Narendra Sarovar (a sacred tank in Puri), in a sacred procession. It is one among the famous twelve yantras of Lord Jagannath.
This festival is the longest Yatra of Lord Jagannath. In the cultural tradition of Orissa third day of the bright fortnight of Vaisakha is very important. This day is observed as Akshaya Tritiya. From this day the farmers start sowing seeds for the ensuing harvest. The famous Chandan yatra of Lord Jagannath starts from this day. The construction of cars of the deities also begins on this day.
Story and legends of Chandan Yatra :
The legend of Chandan Yatra goes back to the period of Mahabharata. The Pandavas at the time of their Agnyatabasa were staying in disguise in the palace of king Virata. After the killing of Kichaka, king Virata came to know that Pandavas were staying in his palace. Thus king Virata offered them prestige and friendship. Once the king expressed his desire to have a darshan of Lord Krishna to the Pandavas. To this Yudhisthira advised the king to arrange boat rowing in a tank for the amusement of Lord Krishna in summer months. To give the Lord comfort from the strong heat the king offered Him sandal paste in fragrant water. So the king arranged accordingly in a large tank the boat rowing festival. Being satisfied by the devotion of King Virata, Lord Krishna arrived with his elder brother Balarama. The Lord with his elder brother Balarama and Pancha Pandavas enjoyed the Snana yatra and rowing festival. Thus beholding Lord Krishna in this rowing festival the pious king fulfilled his devotional desire. To commemorate this incident Lord Jagannath (Krishna) enjoys Chandan Yatra with Pancha Pandava (Pancha Shivas) at Narendra tank. This festival is known as ‘Chandan Mahotsava. Prior to the existence of Narendra tank, this festival was observed in other tanks like Benta tank.
Rituals of Chandan Yatra:
The Chandan Yatra of Lord Jagannath is observed for 42 days. It is divided into two parts:- (1) Bahara Chandan (Observed in the Narendra tank) and (2) Bhitara Chandan (Observed in the Jalakrida Mandapa inside the temple), each for 21 days. Bahara Chandan is observed with much pump and ceremony at Narendra tank for 21 days. The last day is called as Bhaunri (circle). During the Bhaunri (on the twentieth day) at night, the Chapa moves around 21 times. The Chapa again moves around 7 times in every corner and at the center of the tank. Niladri Mahodaya thus speaks as follows: Jalabhramanajatram Tameka Bimsatibhirdineh. Puskarinyam Cha Paritah Pratikonam Cha Madhyatah. Saptasaptabhami Karya Jayamane Mahotsabe.4 According to Jatra Bhagabata, ‘Bhaunri (encircling of Chapas) is celebrated 7 times in every corner starting from Agni Kona to Aishanya Kona. On the 21st day Ratra Chapa is not celebrated. During these 21 days twenty types of Veshas of Madanamohan are being done with celebrations. These Veshas are as follows : Natabara Vesha, Krushnajanma Vesha, Rajadhiraja Vesha, Banabihari Vesha, Vatsaharana Vesha, Gomatikrushna Vesha, Khatadoli Vesha, Chakranarayana Vesha, Nauka Keli Vesha, Rasamangala Vesha, Kandarparatha Vesha, Arghasura Vesha, Rahasa Mandali Vesha, Raghunatha Vesha, Sadabhuja Gauranga Vesha, Nrusingha Vesha, Govardhana Puja Vesha, Giridhara Vesha, Chintamani Vesha and Gajauddharana Vesha.5 During these days of festivity Madanamohan (Moving deity of Lord Jagannath) alongwith Sridevi, Bhudevi, Ramakrishna and Pancha Pandava (Pancha Shiva) visits Narendra Tank in a colourful procession. The richly decorated palanquin of the Lord is called ‘Mani Vimana carried by the sevakas. This Vimana (palanquin) is This procession is headed by decorated elephant, nagas, sakhimedha, dancers, musicians, and fireworks. This colorful procession is enjoyed by the pilgrims and 46 July - 2003 Orissa Review devotees. The Lord take shelter under the Chhamundias on the way to Narendra tank prepared by the maths and temple administration. ‘Chudanga Hanuman also accompanies the Lord in the procession. Madanamohan accepts offerings (panti bhoga) from various mathas, kings’ palace, Jagaghars and other dignitaries.6 Fourtytwo varieties of sevakas accompany Madanamohan in the procession. This procession ends at Narendra Tank. When the procession ends, the exhausted and tired Lord takes a bath on the ‘Chandana Mandapa inside a stone tub filled with fragrant water mixed with sandal paste. By that time two well-decorated boats called‘ Chapa are already prepared for the rowing by the ‘Chapa Dalai sevakas. These two chapas are decorated so beautifully that they look like huge swans floating on the water. The peculiarity of the ceremony is that Madanamohana with Sridevi and Bhudevi rides on the white colored raft known as ‘Bhadra whereas Rama, Krishna with Pancha Pandava (Panch Shivas) rides the red one known as ‘Nanda. All the deities on the boat take several rounds in the Narendra tank which continue till early hours of the morning and then go back to their respective shrines. As said earlier the last day of this long festival is called Bhaunri. 7 another important event on the Chapa is the seva of Gajapati Maharaja of Puri. This seva by Gajapati Maharaja is known as Mahajana seva. In the past Devadasis used to perform dance before the deities but this seva is now extinct. The singers sang classical songs like Odissi for the amusement of the deities. The local people from the 'Jagagharas' come to Narendra tank during these days in great processions to take bath. This event is famous in Puri and is known as ‘Chandan Mauja.8 They use to sing songs and offer bhoga in the Dipadandi. They take a bath and swim in the tankwith the help of rubber tubes and packs of sola.