The significance of Rukuna Rath Yatra of Lord Lingaraj Celebrated on Ashokastami

Ratha Yatra
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Time: Chaitra Month, Shukla Pakshya Asthami Tithi
Dates: 24thto 30th March 2018

Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha is known as city of temples. Bhubaneswar derived its name from the city’s presiding God, Bhagwan Shiva locally known as “Tribhuvanesvara” which means “the Bhagwan of the Three Worlds”. Popularly Bhagwan Shivji is referred as “Bhubanesvar” and after him the city is known as “Bhubaneswar”.  Tribhuvanesvara is also known as Lingaraja. Lingaraja in its real terms means “King of Lingams or Lingas”. Bhubaneswar is also referred as Ekamra Ksetra (as per Ekamra Purana and other scriptures) as Lingaraja Mahaprabhu originated under a Mango tree called Ekamra (Mango in Sanskrit is referred as Amra). Lingaraja Mahaprabhu is also described as “Swamyambhu Linga” (i.e. self-originated). This temple is dedicated to HariHara a form of Bhagwan Vishnu and Bhagwan Shiva

The temple city of Bhubaneswar has many ancient Shiva temples dotting its landscape. The most important and the ancient among them is Lingaraja Temple. In the temple, the festivals of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu are held throughout the year. A festival is called Yatra, meaning ‘journey’ of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu. The Nibandhakaras of Odisha have mentioned fourteen festivals or Chaturdasha Yatra’s. The Kalasara of Gadadhara Rajaguru speaks of the major fourteen festivals with their timing and rituals.The Sthala Mahatmyas such as the Ekamra Purana,Ekamra Chandrika and Svarnadri Mahodaya provide details about the rituals of these festivals. Mahashivaratri is one of those Chaturdasha Yatras. This festival has a very unique significance in Ekamra Ksetra of Odisha i.e. especially for Bhubaneswar

Like Shivaratri, Ratha Yatra is considered to be an important festival in the Lingaraja temple. It is celebrated in the month of Chaitra on Shukla Ashtami (eighth day of the bright fortnight). During Tretya Yuga, Bhagwan Rama also visited Ekamra Ksetra during the Vanavasa time (14 years exile). Lingaraja Mahaprabhu also received him as a guest and requested him to spend some time here. The place where Bhagwan Rama stayed is known as Rameswara. Bhagwan Rama’s birthday fell during the period of stay in Ekamra Ksetra. Lingaraja Mahaprabhu went along with Devi Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya on his Ratha (Chariot) to Rameswara Temple to wish Bhagwan Rama and this festival is celebrated till day in the name of Ratha Yatra of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu. This Ratha festival lasts for five-seven days

Ratha Yatra is also famous as Rukuna Ratha Yatra or Ashokastami Yatra. This festival is believed to be “Papa Binashakari Yatra” i.e. “Festival which destroys/eradicates all evil and sins”

The Ekamra Purana describes this festival in two chapters. The same is also repeated in later texts such as Svarnadri Mahodaya and Ekamra Chandrika. The Kapila Samitha also includes Ratha Yatra as one of the seven yatras. The festival was so popular that it finds mention in the Tirthacintamani of Vacaspati Misra, Kalasara of Gadadhara, Kalanirnaya of Raghunatha, etc.

On this day, the Utsava Vigraha (Chalanti Pratima) of Lingaraja, the Shivalinga, which is believed to have been consecrated by Ramachandra,along with Gopalini (Parvati), Kumara and Nandikesvara including the image of Govinda aretaken out in a Ratha from the Lingaraja temple to Rameswara temple

The Rathafestivallasts for five-seven days. The Ratha is drawn by the devotees from the Lingaraja to Rameswara and starts its return journey on 5th day

Construction and details of the Ratha (Chariot)

Before observance of this Yatra, Brahmins are invited for the Banajaga Puja. On the auspicious occasion of Shree Panchami or Basanta Panchami or Saraswati Puja, Chalanti Pratima (i.e. Utsava Vigraha) of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu is taken to Badatota in a procession so as to mark the mango tree which will be used for construction of the Ratha. The selected mango tree is marked by a cut made by small weapon on its trunk. The carpenters are invited by offerings of garlands and new clothes. The very next day the trunk of the tree is brought in procession known as “Banajaga Yatra” to Mahakhala (place near Lingaraja Temple) where construction work happens. As per viddhi, a flag is hoisted on this occasion before actual construction work begins. After this, other woods required for the Ratha is collected from the forest

On the auspicious occasion of Magha Saptami (Magha Month, Shukla Pakshya Saptami), Chalanti Pratima of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu goes to Bhaskaresvara Temple to bring the specifications of the Ratha and after that construction starts as per specifications receivedand the carpenters take almost two months to complete the 35-foot Ratha. It is essential to have 16 Karamandala’s, 4 Torana’s (Gates), Golden coloured Kalasa, Scented Flag (on the top i.e. on Dadhinauti (A golden pot)), Trishul, 4 Horses and DibyaSinghasana (where Utsava Vigraha’s of the Deva Devi’s are made to sit)

 Puja of the Ratha

After the construction of the Ratha, the “Pratistha” (consecration) is done in the same viddhi as it done for Devi Subhadra’s Darpadalana (Devadalana) Ratha of Puri. One Pratistha Mandapa is constructed on the north side of the Ratha and inside it one kunda is created. Four Purna Kumbhas (earthen pots filled with water) are then placed on the four doors of the Mandapa. The whole Partistha work needs to be completed by learned Pujari on Saptami Tithi with all viddhi’s. This is followed by homa. After completion of homa and purna-ahuti of yajna, the Murti’s or Vigraha’s of Nandi, Mahakala, Ekadanta (Ganesh), Karttikeya, Ananta, Rudra having one eye, Trimurti, Shreekantha and Shikhandi are established on the top of the Ratha. And Ratha is decorated with flag, umbrella, flower garlands, etc. on the Saptami night itself

The Ratha is called Devadalan like the Ratha of Subhadra at Puri. According to Shiva Purana,the cosmic Ratha of Shiva was built by Visvakarma. It was golden in colour and was known asRukma Ratha (made of gold). Locally, the Ratha of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu is known as Rukuna Ratha derived from Rukma Ratha. The Shiva Purana has mentioned symbolically that the Rathasright wheel was Surya Dev and the left wheel was Chandrama. The right wheel had twelve spokes. The twelve Adityas presided over there. The left wheel had sixteen spokes, symbolic of the sixteen digits of the Moon. The four wooden horses represent the four Vedas and Brahma Dev serves as the Sarathi.

The ‘Ratha of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu has four wheels, the wheels of the right side represent the Surya Dev and the wheels of theleft side represent the Chandrama.Also for better movement of wheels during Ratha Yatra and for moving on rough roads Kharada mat prepared from Tamarind or Bel tree is used. It has a circumference of about 2 feet and is nearly 5 ft in length. This is used mostly on the 2 front wheels

Viddhi’s on day of Ashokastami

In the early morning of Astami Tithi, chakra’s (wheels) are worshipped in PanchaUpachra viddhi followed by puja of the four horses which represent the Four Vedas to get their blessings. Horse’s representing Rig Veda will move the Ratha with the force of wind, Yajur Veda will bestow fruits of Bhakti, Sam Veda will try to accomplish the duties of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu at a speed proportional to our devotion and bhakti and Atharva Veda will punish the culprits. And a request is made to the four horses to move the Ratha quickly as they have been motivated by Brahma Dev. After this Sarathi who is no other than Brahma is worshipped along with MaaGayatri Devi

The Ratha is also described as Pruthvi Devi or Mother Earth. After completion of all viddhi’s as mentioned above Pruthvi Devi is worshipped with scented flowers and mantras for moving in winds speed. This Ratha looks like the Ratha of Jagannatha Mahaprabhu. Chalanti Pratima’s of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu known as Chandrashekhara, Gopalini and Karttikeya are taken in a procession known as “Pahandi Bije” to the Ratha amidst beats of gongs, blowing of conch shells and chanting of hymns. The Chalanti Pratima’s move 3 times around the Ratha before ascending into the DibyaSinghasana of the Ratha. Vigraha of Shuladhari Nandi is kept at the lower portion of the Ratha

As per scriptures like Ekamra Chandrika, during ancient times Lingaraja Mahaprabhu went along with Devi Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya (Chalanti Pratima’s) on his Ratha “Ratha” to Ramasvara to wish Bhagwan Rama. But after the influence of Vaishnava traditions*, currently Chalanti Pratima’s of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu known as Chandrashekhara, Rukmini and Vasudeva are taken in “Pahandi Bije” to the Ratha. Then Brahma as Sarathi is worshipped for driving the Ratha. After that Brahmin (Pujari) sprinkles water mixed with scent and karpura (camphor) over and on the 4 sides of the Ratha and pulling of Ratha begins. It is locally believed that anybody who is able to have a Darshan of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu attains mokshya i.e. doesn’t take rebirth again

The Ratha moves nearly 2 kms on “Ratha-Danda”road up to Rameswara Temple, which is also known as Mausi Maa Mandira. The Chalanti Pratima’s stay on the Ratha that day. And next day on auspicious occasion of Ram Navami Chalanti Pratima’s of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu, Rukmini and Vasudeva are taken into Rameswara Temple “Maus iMaa Mandira” in Pahandi Bije, where Chandrasekhara wishes Bhagwan Rama on his birthday

Bahuda Yatra

On the Dwadashi Tithi, 5th Day for Bahuda Yatra (return journey), Chalanti Pratima’s of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu, Rukmini and Vasudeva are taken back to Ratha in Pahandi Bije after completing other viddhi’s. As per local traditions the Ratha is known as “Analeuta” i.e. it doesn’t take an about turn during the return journey. This is because of the fact that the Ratha has four portals onfour sides and, therefore, on the return journey the Ratha has no necessity to make a tum. So, on Bahuda Yatra instead of turning the face of the Ratha to opposite side, the ropes, the horses and the Singhasana of the Vigraha’s are placed on the opposite side of the Ratha. The ropes used in this Ratha are the ropes of Devi Subhadra of Puri Shree Mandira and this is used to be brought every year from Puri Temple administration office earlier to Ratha Yatra and again these are returned to that office after the festival

After the viddhi’s, Ratha returns towards SwarnaParbata (Lingaraja Temle) on this Dwadashi Tithi. In ancient period, the Chalanti Pratima’s of Lingaraja Mahaprabhu and others used to return to the temple on Dwadashi Tithi. But now-a-days, the Ratha is pulled after Pahandi Bije and halts mid-way in the evening. On the next day i.e. Trayodashi Tithi, Ratha comes near to Lingaraja Temple. Trayodashi Tithi being 6th day of the Ratha Yatra, the Chalanti Pratima’s doesn’t return to the temple on this day. On Chaturdashi tithi Lingaraja Mahaprabhu finally returns to the temple. Return ceremony of the Chalanti Pratima’s to Lingaraja Temple after completion of Bahuda Yatra in a procession is known as “Swarnadri Bije”. If in any year, the Chaturdashi Tithi and Purnami (Purnima) Tithi are on the same day, Chalanti Pratima’s stay over the Ratha upto Purnima tithi and returns to the temple on Pratipada Tithi of KrushnaPakhsya

Daanachori Viddhi

This viddhi is performed by Devi Maa Parvati. Devi Maa Parvati gets upset over the fact that she wasn’t accompanying Lingaraja Mahaprabhu in the Ratha. Because of this reason she comes in a Palinki near the Ratha (one day before Bahuda Yatra or on the 3rd day) and then breaks a portion of the Ratha and returns back to the temple. When Lingaraja Mahaprabhu reaches Singhadwara, he finds himself obstructed by Devi Maa Parvati not allowing him to enter the temple and has closed the doors. Devi Maa Parvati is pacified after Lingaraja Mahaprabhu gives words to her that she will accompany him during Chandan Yatra for 22 days and she opens the door. This viddhi is very similar to Niladri Bije of Jagannatha Mahaprabhu Ratha Yatra.

ADHARA PANA Niti

When the Ratha reaches near Badu NijogaChhakaduring Bahuda Yatra, Nabata Pana is offered to the Vigraha’s by the Nijoga Administration. This drink is prepared from Nabata, Plantain, Coconut, Bel Fruit, Chhese and is served in large earthern pots

NB: Please note many rituals have been changed after influence of Vaishnava traditions like Daanachori Viddhi

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Asutosh Mohanty

"Never say DIE" spirit... The only thing which I believe in this world is the CONFIDENCE on myself... as it's the only thing which helps me in difficult times..."So Never Give Up my friends..."
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