Hera Panchami: The Symbolic Ritual of Love During Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra

Puri: Hera Panchami is an intriguing and significant ritual during the 9-day Rath Yatra festival in Puri, dedicated to Lord Jagannath. This ritual, observed on the fifth day of the festival, symbolizes the conjugal love between Lord Jagannath and his wife, Goddess Lakshmi.

Goddess Lakshmi, being exempted from accompanying Lord Jagannath to the Gundicha Temple, becomes upset with her husband. On the advice of Goddess Bimala, who is regarded as Jagannath’s Tantric consort and a guardian of the Srimandir, Goddess Lakshmi secretly visits the Gundicha Temple to catch a glimpse of her beloved Lord.

As Lord Jagannath remains at the Gundicha Temple with his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, and is surrounded by devoted followers, he never gets the opportunity to meet his wife. In her annoyance, Goddess Lakshmi throws ‘Moha Churna,’ a powdered herb given by Goddess Bimala, at Lord Jagannath, hoping for his swift return to the Srimandir.

In response, the Pati Mahapatra, a representative of Lord Jagannath, presents an ‘Agyan Mala,’ a garland of consent, to Goddess Lakshmi on behalf of Lord Jagannath, assuring her that he will return to the Srimandir after three days.

On Hera Panchami, a grand procession takes place, during which the servitors carry Goddess Lakshmi on a palanquin to the Gundicha Temple. The procession pauses near the Nandighosha chariot, where the Pati Mahapatra welcomes Goddess Lakshmi with ‘Bandapana.’ From the palanquin, she throws the ‘Moha Churna’ given by Goddess Bimala onto her husband, Lord Jagannath.

As Goddess Lakshmi does not have enough time for darshan (sacred viewing) of Lord Jagannath due to evening rituals, she becomes upset and damages a portion of the Nandighosha chariot while returning to the Srimandir.

The return journey of the Goddess from the Gundicha Temple to the Srimandir takes place through the Gohiri Sahi route, and she forgoes the grand procession as a result of feeling guilty about the chariot damage.

Interestingly, Hera Panchami was introduced by King Kapilendra Deb, who transformed the ritual from a simple chanting practice to a grand event, in which the Panchu Pandav also participated, as mentioned in the ‘Ratha Chakada’ scripture.

Hera Panchami holds great significance as a portrayal of the divine relationship between Lord Jagannath and Goddess Lakshmi, and it continues to attract devotees who gather in Puri to witness this mysterious and exciting ritual during the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra.

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