Rashmi Rekha Das

Different shrines across Odisha have their own chariot-pulling festivals. Bhubaneswar’s famous Lingaraja Temple’s Rukuna Rath Yatra is held on Ashokastami, Konark’s Surya Rath rolls on Magha Saptami and of course the world-famous Puri’s Jagannath Rath Yatra catches breath of devotees in the month of Ashadha. 

With the Devi Paksha Navratri commencing from Monday, all major Shakti peeths in the state have become alive. Many people must not be aware of the fact Biraja is the only Shakti Goddess in Odisha to have her own chariot festival during this festive period. The festival known as the Vijaya Rath Yatra kicked off on Tuesday and will continue for nine days. 

On Tuesday, devotees across the state thronged the Biraja Khetra to pull Singhadwaja chariot.  Servitors consecrated the Maa Biraja’s chariot before carrying out her representative idol onto the chariot and parking in front of the Lion Gate. 

It is learnt that Navratri puja kicked off in the temple premises on Monday. However, Rath Yatra related rituals began from night.  

On the ninth day of her sojourn, Aparajita puja will be performed and thereafter the Goddess will ceremonially slay the demon Mahisasura and return to her abode and mark the end of her sacred journey.

As per the schedule, devotees and servitors would pull the chariot around temple everyday at 4pm. 

The district administration, meanwhile, claimed to have taken adequate measures for Nabapada Darshan ritual which will mark the end of Vijaya Rath Yatra.

Going by the Skanda Purana,  the Biraja temple observes the annual Rath yatra during the Durga Puja as Devi Durga is the presiding deity of the temple and is worshipped as Maa Biraja.

Built in 13th century by Somavamsi king Chandihar Jajati-II at Jajpur, Biraja temple has an interesting folklore. When Shiva performed Tandava Nrutya (the divine dance) by carrying the corpse of Devi Sati, her remains got scattered in different places due to the strike of Sudarshan Chakra by Vishnu. The places where the body parts of the feminine power fell later came to be known as Shakti Peethas. It is believed that Sati’s navel fell in the Utkala Kingdom at Jajpur.