Mrunal Manmay Dash

A man named Rabindra Kumar Jena from Singeswar village under Khordha’s Balugaon block is called as ‘Bali (Sacrifice) Jena’ in his locality. The reason behind it is a unique ritual performed at the famous Bhagabati shrine.

When it comes to Shakti Peeths of Odisha, Maa Bhagabati temple at Banapur in Khordha needs no introduction. The famous shrine that houses Goddess Bhagabati, an avatar of Goddess Durga, attracts huge numbers of devotees all throughout the year.

However, every year during Dussehra, the temple witnesses a huge rush of devotees, mainly because of its importance as a shaktee peeth and partly for a unique ritual involving a symbolic human sacrifice.

Commemorating the history of human and animal sacrifices at the shrine, the temple trust carries out a symbolic human sacrifice every year with Jena.

As the Sodasha Puja begins at the shrine, Jena is sacrificed symbolically after reaching the temple in a huge procession. On the first day of Sodasha puja, Jena leaves his home after puja and heads straight to the Dakhseswar temple, the paternal home of Goddess Bhagabati. And later in the evening, Jena is taken to the Bhagabati temple in a huge procession to get sacrificed symbolically.

“After receiving the ‘Agyan Mala’ I go to the temple to get sacrificed. After all the puja and procession, the priests of the temple make me lie down before the Goddess offering my life to Maa Bhagabati,” said Jena.

Speaking about the ritual, the Managing Officer of Bhagabati Endowment Trust, Balamukunda Das said, “This ancient temple has a history of sacrifices including human sacrifices in the ancient times. However, it is performed symbolically now after Court's order.”

Animal sacrifice was stopped at the shrine after the Orissa High Court order in 2009.