Puri Rath Yatra: Know the secret of Anasara

Sib Kumar Das

Snana Yatra’, the bathing festival is over. Sri Jagannath, Sri Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Sri Sudashan are now in seclusion at ‘anasara pindi’. They stay at ‘anasara pindi’ from full moon night of ‘Snana Yatra’ till ‘navajouban’ darshan on next new moon day. Except for a group of designated servitors, no one else is allowed to have proximity of deities during this period. Only daitapati and pati mohaptra servitors reach the secluded anasara pindi. These servitors perform some secret rituals for the deities.

It is not all that secret:

What happens during ‘anasara’? It is an obvious question. But its answer is hard to confirm. Only daitapati and pati mohapatra servitors, who serve the deities during ‘anasara’, know the details of happenings at ‘anasara pindi’. But for them it is a closely guarded secret since generations. They do not reveal this secret to anyone except their next generation.

But researchers of Sri Jagannath temple and culture have found hints about these secret rituals from ancillary sources. In several books and articles related to Sri Jagannath and Nabakalebara of deities, secret rituals during ‘anasara’ have been described and analysed. In his book ‘Sri Jagannath’, former administrator of Sri Mandir, Mahimohan Tripathy has provided a chronological order of rituals performed for deities during ‘anasara’ time.

German researcher, Prof. Roland Hardenberg has revealed and elaborated these secret rituals in his book ‘The Renewal of Jagannatha’s Body: Rituals and Society in Orissa’.  A ‘daitapati’ of Sri Balabhadra’s wing had provided some key information about ‘anasara’ rituals to Prof. Hardenberg. Prof. Hardenberg has not revealed name of this servitor.

As per researchers, information in ‘Madala Panji’ and documents of administration of Sri Mandir also reveal much about ‘anasara’ rituals.

Does Sri Jagannath suffer from fever?

But there is a popular belief. Excessive bath during ‘Snana Yatra’ takes toll on health of deities. They start to suffer from fever. They remain under treatment during ‘anasara’. In a fortnight they get well and provide navajouban darshan to devotees. We accept this, as we identify ourselves with Sri Jagannath and consider the deity to be one like us.

On other hand ‘anasara seva’ is a prime duty of daitapati servitors. As per the book book ‘Purushottam Mahatmya’, ‘lepasamskar’ is the prime duty of daitapatis. Prof. Hardenberg has explained ‘Lepasamskar’. According to him ‘lepa’ means layer of the body and ‘samskar’ implies purification. So, this refers to removal of old body layers of deities, which are replaced by new ones during ‘anasara’.

So, ‘anasara’ can be termed as the period of annual maintenance of daru (wooden) idols. Wooden idols are not long lasting like the ones made up of metal of stone. To reduce their deterioration with time, various natural preservative materials are applied to basic structure of wooden idols. It hints that secret rituals of ‘anasara’ are meant for annual removal and reapplication of various layers to increase longevity of our revered wooden deities.

Some key happenings during ‘anasara’

Snana Yatra is performed on full moon of month of Jyestha. Two days after this, on the day of dwitiya, clothes adorned by the deities during their return pahandi from ‘snanavedi’ to ‘anasara pindi’ are removed. ‘Sri Anga Phita Niti’ is performed on ‘chaturthi’. Mr Tripathy has written that during this process ‘Sri Mukha (face)’ and ‘Sri Anga (body)’ of deities are opened up. Coverings of silk clothes and sandal wood paste are removed.

On day of ‘anasara panchami’, ‘phuluri’ or scented medicinal oil is applied to the deities. This fragrant oil is mixture of sesame oil, chua or black oil, sandal wood, camphor and several other aromatic substances.

Ritualistic ‘Osua Lagi’ is done from the day of sasthi till navami. ‘Osua’ is a paste made from jhuna (resin), sesame oil, water and some other natural products. This paste hardens after its application on the body of deities. Old layer of this paste is removed during ‘anasara’, which is named ‘karala’.

On ‘anasara’ ekadasi, paste of sandalwood, saffron and camphor is applied to the four idols. ‘Ghana Lagi’ is done on trayodashi. Prof. Hardenberg has termed ‘ghana’ as oil.

It is followed by ‘Khali Lagi’ or application of a paste prepared from wheat flour. Then is the time for ‘Khadi Lagi’. Divine idols get coated with quicklime paste (khadi). The conclusive ritual of the day is ‘pata lagi’. Silk fabric over 35 feet in length is wrapped around the deities.

On chaturdasi, datta mohapatra servitors do ‘Banak Lagi’ of deities. Using vegetative colours they regenerate the features of well known faces of our revered deities.

By morning of amavasya or new moon day, deities become ready to provide darshan to awaiting devotees. So, it is called ‘navajouban darshan’.

Some more secrets

To describe secret rituals of ‘anasara’ to Prof. Hardenberg, the daitapati of Sri Balabhadra’s wing had referred to changing colours of idols during the process. According to this daitapati, application of oils turns basic wooden forms of deities black.

In the next phase, idols appear to be red as they get covered by sheets of special fabric. On the eleventh day of ‘anasara’ or ekadashi, sandalwood paste is rubbed on the deities, giving them yellow colour. It follows application of a fine coating of quicklime paste that makes their appearance white.

On this white base, colours prepared from natural products are used to draw up well known features on faces of our revered deities.

Also Read Rath Yatra: The Annual Sojourn Of Lord Jagannath

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