History of Car Festivals in Puri, Odisha (Updated)

 Like festivals, lord Jagannath takes so many Veshas. They are”Hati Vesha”, “Suna Vesha”, “Banabhoji Vesha”, “Kalia Dalana Vesha”, “Prelambaswara Badha Vesha”, “ Bali-Baman Vesha”, “Sri Radha-Damodhara Vesha”, “Thiakia Vesha”, “Bankachuda Vesha”, “Adakia Vesha”, “Dalakia Vesha”, “Raja Vesha”, “Padma Vesha” etc.9

            

To perform all the festivals of lord Jagannath, 36 sevakas (Chhatisha Nijoga) were appointed at Puri.10   Now in the records of rights of Sri Jagannath Temple we find 119 types of Sevakas are there. 11 They are Rajas, Parichha I, Parichha II, Parichha III, Mudi Ratha, Patajosi, Mahapatra, Deula Purohita, Puja Panda, Samprada Nijoga (Gahani), Bhitara Nijoga, Pushpalaka (Singhari), Patihari , Daita, Supakara, Khuntia, Mekap, Muduli, Bajendari, Chhatribadu, Bimanababu, Ratha bhai, Amin, Rupakara, Chitrakara etc. Various specific services are rendered by people through hereditary arrangements. The system of Pattachitra paintings chamar seva and devadasi are very specific to the puri temple. Devadasi system is now ended with the death of sasimani.

            The greatest contribution of the cult lies in its essence to the emergency of casteles society. This has been achieved by communal partaking of Mahaprasad. On all social and formal occasions, these Mahaprasad-relations are treated at pat with the other caste relations. 

W.W. Hunter aptly writes but the time source of Jagannath’s undying hold upon the Hindu race consists in the fact that He is the God of the People. As long as his towers rise upon the Puri Sands so long there will be in India a perpectual  and visible protest of equality of men before God. 12



            Mahaprasad has acquired a special and significant position in the life and religion of Odisha. For preparation of Mahaprasad huge amount of rice, flavor, vegetable, milk, sugar, curds, ghee etc. are required and these materials are imported from various places. The cookery of Srimandir is known as the largest cooking system. They sanctity of this holy food is boundless and it is known as a sacred bond between gods and men and among the people. 

It is interesting to note that Mahaprasad is not only delicious but also enjoyed by all irrespective of caste, creed and religion. This is also given priority before serving any other food in a feast, especially in death /funeral ceremony (11th day). It strengthens the bondage between caste and relations. Especially newly formed bondage of marriage are solemnized by Mahaprasad. The Mahaprasad is prepared daily many times inside the temple very scientifically. 

Even during the car festival, Mahaprasad is cooked in Gundicha Mandir and taken by thousands of people. 13

            The cult of Jagannath represents the religious tradition of Odisha.  Jagannath is a great synthesis who integrates all religions into a common fold. All religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Saivism, Saktism and Adivasi traditions (aborigin) find their images reflected in the Jagannath tradition and undoubtedly there have been a great amalgamation of all religions in the Jagannath cult. He is the chief deity of all these religions and it is in him that all religions ultimately merged. 14



            Jagannath consciousness is the harbinger of a greater tradition. The Odias take pride in identifying themselves with the Jagannath tradition and infact Jagannath is an integral part of the Odia psyche and consciousness. 

From various historical records and legends it is well understood, that saints and followers of different religions have come to this srikshetra at different times and have made serious endeavour to interpret the Lord in their own way, but in course of time, all these religions have found their respective places in the institutions of Jagannath and preachers have made  compromise unhesitangingly . 


Possibly because of this we find here a great spirit of tolerance and mutual respect to divergent religions, since the fundamental principles of all the great religions of the world are more or less same and they differ only in rituals and practices.

            The Odishan art, literature and music are influenced immensely by Sri Jagannath culture. The traditional Mahari dance, Odishi dance, classical songs, are mostly developed under the influence of lord Jagannath and his favourite lyrics of Geet Govinda composed by the immortal poet Jayadev. Many poems and fictions are also written under the influence of Sri Jagannath culture. A lot of folk tales, folk songs, proverbs, chautisas etc. are also influenced by Sri Jagannath culture.

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