Puri Jagannath Rituals

Puri Jagannath rituals are traditionally followed form centuries and belief is that Jagannath is the unversal god and blesses prosperity and happiness to all 7-puri-jagannath-rituals

Shree Shree Jagannath Mahaprabhu lord of the Universe is the supreme solace and saviour of countless devotees around the world. since time immemorial, His monumental and magnificent shrines at Shree Purusottam-Kshetra, Puri one of the four major Dhamas of India has been a most sacred centre of pilgrimage and worship symbolising and uploading one of the greatest spiritual and cultural heritages of the world.

About Jagannath Temple

The Puri temple is built on a gigantic raised platform in the heart of the city, the temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high -including the 0 height of the platform. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates, facing the four directions

Source: Skanda Purana, the Brahma Purana and the Narada Purana. Even in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata

The RITUALS of the deities

Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri is still a living and vibrant temple. Lord Shri Jagannath, the symbol of universal love and brotherhood is worshipped in the Temple along with Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, Madhaba, Sridevi and Bhudevi on the Ratnabedi or the be jewelled citadel.

The rituals of the temple of Jagannath may be classified under three heads :- (a) the daily rituals or ‘nitis’ which are fixed and are observed every day as routine course; (b) the special nitis according to the specialty of certain days (i.e. Thursday, Amabasya, Ekadasi & Naksyatra Bandapana etc). (c) the various festivals observed during the year, some outside the temple and some inside come under the category of festive nitis. Besides these, there are some rituals which by tradition are kept secret. The present article highlights the daily rituals of the Lord Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu.

Dwarphita & Mangalaalati

The first ritual or niti begins in the early morning with the opening up of the doors of the temple. The doors of the sanctum are to be opened by 5a.m., as stated in the Record of Rights of the Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri.

Bhesa of Deities

Chandana Bhesa

The word ‘Chandana’ means sandal wood, the sweet-scented paste of which is applied to the body of the deities in the months of Vaisakha and Jyestha, for long 42 days of Chandana Yatra.

Hati Bhesa

In Snana Yatra Jagannatha is dressed like Ganesa, who bears the head of an elephant (Hati).

Nava Youvana Bhesa

Immediately after the day of Snana Purnima the deities remain unseen for 15 days. Thereafter, on the eve of Ratha Yatra they are gorgeously dressed and pay darsan to the visitors. They put on very charming robes and look like persons at the commencement of their youth. (Nava Youvana).

Suna Bhesa

In the month of Asadha, when the deities are brought back to the main gate of the temple and are still in their respective chariots, the Suna Bhesa (decoration with golden ornaments) takes place.

Chitalagi Bhesa

The word ‘Chita’ literally means the decoration of the forehead with special materials like sandal paste, musk and gorachana etc. But in Puri three magnificient chitas (ornaments of the forehead) made of gold, diamond, sapphire and emerald are put on the three principal deities on the Amavasya day of Sravana. Connected with this, is the decoration of Rahu Rekha. It is an ornament of the head. This is removed from the head of the deities on the day of Snana Purnima and is again put in the month of Sravana.

Vana Bhoji Bhesa

Since Jagannatha has been identified with Krishna, incidents connected with the life of the latter have been inseparably associated with Jagannatha. Krishna used to go to the forests with his companions, who were decorating him with the tendrils of the creepers, flowers and tender leaves of different colors. Keeping this incident in view, Jagannatha is dressed in the month of Bhadra in the befitting manner.

Kaliyadalana Bhesa

In the story of Krishna, Kaliya, the venomous viper, living on the banks of Yamuna was a source of great danger to the people and Krishna had killed it. To remind this incident in the month of Bhadra this Bhesa takes place. The actual scene of killing the demon like snake is dramatized in the sacred tank of Markanda.

Pralambasura Vadha Bhesa

A demon, Pralamba by name, was killed by Balarama, the elder brother of Krishna. So Balarama wears this Bhesa in Bhadra.

Krishna Balarama Bhesa

The deep impact of the Krishna cult in Odisha is perhaps responsible for this Bhesa. It takes place in the month of Bhadra. As is clear from the name itself, Jagannatha is dressed like Krishna and Balabhadra like Balarama.

Vamana Bhesa

In the month of Bhadra, Jagannatha is dressed like Vamana incarnation of Vishnu. Vishnu had appeared in the form of a Vamana (a dwarf) and through his ingenuity, outwitted the demon king Bali and pushed him down to the inferno with his foot.

Raja Bhesa

The word Raj a means a ‘king’. Hence this Bhesa denotes the dress of a sovereign king. Jagannatha was regarded as the king of Odisha since the rule of Ganga dynasty and this Bhesa of Jagannatha continues from those days four times in a year.

Radha Damodara Bhesa

This Bhesa takes place in the months of Asvina and Kartika. Radha is the female counter- part of Krishna. Damodara is one of the names of Krishna. This Bhesa, therefore, highlights the great religious integration that took place in the Jagannatha temple with regard to the episodes of Radha and Krishna.

Harihara Bhesa

When the Radha Damodara Bhesa of Jagannatha continues, we have the Harihara Bhesa of Balabhadra. In this Bhesa, half of the body of Balabhadra looks blackish while the other half looks whitish, which connotes that one half of his body is Vishnu and the other half is Siva.

Laksminarayana Bhesa

This Bhesa takes place in the month of Kartika. The worship of Laksminarayana has gained popularity in Jagannathism, since the visit of Ramanuja, the great religious preacher to Puri.

Laksminarasimha Bhesa

This Bhesa also takes place in the month of Kartika. The very name of the dress indicates how the powerful cult of Narasimha was given due recognition in Puri temple.

Nagarjuna Bhesa

This Bhesa takes place in such years as have six days of Panchuka in the month of Kartika. On that occasion Jagannatha is dressed like Nagarjuna (a military general) on the extra day. This Bhesa is also known as the Parasurama Bhesa.

Shraddha Bhesa

Jagannatha puts on this Bhesa in the month of Margasira for three days. Shraddha means the offerings made out of love and hence, such rites as are observed for the departed parents and forefathers are called Shraddha. In the month of Margasira, Jagannatha performs the Shraddha in favour of Nanda, Vasudeva and Dasaratha. We know that Vishnu was born as the eldest son of Dasaratha, the King of Ayodhya and was named Ramachandra. Again his birth took place in a prison in Mathura as the son of Vasudeva from where he was mysteriously taken out and delivered to Nanda (the king of Braja), who nourished him like his own son and came to be known popularly as the second father of Krishna.

Padma Bhesa

In the month of Magha, Jagannatha is dressed in Padmas (latus flowers), which appear plenty on earth from this month onwards. This Bhesa takes place to perpetuate the memory of a devotee, who had brought the lotus flowers from a long distance to decorate the god.

Gajoddharana Bhesa

There is a story in the Puranas that at one time in the past; an elephant was attacked by a ferocious alligator. Finding no other way to save his life, this animal implored the mercy of Vishnu. His prayers immediately moved Vishnu to compassion and the latter hurled his disc to cut the attacking alligator to pieces. Jagannatha, who is identified with Vishnu, wears this Bhesa to inspire a sense of devotion to the grace of the god.

Chacheri Bhesa

In the month of Phalguna, this Bhesa takes place. According to a social custom prevailing all over India, people play with colored, powder and throw this powder over the friends and relatives. ‘Jagannatha is the best representative of the people and he is also shown as sharing the experiences of the. People by playing with red powder.


It has been already stated that the bodies of the deities of the Puri temple have been fabricated out of the logs of wood of the margosa tree. A wooden object is liable to decay after a certain period and needs replacement. So the images of Jagannatha require a changeover to new bodies. In such years as have two months of Ashadha, this new body change-over ceremony called the Nava Kalevara takes place, when the old images are replaced by new ones. Normally, this should take place once in 12 years, but actually the shortest period is 8 years and the longest is 19 years.

Even a brief account of the Nava Kalevara rituals and procedures would be a small book. The various steps taken by the temple authorities to celebrate the festival in the traditional manner are very extensive and hence the. Main points to be remembered are described below.

Specific persons including the Daitas are deputed from the Puri temple to the Mangala temple in Kakatapur village to implore the mercy of the said goddess, so that they would be able to spot out the suitable margosa trees. There are many specifications about the environment, location, height, age and other details of the trees which should be thoroughly checked before they are procured for the purpose.

After the trees are located and selected, a small ritual, including homa (offering to fire) takes place and the tree is felled. Then it is cut to size and brought to the temple. In Koili Vaikuntha, the skilled carpenters called Visvakarma fashion the wooden images under the strict supervision and guidance of the Daitas. On those days an elaborate sacrifice invoking the god Narasimha is performed. After the images are carved out, these are taken inside the temple and the Brahma is transferred from the old images to the new images. Then the old images are buried in Koili Vaikuntha. The new images are painted and made ready for worship.


Jagannatha is worshipped as Daru ‘Brahma. ‘Daru in Sanskrit means wood or timber and Brahma means the all-pervading soul, the universal life force, the God of gods. It has been said earlier that the idol of Jagannatha is made of a log of wood. It is the margosa tree, the trunk of which is used to fabricate the body of Jagannatha. But it is not merely this log of wood or the image that is worshipped with so much of reverence. What is known as Brahma in Jagannatha is something unseen: that is there in his body. In that part of the log of wood which represents the substance of the image, there is a cavity wherein a casket containing something unknown has been kept. Thus, that Daru or the wooden image containing this Brahma is called Daru Brahma.

The Puri temple had been attacked many a time and the accounts may be read in the pages of history, the property of Jagannatha was looted. The images on most occasions were carried to distant places underground through forests. But the Brahma placed within the images remained untouched by the enemies and were thus saved from desecration.


Jagannatha is regarded as the supreme god and the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire. The entire ritual pattern of Jagannatha has been conceived keeping such twin aspects in view. The ritual system of the temple is very elaborate and complex involving a multitude of functionaries above one thousand spread over one hundred categories. The rituals of Jagannatha can broadly be divided into three parts – the daily, the occasional and the festive. In Jagannatha temple these rituals assume the term ‘niti’.
The fixed nitis that are observed daily as of routine. The periodical nitis are observed on occurrence of some specific occasions like, Ekadashi, Sankranti, Amavasya, on eclipses and Nakhatras etc. Lastly there are various festivals observed during the year some outside the temple like the Snana Yatra, the Ratha Yatra, the Chandana Yatra etc. and some inside the temple like Jhulan Yatra or swinging ceremony etc. Each sevaka or the temple functionary has his specified duty to perform in these nitis having terms• and times specified. Unless, a particular niti is performed, the next one cannot take place and consequently punctuality sometimes fluctuates to ensure attendance of various categories of sevakas required for a particular Niti.
The word ‘Niti’ in Sanskrit means a principle, a rule or policy. But this word is used in the Puri temple in a more general sense, signifying a particular religious rite performed in the temple.
The Nitis or rituals of the temple may be classified under three heads – (a) the daily Nitis, which are fixed and are observed every day as of routine course; (b) the special Nitis according to the specialty of certain days, months etc. or some mishaps in the temple, (c) the various festivals observed during the year.
The various Nitis, that are observed daily in the temple commence on about 5 A.M. and continue till midnight. They include in seriatim the Mangala Alati immediately after the doors of the temple are opened and an inspection made, Mailama (taking off the clothes and flowers of the previous night), Tadapalagi (putting on towels), Abakasa (cleaning of teeth and bathing) and Vesa (dressing). Then a public darsana called Sahana Mela is held, when the people are allowed to proceed near the Ratnavedi (jeweled throne), have a closer view of the deities and circumambulate. After the Sahana Mela, the deities again change their dress. In the meantime. Rosa Homa or an oblation to the fire is performed in the kitchen and the fire is used in all the hearths for cooking the food for the deities. Then follow the Surya Puja and the Dvarapala Puja, or the worship of the sun-god and the guardian deities, after which the Gopala Vallabha Bhoga is offered. Next comes Sakala Dhupa, followed by Bhoga Mandapa Bhoga and the Madhyahna Dhupa, as mentioned earlier. The deities change dress at each meal time and after each meal betel nuts are offered. After the meals the deities enjoy a siesta, called Pahuda of the day-time. In the evening an Arati is performed to mark the beginning of the nocturnal functions. The next Niti is Sandhya Dhupa. Devotees are again offered an opportunity of Sahana Mela in the evening hours. Then the deities change their dress, wear special silken clothes, fresh flowers and ornaments, besmear sandal-wood paste and enjoy music and dance performed by specified Sevakas. This dress goes by the name Badasingara Vesa and the light food offered on this occasion is known as Badasingara Bhoga. Green coconuts are then offered and detailed arrangements are made for the sacred slumber of the deities (Pahuda), after which the light is put off and the door is closed and sealed. But many more Nitis are performed on special occasions, For example, the Ekadasi Nitis are observed when a sebak of the temple services scales to the top of the temple (about 200 feet high) after night fall and burns a lamp there amidst the loud cheers of thousands of spectators. On-every Thursday, goddess Lakshmi is washed, dressed and decorated carefully for a union with Vishnu in the form of Jagannatha. On new-moon days the moving idols of Jagannatha visit the sea-god Varuna, said to be the father of Lakshmi.
This apart, some purifactory or consecratory rites are performed when either a dog enters into the temple premises or a dead body is discovered somewhere in the temple area. Spilling of blood, sputum, urine etc. call for the purificatory rites. Special Nitis are also performed on eclipse days too.

The word ‘Bhoga’ (in Sanskrit and Oriya) means enjoyment. Thus, the materials enjoyed by the deities comprising of varieties of food offerings made to them, is known as Bhoga. This word is commonly used in Odisha in the context of offerings made to the deities in the temples.

Bhogas in the Jagannatha temple are broadly of two kinds. The first consists of preparations of boiled rice, dal and vegetables, excluding- in particular, gourds, laties, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlics, cabbages and some others. The other variety of Bhoga consists of preparations of flour, ghee, candy, etc. Every day and throughout the year, fifty-six varieties of dishes are prepared and offered to the deities. This apart, several other varieties of dishes are prepared and offered on the occasion of various festivals. Similarly, on specific occasions, special drinks are offered to the deities. These dishes and drinks have great significance from the climatic considerations and health-requirements of the people of Odisha.
The Bhoga or Prasada of Jagannatha is called Mahaprasada, which can be eaten from the same plate by persons of all castes at a time without the least inhibition or hesitation. When Mahaprasada is served, all the participants are required to sit on the ground, remain neat and clean and not to sit on something like a mat spread over the ground while taking it.
As many as five times a day Bhogas are’ offered to the deities. The timings are as follows:
(i) Early Morning• the first Bhoga offered to the deities is called Gopala Vallabha. It consists of some sweet meats, fruits, curd, butter, green coconut etc. And is comparable to our breakfast.
(ii) Morning• The offerings made in the morning is known as Raja Bhoga or Sakala Dhupa in which various preparations of black gram like Bada Kanti, Sana Kanti, Enduri, others preparations like Mathapuli, Hamsakeli, Kakatua, Jhili, Ada Pacedi, Saga, Khecedi, Pitha Puli, Bundia Khiri are offered.
(iii) Midday – Preparations that are offered in this Bhoga called Madhyahna Dhupa include rice, pulses, vegetables and a variety of other items which we take during lunch.
(iv) Evening – It includes, among other things, varieties of puddings, confections and delicacies called Kanla Puli, Takua, Mathapuli, Bhogapitha, Gotali, Kakara, Amalu, Jhadeineda, Kadamba and Subasa-Pakhala. Rice is not offered.
(v) Night – At night, we have the Badasinghar Bhoga Preparations offered in this Dhupa include watered rice and some fries, fruits and sweets.

The word “Dhupa” is commonly used in the temple to mean the offering of a Bhoga to the deities, especially the Bhogas of the morning, midday and the evening, when the rituals performed are a little elaborate. Arati (waving of lamps) is offered at the end of each dhupa and also early in the morning and at the time of going to sleep.

At the end of the morning dhupa, a special Bhoga is offered to the deities, in the Bhoga Mandapa (Refectory Hall) and it is called Bhogamandapa Bhoga. The Temple Administration does not bear the cost of any part of this Bhoga. This Bhoga is traditionally done with a view to provide sufficient Mahaprasada to the various Mathas and other institutions as well as private individuals, who eat the Bhoga as their principal meal. The Suaras (authorised cooks) of the temple prepare sufficient quantities of food in the temple kitchen for the pilgrims on commercial basis and offer them to the deities in this occasion. Bhogamandapa Bhoga is normally performed once a day, but on festive days, it is repeated according to necessity. Daily more, than 10,000 people depend on the Bhogas for their meals. The market where the Bhogas are sold is known as ‘Ananda Bajar’. Apart from a variety of puddings, cakes, confections, delicacies etc., the principal items of food sold in the market to provide principal food to the intending purchasers are – boiled rice, dal, vegetable curries, green-leaf preparations and an item of sour preparation (known commonly as Khata). On some festive occasions, several thousand people visit the Ananda Bajara for their principal meal and eat the Mahaprasada then and there only. • For the performance of various Nitis in the temple, a large number of Sevakas (attendants of the deities) have been employed on hereditary basis. It is said that king Anangabhima of Ganga dynasty, a sovereign ruler of Odisha in this 13th century, who had initiated a well-knit administrative system of the temple had established Chatisa Nijoga, i.e. 36 categories of temple attendants. In later years, the number of Nijogas in the temple has increased considerably, but the nomenclature of Chatisa Nijoga still persists. Over the years, the number of Sevakas has also increased. The Raja of Puri is the first Sevaka of the Lord. He represents the sovereign rulers of Odisha, who had constructed the temple, installed the deities, arranged for the worship or Nitis, appointed the Sevaks and administered the establishment. During the foreign rule, they were the Superintendents of the temple. Then there are Rajagurus, who once were functioning as Parichas, or high officials of the Temple Administration. Then there is Pattajoshi Mahapatra, who is the head of the Sevakas of all thirty-six Nijogas. He ensures that the Sevakas perform their Seva properly and the rites of the temple are-observed regularly. Bhitaracha Mahapatra sees to the sanctity of the Bhoga being offered to the deities and also to the cleanliness of the temple premises. Talucha Mahapatra likewise sees to the cleanliness of the kitchen. Mudiratha does all works of the Raja in the latter’s absence as his representative. All the above Sevakas themselves perform Arati, Vandapan etc, of the deities at different times. The temple Purohita ‘chants Vedic Mantras and performs Japa. Pujapandas perform the ritualistic Puja (worship), Puspalakas dress up the deities; smear sandal-wood paste etc. while Khuntias guard the sacred body of the deities. The Mekapas remain in charge of different store articles. Pratiharis keep guard over different strategic points, the suars cook the food offerings, the Karanas keep the accounts and the Devadasis sing songs before the deity. The Daitas perform all duties of the wooden deities during Snana and Ratha Festivals. They are said to be the descendants of the Savara chieftain Viswavasu as mentioned earlier and hence close relatives of Jagannatha.

More info on Puri Temple

More info on Puri Jagannath Festivals

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