July 9, 2020
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The Festival of Odana Sasthi

Today is the festival of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhi. This tithi marks the beginning of winter outfit (warm cloth) offered to Sri Jagannatha Deva. Today onwards, at the time of maṅgala Aarti, they wrap Jagannatha around in a large quilt-like silken garment such that only a part of His face and eyes is visible, just as parents tightly wrap a new-born child keeping only a small portion of the face visible.

Today Sri Jagannatha will be offered a special khicri called Karmabai’s khicri. Another special feature of this month is that instead of Lakṣmidevi, mother Yashoda takes charge of cooking for Jagannatha, as Lakṣmidevi goes to Her parent’s place [The ocean is considered as Her father]. So Jagannatha is offered bhoga at 9 am instead of the usual 1-2 pm, with a feeling that He is just a small child, so He will naturally be hungry. This bhoga is called paheli bhoga. And that is why during this entire month, Maṅgala Aarti, Bhoga, Sayana Aarti, everything happens earlier than usual.

Srila Prabhupada briefly described the ritual of Odana Sasthi in his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya lila 16-78:

“At the beginning of winter, there is a ceremony known as the Odana-sasthi. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to Lord Jagannatha. That covering is directly purchased from a weaver. According to the arcana-marga, a cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, and then it can be used to cover the Lord.”

Srila Prabhupada

Odana Sasthi is also described in Caitanya Bhagavata, Antya lila:

Around this time, the festival of Odana Sasthi began at Puri and Lord Jagannatha was dressed in new clothes–all starched. Although starched cloth is considered improper and impure, the purjaris nevertheless dressed Him in this way.

On this day the ceremony of ‘wearing new starched clothes’ was being celebrated with pomp and grandeur.

Sri Gaurasundara watched the ceremony along with the devotees. Lord Jagannatha was dressed in various bright colored starched clothes (white, pink and green), and was decorated with garlands and flowers.

Varieties of festive music played and Mahaprabhu enjoyed the festival with great pleasure until late in the evening. He then returned to His residence along with His devotees.

On the way home the two friends, Svarupa Damodara and Sri Vidyanidhi, raised a discussion regarding the Lord’s starched clothes.

Vidyanidhi said, “In this part of the country there is considerable discussion regarding Sruti and Smrti, yet how is it that the Lord is dressed in unholy starched clothing?

Svarupa Damodara replied, “Perhaps it is the custom of this place. If it is the custom, then where is the fault? Had it not been the wish of the Lord, the King would have forbidden it.”

Vidyanidhi replied, “God can do whatever He likes, but why should His priest attendants put starched clothes on Him.? Starched cloth is so un-holy that the hand which has touched it has to be washed.

These things are not decided by the estate officers. I see that the King also wore starched cloth on his head today.”

Svarupa Damodara said, “Brother, perhaps there is nothing wrong in using this cloth on the day of Odana Sasthi. Because the Lord Himself has appeared on this earth in the form of Jagannatha Deva, rules and regulations are not applicable to Him.”

Vidyanidhi protested, “Jagannatha Deva is the Lord, He is omniscient. But can these people be like Him? Are they beyond all rules and regulations?”

In this way the two friends discussed in a jovial mood until reaching their residence, then took rest.

That night Vidyanidhi dreamed that Jagannatha and Balarama were very annoyed with him.

They slapped Vidyanidhi on his two cheeks and said, “I have no caste, and neither do my attendants. It is I who have made the rules which you think there is deviation from.”

Weeping, Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi put his head on the feet of Jagannatha and said, “Oh Lord, I have been rightly served according to my offence. Today is very auspicious for me, Your good hand has touched my forehead. I do not know what good deed I performed in my previous birth to have such a benediction.” The Lord then disappeared. When Vidyanidhi awoke in the morning, he found that his two cheeks were swollen as a result of the slapping by Sri Jagannatha and Balarama.

Every morning Svarupa Damodara came to Vidyanidhi’s place and they went to the Jagannatha Mandira for darsana together.

That morning Svarupa Damodara arrived as usual, but found Vidyanidhi still lying in bed. When he inquired as to why he was still in bed, Vidyanidhi called him to his side and explained his extraordinary dream.

Hearing this and seeing Vidyanidhi’s swollen cheeks, Svarupa Damodara was overwhelmed with joy. He said, “I don’t know of any other such instance where the Lord has punished a man in his dream, but today I have seen this with my own eyes. Is there any man so fortunate as you in the three worlds?”

Svarupa Damodara joyfully praised Sri Vidyanidhi. As a friend feels delighted at the well-being of his friend, so Svarupa Damodara thought himself extremely lucky because of Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s fortune.

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