Chandana Yatra of Jagannatha Mahaprabhu

Please read the previous article on Śiva Śayana Ćaturdaśi Yātrā of Lingaraj Temple here



Jagannātha Mahāprabhu, Bhagwān Balabhadra and Devi Subhadrā are considered to be the forms and manifestation of the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Supreme Being. The Sudarśana Ćakra, which is supposed to be the fourth signifitant divine manifestation of their power is also worshipped with the celebrated trio and these four together are known as the Ćaturddhamūrtí or the four-fold divine images. We associate the Puri Mandíra (temple) not only with the Devas and Devis (divine forms) presiding therein, but also the cultural heritage associated with Śrī Kśetra (Śrī Mandíra and all other small mandíras within the campus) which inspire the bhaktas/pilgrims to attain peace of mind.

The traditions associated with Jagannātha Mahāprabhu represent the epitome of culture and religion of Odisha. The rites and rituals of Śrī Kśetra are the mainstream and form the larger part of the fairs and festivals of Oḍiśa. There is local saying ‘ଶ୍ରୀମନ୍ଦିରରେ ୧୨ ମାସରେ ୧୩ ଯାତ୍ରା ଅନୁଷ୍ଠିତ ହୁଏ’ (thirteen major festivals are observed in Śrī Mandíra in a span of twelve months), but the scriptures mention about twelve festivals, i.e. ‘Dwādaśa Yātrās’.

A festival is called yātrā, meaning ‘journey’ of Jagannātha Mahāprabhu, like ‘Ratha Yātrā’. Celebrated in the month of Baisākha, starting on the Śukla Pakśa Trtīya (third day of the waxing fortnight), Ćandana Yātrā (Akśaya Trtīya) is one of those Dwādaśa Yātrās. This festival has a unique significance not only for Śrī Kśetra Puri but also for the whole of Oḍiśa.

It is celebrated in two phases of 21 days each. The first half known as Bāhara Ćandana or ‘outer sandal’ festival consists of 21 days, and the second phase of 21 days known as Bhītara Ćandana or ‘inner sandal’ (where the festival is resumed inside the precincts of the temple). Construction of the Rathas (chariots) for the annual Ratha Yātrā festival starts from the Akśaya Tritīya day.

As the Devatās and Devis in Hindu religion are modelled on aspects of human realm and behaviour, they are also given treated in the same fashion as humans during the summer. The festival is celebrated during this period because the heat of the summer is at its peak and the vígrhas (modelled figures) are embrocated with ćandana or sandalwood paste made of sandalwood powder and water, for providing coolness to them during their journey of this festival.

CHĀPA (Oḍia equivalent of ‘float’ or ‘Boat’)

During the Ćandana Yātrā, the vígrahas are taken out of the temples in procession for a tour by water on floats or boats. This is owing to the belief that all the ceremonies of the land must culminate into an aquatic sojourn for a vígraha. The floats or boats of the vígrahas are richly decorated and are called ‘chāpa’ (Oḍia equivalent for a ‘float’ or ‘Boat’). In most of the Vişñu and Śiva temples, the float festival marks the conclusion of the prime annual festival and is therefore celebrated with great pomp and show. The chāpas are generally red and white in colour and are designed to resemble huge swans floating on water. An interesting aspect of this ceremony is that Madana Mohana along with Devi Lakśmi and Devi Saraswati ride on the white coloured chāpa, whereas Rāma, Krişña with Panća Śivas (five physical manifestations of Śiva) ride the red one (Image 1).

Procession to Narendra Sarovara for Bāhara Ćandana Yātrā and Vídhis

1. Chāpas for Chandana Yātrā (Source:

On the Akśaya Trtīya Títhi (date), Ćalanti Pratimas (i.e. vígraha modelled for the festival) of Madana Mohana (the representative of Jagannath Mahaprabhu), Rāma, Krişña, Devi Lakśmi and Devi Saraswati (Biśwadhātri, the One that holds the World in Herself) are taken in a procession from Jagannātha Temple to the Narendra Sarovara (also known as ‘Chandan Pokhari’ in local language). The Narendra Sarovara is a lake that covers an area of over 3.240 hectares (8 acres). It is 834 feet by 873 feet in size.

The five Śivas known as ‘Panća Pāndavas’ (Kśetra Pālakas of Jagannatha Puri), namely Śri Kapāla Mochana Mahādeva, Śri Lokanātha Mahādeva, Śri Nīlakanthheśvara Mahadeva, Śri Yameśvara Mahādeva and Śri Mārkandeśvara Mahādeva, accompany Madana Mohana to Narendra Sarovara. All the vigrahas are taken in ‘vimāna’ (palanki i.e. palanquins) to the Ananta Vasudeva Ghata (constructed platform with steps leading to the river) by ‘Palia Badu Sevakas’ (pujāris or priests assigned with the duty of the festival) in procession to the accompaniment of musical instruments and lighting.


2. Procession of Chalanti Pratima’s taken to Narendra Pokhari

The procession starts up from Singhadwāra to Narendra Puśkarini (sarovara) amid rendition of hymns, bhajans and kirtans (devotional songs), mrdanga (drums) and ghantā (cymbals), etc. which presents a picturesque panorama worth seeing. The traditionally decorated royal elephant takes the lead followed by two gigantic decorated palanquins or vimāna carrying the vigrahas to their destination. The sacred vimānas rest on the shoulders of the professionally earmarked Vimāna Badus  or palanquin bearers (Image 3).



3. Vimāna Badus ( )

On all twenty-one days of the Yātrā, the entire road from the Śri Mandira of Jagannātha Mahāprabhu leading up to Narendra Sarovara along with the houses lining both sides are decorated. At distinct spots, especially in front of mathas (monasteries) or at cross-roads, big toranas (arches) are erected where the vigrahas are rested and receive offerings.

Throughout their journey thousands of bhaktas gather to glimpse the Yātrā, offering of pūja and bhoga (repast or naivedyam) to the vigrahas. All along the way to Narendra Sarovara the conventional huge wooden sheds or chamundiya are erected as resting sites for the vigrahas. Besides these, bhaktas carry chatris or colourful decorated umbrellas made by skilled craftsmen of Pipli, projecting the rich art and craft of the city. Thousands of people are seen taking a dip in this divine sarovara considered to be auspicious in this part of the year.

After boat ride the vigrahas have a cool bath in a pond inside the mandapa (Image 4) situated in Chandana Sarovara (Narendra Sarovara). A special bhoga is offered to them during their stay.

4. Mandapa (Source:

The procession returns back in the late night after their alankāra (special decoration with jewellery) with a second boat ride. The vigrhas continue taking boat rides till early morning and then retire to their respective shrines (Image 5). This procedure is followed on each day of the festival of Bāhara Ćandana Yātrā of 21 days. The last day of the festival is called Bhaunri (Bhramari or circle) when special and more elaborate arrangements are made.

5. (Source:

This tradition is followed in some other parts of the state as well. Vigrahas are taken out in procession on vimānas to the nearby ponds and perambulated on water in boats. After the ceremony which usually takes place at mid-night, people enjoy performances of dance, drama and music specially arranged for this occasion. But in all the temples outside Puri, the cultural festival is observed only for the last three days.

Bhītara Ćandana Yātrā

During the next second phase of 21 days, the festival resumes inside the precincts of the temple. Instead of the daily cruises, the playful ride happens here on four occasions in the month of Jyeştha i.e. the Ekādaśi or eleventh day of dark fortnight (Krişña Pakśa), on the new moon day and on the Şaşthi and the Ekādaśi (sixth and eleventh day of the bright fort night (Śukla Pakśa) in the sacred pond (reservoir) inside the temple bounds that represents Narendra Sarovara.


Cover Picture: (Source:




  1. Archaeology History and Culture of Odisha, R.N.Dash, Pratibha Prakashan, New Delhi
  2. Cultural Heritage of Odisha, Vol X, Puri District (Part II), State Level Vyasakabi Fakir Mohan Smruti Sansad, Bhubaneswar
  3. Shree Mandira Parba Parbani & Odisha Sahitya, Biren Kumar Pradhan, PH Publications, Bhubaneswar (Odia Book)
  5. (All pictures)


Author: Asutosh Mohanty

Published: Aug 13, 2018


Acknowledgements by Author:

“I am really thankful to Kar Nana (Sanskrit scholar and Pūjari) for his knowledge on our scriptures and also for guiding me. I am also thankful to my parents for their valuable help in translating regional texts.”


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