On the ninth day of the Ratha Yatra or the lord’s car festival, Bahuda Yatra, the grand return journey takes place. On the way back they stop for a short while and eat poda pitha, a type of cake made of rice, lentils, jaggery, and coconut, offered by their aunt, mausima.
ABOUT THE LORD’S BAHUDA YATRA:
On reaching back the main temple, the deities, on their chariots, wear the golden attire or the suna besa, with hands, arms, and crown made of solid gold. They are taken down from the chariots in a ritual descent to enter the temple.
The temple gate is however shut upon Lord Jagannatha by his wife Lakshmi. Her anger, jealousy, and frustration are articulated by her companions, represented by a group of servitors from inside. Another group representing Lord Jagannatha respond with entreaties and endearments.
After re-enacting this drama of daily domestic tiffs of mere mortals, the celestial couple finally make up, and the temple door is opened and the deities return to their bejeweled throne, the “Ratna sinhasana”.
A God that in every sense behaves like a mortal like us. This is exactly what makes HIM so popular, so dear to the people of Odisha.
Suna Besa in Bahuda Yatra
On the next day (Ekadasi), the three deities are offered a refreshing drink named ‘Adhara Pana’. Adhar pana is a drink made of 8 ingredients along with water. Adhara Pana (the drink in tall containers made to touch the lips of the God) and Suna Besha (Gold Costumes) of the deities, rituals carried out towards the end of Bahuda before the Lord returns to the Ratna Sinhasana( jewel-studded seat) in the temple premises.
These rituals are carried out before “Niladri Bije” when the deities return to their altars inside the temple after they are allowed inside by a pacified Maa Laxmi.
The next day is the day when Odisha observes ‘Rasagola’ Dibasa to coincide with what the lord offers Maa Laxmi to gain entry into the temple. HE is still on the chariot and this Suna Besha is the only Suna Besha(gold costume) that happens outside the temple premises.
On this last day of Bahuda Yatra, the Lord is finally allowed into the temple only after He pacifies the angry Ma Laxmi (His wife) with Rasagola. In all likelihood, this tradition has persisted for centuries and this sweet couldn’t be an invention of a confectioner as late as the nineteenth century.
Odia Tradition of Bahuda Yatra
If Odisha’s cultural scholar Asit Mohanty is to be believed, the 15th Century Odia Dandi Ramayana mentions the word Rasagola. It’s written by Odia medieval poet Balaram Das. Plus contrary to claims made by others, the ‘Chhena’ or Cheese was known to us much before the Portuguese arrived in India.
It’s ridiculous that culture as old as Odia, which has gone to great lengths in culinary traditions, whose language is so vast and ancient, has to learn the art of making ‘Chhena’ from Europeans.
Anyway, what a sweet and auspicious day to celebrate our eternal love for this delectable dish.
NILADRI BIJE AND RASAGOLA DIVAS, a day that is so special for us, whether from a religious angle or culinary.