Sahi Jatra: The Grand Street Carnival
The abode of Jagannatha, Puri Dham at the cardinal point of the eastern coast of India at the bank of the Bay of Bengal, is one amongst four holy shrines in Hindu Religion known as Char Dham(four important places of pilgrimage). It is not just popular for Ratha yatra but also a culturally very much enriched with several rituals, colorful festivals, and living traditions.
Sahi yatra Character 'Parshurama' the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu
Sahi Yatra is partly martial but its theme is religious. It is believed to be one among the oldest festivals of Puri that begun somewhere around 1230 AD. As per various mythological records, in the 11th century, during the regime of Gajapati Maharaja Chodaganga Deb, King of Puri, many ‘kotas’ (forts), bastions and Jaga akhadas (Gymnasiums) were developed to safeguard Puri town from invaders.
So, they perform an open-air Ramaleela in a traditional and unique way, where the streets of puri sets to be a theater.
This street play begins from Rama Navami day(the birth of Lord Rama).The most attractive feature of the Folk Drama, Sahi yatra is that it starts from the narrow lane of each Sahi(specific locality) and finally comes to the grand road of puri.The procession is accompanied by decorated elephants, horses, flag bearers, flame torches and music bands playing the traditional instrument such as HadiBaja, Nagara, Dempha-Nagara, Jodi-Nagara, Telengi Baja, Changu, Jhanja, Mahuri, Mardala, Dhumusa etc.
Each sahi is assigned a different event to play like the birth of Lord Rama, killing of the demons by goddess Durga, Ravana lifting Kailash mountain, the capture of Sita by Ravana, the battle between Parasuram and Lord Rama, the war between Rama and Ravana etc whereas many other characters could be seen apart from the epic Ramayana such as Nagas (the warriors those who have protected Sri Jagannath Temple), 22handed Nrusingha, Hanuman, Ardhanaresiwara, Ganesha, enormous images of snake charmer couples, tribal couples and an old couple, who have large bulging heads. and much more. While each performs unique dance and others deliver a unique untold dialog, among the character Ravana of Dola mandap sahi is one of the most famous.And among the scene the conversation between Parashurama & Rama while they face each other after breaking of Shiva's Bow is one of the most entertaining.Taking lord Jagannatha's blessing in the form of his floral ornaments they start their acts.
And it ends with Ravana's Death, even on that day Ravana visits the Temple and offer red hibiscus flower to Lord Jagannatha, its the only day when a hibiscus is offered to Jagannatha and after getting a garland of permission from the lord Ravana departs, later that day after the Sandhya Dhoopa rituals idols of Rama Laxman are carried and placed on the Ratnasingahsan and after getting Aagyamala of Lord Jagannatha they are carried to the Jagannatha Ballav Math for Ravana Vadha Ritual, here one think can be seen as the everyone is equal infront of supreme lord Jagannatha so, he gives his blessings and permission in the form of his garland both to Ravana and Rama.
Apart from the world famous Car Festival, every year Puri hosts various colorful festivals like Gosani Yatra, Sahi Yatra, Chandan Yatra, Beach Festival etc. It is worth to visit Puri during these festive occasions.However, the main motive behind Sahi Jatra is to bring out the hidden glory of the long living tradition of Sahis and portray them all together in one platform. So, this is all about the unknown grand street carnival of the pilgrimage city, Puri.