The first day of the Chandana festival can also be called as Voyage Festival, Akshaya Tritiya, is also considered very auspicious to start new things and new projects, so on this day the Ratha anukula ritual is performed, inaugurating the work for the construction of the chariots that will be used for the Ratha Yatra. During the procession of the chalanti pratima Deities to Narendra, Madana Mohana stops at the palace of the King of Puri, Sri Raja Nahar, to give the order to start the building of the chariots. Three Acharyas are appointed to supervise the work and the Maharanas (carpenters) who will actually cut and carve the pieces of the chariots. A fire sacrifice is celebrated and the logs are consecrated. The wood has already been gathered there in Grand Road outside the King’s palace.The work of building the chariots is executed by 125 carpenters who use 1072 logs and 2188 pieces of wood and working from Vaisakha Sukla Tritiya to Asadha Krishna Chaturdasi. No metal part is used in the construction of the chariots: all parts are kept together by the expert craftsmanship of wedges and wooden pins, including the huge wheels that support the immense weight of the chariot, the Deities and a great number of Sevakas who will also travel on the chariot. A number of important festivals fall during the 42 days of the Chandan Yatra. Since all these festivals are significant, they are mentioned separately.
The Deities are bathed and dressed in the morning, then the sandalwood paste is carried in procession
three times around the temple before being presented to them.After the Pancha upchara worship, the main Deities (Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sri Devi, Bhudevi, and Madhava) are decorated with ornaments and then offered the sandalwood paste. After the Bhoga Mandapa food offering the chalanti pratima Deities, Madana Mohana and Rama Krishna, sit on the Ratna Simhasana and the Sevakas apply Chandana (sandalwood paste) on Their bodies. Later, these Deities are presented with a special food offering called Jata Bhoga.
The Journey to the Sandalwood Tank
The first Deity in the procession is Rama Krishna, carried in a palanquin called palinki, a kind of boat
with a curved pole at each end for handling. The palinki is covered by the royal umbrella. In the palanquin the Deity sits at about 3 feet above the ground, carried by the temple Sevakas who hold the pole on their shoulders; sometimes the Sevakas allow people to come forward and touch the feet of the Deities. The second palanquin, called chaudala even its called Bimana and also sometimes the Mani Bimana is used, It is carried on two straight poles by four Sevakas, much higher than the first one is the vehicle for Madana Mohana, who sits there with Sridevi and Bhudevi. On all the twenty-one days the entire road from the Jagannatha temple leading up to the Narendra Sarovara, as well as the houses on both sides, are decorated with flags, mango leaves, flowers and so on. At some places, especially in front of Mathas or at cross-roads, big toranas (arches) and chamundias (canopies) are erected with bamboo poles and thatched roofs. Here the Deities take casual rest and receive simple offerings (panti bhoga) and worship, particularly by the representatives of the various Mathas, and are entertained by songs and dances, generally by the Gotipuas. The procession is led by a colorful party of dancers from the Durga Medha and Naga groups (generally performing during the Sahi yatras) and by devotees variously dressed as Nanda Maharaja, gopas, gopis, Garuda, Hanuman, etc.Traditionally, the devotees from the Siddha Bakula Matha walk in front of Rama Krishna’s palanquin, singing, “Nitai Gaura Radhe Shyam”, followed by devotees from Radha Kanta Matha and various other Gaudiya Mathas, while Madana Mohana is accompanied by Oriya devotees singing kirtana and songs by Jayadeva Gosvami. Behind the two main carriages come the five caudhala palanquins of the Pancha Shivas (Lokanatha, Yamesvara, Kapalamochana, Markandesvara, Nilakantha), also starting from Sri Mandira.When the procession reaches the Narendra, the Sarovara is vividly illuminated, with thousands of spectators milling and jostling all around in expectation of the arrival of the procession. Many people take advantage of the occasion to sell and buy food and various articles around the lake, and many sit around the shores to eat. Several boys dive, swim and play around in the water, especially while the boats are traveling. In the middle of the Narendra Sarovara there is a small island with three temples, the largest of which accommodates Madana Mohana, Sridevi, and Bhudevi. There is also a well that provides clean water for the bath of the Deities. After arriving at the Chandana Mandapa inside the Narendra Sarovara, the Deities take bath, play in vats of sandal water and receive a food offering, then They are dressed and sit in the two boats together with their servants. Formerly, the Devadasis and the Gotipuas used to dance on the boats (on Madana Mohana’s and Rama Krishna’s boats respectively) accompanied by drum players, on the tune of romantic “boat songs”, but the tradition was dropped in the 1970s. Both boats are designed to look like huge swans floating on water. In one boat, decorated with white cloth, Madana Mohana sits with Lakshmi and Sarasvati. In the other boat, decorated with red cloth, Rama Krishna sits with the Pancha Shivas. The boats, rowed by temple servants that are traditionally considered from the caste of fishermen, move around the Sarovara several times, once before the bath (dina chapa) and the other after it (ratri chapa). Finally, after midnight, the Deities return to the respective temples on their palanquins. The worship of the main Deities in the temple (Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra) is also special during the Chandana Yatra.
Songs used during chandan yatra
Traditionally before the palinki of Sri Madanmohana songs are being sung while he enjoys his short meal (panti bhoga) Sritakamala, Mani Bimane Govinda, Dekha go radha madhava chali.
History of Chandan Yatra
Rama Krishna and Madana Mohana are brought to the Ratna Vedi, where the King prays for the
permission to take them to the Narendra Sarovara, also called Chandana Sarovara. Then Rama Krishna, Madana Mohana, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati are carried through the north gate of the temple to the Sarovara in a vimana palanquin, accompanied by the temple elephant decorated as Gaja Lakshmi.
Until a few decades ago, the Devadasis had an important part in the rituals both on the boats and in the temple, dancing twice during the alata lagi and performing the gupta seva (secret service) for Balabhadra in the middle of the night. The Devadasi offering this service entered from the southern door instead of the northern door as usual, and walked in complete darkness into the room, only snapping her fingers while she walked to ward off snakes. The akhanda dipa had been removed from the hook and hidden behind the Ratna Vedi under a pot.