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Chandan Yatra at Puri Jagannath Temple in Orissa

Chandan Yatra, also known as Chandan Mahotsava, is one of the most important yatras at the world famous Puri Jagannath Temple in Orissa, India. In 2018, the date of Chandan Yatra is April 18. Chandan Yatra begins on the third day during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) in Vaisakha month (April – May). It is also the Akshaya Tritiya day and the construction of the chariots or Rathas for the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra also begins on the day.

Chandan Yatra is observed at the Narendra Tank at Puri. Origin of Chandan Yatra is traced back to the Mahabharata era. The Pandavas were in the final year of their exile and was leading the Ajnatha Vasa (living in disguise among public). They were residing in the court of King Virata. After the killing of Kichaka by Bhim, King Virata came to know that the Pandavas are living his palace.

King Virata soon befriended the Pandavas and asked them to help him in having the darshan of Lord Krishna. Yudhishtira advised King Virata to conduct a boat rowing festival in his kingdom during the summer months. Hearing about the boat rowing festival, Lord Krishna arrived along with his brother Balrama.

An overjoyed Virata offered Lord Krishna sandal paste in fragrant water to avoid the strong heat. Lord Krishna along with his brother Balrama and Pandavas enjoyed the
Snana Yatra and rowing festival. Chandan yatra is conducted to commemorate this event.

The Chandan Yatra of Lord Jagannath is observed for 42 days. It is divided into two parts of 21 day each. The first 21 days is known as Bahara Chandan and is observed in the Narendra tank. The second 21 days is known as Bhitara Chandan and is observed in the Jalakrida Mandapa inside the temple.

Idols of Lord Jagannath, Bhudevi, Shridevi, Rama, Krishna and Pandavas are carried in beautiful processions to the respective Tanks. The Lord takes bath in a specially prepared area in the tank, which is mixed with sandalwood paste and other fragrance. The ritual also involves the rowing of deities in beautifully prepared boats around the tank.
Numerous other rituals and celebrations are observed during the 42-day period of Chandan Yatra.

It must be noted that today Chandan Yatra is observed in numerous other Jagannath Temples and Lord Krishna temples around the world – especially those associated with ISKCON.