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Anasara – Jagannath Catches Fever - Isolation of Idols Worshipped in Puri Jagannath Temple

Anasara happens after the ritual bathing (Snana Purnima) of the deities worshipped in the Puri Jagannath Temple. 108 pots of water are poured on the idols and after this the deities enter into Anavasara or Anasara – a fortnight period of rest and recuperation. 

For the next fifteen days, devotees are not allowed the darshan of the idols. It is believed that the deities catch fever after a long ritual bathing and therefore does not return to sanctum sanctorum for the next fifteen days.

During this period, the Sabara daitas (specially appointed people) repaint the murtis or idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra.

During Anasara period three Patta paintings of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are worshiped in the temple.

Anasara lasts for 15 days in the normal years and for 45 days in years of Naba Kalebra, when the deities acquire new bodies.

The origin and etymology of the term Anasara are unknown.

Deities Are Moved To Anasara Gruha

The deities stay on a platform in the area between Chandana Argali and Kalahata Dwara – the westernmost door of the sanctum. The platform in which the deities stay during the period is known as Anasara Pindi (Anasara Platform). The area or chamber is known as Anasara Gruha or Gumuti. It is also known as Nirodhalaya or Nirodhana Gruha as only a few priests are allowed inside during the period.

A bamboo screen is erected in front of Chandana Argali for barring public view.

Anasara Pati or Pati Diyan

During this period of fifteen days (Ashada Krishna Paksha), the devotees get to view a set of three paintings hung on the bamboo screen. It is known as Anasara Pati or Pati Diyan.

The paintings are made by special Patachitra painters belonging to particular families that have the right of this service.

The paintings are made using organic colors on specially prepared canvas. They are erected using bamboo sticks in front of the bamboo screen at Chandana Argali.

The paintings are not similar to the wooden murtis worshipped. The paintings are based on traditional Vaishnava paintings. The deities are represented in the painting with four arms and regular human features.

Regular Puja Held In front of Anasara Gruha

Apart from the three paintings, metal murtis of Rama, Dola Govinda and Narasimha are placed before Balabadhra; Bhudevi and Sridevi before Subhadra; Krishna and Madanamohana before Jagannatha. The three paintings and the seven metal images are together known as Dashavatara Murti or Dashavatara Thakura.

All the rituals that are usually performed in the Sanctum Sanctorum are performed here. Devotees have darshan of these deities during the Anasara period. Cooked food, which is part of the regular ritual, is also offered here.

Care and Cure of Three Deities

During the fifteen-day period, the presiding deities – Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra – are kept under the care of Daita Sevakas, who are the descendants of Visvavasu, the tribal chief who worshipped Jagannath in his original form as Nilamadhava. The Daitas are known as Bhagari and they consider Jagannatha as kutumba and atmiya – one of their own or family.

The seva performed by the tribal sevakas are known as Angila Seva (proximate service). It is also known as Gupta Seva or Gupt Niti as they are performed in secrecy.

After taking bath on Snana Purnima day, the murtis get wet and colors on them are washed out. There will be minor damage too. Therefore, before the murtis make a grand appearance on the Ratha Yatra day, they are given a fresh coat of natural paint.

At the symbolic level, the deities are indisposed during the period. They are suffering from fever due to the ritual bathing. Therefore, they do not appear before the public.

Special Food and Medicine during Anasara

The temple Ayurvedacharya offer Ayurveda medicine during the period. The deities are also given special food.

Regular lavish food offerings are restricted.

The food during the Anasara period consists of ripe berries, seasonal fruits like mango and jackfruit and banana. De-husked green gram soaked in water is supplied during the period by Raghaba Dasa Matha.

Pana, the special sweet drink of Odisha, made of milk, sugar; sandalwood paste, herbs, fragrances, and condiments are also offered during the period.

Repair of Murtis

The first ritual in repair is the Srianga Phita, this is the removal of outer layers of the murti mainly clothes, sandalwood paste, items used in rituals like camphor, musk, chua, and jhuna and natural paint. The materials removed from the murtis are known as Karala – meaning horrible.

The next step is the ritual known as Paita Lagi, this involves wrapping the murtis with silk cloth and applying a coat of sandalwood paste.

The next step is known as Phuluri Lagi (rubbing of special oil). This oil is prepared a year before by Bada Odia Matha and is buried underground and is taken out only during Anasara.

The oil is prepared using sesame oil, fragrance, medicinal herbs, pastes, pollen of flowers and other ingredients.

Next important process is known as Osua Lagi or application of medicinal paste. In this procedure, a fine cloth is used to cover the body of the murtis. Then a fine paste of frankincense cooked in sesame oil along with medicines and herbs is applied.

On the tenth day of the fortnight, the Chaka Bije ritual is observed. In this ritual, three circular chlorite stone slabs are placed behind the bamboo screen in the Anasara area.

The next procedure is on the eleventh day of the fortnight and it is known as Khali Lagi. In this process, a viscous preparation made from cooked wheat flour is applied to the body of the murtis.

On the twelfth day, the famous Raja Prasad Bije or Khadi Prasada Bije is held. In this ritual, the layers removed from the body of the murtis are taken ceremonially to the palace of the Gajapati King and offered to him. The layers removed from the body of the murtis is known as nirmalya.

On the twelfth day night, an important ritual takes place and this is known as Sripayara Puja. This ritual involves the repairing of the feet of the deities and adoring it with new clothes. During the ritual, drums, trumpets, and gongs are played loudly so that the sounds made during the ritual are not heard outside the Anasara Gruha. 

Next procedure is known as Khadi Lagi and this involves the application of a fine lime paste on the body of the murtis. The lime paste is prepared from powdered conch shells. This is performed by Datta Sevakas.

The final layer is an application of natural paint and organic materials and this is known as Banaka Lagi. The materials used include bengula, baritala, kumkuma, powdered shell, copper and black color obtained from the lighted lamp.

After the Anasara rituals, the deities appear before devotees on the Amavasya or no moon night – the 15th day of the fortnight. The ritual is known as Naba Jaubana Darshan and thousands of devotees arrive to witness the murtis.

The final ritual of Anasara is the painting of the eyes of the three main deities and this is known as Netrotsava.

The world famous Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra takes place on the next day.