gadādhara-paṇḍite teṅho punaḥ mantra dila
oḍana-ṣaṣṭhīra dine yātrā ye dekhila
Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi initiated Gadādhara Paṇḍita for the second time, and on the day of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi saw the festival. (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 16.78 )
On the occasion of the Odana-Sasthi festival the servants of Lord Jagannatha by the desire of Lord Jagannatha dress Him in new, starched clothes. Devotees from worldwide come together to blissfully celebrate the pastime activities of Lord Jagganath and the very last festival of Lord Jagannatha for the year. Such festivals are the opportunity for us to ecstatically participate in it to get the causeless mercy of the Lord.
The Lord’s mercy comes in many forms and the story behind Odana Sasthi is one amongst many to tell. Once, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accompanied by all His devotees came to see Lord Jagannatha on Odana Sasthi and gripped in waves of ecstasy. Musical bands with numerous instruments, mridangas, kartals, conch shells, bells, etc. echoed all around and the entire town wore a festive look. When Lord Caitanya and His associates celebrated this festival in Puri, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who is Vrsabhanu Maharaja, Srimati Radharani’s father, in Krsna-lila, received some special mercy. His experience is instructive for us all.
Srila Pundarika Vidyanidhi and Srila Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī had a friendly, intimate relationship. They attended the festival of odana-sasthi in Sri Kshetra Puri dham. Srila Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that the Lord was offered new cloth, which was directly purchased from a weaver and was not washed before being offered to the Lord. According to proper injunctions to be followed when worshipping the deities, the purchased cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, which is considered impure, and then it can be used to cover the Lord. Srila Prabhupada also explains in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 16.78 purport, “At the beginning of winter, there is a ceremony known as the Odana-Sasthi. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to Lord Jagannatha. That covering is directly purchased from a weaver. According to the arcana-marga, a cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, and then it can be used to cover the Lord. Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that the priest neglected to wash the cloth before covering Lord Jagannatha. Since he wanted to find some fault in the devotees, he became indignant”.
Seeing the Lord wearing starched clothes, Pundarika Vidyanidhi became very angry; thus his mind became polluted. He Spoke to Srila Svarupa Damodara and criticised the behaviour of Lord Jagannatha’s servants, asking why they would offer starched cloth to the Lord? Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī tried to pacify Pundarika Vidyanidhi with gentle words, saying that it was simply how it was done, and surely if the Lord was not pleased, He would have stopped it. The characteristics of the Supreme Lord are beyond the jurisdiction of worldly etiquette, but Pundarika Vidyanidhi was still not satisfied.
That night, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Baladeva came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi in his dream and began to slap him, chastising him for criticising Their servants and the way they worshipped the Lord. This chastisement went on for a length of forty-eight minutes. After Pundarika Vidyanidhi begged for Their forgiveness, the Lords mercifully glanced at Pundarika and went back to Their temple. Upon waking up, Pundarika felt that his face was swollen, and bore the imprints of the Lords’ hand marks. He understood this to be the pure mercy of the Lord, and thus upon seeing his swollen face, he laughed with great joy.
Learning from this incident, we can learn that the Lord does not tolerate offences against His servants, even from an advanced devotee, and that He chastises a devotee who commits such an offence even within the mind. We can also learn that a pure devotee accepts such chastisement from the Lord with great happiness, as a manifestation of the Lord’s mercy, of His love and care for His devotees, both for those who may commit such an offence and for those who may be objects of such an offence. Pundarika Vidyanidhi thanks the Lord for rectifying him and preventing him from committing further offences, and he feels great jubilation within his heart.
sabe na janena sarva-dasera prabhava
krsna se janena yanra yata anuraga
bhramo karayena krsna apana-dasere
bhramac-chedo kare pache sadaya-antare
“No one can understand the glories of the Lord’s servants. Only Krsna knows their attachment for Him. Krsna sometimes bewilders His devotee, and then, feeling compassion for him, He destroys his illusion.”
Although Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great devotee, when he enacted the pastime of finding fault in the devotees of Lord Jagannatha, the affectionate Supreme Lord performed one pastime to destroy his staged illusion. – Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, antya-khanda texts 120-121
On this day in Rajapur Jagannath Mandir in Sri Dham Mayapur, which is non-different from Sri Kshetra Puri dham, the Deities are colourfully dressed in new, starched clothes with beautiful golden jewellery inlaid with precious gems. Garlands, bracelets, and earrings are all made from fragrant seasonal flowers further bedeck Their Lordships. Grand and opulent offerings of prasadam are also made continually. His altar is beautifully decorated with blooming flowers and the Lord is offered opulent worship with scented oils, incense, flowers, ghee lamps, and different items for special worship are offered to Lord Jagannatha with ecstatic kirtan, wonderful katha and delicious bhoga. Devotees from worldwide take the advantage of the opportunity to serve the Lord by contributing and offering various services such as prasadam distribution, sponsor the dresses, decorations, or the full festival and receive the blessings of Lord Jagannath.
Odana Sasthi utsav ki jay!