Bhubaneswar: Even though the pandemic debarred devotees this year to attend the age-old Chhatar Yatra of Maa Manikeswari, the tutelary deity of Kalahandi district, let us know some facts and rituals associated with the festival.
The temple of Manikeswari which stands at a height of 56 ft, is situated in the district headquarters of Kalahandi, Bhawanipatna, located adjacent to the palace on the premises of the ex-Rulers.
The name of the deity Manikeswari has been derived from the word Manikya (Ruby). She is headless with only a cylindrical structure as body and a clay head fixed over it covered by cloths and ornaments.
Like Nabakalebara of Lord Jagannath, each year on Mulastami day a clay head of the deity is placed engraved with gems after replacing the old head, which is immersed in the midnight in the Purusottam Sagar adjacent to the temple amidst secret ritual.
Traditionally, the Sharadiya Utsav of Maa Manikeswari starts from Mulastami. Ghumura dance competition is organised on this occasion and the winning group is allowed to participate during the Chhatar Yatra.
On the occasion of Mahastami each year, the temple of deity Budharaja (Bhairaba), located on the northern side of Manikeswari temple, is opened and after offerings to Budharaja the Chhatar of Manikeswari leaves for Jenakhal situated nearly 3 kilometers away from the temple in the outskirt of the town. The Chhatar makes its return journey In the early hours of Mahanavami.
Jenakhal is believed to be a place or graveyard where Jenas or princes were sacrificed. As per the tradition, the king used to offer human blood to the deity on Durgastami at Jenakhal. Every year, the defeated princes were sacrificed here during Chhatar Yatra.
Later in 1877, the then king Udit Pratap Deo put a stop to the human sacrifice, after he had a vision of the Goddess in his dream. In due course of time animal sacrifice substituted human sacrifice.
Chhatar Yatra from Jenakhal starts with Nagarparibhramana. The effigy of Manikeswari is installed on a bamboo and covered with black-spotted cloth. At the top of a silver plate, Dasamahavidya Yantra is installed as a deity of Tantric Hinduism.
One can witness unique and beautiful tribal dance with ethnic terracotta instrument Ghumura Veer Badya. The dancers tie the Ghumura on their shoulders and hang them tight on their chests. On the way, devotees offer prayers with offerings of Goats, sheep, fowls, flowers, rice, and coconut.
This year, the Kalahandi district administration had issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC from 12.00 am (midnight) of October 23 to 12.00 am (midnight) of October 25 to check large public gatherings in view of the annual Chhatar Yatra.
In view of this, the festival was held without gathering of devotees. The festival began at around 4.45 am when the Chhatar of Manikeswari left for Jenakhal. It returned to the temple in a procession with only one Ghumura and Nishan party and some priests of the temple.