Fairs and Festivals - Biraja Devi Temple, Jajpur, Odisha

Biraja Ksetra or modern Jajpur is regarded as the synthesized cultural centre of Odisha. Apart from general festivals connected with other religious faiths observed throughout Odisha. Specific festivals are celebrated in the precients of temple in honour of Goddess Biraja throughout the year. The worship of the goddess Biraja in her various manifestations encompass a host of festivals and ceremonies which have contributed to enrich the cultural fabric of the region. sakta-Tantric rituals are the basic principle behind all the festivals admitting the Brahmanical method of worship. The important festivals celebrated in the Biraja temple are enumerated below.

Triveni Amavasya
Triveni Amavasya or the birth day ceremony of goddess Biraja is one of the most important festivals observed in temple. The day comes in the month of Magha(January-February) on the new – moon day. On account of her birthday she is decorated as Goddess Savitri, the consort of Brahama(the creator) with golden ornaments. She is exclusively attired in yellow and worshipped with Gayatri mantra prescribed in the Brahma-Tantra.

Dola Purnima
It is observed on the full-moon day of the month of falguna (february-march) On this occasion, the representative deity is taken in a Vimana (chariot) to Dolavedi(pedestal) in the temple premises in the evening after certain rituals. After the required rites of worship (pujaniti), the Goddess is sprinkled with fagu or the sacred red powder. Then the astrologer of the Temple opens and recites the new almanac for the year. People gather in large numbers to see the chaceri of Dola yatra and listen to the prescriptions of the new almanac read out.

Varuni Festival
An auspicious day comes in the month of Caitra(March-April) that attracts pilgrims from all over India for sacred ablution in the Vaitarani Satabhisa, the 24th asterism of the constellation is otherwise known as 'Varuna'. If the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of caitra is conjoined with Varuna, The day becomes sacred for a bath in the holy river. So the day is called "Varuni". On this occasion Goddess Biraja is bathed with the holy water of the Vaitarani and a special worship is performed. Hindu Vaishnavite pilgrims come from nook and corner of India and abroad to take a holy dip in the river Vaitarani near Dasasvamedha Ghata and offer pindas to their ancestors there and Nabhigaya. They have a holy darshan of Goddess Biraja.

Mahavisuva Samkranti
On the first day of the solar month of Vaisakha (April-May) Mahavisuva Samkranti or pana Samkranti is observed in the Biraja temple. The deity is magnificently dressed, which is called "Bada Simhara Vesa" and special puja is performed. Prapanaka or a special kind of drink is offered and new almanac or panjika is once again inaugurated in the temple.

Candana Purnima
On the Candan Purnima day in the month of may-June, the face of the deity of Goddess Biraja is smeared with sandal paste. So the day is very significant for the pilgrims. The Candana vesa of the Goddess attracts people form far and near to have a Darsan of the great mother Biraja.

Savitri Amavasya
Savitri Amavasya is exclusively celebrated on the new-moon day of the month of Jyestha (May-June). On this occasion there is a great rush in the temple premises specially married women come over here to worship Goddess Biraja for their unbroken conjugal happiness. As Goddess Biraja is regarded as Savitri they pray her for long-life of their husbands. They come with new-clothes and after worship break their fast taking different kinds of fruits.

Citalagi Amavasya
Citalagi Amavasya is a special occasion celebrated in the month of Sravana (July-August). On this day the cita (a gold ornament for the fore head) is put on the fore head of Goddess Biraja after the due rituals cita (a special and aromatic cake) is offered to the Goddess.

Gahma Purnima
Gamha Purnima is otherwise known as Raksi Purnima that comes on the full moon day of Sravana (July-August). On this occasion special puja is held of the Goddess and she puts on Gold and silk band named Raksi on her left hand.

Sunia marks the beginning of the Anka year of the Gajapati kings of puri and it also marks the beginning of the Autumnal Durgapuja festival in the Biraja temple. Goddess Biraja has been identified with Mahisamardini Durga, So she is worshipped as Durga at the time of autumnal festival Sunia is observed on the 12th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (September), on this festive day after the traditional rituals the worship of lord Ganesa and Goddess Sarasvati is performed and the cutting of Gold (Svaranachedani) is held. Mangalarpana (chanting of auspicious songs) work is performed before the Goddess. On this occasion the "Vanayaga" ceremony or Vilwa-Varana (worship of Vilwa tree) is observed for the construction of Simhadhvaja Ratha (chariot) that carries the deity during autumnal festivals. The construction of the said Ratha (chariot) starts form the day of Sunia.

Autumnal Durga Puja
Autumnal worship of Goddess Durga, the Mahisamardini is the most important festival near Goddess Biraja at Jajpur. This festival continues for a period of sixteen days starting form the 8th day of the dark fortnight of the month of asvina (September - October) and ending on the Mahanavami (9th day of the bright fortnight) day with much pomp and ceremony. Vedic and Tantric methods of worship are adopted for the great worship during the days of Mulastami (8th day of the dark fortnight) Pancami, Mahastami, Mahanavami and Dashara (the 5th, 8th, 9th and 10th days of bright fortnight) the temple is over crowded by the devotees. This festival attracts pilgrims from all over Odisha and abroad.

Rathayatra or the car festival of Goddess Biraja is the most important festival of Jajpur. During Durga puja it is celebrated for nine days form the first day of the bright fortnight (Pratipada) of the month of asvina (September-October), the wooden chariot of Goddess Biraja is placed in front of the lion's gate. After the traditional morning rituals the consecration work of the chariot named Simhadhvaja is held on the Pratistha Mandapa (an altar for consecration) after the yajna or sacrificial work is over, the representative deity of Goddess Biraja is ushered into the massive decorated chariot parked in front of the lion's Gate in a special ceremonial procession arranged by the temple administration. The rhythmic clang of metal gongs, blowing of trumpets and devotionals chanting of the devotees fill the air. It is very interesting to know that a car festival for the Goddess is nowhere found in Odisha. We have such instances near Vindhyavasini and Sthambhesvarai in Madhya Pradesh and near Goddess Camundesvari in Mysore, people from far and near come ever to Jajpur during the nine days car festival. The Ratha moves around the temple compound once a day for nine days continually. It is believed that one who perceives the Goddess on the Ratha is liberated form all sorts of sins.

The Lakhavindha (shooting of arrows) ceremony is held at the midnight of the Mahanavami day. The representative Goddess (Vije-pratima) of the great mother Biraja descends from the chariot after nine days car festival and sets out towards Lakhavindha ground (a specific place at the outskirts of the temple premises) in a Vimana specially made for the purpose in a ceremonial procession. The Goddess is worshipped there as Mahamari. A Goddess named Laksesvari or Dakesvari near the ground is offered with a delicious and aromatic drink. After Puja rituals the pujaka throw arrows to four directions near a high pedestal. After this archery work the representative Goddess is brought back to the temple in a dark and soundless atmosphere. After a long period of nine days the Goddess is placed on the pedestal and the ceremony is declared over.

Kumara Purnima
Kumara Purnima festival is observed on the full moon day of asvina (September-October). On this festival occasion the deity decorated with golden ornaments like a virgin. Cowry-play (Aksa) is held between the virgin Goddess and the chief priest. Khai or parched paddy is scattered on the entire ground in the temple premises special worship is held for the Goddess and it attracts large number of devotees in the evening.

On the eve of Kali puja in the month of November, Dipavali is celebrated with the lighting of several lamps. Special Tantric rituals are held near the Parsva Devata Ekapada Bhairava and Camunda on the western side of the temple.

It is a tradition is Odisha that or the day of Prathamastami in November, the eldest sons and daughters wear new clothes and takes a special and delicious cake with turmeric aroma named 'Enduri'. Similarly Goddess Biraja is dressed with new clothes after due rituals and offered 'Enduri' (Steam boiled cake with the cover of turmeric leaf and prepared with rice paste, coconut, crystallized sugar or molasses, Ginger, cheese and camphor).

Dhanu Samkranti
This is beginning of the month of Pausa (December-January) when people enjoy sweetened balls of parched and husked paddy for health. The same tradition is observed near Goddess Biraja with special worship and offering of sweetened balls of parched and hasked paddy.

Vakula Amavasya
On the new moon day of Pausa (Dec-Jan) Vakula Amavasya is celebrated in the Biraja temple. The goddess is offered with a special kind of cake named 'Gaintha' mixed with milk, sugar and mango inflorescence after the puja rites are held.

Apart from these specific festivals many other festivals are held inside the premises of the Biraja temple on certain particular occasions. Ganesa puja on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada is held in a separate temple of lord Ganesa inside the premises, on the day of Mahavisuva Samkranti special worship of Hanuman is held in the Hanuman temple. On the day of Mahasivaratri Rudrabhiseka and special worship of Lord Siva is held in the Isanesvara temple. Including daily rites Bagalamukhi is worshipped on special occasions is a modern temple inside the premises. Moreover Samkranti, Amavasya, Purnami etc. are observed as the festive days of Goddess Biraja. On Saturdays and Tuesday's homa or sacrifice is held with the recital saptasati candi or the devi mahatmya. The celebration of such festivals reveal that the people of Jajpur have kept the sakta tradition alive all along, which is the basic culture of Biraja Ksetra along with other cultural aspects.

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