This is the time for the Annual Car Festival in Puri – the Rathyatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. The rituals connected with the Jagannath temple has many roots and layers – some alaukik and some laukik i.e. some of divine origin and some by treating the idols as normal living human beings.
On the of the last full moon – known as Devasnana Purnima – the idols were given the divine bath. Maybe, it was a little too much to handle even for the divine during their human leela on earth. So they fell sick, like they fall sick every year during this time.
According to western philosophy, time is linear. But the eastern concept of time is that it is cyclic. The rituals of the Lord gets repeated every year like the change of seasons. The rituals get repeated without fail, which is to say they repeat ad infinitum giving life a sense of immortality.
Of course it is not a monotonous repetition. How can it be? Everything connected with the temple is not only practically enormous, they are also named so. The temple is other wise known as Bada Deula – the big temple, the idol of Lord Jagannath is addressed as the Bada Thakura / Maha prabhu – the big Lord, the road along which they make the annual journey in their huge chariots is known as the Bada Danda – the Grand Road, the sea nearby is Mahodadhi – the great reservoir of water, the prasad is known as the mahaprasad, and so on. Everything is grand in scale and imagination scale and is named so.
After the Lords fall sick, the temple is closed for public darshan. These days are known as anavasara. At a practical level, this is the time for specific annual maintenance activities. The wooden idols are repainted and ‘many kinds of ‘secret rituals are undertaken so that the idols not only shine in their full glory when they emerge out of sickness, but also withstand the rough handling during the nine day rituals connected with the car festival.
So today, just a day before the Annual Car Festival, Jagannath – the lord of the Universe along with his big brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra emerge after recovering from the high fever. The day is known as Nava jauvana darshana or netrotsav. The Lords are in their renewed vigour and splendour after being treated with powerful herbs and medicines.
During this period when the temple is closed to public, the hardcore devotees of the Lord Jagannath have an alternate option not to miss the Darshan of the Lord even for a single day. They can go to Alarnath temple at Brahmagiri, located at about twenty five kms from Puri. According to the legend, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, during his stay in Puri, was directed to go to Alarnath so as not to miss his daily darshan of the Lord during this anavasara period. The boulder over which Sri Chaitanya used to do Sankirtan is still there.
Being the Lord of the Universe, He has the privilege to take a break. But not so for the devotee or, a seeker in the spiritual life. After getting this rare human life, not even a single day should be devoid of spiritual practices.