Even the Lord Of The Universe Needs A Vacation
he deva he dayita he bhuvanaika-bandho
he kṛiṣhṇa he chapala he karuṇaika-sindho
he nātha he ramaṇa he nayanābhirāma
hā hā kadā nu bhavitāsi padam dṛisor me
("O My Lord! O dearest one! O only friend of the universe! O Kṛiṣhṇa, O restless one, O ocean of mercy! O My Lord, O My enjoyer, O beloved to My eyes! Alas, when will You again be visible to Me?")
When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would see Jagannath on the bejewelled throne in Sri Mandira, he felt as if he was in Kurukshetra and would pine to see the tribhangi form of the lotus eyed Krishna. On his way back from the temple, he would scratch the ground with his nails crying, “Alas, where is Vṛindavan? Where is the son of Nanda Maharaj, the one who plays sweet notes on his flute? Where is Yamuna? Where is the rasa dance? Where is the music, dance and laughter? Where is my lord, Madana Mohana, the enchanter of Cupid?”
yadyapi jagannātha karena dvārakāya vihāra sahaja prakaṭa kare parama udāra
tathāpi vatsara-madhye haya eka-bāra vṛndāvana dekhite tāṅra utkaṇṭhā apāra
(“Although Lord Jagannath enjoys His pastimes at Dwaraka-dham and naturally manifests his pastimes there, still, once a year He becomes endlessly eager to see Vṛindavan.”)
Devotees keep counting the days when Lord Jagannath will come out of the Anasara and give them darshan. When the day arrives, devotees rush to have a glimpse of their Lord. How their hearts ached when the Lord stayed away from them for two whole weeks! After tormenting them for what seems like forever, the ever-merciful Lord finally decides to come out into the Badadanda, swaying and playing as His devotees carry Him out into a sea of people waiting for even just one glimpse of their Lord. The Lord adorns the chariot with that bewitching smile on His face, assuring that each and every one of the devotees are His very own and He can always be found standing beside them. The day is Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (the second day in the bright fortnight of Ashadha month), the day of Ratha Yatra, when Lord Jagannath, accompanied by Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarshan adorn their chariots for their annual visit to Sri Gundicha Temple. Every year, Lord Jagannath goes out on a grand chariot procession from His palatial home to His childhood home, Vrindavan.
bāhira ha-ite kare ratha-yātrā-chala sundarācale yāya prabhu chāḍi’ nīlācala
vṛndāvana-sama ei upavana-gaṇa tāhā dekhibāre utkaṇṭhita haya mana
(Externally, He gives the excuse that He wants to participate in the Ratha-yatra festival, but actually He wants to leave Nilachala and to go to Sundarachala, the Guṇḍicha temple, a replica of Vṛndavan. Pointing out the neighbouring gardens, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “All these gardens exactly resemble Vṛindavana; therefore Lord Jagannatha is very eager to see them again.)
Dakshina Moda, the sixth day of the sojourn in Gundicha Temple heralds the beginning of the Rasa Lila of Lord Jagannath which, lasts for three days (Saptami, Ashtami and Navami) in this temple which is also called Gupta Vrindavan. The deity of Lord Madanamohana is taken to the Jagamohana altar in the Gundicha temple and hymns from the Gita Govinda are sung. This is the reason why Vaishnavas consider the Gundicha temple as Vrindavan during Lord Jagannath’s sojourn here.
The Gundicha temple at Puri, also referred to as the Garden House of Lord Jagannath, stands in the middle of a beautiful garden, with walls on all sides. It is situated about 3 km from Sri Mandira, the main temple of Lord Jagannath. Both these temples are located at either end of the Bada Danda (Grand Road) which is the route of the Ratha Yatra. The Gundicha temple is named after Gundicha, the queen of King Indradyumna who built the temple.
Gundicha Marjana, the cleaning of the Gundicha temple to welcome Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra is held a day prior to the Ratha Yatra. Gundicha Mandir represents Vrindavana, and to prepare for the Lord’s arrival back home, the day before Ratha-Yatra, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu swept and cleansed the temple along with hundreds of devotees, making it as cool and bright as his own heart and a befitting sitting place for Sri Krishna. He was continuously chanting the name of the Lord while he cleaned the temple with great joy. All the devotees assembled also chanted while performing their duties. Mahaprabhu collected all the straw, dust and sand that had accumulated over many days in a place, gathered them all in his cloth and threw it all outside. His entire body was covered with dust and dirt and appeared divinely beautiful. The devotees followed suit. Mahaprabhu remarked that he would come to know how much each devotee laboured by looking at the heaps of dust collected outside. While cleaning the temple, Mahaprabhu shed tears, and even cleansed some places with those tears. A hundred men brought pots filled with water to help in the cleansing. Mahaprabhu, along with his devotees threw water onto the ceiling and while falling down, it washed the walls and the floor. Mahaprabhu again cleaned every nook and corner of the temple a second time with brooms and water. He even began scrubbing the temple and the Lord’s altar with the dry cloth he was wearing so that no subtle blemishes would remain anywhere.
nija-vastre kaila prabhu griha sammarjana mahaprabhu nija-vastre majila simhasana
nirmala, sitala, snigdha karila mandire apana-hridaya yena dharila bahire -Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Mahaprabhu mopped the rooms and polished the altar with his own cloth. He made the temple spotlessly clean, cool and pleasing. The temple became just like an external manifestation of his own heart.)
Gundicha Marjana is an enactment of how to welcome Sri Krishna within our hearts. If we are desirous of seeing Krishna seated within our hearts, we will have to shed off all our blemishes that have found deep roots within. The process of cleansing starts with trying to get rid of the shad ripu – kama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mada (arrogance), moha (delusion) and matsarya (jealousy) while anointing our hearts with love and devotion. Following in the footsteps of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this cleaning of Gundicha temple the day before Ratha-yatra has continued for over 500 years. Devotees sweep the Gundicha temple humming,
“Kali Asibe Mo Pranabandhu, Aji Kunja Sajao Go”
(Our soulmate will arrive tomorrow, let’s decorate the bower today)
As per practice, vaishnavas come in a procession from Jhanjapita Matha. The vaishnavas from Navadwip join them and both the groups set out to Gundicha Temple. The cleansing of Gundicha temple is compared to the cleansing of the heart. This process is called anartha-nivritti – cleansing oneself from unwanted desires within the heart. The dust, sticks and stones represent the various anartha, or unwanted desires within the heart.
Left: Sri Gundicha Temple decked up colourfully to welcome the Lord
Right: Vaishnavas with brooms and pots eager to cleanse the temple on the day of Gundicha Marjana
Image Courtesy: Rabinarayan Das