Lakhs of people visited the pilgrim town of Puri in Odisha on Sunday for a glimpse of Lord Jagannath in his 'Suna Bhesa' or gold attire in one of the most spectacular rituals of Ratha Jatra.
The ritual takes place on Ashadha Shukla Ekadashi Tithi, a day after the lord returns to the Jagannath temple following the annual sojourn to Gundicha temple.
The idols of Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath glittered on their chariots at 'Singhdwar' or Lion's Gate of the 12th-century shrine as they were decorate with around 208 kg of gold.
According to Pundit Suryanarayan Rathsharma, the ritual of 'Suna Bhesa' began during the rule of Kapilendra Deb in 1460 when the triumphant king brought back 16 cartloads of gold to Puri after winning wars in Deccan.
He donated the gold and diamonds for Lord Jagannath, and directed the priests to get ornaments crafted out of them for dressing the idols. "Gold jewellery weighing nearly 208 kg is used for 'Suna Bhesha' of the trinity," said Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher of Jagannath culture.
The priests require more than an hour to decorate the deities with golden ornaments, he said. Among the ornaments used are 'Sri Hasta' (gold hands), 'Sri Payar' (gold feet), 'Sri Mukuta' (gold crown) and 'Sri Chulapati' (worn on the forehead).
However, no diamond is used in the 'Suna Bhesa', a priest said, adding that the ornaments are stored in the 'Ratna Bhandar' of the temple. The ornaments were brought out from the Ratna Bhandar to the chariots amid high security on Sunday.
The ornaments, which often break, are repaired when required, said Rabindra Nath Mishra, a former administrator of the temple. The deities are adorned in gold ornaments on four other occasions -- Dussehra, Kartika Purnima, Pausa Purnima and Dola Purnima.
Devotees could take part in the rituals this time after two years. In 2020 and 2021, Ratha Jatra was held sans devotees due to the pandemic. Elaborate arrangements were made as lakhs of people gathered at the temple town, Superintendent of Police KV Singh said.
(With PTI inputs)