Date(s) - May 15, 2021
Day(s) - Saturday
Chandana Yatra starts (Continues for 21 days)
Akshaya Tritiya is regarded as one of the most auspicious days for new beginnings. This festival occurs on the third day (Tritiya) of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Vaishakha every year.
The word ‘Akshaya’ in Sanskrit means inexhaustible, that which is unlimited or everlasting. Thus this festival is a celebration of unending happiness, peace and prosperity.
Akshaya Tritiya is linked to a number of historic events. It was on this day that Sudama, a poor brahmana, went to Dwaraka and met His childhood friend, Lord Krishna. Though Sudama never asked the Lord for any help, Lord Krishna blessed him with unlimited prosperity in return for his most humble offering of chipped rice. In spite of possessing great riches, Sudama remained a great devotee of the Lord and never forgot Him till the end of his life. Consequently, he attained the supreme perfection. Thus Akshaya Tritiya is also a festival of Lord Sri Krishna’s blessings for prosperity and devotion.
Candana yatra also begins on Akshaya Tritiya (The third lunar day of the waxing moon of Vaisakha month) and continues for twenty days. Lord Jagannatha gave direct instructions to King Indradyumna to perform this festival at this time. Smearing the body of the Lord with ointments is an act of devotion, and the best of ointments is sandalwood paste. Since the month of Vaisakha is very hot in India, the cooling effect of the sandalwood is very pleasing to the body of the Lord.
Sandalwood paste is applied all over the body of Jagannatha leaving only his two eyes visible. The utsava murtis (functional Deities – Vijay utsav) are taken on procession and are placed in a boat in the temple pond. To commemorate this festival, Lord Caitanya also carried out water sports with his devotees.
Madhavendra Puri was a great follower of the Gaudiya-sampradaya. When he was in Govardhana, he dreamt of a deity of Gopala dug in the jungles. The Lord said, “Madhava, I am much suffocated in the jungle beneath the earth. Please excavate my place and install Me in a temple.” So Madhavendra Puri, with the help of the Annore villagers, excavated the earth and found the deity and Gopala was installed on top of the Govardhana Hill. One day, Gopala said, “I was beneath the earth for long and My body is worn out. Would you please bring some sandalwood from Jagannatha Puri and smear on Me with its pulp and soothe My body?”
Madhavendra Puri was then an old man and he couldn’t deny the order of Lord Gopala. So he set out to Jagannatha Puri. On the way, he reached the Remuna where the Gopinätha temple is located at the border of Orissa and Bengal. He stayed there overnight and saw that the pujari offered twelve pots of kshira (condensed milk) to the deity. So Madhavendra Puri thought, “If I could taste a bit of kshira, then I would also make similar offerings to my Gopala in Vrindävan. Immediately, his consciousness scolded him, “Oh, I am so stupid. Before offering it to the Deity, I think of eating it.” Realizing his mistake, he immediately left the temple. He went outside and sat beneath a tree and chanted the Hare Krisha Mahamantra to pass the night. At night, the Deity appeared in the dream to the priest and said, “I have shielded one pot of kshira behind My garment. Take it to Madhavendra Puri sitting beneath the tree outside the temple. The priest reached the temple and did so as instructed. Then the priest described the whole episode to Madhavendra Puri. Thereafter, Gopinatha became famous as kshira-cora, who stole kshira for His great devotee.
In the next day morning, Madhavendra Puri set out to Jagannatha to collect chandan for Gopala. Before he reached Puri, the news was spread there that Gopinatha stole kshira for Madhavendra Puri. At Jagannatha Puri, Madhavendra met the pujari of Lord Jagannatha and expressed the desire of Lord Gopala. The pujari took him to the King of Puri. Hearing the episode, the king gave him one mann (nearly 37 kg) of special sandalwood used in Puri and two security guards and gave him a written order not to harm Madhavendra, the carrier of Chandan. While he reached near Gopinatha, Govinda appeared in his dream and said, “Madhava, you embalm Lord Gopinatha with sandal paste so that I too would receive it, for Gopinatha and I are one.” Madhavendra Puri anointed Lord Gopinatha with chandan paste as Gopala instructed. The Chandan Yatra festival started since then to commemorate the incident.