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Akshaya Tritiya: Significance of Chandan Yatra

The festival of Chandan Yatra starts on Akshaya Tritiya, April 18, 2018. It is celebrated in Vrindavan and Jagannath Puri, whereby the deities of Lord Krishna and his forms are decorated with huge amounts of sandalwood paste, completely covering his entire body in chandan.

Written by Saumyaa Vardhan | New Delhi |
Updated: April 18, 2018 1:21:47 pm
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As soon as the word chandan, or sandalwood, comes to someone’s ears, he immediately feels refreshed and feels an unearthly aroma inside his mind. The lingering and exotic fragrance of sandalwood enchants one’s mind and makes it calm down and forget all the miseries for a moment. Sandalwood, as per the Ayurvedic shastras, is considered to be one of the best herbs for anointing the body in order to please the mind and provide radiance and beauty to the skin. The royal order, the kings and the queens, used to bathe with and smear their bodies with sandalwood paste and its oil was used in massaging their head and body.

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And not only for human beings, sandalwood is also used in the worship of the supreme lord. It forms one of the major items of perfumery in the Shodashopchar puja of Lord Krishna. Apart from aguru and other incenses, sandalwood paste is always applied on his lotus body in order to please him. His divine body is always anointed with sandalwood paste. A similar description is found in Srimad Bhagwatam (10.32.4), “One gopi joyfully took Krishna’s hand between her folded palms, and another placed His arm, anointed with sandalwood paste, on her shoulder.”

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The festival of Chandan Yatra is celebrated in Vrindavan and Jagannath Puri, whereby the deities of Lord Krishna and his forms are decorated with huge amounts of sandalwood paste, completely covering his entire body in chandan.

History associated with Chandan Yatra

The story behind Chandan Yatra is very interesting and marks the loving reciprocations between the supreme lord, Gopalji and his devotee, Madhvendra Puri. The story is mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya Lila Chapter 4) and this divine lila happened 500-600 years before.

Madhvendra Puri, a great stalwart acharya of Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya, was a dear devotee of Lord Krishna. Once, while he was absorbed in his bhajan, forgetting the bodily demands near Govinda Kund in Govardhan, Lord Krishna appeared to him in disguise and offered him a pot of milk to drink and disappeared. On drinking that nectarean milk, he fell asleep and had a dream, in which the Lord appeared and asked him to dig at a particular spot behind the bushes, bathe him and feed him. He assembled the village people, who dug the place up and found the deity of Sri Gopal.

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The deity, being very heavy, was taken uphill to Govardhan hill and was installed there and was bathed with hundreds of water pots, panchagavya, panchamrita and other items and was offered mounds of nice naivedya to eat. As soon as the news of the deity spread into the town, people from near and far off villages came to see the deity and brought varieties of offerings like wheat, vegetables, rice, etc. For days together, there was annakuta ceremony in which a small hill of prasadam was made and distributed to thousands of people.’

After a few days, again Gopalji appeared in his dreams and asked him to go to Jagannath Puri, bring sandalwood and camphor, make a paste and apply on his body to relieve him of the heat. Madhvendra Puri was delighted to hear this and considered himslef lucky enough to be commanded to do the Lord’s bidding. Despite his advancing age (he was apparently nearly 100 years old), he engaged two Brahmanas in the service of the lord and began his journey to Puri. When he arrived in Remuna (a small village near Puri) at the Gopinath temple, he had a sudden desire to taste the kheer offered to the Lord. Appalled at the thought, he immediately left the place and went away. But, the Lord, finding opportunities to serve his devotee, hid a pot of kheer behind his clothes while the pujari was offering bhog to him.

At night, the Lord appeared in the dreams of the pujari and asked him to give that kheer to his dear devotee, Madhvendra Puri, who was sitting in the marketplace. On waking up, the pujari saw the pot of kheer inside the Lord’s garments and rushed to the marketplace, calling out the names of Madhvendra Puri. He found him, absorbed in chanting the holy names of the Lord. The pandit offered him obeisance and gave him the pot of kheer.

He told the entire story to Madhvendra Puri and then, the latter told the pujari about Gopalji’s order to him. The pujari made arrangements and helped him go further. Madhvendra Puri left the place quietly before morning and went to Puri. He informed the temple devotees, who then took all the permission from the government officials and gave him 37kg of sandalwood and 227g of camphor. He was accompanied by a Brahmin and was given all clearance for the toll departments in his way.

When he started for Vrindavan and arrived at Remuna in the way, he again had a dream in which Gopalji asked him to smear the camphor-sandalwood paste on the body of Gopinath, saying that he is no different from him. And, therefore, he was very pleased to tell the devotees of Gopinath and then, for the entire summer, the paste was applied to the deity of Gopinath.

Significance of the Chandan Yatra

Ever since, it has now become a tradition to apply sandalwood paste on the body of the lord for 21 days, starting from Akshaya Tritiya. This festival is celebrated in Puri for 42 days, 21 days as outside water sporting chandan yatra and 21 days as inner temple chandan yatra. There is a great temple of Lord Nrsimha in Ahobalam, Andhra Pradesh. Here, the Lord is said to have appeared and killed demon Hiranyakashipu. His body is covered with sandalwood paste for the entire year. Only on the first day of chandan yatra, his chandan shringar is removed to let the devotees see his original divine form.

This festival is celebrated in all the temples of Vrindavan, where the deities of Lord are smeared with sandalwood paste for 21 days. Devotees and Brajwasis (as the locals are often called) can be seen grinding the sandalwood paste, days before the yatra, singing sweet songs for the pleasure of Vrindavan Bihari Lal. During the chandan yatra, a large number of people visit the temples of Vrindavan and Jagannath Puri. There is a huge celebration in Jagannath Puri, in which the deities are taken out to Narendra Sarovar and there is a magnificent arrangement for his water sporting past times.

Puja Timings for Akshaya Tritiya

The festival of Chandan Yatra starts on Akshaya Tritiya, April 18, 2018. The timings for puja are from 4:16 am onwards for 21 days. The chandan can be applied to the deities from 11:56 am onwards for 21 days.

Saumyaa Vardhan is the founder of Shubhpuja.com – an Indian platform for authentic Vedic puja services and research worldwide. Awarded by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

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