The Lord of the Universe, Lord Jagannath is the living deity of Hindus and by worshipping Him all the sins are said to be swept away. Puri Temple or Shri Mandira, is the living place of Shri Jagannath. Every day, there are a number of rituals, prayers and cuisines offered to Lord Jagannath by the Temple priests called Sevayatas and Daitapati.
The Beshas or incarnations of Lord Jagannath are the customs followed in which the three deities Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are made to wear religious and sacred clothes of cotton and silk fabrics, Gold Ornaments studded with precious stones, flowers of different varieties, tulsi leaves etc. Sandal paste, camphor and sometimes musks are used in the daily and periodical rituals. The three Lords sitting on the Ratna Singhasan wear different costumes every day and night and on some special occasions. These dressings are called as beshas.
Some of the beshas are done daily and some are done occasionally during any festival.
The Daily Beshas
The daily beshas are observed by the Puri Temple priests and Daityas everyday.
Abakasha or Tadapa Uttari Besha
This Besha is done everyday between the scheduled time of 6 AM to 6.30 AM. Abakasha simply means brushing of teeth and bathing of the deities ( Jagannath, Balabhadhra and Subhadra) in the morning. This Besha is followed immediately after the Mangala Alati. After Abakasha, the deities are made to wear some clothes like Tadapa and Uttariya.
On different days of the week, the three deities are adorned with different colored silken clothes known as Baralagi Pata.
The different colored dresses are :
Sunday – Red
Monday – Whitish with black spots
Tuesday – Clothes of five colors
Wednesday – Sky blue
Thursday – Yellow
Friday – White
Saturday – Violet
The Lord’s costumes are changed five times a day after each offering of foods made to them.
Bada Singhara Besha
Before the rest time of the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, nearly at 10:00 pm, the deities are dressed in their Bada Singhara Besha. In this Besha, the deities are decorated with floral ornaments like Adhara, Jhumpa, Chandrika, Tilaka, Hruda Padaka, Kara Pallav, Guna, Gava and a number of garlands. The deities also wear special silken clothes called ‘Khandua. The devotees wait eagerly late in the night to watch the beautiful attire of their Lords.
The Occasional Beshas
Odia Calendar has twelve months and a number of special tithis. On the special occasions, the Lords are adorned with different costumes. The followings are some names mentioned.
Starting from the tithi ‘ Akshaya Tritiya’ day, the Chandan Besha is done for 42 days on every third bright day of the month Vaishakha (April to May). The deities are fared with scented sandal wood paste and decorating flowers. The festival related to this Besha is popularly known as Chandan Yatra.
Popularly known as Gajanana Besha or Hati Besha, this Besha of the Lords is observed on the occasion of Snana Yatra in the month of jyeshtha (Odia Calendar month
May – June). On Snana Purnima (full moon day of Jyeshtha) or Debasnana Purnima, the three Lords are bathed at the Snana Mandap. After the bath, they are decorated in the shapes of Ganesha with their heads bearing in the shape of elephants. Lord Jagannath is dressed as a black colored elephant and Lord Balabhadra as a white colored. Devi Subhadra gives Darshan in Lotus flower Besha. it offers an awesome experience to view Lord Jagannath’s Hati Besha.
Naba Jaubana Besha
After taking a bath in the Snana Purnima, Lord Jagannath falls ill (fever) and rests in the Anasara Gruha ( Rest House). There the Lord is treated with herbs and proper deit and regains his youth and all the three Lords are repainted in the inner shrine by the Dayityas. The eyes of the deities are painted by the Pujaris. The Naba Jaubana Besha can be viewed by the devotees on Asadha month’s Amavasya tithi. After putting the New Youth (Naba Jaubana) besha, the three deities are taken to their respective chariots.
It is a Besha of the deities of Sri Mandira which is done on any Wednesday or Saturday between the New Moon Day of Magha and Basant Panchami. The story behind this Besha is that long ago a great Saint devotee of Lord Jagannath named Manohar Das desired to offer lotus flower (Padma) in Winter (Magha month). But Lotus in the Magha month was very hard to find, wherever due to his Bhakti bhava( deep devotion) towards Jagannath it could be possible to do so.
The deities in this Besha are adorned with big petals of lotus on their faces in the shape of a disc. Four swans are also projected in this Besha and are seen with the Lotus stalks. Padma Besha with these Swans and lotus stalks look more lively.
Suna or Gold Besha is the most famous attire of Lord Jagannath and takes place on the 11th day of bright fortnight in Asadha month ( Asadha Sukla Ekadasi Tithi).
This Besha is done when the deities are on their respective chariots while returning from the car festival. The ornaments used for the decoration of the Gods are gold ornaments like gold diadems, hands and feet made of gold.
Lord Jagannath holds a Chakra (disk) of gold on his right hand under silver conch in the left hand. Devotees in a number of lakhs come and get a chance for darshan of Suna Besha.
Bana Bhoji or simply meaning a picnic is a part of the rituals celebrated related to Krishna Leela who is an avatar of Lord Jagannath. On this occasion the lord Jagannath with the other deities are adorned with attires like those of cowherd boys. It is believed that Krishna during his childhood went for picnic with his cowherd friends. Hence this is observed with reference to that on the 10th day of dark fortnight of Bhadrab month.
In Puranas it is written that Krishna during his childhood killed a venomous Serpent named Kaliya. The Serpent Kaliya who lived on the banks of Yamuna river was a threat for the people of the kingdom. Hence Krishna killed it. To remember this incident, the besha is done on Bhadraba Krushna Ekadasi. Shree Jagannath is dressed like Krishna killing the Kaliya serpent.
Krushna Balaram Besha
Lord Jagannath is also known as Krushna and Lord Balabhadra is knowm as Balaram. This Besha is done on Bhadraba Krushna Trayodasi Tithi (the 13th day of the dark fortnight in Bhadraba). In this Besha Shree Jagannatha & Shree Balabhadra are dressed like Lord Krushna & Lord Balaram.
This Besha attests the deep impact of Krushna cult in the Shri Jagannath Temple. Previously a Besha known as ‘Giri Gobardhana’ was done in the Temple by the famous Bada Odia Matha. For some reason this Besha has been discontinued and Krushna Balaram Besha is introduced in its place. One Zamindar(Land Owner) of Choudhury Bazaar, Cuttack has provided the entire cost of the above Besha materials.
Baman (dwarf) is the 5th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, which is in turn a famous incarnation of Lord Jagannath. According to Puranic lore, the famous demon King Bali was pushed down to the subterranean by the Baman incarnation of Vishnu due to his limitless proud. So on the occasion of Bhadraba Sukla Dwadasi, Lord Jagannath is dressed like a Baman to commemorate the Puranic incident.
In the month of Aswina during the Vijaya Dashami Tithi (Dasahara) , Shree Jagannath is dressed like a King and the Besha is known to be Raja Besha. Since the reign of Ganga dynasty, Lord Jagannath is being regarded as thr King of Odisha and is served as the sovereign.
Radha Damodara Besha
The auspicious Radha Damodar Besha of the deities in Shree Jagannath Temple is being held every year from the 11th day of bright fortnight of Aswina to the 10th day of bright fortnight of Kartika. It is ascertained form the mythology that Akrura, on his way to Mathura, has witnessed this Radha Damodar Besha while taking bath in the river Yamuna.
It is noteworthy that this attractive besha is being performed during the entire period in the month of Karttika. Late Sadasiba Rathasharma, an eminent research scholar of Sreemandir has mentioned in his book “Sri Jagannath Besha Rahashya” that this Besha has been introduced since 12th century. During the 12th century and after that “Radha” became famous throughout India after being made a female protagonist in Gita govinda written by Jayadev.
The depiction of Radha was widely published and circulated through the literary works of poet Jayadeva of Odisha, Chandi Das of Bengal and Vidyapati of Mithila. Radha was worshipped as “Devi” by Bishnuswami, Nimbarka and Sri Chaitanya.
Laxmi Narayan Besha
Laxmi and Narayan is the synonym used for Lord Jagannath and Goddess Laxmi. Narayan in sleeping posture is known as Ananta Sayana Vishnu and Laxmi is found to be serving at his feet as she is His wife. This Besha is done on Kartika Sukla Ekadashi Tithi. This Besha is commemorated to the visit of Ramanuja, the great religious preacher to Sreekhetra Puri.
This Besha takes place in such years in which there are six days of ‘Panchaka’ instead of 5 in the month of Kartika. On that occasion Shree Jagannath and Shree Balabhadra are dressed like Nagarjuna (a military general) on this extra day.
The attire tradition of the three Lords of Shree Jagannath Temple is scintillating and mesmerizing. The spirituality involved in these beshas takes them to the supreme level. It is worth watching the beshas on special occasions by going to Puri. In this way one can discover the traditional values and spiritual knowledge and the cultural heritage of Odisha.