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Mahima Dharma: The Story, Beliefs & Festivals of Joranda

Joranda lies about 24 kilometers from Dhenkanal, Odisha. Joranda is popularly known as the religious base of ‘Mahima Dharma’. 

Mahima Gadi or Mahima Cult  shows a strong social message. The latter part of the 18th Century & the early part of Nineteenth Century Hinduism witnessed a movement of sorts to reform religion, which was wilting under the caste system & superstitious beliefs . Mahima sect came into being in Odisha with the primary goal of getting rid of the evils that ail the community. This religion preached the idea of freedom and  the existence of “One God”. Mahima Dharma is noteworthy as it is the only religious sect  to have its initiation in Odisha. 

Tourists visit Joranda to worship at Mahima Gosain’s resting spot, the Mahima Cult founder.

Followers of the Mahima Sect believe their founder, Mahima Gosain, is an embodiment of “Param Brahma,” and came down from the Himalayas. Not much of his stay in the Himalayas is known but he toured Odisha and spent  time in Puri, Cuttack and other places in Odisha before eventually deciding to settle in Joranda.

Mahima Gadi Gate
Mahima Gadi Gate (courtesy Wikipedia)
Joranda Niti Temple
Joranda Niti Temple (courtesy dhenkenal.nic.in)
Dhuni Temple, Joranda
Dhuni Temple, Joranda (courtesy Wikimedia)

It is believed that Saint Mahima Gosain retreated to Joranda as he could foresee that his end was near, & finally leaving his mortal soul on the 14th day of Phalguna (February-March) in 1876 according to his own wishes.

Sect believers have to follow certain strict guidelines or ‘Guruagyna’ as it is called, like offering prayers twice a day, at dawn in the morning and at dusk in the evening.  Prayers are offered  beneath the skies . The ceremonies are brief, and have no perception of sacrifices or offerings. After sunset the followers abstain from any food or water consumption. The Sect’s adherents are divided into three classes, based on their accomplishments.

The most respected Kumbhi patias are characterized by their dress that is made from the bark of the Slow Match Tree or Kumbhi as it is known locally.

Mahima Sadhu with barada badi or palm leaf fan
Mahima Sadhu with barada badi or palm leaf fan (courtesy Wikipedia)

Next are the Kanapatias who don rags and the third one is the Ashritas, who wear a piece of red cloth. It should be noted that out of the three above, the Ashritas do not completely renounce the world.

The Mahima Gadi, or Mahima Cult seat in Joranda, has four temples each with their own significance attached to Saint Mahima Gosain.

  • The Gadi Temple, where the Saint’s mortal remains were buried, is the region’s most important shrine, and has become its symbol over the years.
  • The Temple of Sunya-Where the Saint left the mortal world. The temple is dedicated to the supreme deity, as the shapeless god, Sunya Brahma.
  • The Dhuni Temple-Built around the 1960s.  The followers offer their prayers at sunrise and sunset.
  • The Temple of Niti Upasana-Where the Saint resided.

“Fire” is an important component in all temples, and the “Akhanda Pradeep” or Lamp burns continuously. The great saint had kindled an everlasting flame at Joranda called the ‘Akhanda Dhuni,’ which continues to burn until today.

Festival

The most popular puja  in this town is known as the Joranda Mela. This puja happens on the day of Magha Purnima February. Large-scale pilgrims pour into Joranda Fair held on Magha’s full-moon day which falls every year in January-February. This festival has been celebrated regularly since 1874 .

A huge number of Mahima Sanyasis, devotees, monks, and pilgrims attend Joranda Mela to worship the Samadhi Pitha (shrine) of Mahima Gosain in Sunya Mandir.

Joranda Mela
courtesy Sambad English

In ‘Yagna Kunda’ a Havan or Yagya is held as part of mela celebrations and is the main tourist attraction. More than thousands liters of ghee is put in the havan pyre. Special prayers are made for bringing peace to earth and bringing people inner peace. Devotees chant ‘Alekh Brahma’ in a rhythmic tone, and Joranda is engulfed with the rhythmic sound. It is exclusively a mass ascetic prayer for the world’s welfare which aims to spread the message of love and humanity in the name of Mahima Gosain, the founder of Mahima Dharma. It is a holy Hindu festival and one of the leading fairs celebrating Odisha’s rich history, art , and culture.

How to Reach

By Air

Nearest Airport is Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhubaneswar. Distance is around 106 Kms.

By Train

Dhenkanal is the nearest railway station. Then by road, Kapilas is 26 km from Dhenkanal Station.

By Road

By road, Kapilas is 26 km from Dhenkanal Bus stand.

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