Hera Panchami is a unique festival associated with famous Car festival of Puri. 'Hera' means to 'see' and 'Panchami' means the 'fifth day'. It is celebrated at Gundicha temple on the fifth day from the start date of the Car festival. This festival is dedicated to Goddess Mahalaxmi and is also known as a ritual of Goddess Mahalaxmi. The temple of Lord Jagannath is known as Srimandira. 'Sri' means 'Laxmi', so the name of the temple as 'Srimandira' signifies the fact that Goddess Mahalaxmi is the principal Goddess of the Grand Temple. This ritual highlights the separation of Mahalaxmi from Lord Jagannath.

On the Car festival day, Lord Jagannath leaves the Jagannath Temple and goes to Gundicha Temple for 9 days with his siblings and His consort Mahalaxmi is left behind in the main temple. The popular belief is that Lord Jagannath had promised his wife Goddess Mahalaxmi that He will return the next day. But Lord Jagannath does not return the next day. Goddess Mahalaxmi waits and 4 weary nights have already passed but Lord Jagannath did not return to the temple and there is no information about Him. On the fifth day of the Car Festival, Goddess Lakshmi becomes very worried and thinks, "Where has my husband gone? He told me that He will return the next day. It has been five days now, and still He has not come back."

Goddess Mahalaxmi after waiting for 5 days becomes impatient and takes the advice of Goddess Bimala who is considered to be the tantric Goddess and a guardian of main temple. Goddess Bimala gives 'Mohana Churna' (an herbal powder with hypnotic qualities to attract husband) to Goddess Lakshmi for Lord Jagannath's early return. In local Odia language 'Mohana' means 'To Hypnotize'.

Goddess Mahalaxmi finally makes up Her mind to meet Lord Jagannath in Gundicha Temple where He has currently stayed with His brother & sister. In the evening, the representative idol of Goddess Mahalaxmi (known as Subarna Mahalaxmi) went to Gundicha temple in a beautifully decorated palanquin via Bada Danda (the Grand Road of Puri) in a colorful procession with great pomp, splendor and with traditional music to meet Lord Jagannath and to ask Him why he had not returned yet. Her palanquin is carried by Bimanabadu sevakas (servitors) on their shoulders. The devotees & servitors who are part of the procession of Goddess Mahalaxmi sing the Hera Panchami song. The Hera Panchami song expresses Goddess Mahalaxmi's anger towards Her husband. Goddess Mahalaxmi's palanquin halts near Nandighosha chariot where the Pati Mahapatra (a representative of Lord Jagannath) welcomes Goddess Mahalaxmi with predefined ceremonial offerings. After that She was taken near the Jaya Vijay door of Gundicha temple.

Goddess Laxmi in decorated Palanquin
Goddess Laxmi in decorated Palanquin

Image Source: http://www.nabakalebara.gov.in/newsDetails/In-News/130

After knowing that Goddess Mahalaxmi is coming to meet him with anger, Lord Jagannath asks his servitors to quickly lock the door of Gundicha Temple. Goddess Mahalaxmi became very angry due to this activity and passed some satirical remarks to Lord Jagannath by saying, "My husband!!! You have become more attracted to your brother Balabhadra & sister Subhadra than me? Is this the reason you locked me out of the Gundicha temple?" Being neglected and angry with Lord Jagannath, Goddess Mahalaxmi throws 'Mohana Churna' from Her palanquin given by Goddess Bimala for Her husband's early return to main temple. Due to the effect of the mohana churna, the Pati Mahapatra offers an 'Agyan Mala' (a consent garland) on behalf of Lord Jagannath to Goddess Mahalaxmi and assures Her that the Lord will return soon to the main temple.

Goddess Mahalaxmi feels jealous and insulted with Her husband's enjoyment with His siblings and to teach a lesson to her beloved husband, She asks her servitors to break a part of Nandighosa Ratha, the chariot of Lord Jagannath. Goddess Laxmi did this due to her anger but also feels guilty of breaking a part of Nandighosa. Being afraid that she will be caught, She avoids the direct route via Grand Road, and secretly returned to the Jagannath temple with her servitors via a lane called the Hera Gohiri Sahi of Puri without any procession and fanfare. Thousands of devotees enjoyed this auspicious occasion and human-like love between Lord Jagannath and Goddess Mahalaxmi.

Goddess Laxmi approaching towards Nandighosa
Goddess Laxmi approaching towards Nandighosa

Image Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120626/jsp/odisha/story_15655745.jsp#.WAnRoFLl_cs

According to temple history, Hera Panchami festival was celebrated in this manner during the time of King Kapilendra Deb. Earlier, Hera Panchami was being observed in a symbolic manner with recitation of Vedic Mantras only. It is also stated in Madala Panji that it is King Kapilendra Deb, who changed this practice by introducing a gold idol of Mahalaxmi and thus transformed the entire divine practice to an full-fledged ritual in an organized and realistic way.

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