[December 09, 2021 Oḍana-Ṣaṣṭhī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is the bhāva anuvāda translation of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja at Śrī Rādhā Mādhava Gauḍīya Maṭha, Faridabad on the tithi of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī, December 5, 2016. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is the festival of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī. This tithi marks the beginning of winter outfits (warm clothes) being offered to Jagannātha-deva. Regardless of when the weather actually turns cold, Jagannātha is offered a winter covering only from this tithi onward, even if winter begins before this tithi and on Vasanta Pañcamī, this offering is stopped even if cold weather persists. This kind of service is based on nīti.
SERVICE BASED ON RULES VS. SERVICE BASED ON AFFECTION
Service is of two types – one is based on nīti (rules) and the other is based on prīti (affection). Once, in our maṭha, we offered winter outfits to Jagannātha, Baladeva and Subhadrā before Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī. One gentleman inquired, “Why have you offered winteroutfits before the actual tithi of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī?” I asked, “Why are you wearing a warm coat today? Because the weather is cold, isn’t it? Our service is based on love and your service is based on rules. So if the weather turns cold, we offer winter outfits to our Deities.” Today, I read that in Punjab the temperature has reached 4-5 degrees. How can we not offer the Deities winter outfits there? Such service outlook is called ātma-vat sevā. If I am feeling cold, the Lord too must be feeling cold.
Consider for instance: An employee working at a government wheat storehouse arrives ten minutes before his official duty time [10 am to 5 pm], and despite noticing the rain, he doesn’t protect the wheat from getting soaked in the rain, which is what he is supposedly paid for. His mentality is - ‘It is not 10 am yet. My job for the day hasn’t begun so the authorities can’t blame me.’ Technically speaking, he is right. Nevertheless, in just two minutes, he could have covered the entire stock of wheat to protect it from getting wet but he chooses not to, because his service is based on rules.
On the other hand, an old lady who can barely walk, noticing that it is about to rain, somehow manages to cover the stock of wheat kept by her daughter-in-law for drying in the courtyard of their house. She thinks, ‘There is no one at home. This is our wheat, it will get spoiled if exposed to rain and our money will get wasted.’ But the employee at the government storehouse doesn’t see the government’s loss as his own.
So those who do not consider others’ loss or gain and instead just focus on their own convenience are called ‘nīti-vādī’. While those who act out of love and no matter how much inconvenience they may have to face for the benefit of the object of their affection, invest their entire energy are called ‘prīti-vādī’.
Today onwards, they will offer a winter covering to Jagannātha in such a way that if one has not taken darśana of Jagannātha before, one will not be able to recognize Him based on how He looks today. At the time of maṅgala-ārati, they wrap Jagannātha in a large quilt-like silken garment such that only a part of His face and eyes are visible, just as parents tightly wrap a new-born child keeping only a small portion of the face visible.
Today Jagannātha will be offered a special khicrī called Karmābāi's khicrī. Once on Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī, it so happened that in the temple of Jagannātha, bhoga could not be cooked on time because a child passed urine within thetemple premises so special purificatory* rites had to be performed as per the rules (nīti). As all the purificatory rites had to be followed in accordance to temple rules, the bhoga offering for Jagannātha got delayed. One lady named Karmābāi, realizing that Jagannātha was not offered bhoga yet, quickly prepared a khicrī with whatever quantity of rice and dhāl (lentils) she possessed, adding ghee and other spices, and offered it to Jagannātha as bhoga. She thought, ‘Why should Jagannātha fast on such a special tithi?’ Later, in the temple, when the paṇḍā called out to Jagannātha in the afternoon to honour bhoga as was custom, Jagannātha did not come. On being asked, Jagannātha replied, “I have already had my meal.” Karmābāi was a dear devotee of Jagannātha, and her service mood was based on affection (prīti).
In the Jagannātha Temple in Purī, on any given day, only pre-designated bhoga is offered to Jagannātha. No one can offer any other type of bhoga of their own volition. However, due to Jagannātha’s special reciprocation with Karmābāi, her khicrī bhoga has been permanently included to be offered to Jagannātha on the day of Oḍana-ṣaṣṭhī. In this way, Jagannātha proves that He accepts both – service based on rules as well as service based on affection. For those who worship Jagannātha with rules, He becomes obliged to follow those rules. And for those who serve Him with affection, Jagannātha becomes obliged to break the rules to accommodate His devotees’ loving services.
MOTHER YAŚODĀ COOKS BHOGA
Another special feature of this month is that instead of Lakṣmidevī, mother Yaśodā takes charge of cooking for Jagannātha, as Lakṣmidevī goes to her parent’s place [The ocean is considered as her father]. So Jagannātha is offered bhoga at 9 am instead of the usual 1-2 pm, with a feeling that He is just a small child, so He will naturally be hungry. This bhoga is called paheli-bhoga. And that is why during this entire month, maṅgala-ārati, bhoga, śayana-ārati, and everything happens earlier than usual.
MOOD OF SERVICE COMES BY ASSOCIATION
So when Lakṣmidevī returns after a month, again elaborate bhoga is offered to Jagannātha. No matter how much time it takes, different varieties of foodstuffs are prepared and offered during different times of the day, as per the rules. Rāja-bhoga is offered five times. And accordingly, upala-bhoga and other bhogas are also offered one after another. Upala-bhoga is offered from behind the Garuḍa-stambha. Even if sometimes the offerings go on till midnight, and Jagannātha is feeling sleepy, still He is not spared! He has to honour everything.
Different devotees are assigned different services and each service takes its own sweet time. So if the earlier services get delayed, then it has an overall cascading effect. And interestingly, no one wants to compromise on the time they take for their respective service. In this way, since the rules have to be adhered to, sometimes even Jagannātha’s śayana doesn’t take place; while sometimes, Jagannātha’s brushing happens at 10 am or 12 noon, instead of the scheduled 6 am.
So whether it comes to offering bhoga or any other service, the dynamics change based on how the service is performed - based on rules or love. When it comes to service based on love, the Lord’s hunger, sleep etc. is taken into consideration and services are adjusted accordingly. But when it comes to service based on rules, the rule takes precedence over what the object of service wants. However, only one who distinctly understands the difference between the two moods of worship can tell the difference upon witnessing the services. An outsider will not be able to tell.
The devotee acquires a particular mood of serving the Lord on the basis of the association he receives. If he associates with a devotee serving based on rules, then that particular service mood manifests in the heart. And if a devotee is blessed with the association of a devotee serving with the mood of affection, then that particular mood becomes manifest in his heart. In this way both service moods especially become manifest in the hearts of devotees according the association they receive.
Whenever any instance such as anyone passing urine or stool, a dog entering or anyone dying inside the temple premises occurs, firstly, all the services are immediately stopped (cooking of bhoga, etc.) and temple entrances are shut such that no new visitors are allowed to enter. Consequently all the existing visitors inside the temple are let out and the entire temple premises is thoroughly cleaned, mahā-snāna of the Lord is performed, followed by preparing bhoga all over again and so on.