It gets pitch dark inside the Shrine. We can’t even see our own hands. Three of us cautiously walk in to replace the Singharis who have been fanning the deities and take over. During this time the Lords would not be wearing any ornaments or flowers and would be draped with just a single piece of cloth. This is called ‘Aalata Laagi’. It’s my favourite ritual. This is done to keep the deities cool from the scorching summer heat. It happens twice every day for 42 days – from Akshay Tritiya till Snana Purnima. Inside the shrine, there is a long table beside the Singhasana. The singharis/ sebayats (Servitors) climb atop and fan the deities with the help of large fans with silver handles. Even there is a person outside the shrine who keeps track of time with a sand hourglass and every 15 minutes, the sebayats inside are replaced. During these 42 days chandan is applied to the deities before bedtime to kepp them cool. For dinner they are mostly served pakhala (soaked rice) along with few accompaniments.
There are many other unique rituals during Rath Yatra. Did you know, unlike when the Lords are inside the temple, once they are on the chariots as Prasad we only offer dry food items like kora, khai, fruits, gaja muga etc. On the day of Rath Yatra, every sebayat has their own specific duty and thanks to the Lord’s wishes, this is mine.
For me he is the head of my house, my guiding light. I feel blessed each moment to be born like this where I get the opportunity to serve him right on his Singhasan. This feeling helps me in taking life decisions and judging the right from the wrong.
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