The Odisha government has tried to incite the Odia religious tradition by highlighting how Lord Jagannath quarantines himself in a “Anasar Ghara” (isolation room) before the annual Rath Yatra to persuade people to stay indoors and follow quarantine norms in order to contain the transmissibility of COVID-19.
Home quarantine may have become the new normal across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been practised in Lord Jagannath Temple here since time immemorial.
“The people of Odisha embrace Lord Jagannath’s quarantine as an example, and it keeps them inside the house. “The state government has also coined a motto, ‘Ghare Ruhantu Sustha Ruhantu’ (stay at home, remain healthy),” said Subrato Bagchi, the former chief COVID-19 spokesperson for Odisha.
He urged anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 to seek seclusion, adding that “Anasara” (quarantine) was an important element of Odia culture and custom.
Quarantine refers to limiting the mobility of those who have been infected in order to prevent the infection from spreading to others.
Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, suffered a fever after being bathed with sacred water contained in 108 pitchers on Snan Purnima day, according to mythology.
The three goddesses of the 12th-century temple were then moved to ‘Anasar Ghara,’ where they were treated and eventually recovered after 14 days.
Every year, 14 days before the annual Rath Yatra, this tradition is observed.
“If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the state government emphasises that they must be quarantined for at least 14 days. When the master of the universe (Lord Jagannath’s name jagat means universe and nath means master) is sick, he quarantines himself,” Bagchi explained.
According to Bhaskar Mishra, a Shree Jagannath culture scholar, the deities’ siblings also take ayurvedic remedies to recuperate from their illnesses. As a result, rather than leaving it to God’s compassion, persons who are afflicted with any ailment should be given medicine to help them recover quickly.
“There is no record of Lords quarantine, also known as the ‘Anasara’ rite, being done in the temple since that time. But it’s been going on for a long time, sending a message to humanity to take the disease seriously,” Mishra explained.
On the festival of Dasami Tithi, the Lords’ ‘Chaka Bije Niti,’ a rite signifying an improvement in the condition of the sister deities, is being held in the Temple on Sunday.
According to Sarat Mohanty, a servitor-cum researcher in Jagannath culture and tradition, the deities, along with Lord Sudarshan and Madhab, are put on three wheels in this ritual.
The deities are offered “Chakata” and “Pana Bhoga” according to the rites (ORS like prasad to overcome dehydration).
According to Mohanty, some rituals are done in the locked room during the Lord’s stay in Anasar (quarantine).
The deities are bathed in a special oil called phuluri tel, and “Raj Baidyas” (royal doctors) create a specific herbal cure for their total recovery.
On Monday, on the “Ekadasi Tithi,” this medicine will be offered to the Lords. The deities are supposed to be entirely cured after this rite, according to Mohanty.
The ailing deities are offered just fruits and water, combined with cheese and “Dasamula” (herbal) medications, according to Pratihari Sevaka, a special servitor in the temple, Surya Narayan Gochhikar, while Daitapati Sevayats execute secret rituals to treat them.
He claims that after a two-week herbal treatment, the deities are fully recovered and ready for the annual Rath Yatra, which will take place on July 12 this year.
Devotees are permitted to see “Patti Dians” when the deities are present in “Anasar Ghar” (representatives of the Lords in patachitra painting).
The deities are given a touch-up and a fresh look before going out on the Rath Yatra, just like a person does after recovering from an illness, according to Mohanty.