A Celebration Of Transcendental Anger
The Grand temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri is famous for its unique ritualistic practices as well as festivals observed throughout the year. Jagannath Ratha Yatra is a massive annual festival that attracts a million pilgrims every year and one of the events of Ratha Yatra is Hera Panchami.
During Ratha Yatra, Lord Jagannath comes out of the Sri Mandira on a divine outing with his brother Sri Balabhadra and sister Subhadra along with his divine weapon Sri Sudarshana, leaving behind His wife Mahalakshmi. To her, externally He gives the excuse of wanting to participate in the Ratha-yatra festival, but actually, He wishes to go to Sundaracala, the Guṇḍica temple- a representation of the holy land of Vrindavana. Srila Prabhupada writes,
“This Herā-pañcamī festival takes place five days after the Ratha-yātrā festival. Lord Jagannātha has left His wife, the goddess of fortune, and gone to Vṛndāvana, which is the Guṇḍicā temple. Due to separation from the Lord, the goddess of fortune decides to come to see the Lord at Guṇḍicā. The coming of the goddess of fortune to Guṇḍicā is celebrated by Herā-pañcamī. Sometimes this is misspelled as Harā-pañcamī the section known as ativāḍī. The word herā means “to see” and refers to the goddess of fortune going to see Lord Jagannātha. The word pañcamī means “the fifth day” and is used because this takes place on the fifth day of the moon.”
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – 1975 Edition, Madhya 14.107
The Goddess expresses Her anger for the Lord. She proceeds to the Gundica Temple, the Adapa Mandapa in a palanquin in the form of Subarna (Golden) Mahalaxmi and threatens Him to come back to the temple at the earliest. To please Her, the Lord offers Her agyan mala (a garland of consent). Seeing the Goddess furious, the sevakas (servants) close the main door of the Gundica. Mahalakshmi returns to the main temple through the Nakachana gate.
In a unique ritual, the Goddess orders one of her attendants to damage a part of the Nandighosa (Lord Jagannath’s chariot). Then she hides behind a tamarind tree outside the Gundica Temple. After some time, she escapes to her home temple in secrecy, through a separate path way known as Hera Gohri Lane. The unique ritual is enjoyed by lakhs of devotees of Lord Jagannath. Huge quantity of prasadam is also distributed at the end of it.
This celebration of coming of the goddess of fortune to Gundica is known as Hera-pancami or Lakshmi-vijaya. The word hera means “to see” and refers to the goddess of fortune going to see Lord Jagannatha. The word pancami means “the fifth day” and is used because this festival takes place on the fifth day of bright fortnight of the month Ashada.
The rituals of Hera Panchami as an important function of Sri Mandira (the Main temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri) are mentioned in the Skanda Purana. According to the history of the Temple, this utsav (festival) started during the time of Maharaja Kapilendra Deb. Before his reign, the Hera Panchami function used to be observed symbolically with recitation of Mantras. As stated in the Madala Panji, Raja Kapilendra Deb substituted this practice with the introduction of a Deity of Mahalakshmi made of gold and making the celebration more realistic.
The famous King Prataparudra also used to hold this festival in a gorgeous way to please Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.