bout 50 km from Berhampur in the valley of Mahendragiri is situated Jarada Gada, an erstwhile feudatory state of undivided Ganjam district.
According to Dr Prafulla Chandra Mohanty, retired principal, Ganjam College, the valley was inhabited by tribals of the Saura community. In 1440, Veer Bhadra Singh,the son of Biswambhar Singh, took over the estate by defeating the tribals and killing their chief Jara.
It was the slain tribal chief’s last wish that the place be named after him and Veer Bhadra and his progeny perform the ‘Sradha’ rituals of Jara.
To this day, the royal family of Jarada performs the ‘Sradha’ of Jara on the day of Mahalaya, says Dr Mohanty.
Jarada Gada is known for the Partha Sarathi temple established by Gajapati Maharaja Purushottama Deva during his famous Kanchi expedition in the 15th century.
In the shrine, Partha Sarathi (Lord Krishna) is the presiding deity while Dadhibaman (Lord Jagannath not accompanied by siblings) is the secondary deity.
The idol of Partha Sarathi bears a conch in the left hand and a rope along with Sudarshan Chakra in the right hand. It is placed to the south of Dadhibaman’s idol.
Locals believe that a darshan of Sarathi Gosain, as they call the deity, is equal in virtue to the darshan of Lord Jagannath in Puri. Those who can’t afford a pilgrimage to Puri may visit the shrine of Partha Sarathi, they say.
During Rath Yatra, the idols of the Chaturdha Murti (Lord Jagannath and His siblings along with Sudarshan) are placed on chariots. In some places, a single idol of Dadhibaman is placed on a chariot. However, in a distinct departure from the Jagannath tradition here, two idols– one of Partha Sarathi and the other of Dadhibaman – are placed on a single chariot which is pulled by the devotees here.
The scene on Sri Gundicha day here is reminiscent of the iconic image of Lord Krishna driving the chariot of Partha (another name of Pandava prince Arjuna) in the Mahabharata.
The chariot is 27-ft high and has eight wheels. As part of Pahandi Bije, the idol of Partha Sarathi is taken to the chariot first followed by the idol of Dadhibaman. Later, the king performs the Chherapahanra ritual.
During the nine-day stay of the deities at the Gundicha Ghara, they are attired in different Beshas. On Hera Panchami day, Dadhibaman is dressed up as Nrusingha while Partha Sarathi is attired as the Kalki Avatar, says Dr Mohanty.
On the Bahuda day, Dadhibaman is dressed as Lord Rama and Partha Sarathi as his sibling Laxmana. Locals believe that Ravana’s brother Vibhishan comes for the darshan of the Lord on the chariot on this day. However, Sunabesha of the deity is not observed here, he adds.