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Colourful Gosani Yatra, Puri Gosani Yatra, Puri Durga Puja

Puri, the sacred city of Lord Jagannath is culturally enriched by several rituals, colorful yatra (festivals) and living traditions. Though it is a strong seat of Vaisnavism in India, here several other cults like Saiva, Sakti, Ganapatya and Saura cults were amalgamated with Vaisnavism and formed the cosmopolitan Jagannath cult. Among the fairs and festivals of the Sakti pantheon, ‘Durga Puja’ is one of the most important colorful festivals of Puri. Unlike other places, here the festival of ‘Durga Puja’ is called ‘Gosani Yatra’. In this festival of Puri, several big clay idols of Mahisamardini Durga are worshipped every year in the month of Asvina (October). Peculiarly here this clay idol is worshipped as ‘Gosani’. It is to note that, this ‘Gosani Yatra’ is an indigenous cultural trait of the city of Puri. Because in this festival no such outer influence could be seen in the tradition of the worships clay model of the images, decoration, color application, postures etc.

The concept of ‘Gosani’ has several meanings. It means the associated sakti of the supreme goddess Durga who fought during her war with Mahisasura. In Puri it is believed that ‘Kakudikhai’ is the supreme Goddess and the chief among the gosanis. She is considered as the goddess Durga herself and the representative of Goddess Vimala outside Srimandira. For pacification, these terrifying saktis (Gosanis), The Colourful Gosani Yatra of Puri Santosh Kumar Rath clay idols are being made annually during Durga Puja and worshipped with great pomp and ceremony. The local people sometimes say that Gosani is a wicked female spirit. Bhootanath is another name for Lord Siva who is the lord of spirits, evil powers and ghosts. So it is believed that these Gosanis are the saktis of Lord Siva. In this regard, the description found in the Madala Panji is very important. In connection to the first Ganga king Chodaganga Deva, the Panji describes – “Ye chudaganga deva betala sadhya. Kanya 13 dina krushna trayodasi gurubara dina naja besare asi Kataka madibasi raja hoila. Basudeva Bahinipati Mohapatra hoila. Jajapura Kataka prabesa hoila. Prathame rahile pachama kataka Baranasi hoi Odisa gosanimana Kilile. Se raja bhoga kale ba 66/ 2/2 dina”. It means King Chodaganga Deva was a tantric expert and he arrested all the wicked goddesses of Orissa by applying his tantric expertise and powers. According to some scholars the word ‘Gosani’ is derived from the Oriya word ‘Gosamani’, which means ‘aristocratic lady’, the wife of the owner or the paternal grandmother (Gosein maa).

In the royal families of Orissa, the prince and princess are called ‘Jenamani’ and ‘Jemamani’ respectively. In this way, the paternal great-grandmother is called ‘Gosamani’. In this connection, it should be mentioned that the local people believed the Gosanis as the savior and nourisher of their locality and therefore, during the Durga Puja festival they use to worship Gosani images in their respective Sahis (Street). Pt. Nilakantha Dash believes that the name ‘Gosani’ comes from ‘Gosvamini’ which means the female counterpart of Gosvami, the Brahmin lord (Gosein in Oriya). In several places, the word Gosvami has been used differently. Firstly, it means a Brahmin landlord having a vast wealth of cattle such as cows, bullock, buffalo etc. In this case, his wife is known as Gosvamini, who is likewise considered as the Lord of these cattle. Secondly, Gosvami means Lord Siva who rides on the back of the bull Nandi. So Gosvamini is considered as his sakti or consort Durga. Again thirdly, Gosvami must be Durga. It is noteworthy that in Puri the co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga with Madhava (Lord Jagannath) is prevalent from the Ganga period. This fact is evident from the sculptures on the temple walls i.e., from the pista of the Jagamohana of the Sun temple at Konark and on the northern bada of the Bhogamandapa of the Jagannath temple, Puri. In these representations, Sivalinga, Mahisamardini Durga and Lord Jagannath are seen installed on a pedestal and worshipped by a king. However, the Gosanis represent several aspects of Mahisamardini Durga at Puri and are worshipped during the Durga Puja festival.Puri Gosani Yatra

The Gosani Yatra of Puri has its origin in the folk culture. This fact is evident from the local folk names they bear such as Kakudikhai, Barabati, Janhimundia, Janhikhai, Sunya Gosani, Panapriya, Hadabai, Gelabai, Belabai etc. There are several local traditions and legends behind the names of the Gosanis. During Gosani Yatra, different types of other clay figures of Sampati bird along with monkeys, Ravana lifting Kailash mountain, Demons, Ghosts, Nagas, wooden toys etc. are also worshipped due to the strong folk influence and these aspects of Gosani Yatra adds more color and charm to the festival. It is noteworthy that these Gosani images along with Naga figures are worshipped in the Vanadurga mantra (hymn). It is said that in early times all the Gosanis gathered in the ‘Dasahara Pada’ i.e. Jagannath Ballabha math but nowadays the Gosanis used to gather at Simhadvara, just in front of the Jagannath temple.

From an artistic point of view, these clay Gosani images are unique and the only of their kind in the entire India. Unlike the Durga images of Kolkata, Cuttack and Mahisamardini sculptures of temples, they do not reflect slim figures, fineness and plasticity, yet they have freshness due to their indigenous style of artwork, color application and decoration. Moreover, these Gosani images which are self-evolved in Puri culture, look vibrant with bold expression and vigor with heavy body. At Puri, the faces of the Gosani figures are depicted in such a manner that gives an impression that Devi is closely watching Mahisasura and engaged in fierce fighting. Here in this case both Mahisasura and Devi look at each other with great concentration. It is evident from the straight eye contact between them unlike the images of Kolkata and Cuttack where the face of Devi is generally depicted in a profile manner. Another feature of the Gosani images of Puri is that, here the demon in most cases is depicted in theriomorphic form i.e., the head is of the buffalo and the body is of a human being. According to this author, these Gosani images are more or less influenced by Mahisamardini sculptures found on the temple walls. Especially the thermometric form of the demon is profusely depicted in the Bhaumakara temples. For example – the Mahisamardini images of Vaitala and Sisiresvara temples at Bhubaneswar. Here this form of the demon is made lively. The demon is seen as completely overpowered by the goddess. It is to note that, the Gosani images are colored with primary colors and built in a typical Orissan style. Here yellow color is applied to the Devi and the blue/green color is applied to the demon. The decoration of these figures is also interesting like the images which are also indigenous in nature and arranged with sola and jari work. The crown, ornaments, attributes and the halo are made of sola and jari which double the beauty of these images. Interestingly, after color application, the artists draw a ‘Devi Yantra’ on the chest of the image and cover it by cladding new clothes around the body of the goddess. Like Gosanis, gigantic images of Naga are also made and worshipped during the Durga Puja festival. These large male images symbolise heroism and valour. According to some scholars ‘Nagas’ are one of the Saiva sects set up by Adi Sankaracharya. The sadhus of this Naga sect besides being Siva worshippers also practice wrestling and in the old days were instrumental in defeating Buddhists. In medieval days they played a great role by resisting Muslim aggression in Puri. Moreover, the Naga images represent the Jaga-Akhada culture of Puri. A brief description of these aforesaid Gosanis is given below.

Kakudikhai Gosani:

She is regarded as the chief among the Gosanis of Puri and worshipped at Baniapati in Balisahi. As the name suggests, a cucumber is sacrificed in front of Devi and offered to her. But this custom is now extinct. Devi Kakudikhai is regarded as the representative of goddess Vimala outside Srimandira. In her shrine, animal sacrifices were performed during the night of Mahastami. Here Devi is ten-handed and holds a shield, conch, bow, snake and the hairs of Mahisasura in her left hand while she holds a trident, sword, wheel, arrow and goad. Here the goddess places for left foot on the shoulder of Mahisasura and her right foot on her vahana the lion. She is seen flanked by goddess Sarasvati, Laksmi, Ganesha and Karttikeya. The demon is seen coming out from the decapitated body of the buffalo as found in the stone images of the Somavamsi period, i.e. 9th-11th century A.D.

Barabati Gosani:

Perhaps she is the biggest clay Mahisamardini figure made during Durga Puja festival in Puri. She is regarded as the second Gosani among the local people. The image of this gosani is built annually by the initiative of the members of the Barabati Jaga and therefore, the Gosani is so named. The height of this colossal Gosani is near about 20 feet in height. She has eight arms and displays a snake, conch, dagger, bow, arrow, sword and trident. The demon Mahisasura is depicted in the theriomorphic form and treated lively. iconography Barabati Gosani is older than the Kakudikhai Gosani, who is ten-armed and the demon is depicted in the anthropomorphic form. The artists use primary colors like hingula, sankha, geru and lamp black for coloring the deity.

Janhikhai Gosani:

There are four places at Puri associated with risis such as Angira Ashrama, Bhrugu Ashrama, Kandu Ashrama, Markandeya Ashrama at Dolamandapa Sahi, Bali Sahi, Goudabada Sahi and Markandesvara Sahi respectively. Near these four ashramas there are mandapas where Gosani images are made annually. It is noteworthy that, they are all known as ‘Janhikhai’ except the Gosani at Dolamandapa Sahi who is known as ‘Janhimundia’. The image of ‘Janhimundia’ is the second biggest in Puri after
Barabati Gosani. The height of her image is 16 feet 16 inches. Here the goddess has ten hands and displays her usual attributes. The demon here is depicted in complete human form. Interestingly she is worshipped in ‘Bhubaensvari mantra’. Besides this, there are two other ‘Janhikhai’ images, one at Bali Sahi and the other at Gaudabada Sahi used to be made during Durga Puja.

Sunya Gosani:

The peculiar image of Sunya Gosani displays the war between the goddess Durga and Mahisasura in the sky. Here Devi is eight handed. It is said that in the old days the height of this Gosani was equal to the height of ‘Aruna Stambha’. On the lower portion of this Gosani image hills, forests and wild animals can be seen, which presents the bird’s eye view of the earth’s surface from the sky.

Bhogajaga Gosani:

During the rule of the Bhoi king Gajapati Ramachandra Dev, a mandapa was built for the offerings to the moving deities of Srimandira. In Oriya offering means ‘Bhoga’. The ‘Akhada’ near this mandapa is known as ‘Bhoga Jaga Akhada’ due to this. The name of the Gosani of this Jaga is also known as ‘Bhogajaga Gosani’. In Puri, she is regarded as the third Gosani. The height of this image is ten feet. The goddess has eight hands in which she holds several attributes. Like Barabati Gosani, here the demon is depicted in the theriomorphic form. This image is famous for its traditional style and fine decorations in sola.

Kantakadhi Gosani (Vanadurga):

The image of Kantakadhi Gosani is a peculiar one, as she is standing by one of her legs. The other one is bent and Lord Vishnu is depicted removing the pin from this bent foot of the Devi. On the other side, Lord Siva is seen standing. She is well known in the texts as ‘Vanadurga’ (Durga of the Forests). Here the Mahisasura is absent. The very image symbolises the peaceful coexistence of Saktism, Vaisnavism and Saivism.


As earlier said the image of Naga represents the age-old Jaga Akhada culture of Puri. According to some scholars, Nagas are one of the Saiva sects who besides worshipping, also practiced bodybuilding and wrestling. To memories this old tradition huge figures of Nagas are used to be made in different places of Puri (especially in ‘Akhadas’). Among the Naga figures the Naga of Bali Sahi and Harachandi Sahi are old and famous in Puri’s local culture. These types of huge clay images of Naga are indigenous to Puri and not seen anywhere.

The huge figure of Naga (near about twenty feet) resembles that of a human being standing in the manner of a hero with a well-built body. He is seen dressed in the manner of a medieval warrior which is akin to that of ‘Nagarjuna Vesa’ (an attire of Lord Jagannath). He is also seen wearing a loin cloth and tiger skin around his chest. A masal (torch) and a gun can be seen in his right and left hands respectively. On his waist portion, several weapons like shield, dagger and knife are placed. He wears a rosary around his neck. On the back portion of the figure, a bamboo mat can be seen which is tied on his body. His face consists of big round eyes, a sharp nose, a curly mustache and beard, and a beautiful heavy headgear adorns his head. On the top of this headgear, a lotus flower of sola can be noticed. It is to note that, some people relate this Naga with Naga sadhus of North India who also attired like these figures.

Besides Gosanis and Nagas other clay figures such as the bird Sampati with monkies, Panchamukhi Hanuman, Ravana lifting Kailasa mountain, ghosts, and figures of old man and woman are also made during the ‘Durga Puja’ festival every year which reflects strong folk culture in its full vigor. Till now these small but important images are part and parcel of the ‘Gosani Yatra’ tradition of Puri. Many years back all the Gosani figures used to gather at Jagannath Ballabha Math on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asvina, but nowadays they are used to gather at ‘Simhadvara’, in front of the Jagannath temple and in the late night they are taken for visarjana ceremony in the nearby rivers.

Colourful Gosani Yatra, Puri Gosani Yatra, Puri Durga Puja

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