Jagannatha is considered the supreme god and the ruler of the Odishan empire. The rituals and ceremonies associated with Jagannatha are designed with these two aspects in mind. The temple has a very detailed and complex system of rituals involving over one thousand spread over one hundred categories. The rituals can be categorized into 3 main parts: the daily, the occasional, and the festival rituals. In the Jagannatha temple, these rituals are collectively known as ‘niti’.
1) Dwarpitha and Mangal Aarti at 5:00 AM
The Temple door is opened early in the morning by five specific sevayats (temple staff) after verifying a special seal given by a particular sevayat the previous night. Once the door is opened, the Mangal Aarati (auspicious ritual) takes place.
2) Mailam at 6:00 AM
“Mailam” is a term used in Sri Jagannath Temple, which means changing or removing the dresses and flowers of the deities. During this time, specific sevaks change the clothes, flowers, and Tulasi leaves that the deities wore the previous night. After removing the old clothes, the deities are dressed in new clothes called “Tadap” and “Uttariya”.
3) Abakash 6:00 AM to 6:30 AM
“Purifying rituals like brushing teeth and taking a bath are called ‘Abakash’. During this time, the Temple Astrologer reads out the tithi(day and date) and astrological details. Based on this information, the rituals for that day are performed.”
4) Mailam 6:45 AM
During this time, the deities change their clothes(Tadap and Uttariya), taking off the old ones and putting on a fresh set. There is a sevak called “Akhanda Mekap” who keeps a constantly burning lamp in the sanctum. This lamp keeps burning until the deities retire to bed, which is known as “Pahuda” time.
5) Sahanamela 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM
Although it is not a formal ritual, there is a practice of allowing pilgrims to go up to the inner sanctums of the temple, called “Ratnavedi,” for about an hour. During this time, pilgrims can have a Darshan (sacred viewing) of the deities without having to pay any fees. However, on certain festive days, such as after the “Sandhya dhupa” (Evening Puja or Sandhya Aarati in the month of Kartik) and after Sakaldhupa (in the month of Pausha), a special gathering called Sahanamela is held. Please note that sometimes this darshan is not allowed for some special rituals of the deities.
6) Beshalagi 8:00 AM
After Sahanamela, the deities are dressed up again, and this can be observed from a short distance called “Bhitara Katha.” During this time, the deities are also adorned with gold and precious stones, which vary depending on the festive occasion.
7) Rosha Homa Surya Puja and Dwarapal 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM
While some sevayats are busy dressing up the Deities, the Pujapandas perform a “Rosha Homa” (Fire Sacrifice) in the kitchen and a “Surya puja” at the Surya temple near the “Mukti Mandap.” Afterward, the images of two gatekeepers named Jaya and Vijaya at the entrance of the Jagamohan of the Temple are worshipped.
8) Gopala Ballava Puja 9:00 AM
At 9:00 AM, it’s breakfast time for the deities. During this time, they are offered sweet popcorn (Khai), Khualadus, Coconut sweets (Kora), Ripe bananas, Curd, and chipped coconuts as offerings. The puja is performed in a simple manner with only five essential rituals (pancha upachar).
9) Sakala Dhupa (Morning food offering) 10:00 AM
During this time, three Pujapandas perform the puja using 16 rituals (Upachars or Sodasha Upachars). They sit on Ratnasinhasana to worship the three deities: Shri Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Sri Jagannath. The Pujapanda who worships Sri Jagannath also worships Sri Devi, Bhudevi, and Sudarshan. The morning bhoga or food offered to the deities includes Rice, Kanika, Khechudi, Green leaves, and Cakes, among others. These offerings have local names such as Pitha Puli, Hansakeli, Kanti, Enduri, Matha Puli, Kakatua Jhili, Bundia, Kadali Bhaja, and Ada Pachedi (ginger tonic). The Temple Administration covers the cost of the dhoop Pujas and Ballavs. In the past, the Raja-Superintendent of the temple used to bear the cost of materials for preparing the Bhoga, which is why these offerings are also known as “Raja Bhoga” or “Kotha Bhoga”.
10) Mailam and Bhoga Mandap
After the morning Dhupa or Puja, the Deities change their clothes, and another Puja takes place in the “Bhoga Mandap,” a location behind the Garuda pillar of Jagamohan. A large quantity of Bhogas, such as Rice, Dal, Curries, Saga, and various types of Cakes, are offered to the Deities. Pujapandas worship this food offering with Pancha Upacharas. The cost of the Bhoga Mandap offerings is not covered by the state or Temple Administration. This food is primarily prepared to fulfill the needs of different Mathas (Monasteries) and for sale to the general public. Depending on the demand, the Bhogamandap Puja is conducted two or three times a day, after the “Madhyanha Dhoop” (midday) and “Sandhya Dhup” (evening).
11) Madhyanha (Afternoon food offering) 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Similar to Sakal Dhupa, this puja is also performed in the afternoon with Shodasha Upachar. More Bhoga (food) items are offered during this time compared to the morning puja. If you wish to have a closer darshan of the Deities near the “Ratna Simhasan,” you can do so by paying a special darshan fee of Rs. 10/- after the midday puja and Sakal Dhupa.
12) Madhyanha Pahudha – 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM
If the rituals have been performed on time and there is enough time available, the Deities rest in the afternoon.
13) Sandhya Aarati
In the evening again aaratis are performed after Madhyana Dhupa Mailam. On Ekadashi day, the deities change their clothes once again after the Aarati is finished.
14) Sandhya Dhupa 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
After the Sandhya Aarati, food offerings (Bhogas) are once again offered to the deities, just like in the morning(Sakala) and afternoon(Madhyanha Dhupa) rituals. However, during this time, the amount of food offered is smaller in quantity and variety. After the Puja, a special Aarati called “Jaya Mangala Aarati” is performed, where lamps are offered to the deities as a symbol of auspiciousness and victory.
15) Mailam and Chandana Lagi
After the evening worship known as “Sandhya Dhoopa,” the deities change their clothes and their bodies are adorned with a mixture of sandalwood paste, camphor, keshar and Kasturi. To witness this special ritual, one can do so by paying a special fee of Rs. 10/- for Darshan.
16) Badashringar Vesha
After applying Chandan lagi(sandalwood paste), the deities are adorned with special silk robes called “Baralagi Patta.” These robes have portions of the sacred text Geeta Govinda by Jayadev woven into them. Additionally, flower ornaments are also placed on the deities.
17) Badashringara Bhoga
This is the final offering of the day. The priests perform the puja using five symbolic items, and they offer dishes like watered rice (Pakhal), banana fritters (Kadali bada), sweet rice pudding (Kshiri), and fermented rice drink (Kanji).
18) Khata Seja Lagi and Pahuda 12:00
The bed for the deities is prepared. The Deity of “Sayan Thakura” is carried from Bhandarghar to Ratnavedi or Ratnasimhasana and the deity is near Sri Jagannath. Then, offerings of green coconut, betel leaves, and camphor are made, followed by an aarti. After that, the deities rest on their beds. The door is sealed by a temple staff member (Sevayat) called Talichha Mohapatra. The temple is closed, and no visitors or outsiders are allowed to stay inside.
These are the main daily rituals in the temple. However, it is not always possible to follow the exact timing for each ritual due to practical reasons. On special festival days, additional rituals are performed, leading to changes in timings and adjustments in the regular routine.