Goddess Biraja, The Only Goddess In Odisha To Have Her Own Chariot Festival!
Since time immemorial, virtues have eternally prevailed over vices, and festivals are the living legends which portray this fact. Unique to the core, this festival of Goddess Biraja is iconic in itself, as she is the only Goddess in Odisha to have her own chariot festival. Deriving its origin from the Devi killing Mahisasura, the demon, this nine day journey is celebrated in Biraja Kshetra of Jajpur district. It is not only observed by the denizens of Jajpur but also by people from adjoining cities with ultimate zest and vigor
The Biraja Temple here which is also known as Navi Kendra is situated beside the river Baitarani, in the district. It was in 13th century that this amazing temple got established by Jajati Keshari. According to a popular folklore, when Lord Shiva performed Tandava Nrutya by carrying the corpse of Devi Sati, her remains got scattered in different places, which later came to be known as Shakti Peethas. And interestingly, Biraja is also one such divine peetha. However, as per another legend, Lord Brahma performed a yajna on the bank of the river Baitaraṇi from which Goddess Parvati emerged. The Goddess then instructed Lord Brahma to name her as Biraja, after which she occupied her position at the circumcenter of the triangular region in Jajpur.
It is during the Aswina month that Goddess Biraja sets out for her nine day sojourn around the Mandira bedha (boundary wall of the shrine) on her chariot known as Singhadwaja (flag bearing a lion) or Bijaya Ratha. People from different communities and castes gather to partake in this exclusive festival and catch a glimpse of this Goddess!
And on Bhadrab Sukla Dwadasi, starts the Banajaga Jatra or the onset of procession to find trees for building the chariot. After the wood is collected and the chariot is built, a consecration ceremony is undertaken on the Pratistha Mandap during Mulashtami. The representative deity is then carried out onto the chariot, parked in front of the Lion Gate. On the ninth day of her sojourn, Aparajita pooja is performed and thereafter the Goddess kills the buffalo demon, Mahisasura. It is then that Goddess Biraja returns to her abode, hence marking the end of her sacred journey.
Below are certain pictures of this unique festivity: