“At the beginning of winter, there is a ceremony known as the Odana-sasthi. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to Lord Jagannatha.”
– Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila16.79, purport
Once, Srila Pundarika Vidyanidhi and Srila Svarupa Damodara came to Jagannatha Puri and saw the festival of odana-sasthi. On this day, the Lord is offered new cloth, and from that day forth, the Lord should be offered winter clothing. This cloth that was offered to the Lord was directly purchased from a weaver and was not washed before being offered. According to proper injunctions to be followed when worshipping the deities, the purchased cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, which is considered impure, and then it can be used to cover the Lord.
Seeing this, Pundarika Vidyanidhi became very angry; thus his mind became polluted. Speaking to Srila Svarupa Damodara, Srila Pundarika Vidyanidhi criticised the behaviour of Lord Jagannatha’s servants, asking why they would offer starched cloth to the Lord. Svarupa Damodara tried to pacify Pundarika Vidyanidhi with gentle words, saying that it was simply how it was done, and surely if the Lord was not pleased, He would have stopped it; the characteristics of the Supreme Lord are beyond the jurisdiction of worldly etiquette. Pundarika Vidyanidhi was still not satisfied.
T hat night, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Baladeva came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi in his dream and began to slap him, chastising him for criticising Their servants and the way they worshiped the Lord. This chastisement went on for a length of fourty-eight minutes. After Pundarika Vidyanidhi begged for Their forgiveness, the Lords mercifully glanced at Pundarika and went back to Their temple. Upon waking up, Pundarika felt that his face was swollen, and bore the imprints of the Lords’ hand marks. He understood this to be the pure mercy of the Lord, and thus upon seeing his swollen face, laughed with great joy.
sabe na janena sarva-dasera prabhava
krsna se janena yanra yata anuraga
bhramo karayena krsna apana-dasere
bhramac-chedo kare pache sadaya-antare
“No one can understand the glories of the Lord’s servants. Only Krishna knows their attachment for Him. Krsna sometimes bewilders His devotee, and then, feeling compassion for him, He destroys his illusion.”
Although Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great devotee, when he enacted the pastime of finding fault in the devotees of Lord Jagannatha, the affectionate Supreme Lord performed one pastime to destroy his staged illusion.
– Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, antya-khanda texts 120-121, translation and purport
The Odana-sasthi festival is described in great detail in Srila Vrndavana Das Thakura’s Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, Antya-khanda 10.
In Rajapur Jagannatha Mandir in Sri Dham Mayapur, Lord Jagannatha also follows the same custom that bewildered Pundarika Vidyanidhi five hundred years ago, and is beautifully dressed in starched cloth on Odana-sasthi. On this day, devotees come from the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and the surrounding villages to have this very special darshan of Lord Jagannatha. There is ecstatic kirtan, wonderful katha and delicious prasadam. The Odana-sasthi festival is most definitely a favourite winter festival in Sri Jagannatha Mandir.