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Odana Sashti is a festival that marks the beginning of winter. During the Odana-sasthi festival the devotees dress Lord Jagannatha and Balarama with starched cloth. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to the Lord. That covering is directly purchased from a weaver, and freshly purchased cloth is usually starched to preserve it. According to the archana-marga, a cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, and then it can be used to cover the Lord. On this occasion by the desire of Lord Jagannatha, His servants dress Him in new, starched clothes.
Today in Rajapur our Jagannath, Baladeva, were wearing nice new starched cloth, the were sitting in their lavishly decorated altar. Each year the decorations are increasing more and more, this year the altar was appearing to be like a Vrindavana forest. The festival started with beautiful bhajans lead by HG Kamal Gopal Prabhu. After the noon bhoga arati was offered to their Lordships, the assembled vaishanvas had the great opportunity to hear from a couple of great personalities. The speakers were HG Jananivas Prabhu, HH Subhag Maharaj, and HG Pankajanri Prabhu. Jananivas Prabhu spoke about the great personality Pundarika Vidyanidhi, and the pastime of him becoming critical of the Lord’s servants.
Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, a close associate of Lord Chaitanya’s, once upon seeing that the Deities were being offered starched garments, became critical towards the servants of Lord Jagannatha. When Pundarika was thus speaking in this way, Svarupa Damodara tried to explain that the characteristics of the Supreme Lord are beyond the jurisdiction of worldly etiquette, and encouraged Pundarika not relinquish his critical thoughts. Svarup Damodara’s advice fell on deaf ears, so Lord Jagannatha and Balarama enacted the pastime of appearing to Pundarika in a dream that evening and slapping him on his cheeks. Thus Jagannath destroyed the sinful mentality of criticizing the behavior of the Supreme Lord’s servants by his supreme mercy.
Odana Sasthi is also described in Chaitanya Bhagavata.
Sri Gaurasundara accompanied by all His devotees came to see Lord Jagannatha on Odana Sasthi. Musical bands with numerous instruments, mridangas, conch shells, bells, etc. echoed all around and the entire town wore a festive look. Their Lordships wore many different sets of clothes that day and the festival would last until the Makara-shankranti, in mid-January. Sri Gaurasundara and the Vaishnavas stayed late into the night, gripped in waves of ecstasy, seeing Sri Jagannatha’s many changes of dress.
The Supreme Lord as the worshiper, Sri Krishna Chaitanya, worshiped Himself in His Deity form, Lord Jagannatha. Unless the Lord blesses one, one cannot fathom this divine, esoteric, mystery, which was now being played out. Upon the altar the Supreme Lord, Sri Jagannatha, in His wooden Deity form sat in yoga-asana while He, as the crest jewel of all sannyasis, steeped in the mellows of bhakti-yoga, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, came for His own darsana.
On the occasion of the Odana Sasthi festival, the Deities are colourfully dressed in the finest of silks and with beautiful golden jewellery inlaid with precious gems. Garlands, bracelets, and earrings all made from fragrant seasonal flowers further bedeck Their Lordships. Scented oils, incense, flowers, ghee-lamps, and the sixteen different items for special worship are offered to Lord Jagannatha. Grand and opulent offerings of prasadam are also made continually. Sri Gaurahari observed these festivities with His devotees. – Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Antya Khanda 10