The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes The Chariot-Procession Called Gundica Yatra which is chapter 33 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the thirty-third chapter of the Purushottama-kshetra-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 33 - The Chariot-Procession Called Guṇḍicā Yātrā

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Jaimini said:

1. Henceforth I shall describe the great festival of the Great Altar,[1] whereby even a person blind with ignorance, shall go to the resplendent region.

2-8. The third day in the bright half of the lunar month of Vaiśākha is destructive of sins. If it is in conjunction with the constellation Rohiṇī, the king should perform the Saṃkalpa-rite (for the following Vrata):

Remaining pure (in body and mind), he should choose a preceptor as well as one or three carpenters whose work has been seen (and found all right). He should choose the carpenter with great respect, offering garments, ornaments etc. for the purpose of Vanayāga (sacrifice in the forest).

Along with the carpenter he should go to the forest full of excellent trees. (The preceptor) who is conversant with Mantras should repeat Mantrarāja and kindle the fire in the middle of the forest. He should then offer one hundred and eight Āhutis. He should (then) smear the roots of the trees severally with ghee mixed with the residue of ghee from the Homa.

He should offer oblation to the Guardians of Quarters, and animals unto the Kṣetrapāla. Then he should offer a hundred Āhutis to the larger forest-tree in the form of cooked rice mixed with milk.

Thereafter, the preceptor should take up the axe. Repeating the Mantra and meditating upon Garuḍa-emblemed Lord (Viṣṇu), he should cut off small bits from the roots of the trees and the places where the sacred ghee was smeared.

9. In the midst of sounds of musical instruments and auspicious songs the preceptor, after engaging the carpenter there, should return


10. Or (he should stay there) and when the logs of wood are (hewn) and kept in their places ready for the work of making the chariot, he should consecrate them in accordance with the injunctions for the consecration mentioned (in the scriptural texts). He should perform the rite in the fire assigned (for it).

11-17. After making the chariot, he should celebrate the great festival of Vighnarāja (Gaṇeśa).[2] He should make the chariot of Viṣṇu equipped with sixteen iron wheels, very strong and durable. Each of the wheels should have sixteen spokes. The axles and the pole-shafts should be sturdy. It shall have wonderfully carved images all round, with separate cabin-like apartments.

There should be various wonderful features marked by great craftsmanship. It should be embellished with pieces of sugarcane. There shall be four ornamental arched gateways. The four door panels should be splendid. The chariot should be twenty-two Hastas high (22 x 45 Cms). It should be adorned with flags. It should be decorated with different golden plates marked by great craftsmanship. The emblem in the form of Garuḍa should be made of red sandalwood. The beak should be long. The body should be stout. He should be adorned with ear-rings. He should be depicted as biting a serpent with the tip of the beak. He should be adorned with all types of ornaments. He keeps his wings spread and is (as if) ready to fly up in the sky. He is (strong enough) to suppress the arrogance born of power of the multitudes of Daityas and Dānavas. The entire body should be rendered splendid by covering it with gold plates.

18a. Thus, he should make the chariot of Hari well-decorated with splendid seating arrangement.

18b-20. He should make the chariot of Balarāma with fourteen wheels. The excellent chariot of Subhadrā should be made with twelve wheels.

The Palm-tree emblem of Balarāma should have seven leaves. The lotus emblem of the Goddess should be made of Padmakāṣṭha (wood of Cerasus puddum). After getting the chariots made, the king should install them as before.

21-27. The king should perform every rite in accordance with the scriptural prescriptions with suitable Mantras. He should have faith in Brāhmaṇas. Brāhmaṇas are declared (in Smṛtis) as the mobile (living) bodies of the Lord of the universe.

These well-built three chariots of the three deities should be installed on the day of Viṣṇu (i.e. eleventh day) in the bright half of Āṣāḍha that yields auspicious results.

After installing them in a luxurious manner as before, O Brāhmaṇas, they should be well-guarded so that no unclean person, a bird, a human being, a cat, or a mongoose etc. should climb it.

Within three days therefrom the rite of Aṅkurārpaṇa should be performed in the pavilion made to the north of the chariots, as a part of the festival. If unusual events occur, the rite of Śānti (pacification for averting evils) mentioned before should be performed.

The street should be cleaned and kept neat so that it will be (easy) to go to the Great Altar. The zone on either side of the path should be decorated with hedges etc., fruits, bunches of flowers, wreaths, silk-cloths and chowries, so that it would appear as though there is a forest region in full bloom there.

28. The ground should be made level facilitating a smooth walk. It should be free from mud. Cleaned of all impurities, it should be rendered fragrant. Rubbish from places even away from the path, should be removed.

29-34. The king of pure holy rites should gather together all the requisite items. There should be placed containers of incense at every step rendering the quarters sweet-smelling. Sandalwood-water should be sprinkled. Water should be sprayed by means of mechanical devices. Many kinds of seasonal flowers should be collected there for showering. Important actors, dancers and songsters, courtesans proud of their prime of youth and of beautiful features adorned with ornaments (and similar persons) should be engaged. There must be various kinds of drums such as Mṛdaṅgas, Paṇavas, Bherīs, Ḍhakkās etc. There must be many flags, festoons, banners etc. of diverse kinds and picturesque designs. There must be many flag-staffs made of gold and silver. There must be different kinds of ensigns and vehicles for transport on the surface. Well-caparisoned elephants and horses must be ready at hand. Thus equipped with every essential thing, the king should celebrate the grand festival with great joy and earnest devotion.

35. He should worship the Lord at the time of early dawn on the second day in the bright half of the month of Āṣāḍha in conjunction with Puṣya constellation.

36. Accompanied by Brāhmaṇas, Vaiṣṇavas, ascetics and saints, he should beseech the Lord of Devas with palms joined in reverence, to be ready for the procession.

37-39. “O Lord Just as you had done in the case of king Indradyumna formerly, be pleased to proceed towards the Guṇḍicā Pavilion victoriously in the chariot.

Let the ten quarters be sanctified by the benign glance of the corner of your eye. Let the mobile and immobile beings attain the abode of highest good.

Indeed, O Lord, this incarnation has been taken (by you) with a desire for blessing all the worlds. Therefore, O Lord, set foot on the ground and come joyfully.”

40. Then he should scatter camphor powder and flowers (over the chariot). Brāhmaṇas shall recite Śākuna Sūktas (Ṛgveda II.42, 43) on the way.

41. Some should sing songs of auspiciousness. Some should shout “Be victorious”, “Be victorious”. Some should loudly recite the Mantra beginning with jitam te (you have won).

42-44. The chief of panegyrists, bards and heralds should joyously sing the meritorious praise (of the Lord). On either side there should be a row of chowries with golden handles. (Young ladies) should gracefully wave them, while their bangles produce sweet enchanting sounds. Black Agallochum is put in gold vessels and fumigated. The entire environment and all the quarters are rendered fragrant.

In the course of that victorious procession of Govinda the sweet sounds of flutes, lutes and other musical instruments such as Carcarī, Jharjharī, Mādhurikā etc. are heard.

45. At this time, when all these go on, Brāhmaṇas take away Kṛṣṇa along with Rāma. Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas take away Subhadrā.

46. A series of umbrellas is held aloft adorned with pearl strings and silk festoons. Flags with staffs covered with gold and set with gems are held on either side of the Enemy of Mura (Kṛṣṇa).

47. The king, the people of the four castes, other ordinary persons, the poor, the great ones etc. all appear as equal to one another.

48. If they are tired anywhere on the way, they should place the deities on cotton mattresses placing the feet gently down and go towards (follow) the chariot.

49-53. In the midst of great festivities and loud sounds of music the people should hold the Lord of the universe in the hands, turn the excellent chariot and place Rāma, Kṛṣṇa and Subhadrā in the middle of the chariot.

It (the chariot) should be decorated with a pavilion lighted with excellent moonlight. It should be decorated with clusters of strings with tinkling bells. It should be adorned with wreaths and chowries. The space within should be fumigated fully with the incense from the essence of black Agallochum. The excellent deities should be kept on cotton beds. They should then be adorned with different kinds of garments, ornaments and wreaths.

Prompted by devotional feelings, they should then be worshipped with due offerings and services luxuriously provided. No other procession of Viṣṇu is seen to be greater than this.

54. Here the Lord of the three worlds himself goes ahead in the chariot every year, honouring the earlier command (i.e. commitment).

55. Those who joyously and devoutly witness the Lord stationed in the chariot and proceeding ahead in the course of the great festival of Mahāvedī shall dwell in the region (of the feet) of Hari.

56. It is true. It is true. 1 promise, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that it is the truth. There is no other festival honoured by the scriptural texts and yielding greater good than this.

57. Just as this is a sportful procession of Viṣṇu by means of chariots, so also it is a great festival of the Great Altar. Devas come down here from heaven and go back as possessed of power (?)

58. What more can I say about the greatness of that festival of the Enemy of Mura? Merely by glorifying him the sins incurred in the course of hundreds of births perish.

59-60. By witnessing Puruṣottama, Subhadrā and Balabhadra seated in the chariot and proceeding towards the Great Altar, the devotee dispels the sin committed in crores of births. No doubt need be entertained in this regard. By crossing the shadow of the chariot the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter perishes.

61. He whose body comes into contact with its dust, shall get rid of the three types of collections of sins. He shall attain the benefit accruing from the holy bath in the celestial Gaṅgā.

62-63. If the path of the chariot becomes muddy due to the shower of waters from clouds, it becomes capable of removing all impurities and sins, thanks to the divine vision of Kṛṣṇa(?)

Those excellent Vaiṣṇavas who prostrate there, get rid of all the dirt (sins) amassed in the course of the beginningless time and shall attain salvation.

64. Undoubtedly he (such a Vaiṣṇava) derives the benefit of gifting away a crore of cows, or (giving away in marriage) ten thousand virgins and that of performing a thousand horse-sacrifices.

65. Devas, the chief of whom is Śakra, follow those persons who follow Kṛṣṇa even out of curiosity (to witness) the procession.

66. It is proclaimed that they will obtain the benefit of a horse-sacrifice for every step, if they witness the eternal Dārubrahman (i.e. the Brahman in wooden form, viz. Jagannātha) and the chariot proceeding ahead.

67-68. Expounders of the Vedas eulogize the Lord, the bestower of salvation, by means of the Vedic mantras. Others eulogize the Lotuseyed One by means of prayers composed by themselves or through passages from the Itihāsas, Purāṇas etc.

Those who eulogize thus become rid of sins. By adopting the Yogic path of the followers of Viṣṇu they rejoice along with Nārada and others.

69. Those who eulogize the Lord with shouts of Victory in front of Vāsudeva, conquer different kinds of sins. There is no doubt about it.

70. Even if a person is devoid of sweetness of voice and cannot sing, even if a person is ignorant of the proper pause in music and beating of the time and rhythm—but if that excellent man dances and sings (before the Lord), he shall undoubtedly attain salvation by his contact with excellent Vaiṣṇavas.

71. He who goes along with the Lord glorifying (and repeating) the names or follows the Lord, shall undoubtedly derive the benefit thereof.

72. He who devoutly and repeatedly says, “Be victorious, O Kṛṣṇa”, “Be victorious, O Kṛṣṇa” as Lord Kṛṣṇa proceeds towards the city of Guṇḍicā, shall never again attain the misery of staying in the womb of a mother.

73-75. If a person stands in front of the chariot and fans Puruṣottama with flyflaps, fans, bunches of flowers and blue bodices, he will be fanned by celestial damsels and adorned by Gandharvas (and eulogized) by the Devas who follow him. He will be seated in the throne of Mahendra. He will then enjoy all types of matchless pleasures till the annihilation of all living beings. At the end of it he will attain the world of Brahmā and (finally) attain salvation.

76. Those who shower flowers in front of Kṛṣṇa will attain all the desires and ambitions entertained by them.

77. Devas shall bow down their heads before them and circumambulate those persons who accompany the chariot and repeat the thousand holy names (of the Lord).

78-85. Those who are as valiant as Viṣṇu, will go to the abode of the Lord.

At that time which is highly meritorious and resorted to even by Devas, sages and Pitṛs, the one and only Brahman attended by his own Māyā becomes three.

The Lord of the universe himself in his wooden form gets into the chariot eagerly and proceeds ahead during the great festival of the Great Altar. Wherever the Lord of the universe goes riding in the chariot sportfully, there the people of the earth should celebrate the great festival at the same time.

Casting off their prestige, Devas, the leader of whom is Indra, will form lines on either side and carry on the procession with their respective divine retinue and attendants.

Lord Brahmā too will go ahead of them. Lord Brahmā, the maker of the fourteen worlds, who is a great Lord, returns from (his own) world of Brahmā and eulogizes the Lord of the universe who goes in the chariot during the great festival. He eulogizes with Vedic prayers and hymns. At every step he bows down to the eternal Lord.

86. Although there is no difference between the Lotus-born Lord and Kṛṣṇa, this is the greatness of the great festival that all of them become followers.

87. In the world there is no greater Yoga than the great festival of the Great Altar, the Yoga that dispels all the sins and bestows the benefit of all the Tīrthas.

88. Keeping Kṛṣṇa in view, if a man makes the gift of anything there, it will have everlasting benefit. It will be equal to Merudāna.[3]

89. Whatever holy rite is performed in front of the Lord of Devas, who proceeds towards the abode of Guṇḍicā, shall become inexhaustible (in benefit).

90. If different kinds of presents or varieties of foodstuffs are dedicated to the Lord or to Brāhmaṇas for the delight of the Lord, those offerings will have inexhaustible merits. They will yield all desires.

91-92. Those who go ahead in front of Hari and witness his lotuslike face (repeatedly) and bow down at every step as well as get themselves dust-ridden and muddy, will get rid of their unbreakable armour of sins acquired in the course of crores of births and attain the benefit of salvation in a trice. They then go to the splendid abode of Viṣṇu.

93. They derive the benefit of all the sacrifices, Tīrthas and charitable gifts. There is no other festival more meritorious than this in regard to those persons who have devotional feelings towards the Lord.

94-95. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa in the company of Subhadrā and Rāma goes ahead riding in the excellent chariot and illuminating the four quarters. He destroys the sins of all embodied beings through the wind that comes into contact with his glorious limbs. The glorious Lord is merciful and he sanctifies the devotees.

96. Though he is a natural bestower of salvation, he carries on the activities of processions for the sake of inspiring faith in ignorant persons who have no faith.

97-103. The procession goes ahead with multitudes of Devas and human beings (accompanying the Lord). On the way, at midday, the sun is excessively hot, scorching foreheads. With all the followers tired, he stands in the middle of the road. He is covered with dust and looks exhausted. There, in order to suppress the (effect of) sunlight, the people should sprinkle the glasses with Pañcāmṛtas and cool waters perfumed with flowers and camphor. They should fan the Lotus-eyed Lord, Subhadrā and Rāma with chowries and cool fans, the tips of which are drenched in water.

They must worship Puruṣottama and offer these things: cool drinks, pleasant and juicy sugar candies, date fruits, coconuts, different kinds of plantain fruits, various milk-products, jack fruits, palmyra fruits, sugarcane juice, tasty and sweet fruits of different kinds, perfumed cool water, betel-leaves with ripe fruits, camphor, cloves etc.

104-108. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, those who see Janārdana at that time and worship him in accordance with their capacity, do not get the weariness arising from worldly existence. They become the residents of the world of Brahmā, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

Excellent men shall circumambulate the three deities stationed in the three chariots three, four or seven times. Then, they should bow down ten times. At the end, they should stand with palms joined in reverence. They should eulogize the great Lord, the Lord of Devas, with those prayers with which the lotus-born Lord Brahmā eulogized the Lord and the other deities stationed in the chariots. Those men who do thus, definitely go to the world of Brahmā, O Brāhmaṇas.

109. Then in the afternoon, they should take the Lord of Devas fanned by the southern wind, slowly to the accompaniment of vocal music as well as the sweet sounds of flutes, lutes etc.

110-113. The bards and panegyrists should sing sweet songs. There must be continuous showers of flowers and waving of flyflaps and chowries. When the Lord proceeds ahead thus, the sun may set. At that time thousands of lamps should be lit. The remaining part of the path shall be traversed in the light of these lamps. There will be great rush and crowd of people eager to see the Lord at the time of getting down from the chariot and going up the pavilion. The people should keep the Lord in the charming pavilion named Guṇḍicā.

114-116. The pavilion should be well-lit with the charming moonlight. It should be adorned with charming wreaths and chowries. It must have gem-set pillars. The middle should be raised into an Altar paved with gold. There must be an enclosure all round. It should be brilliant with fresh whitewash and plastering. There must be good flight of steps. It must have four splendid doors. It must have all the grandeur of the three worlds. It was here that the great Lord appeared on the Great Altar of the great sacrifice, in the wooden form.

Notes regarding Guṇḍicā:

Guṇḍicā-House is at a distance of a mile and half from the Jagannātha temple. It is called Mahāvedī as Indradyumna performed one thousand horse-sacrifices here. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Trinity—Jagannātha, Balabhadra and Subhadrā—as their images were carved out by the divine carpenter within the Mahāvedī. Jagannātha promised Indradyumna that he would annually stay for seven days here near Indradyumna Lake (vide Supra Ch. 29.40-41).

As our text shows, Jagannātha worship was originally current among Śabaras, the aboriginals of that Orissan region. In their language, Kun= He and Dījā = ‘The stem of a tree’. So Kuṇḍījā > Guṇḍijā > Guṇḍicā shows the Śabara origin of the festival.

Footnotes and references:


Mahāvedī i.e. the Gundicā-House.


Gaṇeśa is the controller of all obstacles. So he is worshipped at the beginning of every auspicious rile or act.


Dāna or religious gifts of the heaps (of any one) of the following: dhānya (corn), lavaṇa (salt), guḍa (jaggery), hema (gold), tila (sesame), kārpāsa (cotton), ghṛta (ghee), ratna (precious stones), rajata (silver), śarkarā (sugar).

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