Chandan Yatra, literally “Sandalwood paste festival” is an occasion celebrated by many famous temples of Krishna or Vishnu in India. It involves the Deities being covered by sandalwood paste starting on the day of Akshay tritiya in the month of Vaishaka as the weather begins to heat up.
Here at Krishna Balaram Temple in Vrindavan, the festival begins on the day of Akshay Tritiya by all the marble deities being covered sandalwood paste. For the next three weeks, the small brass deities or “utsava murtis” are also covered in sandalwood paste every day.
On this day of Aksaya Tritiya in Vrindavan, all the main Goswami Temple Deities are also covered with chandan. At Radha Raman temple, the Lord wears a special dress that is covered in sandalwood paste.
In Jagannatha Puri, sandalwood paste is applied all over the body of Jagannatha leaving only his two eyes visible. The utsava murtis are taken on procession and are placed in a boat in the temple pond.
At the famous Sri Simhachalam temple of Lord Nrsngadeva in South India near Vishakapatnam, chandan yatra has special significance. Hundreds of thousands of people come on this day as it is the only day one can see the Deity of the Lord. This is because the Lord is so angry at the abuse of Prahlada, daily the priests apply sandalwood paste to the deity which is not removed, thus the Lord appears only as a large lump of sandalwood for 364 days of the year. On akshaya tritiya, the lump is broken open and darshan of the Lord’s original form can be seen. The sandalwood pieces are then distributed as Prasad and they again begin to apply the paste.
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