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Jagannath Rath Yatra starts from July 14, 2018. This yatra generally continues for a period of nine days. But let us not forget to tell you that Lord Jagannath has just recovered from an illness yesterday. Confused? Let us tell you the whole story. Read on.
Temple Gates Closed For Fifteen Days
The temple gates of Jagannath Puri are closed every year for a period of fifteen days, this time starting from June 28. This is because it is believed that Lord Jagannath falls sick for fifteen days before the beginning of the Rath Yatra.
During this period Lord Jagannath is nursed by his devotees. He is offered various Ayurvedic medicines, medicinal pastes, etc. When he recovers completely, the procession is carried out. So we can say that Lord Jagannath has recovered now and therefore, the procession has begun from July 14, 2018.
Lord Jagannath Cannot See His Devotees Suffering
There is a story which goes behind all this. Once there was this man named Madhavdas. Madhavdas was a devotee of Lord Jagannath. The only friend he had was Lord Jagannath, the only relative he could see around was Lord Jagannath and the only neighbour who ever visited him was Lord Jagannath. Thus, Lord Jagannath was all he had in his life.
One day, Madhavdas fell seriously ill. Initially not very serious, later the fever increased so much that he could not even get up to get something to eat for himself. This way, his health was getting worse everyday. But as we know, God does not let his let his devotees suffer for long, though he may at times decide to test them. Thus, worried over the continuously worsening state of Madhavdas, Lord Jagannath came to him in the form of a man.
Lord Jagannath Disguised As A Traveller
Disguised as a traveller, Lord Jagannath inquired about his poor health and decided to nurse him. This went on for a few days. One fine day when Madhavdas was fully in his senses, he realised that the man serving him was none other than his Lord Jagannath. It is believed that only a true devotee can recognise God when he comes before them in disguised forms.
At first, Madhavdas was surprised that the lord himself had come to see him. But what confused him was the fact that instead of having nursed him, the lord could easily drive away the illness. Therefore, he asked Lord Jagannath, "Oh God, since you are the almighty, why did you choose to nurse me instead of curing me of the illness?"
The lord replied, "There are some things in life which are pre-decided, which even God cannot change." Therefore, he chose to look after him for these days.
He further told Madhavdas that his fifteen days of suffering are still remaining and demanded that Madhavdas give him the remaining days of his suffering. Madhavdas was surprised to see that Lord Jagannath blessed him and took those days of suffering upon himself.
Thus, fifteen days prior to the celebration of Jagannath Puri Yatra, Lord Jagannath falls sick and the gates of the temple remain closed. When he recovers finally, the gates are opened and the yatra begins. Devotees from lots of places come to see him and experience the yatra.