The temple of Shri Jagannath is the most sacred shrine of India. While several temples have vanished or have declined in importance, the Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri is still a living and vibrant temple. It occupies a special place in the religious and cultural History of Orissa. Over the centuries, it has attracted kings, conquerers, religious teachers, anchorite hermits, devotees and pilgrims. In the minds of millions of people in India: Orissa is the land of Shri Jagannath.
Lord Shri Jagannath, the symbol of universal love and brotherhood is worshipped in the Temple alongwith Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, Madhaba, Sridevi and Bhudevi on the Ratnabedi or the be jewelled citadel.The rituals of the temple of Jagannath may be classified under three heads :- (a) the daily rituals or 'nitis' which are fixed and are observed every day as routine course; (b) the special nitis according to the speciality of certain days (i.e. Thursday, Amabasya, Ekadasi & Naksyatra Bandapana etc). (c) the various festivals observed during the year, some outside the temple and some inside come under the category of festive nitis. Besides these, there are some rituals which by tradition are kept secret. The present article highlights the daily rituals of the Lord Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu.
At a time when Jagannatha gained immense popularity all important religious cults and creeds known to the people of India in' those days were assimilated into the texture of Jagannathism. Such a board-based system of religious life is not to be found anywhere in the world.' .
The first ritual or niti begins in the early morning with the opening up of the doors of the temple. The doors of the sanctum are to be opened by 5a.m., as stated in the Record of Rights of the Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri. The Bhitarchu Mahapatra, a temple servitor, accompanied. By palia Mekap, Pratihari, Akhanda Mekap & Muduli sevak examine the seal put on the main door (Jaya Vijaya Dwara) by the Talicha Mahapatra on the previous night. During the month of Kartika (oct.- Nov.) and Dhanu (Dec.-Jan.) and on certain specific days the doors are to be opened much before 5 a.m. i.e. between 2.30 a.m. to 4 a.m.
On some days, on account of extra rituals or delay in completion of rituals, it becomes impossible)to do pahuda (closing of the temple doors after the final niti is over in the night). On such occasions, the question of opening of the doors on the following morning does not arise and only from 'Mangalalati' onwards the rituals commence.The Mangalalati is performed to the chanting of devotional songs and the play of Mangalavadyam or auspicious music. Bhitaracha Mahapatra and two other palia puspalak sevaks perform this niti by offering of lamps to the Deities standing below the Ratnavedi; (Pedestral).