Chandan Yatra starts from the day of Akshaya Tritiya. During Chandan Yatra, Chandan(sandalwood) paste is applied to the deity of Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannath. In Vrindavan, Jagannath Puri and Mayapur, this festival is celebrated in a grand way
Chandan Yatra Duration
Chandan Yatra is celebrated for 21 days in Vrindavan and Mayapur. But in Jagannath Puri, it is celebrated for 42 days. For 21 days as Bahara(ouster) Chandan Yatra. And for another 21 days as Bhitara (inner) Chandan Yatra.
Chandan provides comfort to Krishna in hot summer
Month of May/June (Vaisakha/Jyestha) is very hot in India. In this month temperature reaches its peak and the heat becomes unbearable. Devotees become very concerned about the Lord’s comfort. So, they decide to apply chandan (sandalwood paste) to Lord. Sandalwood paste has a cooling effect, and it also smells nice.
Chandan is applied artistically and not clumsily. It enhances the beauty of the beautiful Lord. Chandan is applied on the entire body including face, hands, legs and torso of Lord Krishna, Lord Jagannath and Lord Baladeva. The creamy paste is also put on Srimati RadhaRani and Subhdra Devi’s face especially on forehead.
Chandan Yatra history
Purushottama Kshetra Mahatmya tells that Lord Jagannath personally told king Indradumnya to celebrate the Chandan Yatra festival.
For the followers of Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya (Brahmā-Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya) there is a beautiful story associated with Chandan Yatra festival. Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya Lila Chapter 4) describes it in detail.
Gopala(Krishna) comes in Madhavendra Puri’s dream
Madhavendra Puri. was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. He was residing in Vrindavan near Govardhan Hill. He would do Govardhan parikrama and spend his day and night chanting the names of Krishna and meditating on beautiful pastimes of Krishna.
Once he was absorbed in his bhajan (devotion) near Govind kunda. A cowherd boy came to him with a pot of milk. The boy said, “In Vrindavan no one goes hungry. Some ladies who had come here to fetch water saw that you only do bhajan and do not eat anything. They asked me to give you this pot of milk. So, please take it.”
The boy’s sweet words gave joy to Madhvendra Puri. He looked so beautiful. Madhavendra Puri felt deep attraction for him. He drank the milk and experienced great satisfaction.
In the same night he saw a dream. In the dream the same boy appeared. Holding Madhavendra Puri’s hands, the boy took him to nearby bush in the forest. He said, “I reside here and because of this I suffer from severe cold, rain, hot weather and storms. My name is Gopala, and I am the lifter of Goverdhan hill. Take me out from here and place me nicely on top of the hill. After this wash me with huge quantities of cold water.”
Madhavendra Puri builds a temple of Gopala(Krishna) on top of Govardhan hill
Madhavendra Puri got up. He felt great pleasure. But he also lamented that he was not able to recognize Krishna when he came with a pot of milk. In the morning Madhavendra Puri gathered the villagers and went inside the forest to search the deity. They found the deity of Gopal covered with dust. The deity was heavy.
All the villagers carried the deity and nicely placed him on top of the hill. The deity was then bathed with huge quantity of water as per the desire of Gopala. Water was brought from Govinda Kunda. There was a big celebration. Everyone in the village participated in the festival. Even devotees from nearby villages came for the celebration.
Huge quantities of prasadam were prepared and offered to the Gopala deity. After that everyone took prasad. Madhevendra Puri felt great joy. Now daily the deity of Gopala was worshipped gorgeously under the direction of Madhevendra Puri.
Krishna asks Madhavendra Puri to go to Jagannath Puri to bring sandalwood
After two years Gopal again appeared in Madhevendra Puri’s dream and said, “My bodily temperature still has not decreased. Please bring sandalwood from the Malaya province and smear the pulp over My body to cool Me. Bring sandalwood pulp from Jagannātha Purī. Kindly go quickly. Since no one else can do it, you must.” Chaitanya Charitamrita (Text 106 – 107).
Madhavendra Puri immediately decided to go to Jagannath Puri to bring sandalwood for Gopal. Before leaving he made all arrangements so that service to Gopal continues nicely even in his absence.
Madhavendra Puri comes to Remuna where Gopinath steals ksira(sweet rice) for him
On the way to Jagannath Puri, Madhavendra Puri came to Remuna. There he took darshan of Gopinath. In Remuna a beautiful pastime of Lord Gopinath took place. The Supreme Lord showed his mercy upon Madhavendra Puri by stealing ksira (sweet rice) for him. Because of this the deity is now called Kṣīra-corā (the thief who stole the sweet rice) Gopinath.
Madhavendra Puri collects sandalwood & camphor from Jagannath Puri
From Remuna Madhavendra Puri went to Jagannath Puri. He took darshan (divine vision) of Lord Jagannath and felt great joy. The story that Gopinath had stolen ksira(sweet rice) for Madhavendra Puri in Remuna had also reached Jagannath Puri. Devotees of the temple town felt blessed to see Madhavendra Puri. Scores of people would come to see him and to offer respects to him. Madhavendra Puri thought that this would hinder his devotional service.
He told the devotees of Puri the purpose for which he was there. Everyone was eager and happy to help him. They arranged sandalwood and camphor for him. Two devotees also accompanied him to help him carry sandalwood and camphor.
In Remuna Gopala Deity asks him to apply Sandalwood paste to Gopinath Deity
While on his way to Vrindavan from Jagannath Puri, Madhavendra Puri again came to Remuna. The priest of Gopinath was so happy to receive him. He welcomed him and offered the ksira(sweet rice) which was offered to Gopinath. Madhavendra Puri was happy to honour the prasad of Gopinath.
He decided to take rest that night in the temple only. He again saw a dream. In the dream Gopala came. Gopala said to Madhavendra Puri that he has already got the sandalwood and camphor. Now grind all the sandalwood and camphor and apply the pulp to Gopinath deity because he and Gopinath are same.
“There is no difference between My body and Gopīnātha’s body. They are one and the same. Therefore if you smear the sandalwood pulp on the body of Gopīnātha, you will naturally also smear it on My body. Thus the temperature of My body will be reduced.” Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya Lila, Chapter 4, Text 160)
Madahavedra Puri woke up. He narrated the dream to the servants of Gopinath. The servants were so happy to hear the instructions of Gopala. They grinded sandalwood and camphor and applied the pulp to the deity of Gopinath.
Devotees throughout the world following the footsteps of Madhavendra Puri apply sandalwood paste to the deity of Krishna and Jagannath and celebrate it as Chandan Yatra.
To serve Krishna devotees do not care for their comfort
When we like and love a person then we are ready to do anything to please him/her. No difficulties ever deter us or decrease our desire to serve him. For e.g. a mother is ready to do everything to please her child. She tirelessly takes care of her baby without any complaint. She enjoys every moment she spends with her child and shudder at the thought of separation.
A devotee is similarly eager to serve God. A devotee is a mortal being who gives his life and heart completely to God. He thinks nothing but only about Lord, he does nothing which does not please Lord and he does everything to make sure that God is always happy, has all the comforts. Great devotees of Krishna like Madhavendra Puri teaches us by his personal example that how we should be eager to serve the Lord without caring for our personal comforts.
Iskcon devotees all over the world celebrate Chandan Yatra
Devotees of Krishna all over the world celebrate this festival. Iskcon devotees too celebrate Chandan Yatra. Everyone participates. Monks (resident brahmacharis) and congregation devotees come together to celebrate the festival.
Batan (Sil – Batta) is used to prepare sandalwood paste. The sandalwood is rubbed against the batan with some water. The batan is kept in the temple hall and anyone irrespective of caste, creed, race, sex, colour, nationality can participate in this service of preparing sandalwood paste.
The beauty of devotional life is that every individual tries to serve the Lord and simultaneously also want to engage others in serving the Lord. The only requirement is that one should have love for Krishna.
With Chandan on his face, Lord Krishna & Lord Jagannath looks stunning. During Chandan Yatra every lover of Krishna compulsorily comes to see the Lord. They also enthusiastically participate in preparing sandalwood paste with their own hands; the paste is later applied to the Lord.