A Devi Temple That Remains Open For 9 Days During Navratri In Odisha’s Gajapati

Berhampur: Come Navratri and a Devi temple at Paralakhemundi in Gajapati district  opens to the devotees for the nine days and then remains closed throughout the year.

As per the tradition, the Dandumaramma Temple, situated at Dola Tank Road in Paralakhemundi bordering Andhra Pradesh, opens on the first day of the Navratri and its doors are closed after performing puja of the deity on Dasami night.

The practice, which has been going on since 2005, is claimed to be followed in only this temple in entire Odisha. “Prior to 2005, the temple was opened for the last three days of Navratri from Astami to Dasami. But, the temple’s puja committee decided to open the temple doors for nine days since 2005,” said Nageswar Rao, head priest of the temple.

There is another interesting feature of the temple. Before its doors are closed on the night of Dasami, a coconut is kept in a ‘ghatam’ (earthen pot) after traditional offerings. When the temple opens after one year, the coconut remains as fresh as ever. It is then distributed as prasad among the families residing at Dandumala Sahi, where the temple is located.

“We offer rice, dal, vegetable curry and other cooked food to Dandumaramma during the nine days of Navratri. Special yajna and Kumkum Puja” are performed from Astami to Dasami,” said the priest.

The residents of Dandumala Sahi visit the temple of Goddess Purunapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mokkatotamma in Paralakhemundi who is considered to be the elder sister of Dandumaramma.

On the rituals performed at the temple during Navratri, president of its puja committee said, “The priests take bath in Sita Sagar pond situated at the back side of the Paralakhemundi Royal Palace on Dasami evening. After purifying the ‘ghatam ‘, they decorate it with flowers and keep a coconut inside. This process lasts about 6 hours. They then visit Neelamani Durga Temple in Paralakhemundi and sacrifice a goat before returning to the Dandumaramma temple where they keep the ‘ghatam’ with the coconut inside and seal the temple doors before 3 am.”

According to Dibakar Patnaik, a researcher and a writer of several books on the culture and history of Paralakhemundi, the erstwhile rulers of Paralakhemundi used to worship the deity in their palace around 253 years ago.

In 1768, Paralakhemundi ruler Jagannath Gajapati Narayan Dev and Vijayanagar ruler Bijayram Raju fought a battle against the British Army. The Parlakhemundi ruler was defeated in the battle. He then ordered residents of Dandumala Street to worship Goddess Dandumaramma.

As per a legend, many residents of the Dandumala Street saw Goddess Dandumaramma moving around in the area as a pretty child in late night on many occasions. Following this, the temple doors were closed throughout the year and opened for three days.

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