Even gods fall ill in the temple city and are cured by doctors who have treated them for generations.
On Sunday, when commoners stayed indoors to avoid heat stroke in Varanasi, Lord Jagannanth “suffered” from cough and cold due to excessive bathing by devotees.
So for the next fortnight, a young astrologer will be Lord Jagannath’s doctor.
Meet pandit Sri Ram Sharma (30), who has been playing divine doctor to Lord Jagannath, traditionally bedridden for a fortnight every year.
“Playing doctor to Lord Jagannath a fortnight every year has been in the duty of our family, which has served priests at the 300-year-old Jagannath Temple since the beginning,” said Sharma, who became the temple priest in 1995 following death of father Sita Ram Sharma.
“Every year on Jyestha Purnima day (which fell on Sunday this year) devouts troop to the temple and bathe the deity with Gangajal,” said Sharma. “Excessive bath with river water makes the Lord ill with cough and cold due to which he is bedridden for a fortnight.”
For two weeks, the Lord is given “karha prepared from ilayachi, laung, kali mirch, jaiphal, Gangajal, gulab jal, tulsi, chandan and bhoora chini.” Every evening after the karha is administered to the ailing god, the leftover is distributed as prasad among devotees,” Sharma said.
Sharma’s job as doctor does end there. After two weeks, the young priest accompanies the idols of Lord Jagannath, his sister Devi Subhadhra and brother Balbhadra to a garden in the city for a deserved outing.
The holy trinity then leave for a rathyatra for three days, marking the rathyatra fair, and its believed that whoever offers prayer there are granted a fortune.