Hera Panchami is a unique festival associated with famous Rathayatra of Puri. ‘Hera’ means to ‘see’ and ‘Panchami’ means the ‘fifth day’. It is celebrated at Gundicha temple on the fifth day from the start date of the cart festival.
This festival is dedicated to Goddess Mahalaxmi. The temple of Lord Jagannatha is known as Sri Mandira. “Sri” means Laxmi, so the name of the temple as “Srimandira” signifies the fact that Mahalaxmi is the principal Goddess of the Grand Temple. This ritual highlights the separation of Mahalaxmi from Lord Jagannatha.
Lord Jagannatha leaves the Jagannatha temple and goes to Gundica temple for 9 days with his siblings and His consort Mahalaxmi is left behind in the main temple. Lord Jagannatha promised his wife Mahalaxmi that He would return the next day. But Lord Jagannatha does not return the next day. Mahalaxmi waits and 5 days have been passed but Lord Jagannatha did not return to the temple.
Mahalaxmi after waiting for 5 days becomes impatient and worried. At last, She makes up Her mind to meet Lord Jagannatha at Gundica Temple where He has currently based with His brother & sister. At night Mahalaxmi went to Gundica temple in a beautifully decorated palanquin via Bada Danda (the Grand Road) in a colourful procession with pomp and splendour, accompanied by her servitors, to meet Lord Jagannatha and ask Him why he had not returned yet.
The people & servitors who are part of the procession of Mahalaxmi sing the Hera Panchami song. The Hera Panchami song expresses Mahalaxmi’s anger towards Her husband. After knowing that Mahalaxmi is coming to meet him with anger, Lord Jagannatha asks his servitors to quickly lock the door of Gundica Temple.
Mahalaxmi became very angry due to this activity and passed some satirical remarks to Lord Jagannatha by saying, “My husband! You have become more attracted to your brother Balabhadra & sister Subhadra than me? Is this the reason you locked me out of the Gundica temple?”
Mahalaxmi felt insulted and to teach Her husband a lesson She asked her servitors to break a part of Ratha, the chariot of Lord Jagannath. On her return She avoided the direct route via Grand Road, and secretly returned to the Jagannath temple via Hera Gohiri Sahi of Puri.