I have been to the Puri Jagannath mandir in 1982 as a 13 year old with my parents. I don’t remember much except that the vigrahas (very loose translation is statues or idols) were beautiful and different from other vigrahas that I had seen. My parents talked about how this temple was special and how during the Rath Yatra new Raths (chariots) were made every year.
In 2019 we had plans of completing our ShikshaDaan Yatra of Odisha and we wanted to time it in such a way that we got to be there for the Rath Yatra that happens in July. The pandemic nixed those plans for 2020 and 2021. Am sure, we will be able to witness the Rath Yatra in person in 2022 or 2023, as per Jagannath’s wishes 🙏🏾.
As a saree addict, I discovered a fellow saree connoisseur-cum-seller in young Arpita who setup Duhieta as a platform to sell authentic Odisha Handlooms. I wrote about the saree I bought from her – Birthday Saree #1 – Sambalpuri Cotton. We keep discussing different cultural aspects of Odisha and on Sunday she sent me a text with the sthala puran (history of the place/temple) of Puri Jagannath Mandir.
The following sthala puran is compiled through various sources by Arpita’s sister Aparna Panda. I have merely done visual editing and structuring of the paragraphs to suit the blogpost. Do read the awe inspiring sthala puran of Puri Jagannath, the living God. I have goosebumps just writing about this. Jai Jagannath !
Apani-Pado Javano Grahita
Pashyaty Acakshuh Sa Shrinoty Akarnah
Sa Vetti Vedyam Na Ca Tasyasti Vetta
Tam Ahur Agryam Purusham Mahantam
“Without legs and hands, He moves and accepts. Without eyes He sees, and without ears He hears. He knows all that is knowable, but no one knows Him. They call Him the original Supreme Person.”
After the battle of Mahabharat came to an end, Gandhari was mourning over her eldest son Duryodhan. She was furious with Bhagwan Krishna as he didn’t agree to her requests to avert the war and the subsequent catastrophe. In the fit of rage, she cursed Krishna that he will die after 36 years along with his entire Family who would die fighting with each other. Krishna, with a smile said “so be it”.
After 36 long years when his elder brother Balaram left for the heavenly abode, Krishna was completely overwhelmed due to grief and was resting behind the bushes. Thinking Krishna’s left foot to be a deer’s ear, a hunter shot a poisonous arrow at him. When he realised that he had killed Krishna, the hunter performed all the cremation rights in the forest. When the flames subsided he saw a very bright light coming from the ashes. It was Krishna’s heart that had turned into a stone. So he threw it in the river.
Then again after many many years this stone was found by a Tribal King named Biswabasu. Realising it’s divinity he placed the stone in a cave and started worshipping it as Neela Madhaba.
At the same time a king named Indradyumna heard about Neela Madhaba and it’s divinity from a pilgrim.
Then he sent his men to Udra Pradesh (An old name of Odisha) in search of Neela Madhaba. One of his men named Bidyapati went to Biswabasu’s village and stayed there as a guest. He then fell in love with Lalitha (Biswabasu’s daughter) and married her. During his stay Bidyapati noticed the tribal king going out every day before dawn and when he came back he used smell like flowers and Chandan(Sandal).
One day he asked his wife about this. She said her father goes to worship Lord Neela Madhaba who is inside a cave up in the mountain. Hearing this Bidyapati requests Lalita to convince her father to take him to the cave but Biswabasu doesn’t agree. Bidyapati renounces food till such time he could have a glimpse of Neela Madhaba. Finally the king gives in and agrees to take Bidyapati to the cave, however he put forth a condition that Bidyapati will be blindfolded throughout the route.
Lalita being a smart lady, put some mustard seeds in her husband’s pocket which dropped throughout the way to the cave, later helping Bidyapati in finding his way to the cave. In the mean time as Biswabasu was engaged in the service of Bhagwan Neela Madhaba, Bhagwan spoke to him, saying, “I have for so many days accepted the simple forest flowers and roots offered to Me by you. Now I desire the royal service offered to Me by My devotee King Indradyumna.”
Thinking that he will be cheated and his Bhagwan will be taken away from him he made Bidyapati a prisoner. After repeated requests from his daughter Biswabasu allowed Bidyapati to go to King Indradyumna. After finding out about Neela Madhaba, Bidyapati returned and informed King Indradyumna about it.
Upon hearing King Indradyumna, Bidyapati along with some priests leave for Udra pradesh to worship the deity. However on reaching the spot, the king realised the lord had disappeared and the area was covered with golden sand of the coast.
He was extremely disappointed and started praying to Neela Madhaba. He decided to capture Biswabasu and make him a prisoner. Suddenly a voice from the sky was heard. It asked the King to release Biswabasu and construct a temple where Bhagwan himself will appear in his wooden form and be worshipped as the Ultimate Truth.
The construction of the temple started but there was no sign of Neela Madhaba. With every day of delay the King felt his life was useless and became determined to give up his life by fasting. Seeing his devotion Neela Madhaba came in his dreams and told him “My wooden form is Daru-Brahma. I’ll manifest in the form of a very large, fragrant, reddish log and the signs of Sankha, Chakra, Gada and Padma will be seen everywhere on that form at a place called Bankimuhan.
This log should be carved into four murtis of Bhagwan Balabhadra, Goddess Subhadra, Bhagwan Jagannath and Sudarshan Chakra. These idols are to be placed and worshipped in the temple that was constructed by the King.”
King Indradyumna immediately went to the sea shore and found the log but even with hundreds of strong men nobody was able to move even an inch of it. Later that night Bhagwan again appeared in King Indradyumna’s dream and asked him to get Biswabasu and Bidyapati. As per Bhagwan’s instructions Biswabasu held the log from one side, Bidyapati from the other.
Placing a golden chariot before the Daru-Brahma he started singing a kirtana, chanting the holy names of the Supreme God. The King held the Daru-Brahma and prayed to Bhagwan that he mounts the chariot. Daru-Brahma was then easily placed on the chariot and taken to the appointed place, Mukti Mandap. Many sculptors came from far off places to carve the idol but none of them could even touch the log.
Finally Vishwakarma Himself came in the disguise of an old and feeble sculptor and introduced himself as Ananta Maharana. He had a condition that the temple doors must be closed and will not be opened before twenty-one days were up. As 14 days went by everyone started worrying as there were no sounds of any tools being used. Although the ministers forbade him, the King on the advice of Queen Gundicha opened the doors. Alas! Lord Vishwakarma vanished.
The idols were incomplete. The King realised that he had committed a grave offence of breaking his promise and once again decided to end his life by fasting. Once again Bhagwan appeared in his dreams and explained to him that in this material world he has appeared without hands and legs but he accepts all the offerings by his devotees and for the benefit of the world he will move from one place to another.
Although Indradyumna broke his promise but it was part of Bhagwan’s Leela as explained in the Vedas. His devotees who are engrossed in his bhakti and love him will always see him as Shyamsundar. Indradyumna was told that if he so desires, he can decorate the unfinished Curtis with arms and legs of gold and silver but he must know that Lord’s limbs are the ornaments that nothing can ever match. Hearing all this Indradyumna was overwhelmed and his happiness knew no bounds.
King Indradyumna made two requests to Neela Madhaba. First one was to allow the family of the sculptors to take part in the construction of the Rath for ages to come. Bhagwan smiled and said Tathastu.
In the ages to come descendants of Biswabasu will continue to worship me and during the Rath Yatra when I fall sick, and leave the temple for nine days, they will have the right to perform all the rituals. They will be known as My Daitiyas. For the rest of the time all the rituals will be performed by descendants of Bidyapati from his Brahmin wife while his descendants born from his Sabari(Tribal) wife Lalita, will cook My food. They shall be known as My Suaras.
The second request was to let the doors to Shrimandira to be closed for only three hours a day. Let the doors be open for the rest of the time so that all the people from across the world may have access to Bhagwan Jagannath.
Bhagwan agreed and asked Indradyumna to ask something for himself. The king replied that he did not want any descendants of his own so that no one claims that this temple is theirs.
At last the murtis were established in the temple as Balabhadra, Subhadra, Jagannath and finally Sudarshan. Biswabasu contained him by sheer love and devotion showing the path of Bhakti while Bidyapati perceived him through knowledge, revealing the path of enlightenment.
It is time for the Rath Yatra again. Rath Yatra symbolizes victory over sickness, unhappiness and all things evil. Under the wheels of its chariot, every evil would be crushed to dust. Growing up hearing about Lord’s stories has always fascinated me. Being Jagata Ra Natha(Lord of the Universe) he falls sick after bathing in 108 pots of water to beat the heat. He himself comes out every year so all his devotees can see him.
No one can stop you to see him or vice versa if you truly desire to see him. He becomes one with his devotees. Whenever you need a friend he is always there with you listening to you. That’s why he is also called as ‘Kalia’.
Every year, Puri becomes the place of much jubilation and celebration. The King becomes the sweeper, both the bramhin and non bramhin priests are given equal opportunities to worship the deities. He teaches us that it does not matter if you are rich or poor, it does not matter if you belong to a certain caste or religion, what matters is your true love and devotion.
You are in my success, you are in my failures, you are in happiness as well as in those sad mundane days. You guide me, You inspire me, You are within me and beyond. You are so near and dear to me. Your invaluable presence in my life is the only thing I can ever want.
Author – Aparna Panda
Jai Jagannath. Jai Sri Krishna. May HE lead us all towards being better human beings every day !