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Friday, September 24, 2021

Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri

The Shri Jagannath Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Sri Jagannath, a form of Bhagwan Vishnu, in Puri in the state of Odisha on the eastern coast of Bharat. The present temple was rebuilt from the 12th century onwards, on the site of an earlier temple.

The King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva of Eastern Ganga dynasty in the 12th century CE contributed towards reconstruction of the temple as evidenced by Kendupatna copper-plate inscription of his descendant Narasimhadeva II. Anantavarman was originally a Shaivite, and became a Vaishnavite sometime after he conquered the Utkala region (in which the temple is located) in 1112 CE.

A 1134–1135 CE inscription records his donation to the temple. The temple complex was further developed during the reigns of the subsequent kings of the Ganga dynasty and thereafter by Suryvamshi (Gajapati) dynasty.

Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are the three main deities worshipped at the temple. The inner sanctum of the temple contains statues of these three Gods carved from sacred neem logs known as daru installed on the bejewelled platform (known as ratnabedi), along with statues of Sudarshana Chakra, Madanmohan, Sridevi and Vishwadhatri.

The legendary account as found in the Skanda-Purana, Brahma Purana and later Odia works state that Bhagwan Jagannath was originally worshipped as Bhagwan Neela Madhaba by a Savar king (tribal chief) named Viswavasu. Having heard about the deity, King Indradyumna sent a Brahmin priest, Vidyapati to locate the deity, who was worshipped secretly in a dense forest by Viswavasu. Vidyapati managed to marry Viswavasu’s daughter Lalita. At repeated request of Vidyapti, Viswavasu took his son-in-law blind folded to a cave where Bhagwan Neela Madhaba was worshipped.

Vidyapati dropped mustard seeds on the ground on the way while going to the cave blind folded. The seeds germinated after a few days, which enabled him to find out the path to the cave later on. Thereafter, Vidyapati informed the king Indradyumna and King Indradyumna went on a pilgrimage to see and worship the Deity. But the deity had disappeared and was hidden in sand.

The king was disappointed but determined not to return without having a darshan of the deity and observed fast unto death at Mount Neela. Bhagwan Jagannadh blesses him and the king Indradyumna built a magnificent temple for Bhagwan Vishnu. On divine instructions, the king gets the image of Bhagwan Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan made out of the wood of the sacred fragrant tree on the seashore and installs them in the temple.

The traditional story concerning the origins of Bhagwan Jagannath temple says in Dvapara Yuga Bhagwan Vishnu instructed  King Indradyumna of Malwa to go to the Puri seashore and find a floating log to make an image from its trunk. The King found the log of wood. He did a yajna from which Bhagwan Yajna Nrisimha appeared and instructed that Narayana should be made as fourfold expansion, i.e. Paramatma as Vasudeva, his Vyuha as Samkarshana, Yogamaya as Subhadra, and his Vibhava as Sudarsana.

Vishwakarma appeared in the form of an artisan and prepared images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the tree. It is believed that Vishnu himself appeared in the guise of a carpenter to make the murtis on condition that he was to be left undisturbed until he finished the work.

But just after few weeks, the Queen became very anxious and she took the carpenter to be dead as no sound came from the temple. Therefore, she requested the king to open the door. Thus, they went to see Bhagwan Vishnu at work at which the latter abandoned his work leaving the murtis unfinished. The murti was devoid of any hands. But a divine voice told Indradyumana to install them in the temple.

Temple history

The temple history, according to the Madala Panji records (a record of the historical events of Jagannadh temple from 12th Century) reveal that the Jagannath temple at Puri has been invaded and plundered eighteen times. In 1692, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordered to close the temple until he wanted to reopen it failing which it would be demolished. It was re-opened only after Aurangzeb’s death in 1707.

Unlike in many other temples, devotees can go around and behind the murtis. History says that Bhagwan was a tribal deity, adorned by the Sabar people, as a symbol of Narayan.

The three deities viz., Jagannadh, Balabhadra and Subhadra are also identified with the symbols of Samyak Darshan,  Samyak Jnana and Samyak Charita usually regarded as Triratna (of the Jain culture) as well as the Buddhist symbol of triratna – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Bhagwan Jagannath is worshipped as Vishnu or Narayana or Krishna and Sri Balabhadra as Adi Shesha. The Vimala temple, also known as Bimala temple, is located in the south-west corner of the inner enclosure of the Jagannath temple complex and on the western corner of the tower of Jagannath, next to the sacred pond Rohini kunda.

Food offered to Jagannath does not get sanctified as Mahaprasad until it is also offered to Devi Vimala. Vimala temple is considered as one of the four Adi Shakti peethas, the other three being- Tara Tarini temple, Brehampur; Kamakhya temple, Guwahati; and Kalighat temple, Kolkata. Religious texts like Shivapurana, Devibhagavata , Kalika Purana and Peetha Nirnaya Tantra mention these four peethas as Maha Shakti Peethas. It is believed that Sati’s body parts, viz., feet (pada), breasts (sthana), womb (yoni) and face (mukha) fell at these four places respectively.

As per the tantric traditions Jagannath is named as Bhairava. Therefore, we find a fusion of Saivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism of the Hindu religion in Puri Jagannadh temple.

Sri Adi Shankara established his Govardhana Matha here. There is also evidence that Guru Nanak, Kabir, Tulsidas,  Ramanujacharya, and Nimbarkacharya had visited this sacred place. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Gaudiya Vaishnavism stayed here for 24 years, who founded Goudiya Vaishanvism, propagated Bhakti yoga and popularized the chanting of Harekrishna maha mantra.

Srimad Vallabhacharya (1479–1531 CE), who founded the Krishna-centered Pushti sect of Vaishnavism and propagated the philosophy of Shuddha advaita (Pure Nondualism) visited Jagannath Puri and performed a 7-day recitation of Srimad Bhagvat.

Temple structure

The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet, and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. This 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri. Another wall known as Kurma Bedha surrounds the main temple. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of Bharat. The temple has four distinct structures, namely –

  1. Deula, Vimanaor Garba griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the triad deities are lodged on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls) in Rekha Deula style;
  2. Mukhashala (Frontal porch);
  3. Nata mandir/Natamandapa, which is also known as the Jagamohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), and
  4. Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall)

The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the ‘Srichakra’ (an eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the “Nilachakra”, it is made out of Ashtadhatu (i.e., eight metals) and is considered sacrosanct. It is is 3.5 Metres high with a circumference of about 11 metres. During the year 2010, the Nila Chakra was repaired and restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape.

As per custom, everyday a different flag is hoisted on the Nila Chakra. The flag hoisted on the Nila Chakra is called the Patita Pavana (Purifier of the Fallen) and is equivalent to the image of the deities placed in the sanctum sanctorum. The Nila Chakra is distinct from the Sudarshana chakra which has been placed with the deities in the inner sanctorum.

A murti of Prabhu Jagannath known as Patitapavana, is painted on the right side of the entrance Simhadwara. The statues of the two guards to the temple Jaya and Vijaya stand on either side of the doorway. A magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic pillar known as the Arun stambha stands in front of the main gate. This pillar has a murti of Arun, the charioteer of the Surya Devta, on its top. This Arun stambha was originally located in the Konark Sun temple, which was later brought to Jagannath temple by the Maratha guru Brahmachari Gosain.

There are three other entrances facing north, south and west that are named after the sculptures of animals guarding them viz., Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate respectively.

There are other shrines in the temple namely Mahalakshmi, Muktimandap, Surya, Saraswati, Bhuvaneshwari, Narasimha, Rama, Hanuman and Eshaneshwara.

There are many Mandapas or Pillared halls on raised platforms within the temple complex meant for religious congregations. The most prominent is the Mukti Mandapa the congregation hall of the holy seat of selected learned Brahmins. Here important decisions regarding conduct of daily worship and festivals are taken.

The Dola Mandapa is noteworthy for a beautifully carved stone Torana or arch which is used for constructing a swing for the annual Dol Yatra festival. During the festival, the murti of Dologobinda is placed on the swing. The Snana Bedi is a rectangular stone platform where murtis of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are placed for ceremonial bathing during the annual Snana Yatra.

The temple’s kitchen is the largest in the world. It is believed that all Mahaprasad cooked in the temple kitchen is supervised by Devi Mahalakshmi, the empress of Srimandir herself. All 56 varieties of food prepared are vegetarian and without onions, garlic, or chillis and cooking is done only in earthen pots using water drawn from two special wells near the kitchen called Ganga and Yamuna. The most awaited offering is Kotho Bhoga or Abadha, offered after midday.

Temple festivals

There are many festivals in this temple each year attended by millions of people. The most important festival is the Rath  Yatra or the Chariot festival in June. This spectacular festival includes a procession of three huge chariots bearing the murtis of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra through the Bada Danda meaning the Grand Avenue of Puri till their final destination the Gundicha Temple.

Pavitrotsava and Damanaka utsava are celebrated as per panchanga or panjika. There are special ceremonies in the month of Kartika and Pausha.

The annual shodasha dinatmaka or 16-day puja beginning 8 days prior to Mahalaya of Ashwin month for Devi Vimala and ending on Vijayadashami, is of great importance, in which both the utsava murty of lord Madanmohan and Vimala take part. Special rituals are performed at the temple on Pana Sankranti, also known or Vishuva Sankranti and Mesha  Sankranti.

Chandan Yatra

On Akshaya Tritiya every year, the Chandan Yatra festival marks the commencement of the construction of the Chariots of the Rath Yatra.

Snana Yatra

On the Purnima of the month of Jyestha the Gods are ceremonially bathed and decorated every year on the occasion of Snana Yatra.

Every year, the main murtis of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra & Sudarshan after the holy Snana Yatra on the jyestha  purnima, go to a secret altar named Anavasara Ghar where they remain for the next dark fortnight (Krishna paksha). It is said that the Gods fall in fever after taking this huge bath and they are treated by the special servants named, Daitapatis for 15 days.

During this period cooked food is not offered to the deities. During this period devotees are not allowed to view them. Instead devotees go to nearby place Brahmagiri to see Bhagwan in the form of four handed Alarnath a form of Sri Vishnu. People get the first glimpse of Prabhu on the day before Rath Yatra, which is called Navayouvana.

The observance of the Rath Yatra of Jagannath dates back to the period of the Puranas. Vivid descriptions of this festival are found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.

Nabakalabera is a ritual associated with Jagannath which takes place every 8, 11, 12 or 19 years, when one lunar month of Ashadha is followed by another lunar month of Aashadha. Nabakalebara meaning “new body”, the ritual involves installation of new images in the Jagannath Temple and the burial of the old images at the temple at Koili Vaikuntha. This festival is witnessed by millions of people.

In 1975, the Archeological Survey of India undertook a project to remove the multiple layers of lime plaster to uncover the original designs beneath them in the temple. The conservation project lasted for 2 decades. The temple, which in the 19th century, recognised by European sailors as the “white pagoda”, now proudly displays the natural colours of the khondalite stone that had been used by Anantavarma to construct the home of Prabhu in the 12th century.

Temple Sevas

The Lord of the Universe is worshipped here in a very unique manner. Each morning, Bhagwan Jagannadh, Balabhadra and Subhadra are woken up by music and an arati. They are made to change out of their nightclothes, given a bath and dressed in time for the morning darshan (6.30 am).

They would be made to change again in time for a light early breakfast (Gopal Ballabh) consisting of fruits, curd and green coconut (8.30 am). A second breakfast (Raj Bhoga or Sakala Dhupa) is served at 10 am. The deities eat an elaborate lunch (Madhyana Dhupa) at 1 pm.

By 6.30 pm in the evening Sandhya Dhupa is performed. Soon after that the deities are dressed for the Chandanalagi, and cool sandalwood paste is applied. The deities are offered a late dinner (Badasinghar Bhoga) at 10:30 pm. A sevak (the temple servitor) lulls them to sleep with a recitation of the Gita Govinda (composed by 12th-century poet Jayadeva) accompanied by the veena (a chordophone).

The temple city Puri is well connected by road and train across the country. Bhubaneswar airport is located around 60 KMs from Puri, which is the nearest airport.

References:

  1. https://medium.com/@ashishsarangi/jagannatha-the-jain-connection-2cc1d447d588.
  2. https://www.shreejagannatha.in/.

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Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex- Senior Banker, Financial and Management Consultant and Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. Areas of Specialization & Teaching interests - Banking, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Economics, Global Business & Behavioural Sciences. Qualification- M.Com., M.B.A., A.I.I.B.F., PhD. Experience- 25 years of banking and 14 years of teaching, research and consulting. 100 plus national and international publications on various topics like- banking, global trade, economy, public finance, public policy and spirituality. One book in English “In Search of Eternal Truth”, two books in Telugu and 20 short stories and 27 articles published in Telugu. Email id: [email protected]

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