Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | July 07, 2024 IST

Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha

 Prasanta Kumar Dash

Originated from the ancient soil of Odisha, Lord Jagannath and the holy tradition of his Rath Yatra have now spread out across the world for its universal reverence. Though the lord Jagannath is considered the presiding deity in Odisha’s Puri Jagannath Temple, from before the early 13th Century as a regional God, the conscience on the revered God is all spread out in Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, Manipur and Tripura, among a number of nations like Indonesia, Nepal and Maritious. Lord Jagannath is also significantly worshipped by the the Hindus in Bangladesh and else where, as a pious gangetic confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from the ancient Odisha.  

The Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha is particularly significant in Vaishnavism, and is regarded as one of the four Dhams (pilgrimage sites) in India.The Jagannath temple is massive, over 61 metres (200 ft) high in the Nagara architecture style of Hindu temple architecture, and one of the best surviving specimens of Kalinga architecture, namely Odisha art and architecture. It has been one of the major pilgrimage destinations for Hindus since Yugas.

The annual festival here in Puri is called the Ratha yatra that is celebrated in the holy month of June or July every year that is dedicated to Lord Jagannath’s 9-day sojourn. His idol, along with the other two sibling deities, is ceremoniously brought out of the sacrosanctum (Garbhagruha) of his inner temple in Puri Sri Mandira. Jagannath is a Sanskrit word, compounded of Jagat meaning “the universe" and Natha meaning "Master" or "Lord". Thus, Jagannath means "lord of the universe".Lord Jagannath.

The English word juggernaut was the rendition into English of "Jagannath" by the Britishers those came India. They believed Lord Jagannath, as a very large and unstoppable force from accounts of the famous Ratha Yatra processions in Puri.

During the Rath Yatra, the dieites are placed in three decorated chariots which are then pulled by devotees to the Gundicha Temple, located at a distance of nearly 3 km or 1.9 miles. The chariots stay there for eight days, and on the 9th day they are brough abode to the Shri Jagannath temple. 

Coinciding with the Ratha Yatra festival at Puri, similar processions are organized at Jagannath temples throughout the world. During the festive public procession of Jagannath in Puri lakhs of devotees visit Puri to see Jagganath in chariot, believing washout of their sins.

In the soil of Odisha, Lord Jagannath is revered as as Jaga, Jagabandhu, Kalia ,Darubrahma and Daru Debata,  believing him a people’s god or God of the province. In most Jagannath temples in the eastern states of India, and all his major temples such as the Puri, Odisha, Jagannath is included with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Apart from the principal companion deities, the Jagannath is accompanied with a Sudarshana Chakra.

The idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshana Chakra are made of neem wood unlike other Hindu Gods and Goddesses.  Neem woods are chosen for it as the Bhavishya Purana declares it to be the most auspicious wood from which to make Vishnu murtis.The idol of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshana is re-painted every week in the Jagannatha Temple, Puri. It is replaced with a newly carved image every 12 or 19 years approximately, or more precisely according to the luni-solar Hindu calendar when its month of Asadha occurs twice in the same year.

According to Skanda Purana, Yama requested Vishnu to disappear from the region of Purushottama Kshetra, dissatisfied with the direct salvation of those who lived in the region. Vishnu agreed to do so. Indradyumna, the king of Avanti, grew interested in venerating the deity Nilamadhava, made of sapphire. He is described to have sent the younger brother of his royal priest, or sometimes a minister, Vidyapati, to locate the site of the deity's image in the Nilagiri region. Regional folklore states that the priest was welcomed by Vishvavasu, the chieftain of the Savara people. During the duration of his stay in the chieftain's house, the latter's daughter, Lalita, fell in love with him. Upon the chieftain's request, Vidyapati married her. He noticed that the chieftain would leave the house every evening, and only return the following noon. At his urging, Lalita revealed to him that these were her father's visits to the shrine of Nilamadhava, whose location was held secret within the community. Vidyapati persuaded his wife to ask Vishvavasu to take him along to see the image of the deity.[61] The chieftain agreed to take Vidyapati with him, but on the condition that he be blindfolded during the journey so that the shrine's location remained undisclosed. Lalita helped her husband devise a plan:[62] Vidyapati brought a bag of mustard seeds with him, scattering them all along the path to the shrine present in a cave, bearing witness to the deep blue image of Nilamadhava.[63][64] Returning to Avanti, he reported his discovery of the shrine to Indradyumna. After a few months, following the mustards seeds that had since germinated into plants, the king and his retinue travelled to the shrine, unable to locate the image. After praying to Vishnu for three days and nights, they heard the deity's voice thunder from the heavens, rebuking them for their scheme and informing them of his omnipresence. He announced that he would manifest as a dāru (wooden image) floating by the sea. He instructed them to construct a new temple upon a mountain that stood beside the seashore for his worship.

In the Skanda Purana, by the time Vidyapati returned to inform the king of the site of the shrine, a great storm had buried the image of Nilamadhava under the sand. Despite his best attempts, the king was unable to locate the image. Upon the counsel of the sage divinity Narada, Indradyumna constructed a new temple, and performed a thousand ashvamedha yajnas at the site. Receiving guidance in the form of a divine dream, a great tree floating in the sea was felled and used to create the three wooden images of the temple, those of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. The king travelled to Brahmaloka to invite Brahma to inaugurate the temple. With the passage of time, a king named Gala claimed to have been the temple's real architect, but with the return of Indradyumna to earth, he withdrew this claim. After Brahma had inaugurated the temple, Indradyumna returned to Brahmaloka, entrusting the upkeep of the site to Gala.

The diverse religions of Orissa in all ages have tended to gravitate towards and finally merged into the Jagannath worship.The Madala Panji observes that Nila Madhava transformed into Jagannath and was worshipped alone as a unitary figure, not as the part of a triad. It is significant to note that the early epigraphic and literary sources refer only to a unitary deity Purushottama Jagannath. 

The Dasgoba copper plated inscription dating to 1198 mentions only Purushottama Jagannath in the context that the Puri temple had been originally built by Ganga king Anantavarman Chodaganga (1078–1147) for Vishnu and Lakshmi. 

During the rule of Anangabhima III [1211–1239], Balabhadra and Subhadra find the earliest known mention in the Pataleshwara inscription of 1237 CE.[126] According to the German Indologist Kulke, Anangibhima III was the originator of the triad of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra suggesting that Balabhadra was added after Lakshmi's transformation into Subhadra.

The traditional rituals associated with the Jagannatha tradition combine Vedic, Puranic and tantric themes. He is the Vedic-Puranic Purushottama  According to the Vishnudharma Purana , Krishna is worshipped in the form of Purushottama in Odra (Odisha).He is same as the metaphysical Param Brahman, the form of Krishna that prevades as abstract kala (time) in Vaishnava thought. He is abstraction which can be inferred and felt but not seen, just like time. Jagannath is chaitanya (consciousness), and his companion Subhadra represent Shakti (energy) while Balabhadra represents Jnana (knowledge).

 According to Bhakta Salabega, the Jagannath tradition assimilates the theologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, Buddhism, Yoga and Tantra traditions.The medieval era Odia scholars such as Ananta, Achyutananda and Chaitanya described the theology of Jagannath as the "personification of the Shunya, or the void".

The Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana have attributed the creation of the Jagannath inn Puri Srimandir during the reign of Indradyumna. According to the second legend, associated with the Vaishnavas, when Krishna ended the purpose of his Avatar with the illusionary death by Jara and his "mortal" remains were left to decay, some pious people saw the body, collected the bones and preserved them in a box. They remained in the box till it was brought to the attention of Indradyumna by Lord Vishnu himself who directed him to create the image or a murti of Jagannath from a log and consecrate the bones of Krishna in its belly. Then King Indradyumna appointed Vishwakarma, the architect of gods and a divine carpenter, to carve the murti of the deity from a log that would eventually wash up on the shore at Puri. Indradyumna commissioned Vishwakarma, who is also said to be the divine god himself in disguise. Vishwakarma accepted the commission on the condition that he could complete the work undisturbed and in private.

Everyone was anxious about the divine work, including King Indradyumna. After a fortnight of waiting, the king, anxious to see the deity could not control his eagerness and visited the site where Vishwakarma was working. Soon enough, Vishwakarma became very upset and left the carving of the idol unfinished; the images were without hands and feet. The king was very perturbed by this development and appealed to Brahma for help. Brahma promised the King that the images which were carved would be deified as carved and would become famous. Following this promise, Indradyumna organized a function to formally deify the images and invited all gods to be present for the occasion. Brahma presided over the religions function as the chief priest and brought life (soul) to the image and fixed (opened) its eyes. This resulted in the images becoming famous and worshipped at Jagannath Puri in the well-known Jagannath Temple as a Kshetra (pilgrimage centre). It is, however, believed that the original images are in a pond near the temple.

The Valmiki Ramayana mentions Jagannath Puri is a mythical place where King Janak performed a yajna and tilled land to obtain Sita is the same as the area in which the Gundicha temple is situated in Puri. In the Mahabharata episodes, King Indradyumna's Ashvamedh Yajna and the advent of the four deities of the Jagannath cult were rioghteously elaborated.

One of the most popular legends associated with Jagannath is that of Kanchi Avijana (or "Conquest of Kanchi"), also termed as "Kanchi-Kaveri". According to the legends,[138] the daughter of the King of Kanchi was betrothed to the Gajapati of Puri. When the Kanchi King witnessed the Gajapati King sweeping the area in front of where the chariots of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were kept during Ratha yatra, he was aghast. Considering the act of sweeping unworthy of a King, the King of Kanchi declined the marriage proposal, refusing to marry his daughter to a 'Sweeper'. Gajapati Purushottam Deva, felt deeply insulted at this and attacked the Kingdom of Kanchin to avenge his honour. His attack was unsuccessful and his army defeated by the Kanchi Army.

Upon defeat, the Gajapati King Purushottam Deva returned and prayed to Jagannath, the God of land of Kalinga before planning a second campaign to Kanchi. Moved by his prayers, Jagannath and Balabhadra, left their temple in Puri and started an expedition to Kanchi on horseback. It is said that Jagannath rode on a white horse and Balabhadra on a black horse. The legend has such a powerful impact on the Oriya culture that the simple mention of white horse-black horse evokes the imagery of Kanchi conquest of the God in devotees minds.The Ashwadwara at Puri Jagannath temple with the statue of Jagannath on a white horse and Balabhadra on a black horse, still co-memorates the history.

On the road, Jagannath and Balabhadra grew thirsty and chanced upon a milkmaid Manika, who gave them butter-milk/yogurt to quench their thirst. Instead of paying her dues, Balabhadra gave her a ring telling her to claim her dues from King Purushottam. Later, Purushottam Deva himself passed by with his army. At Adipur near Chilika lake, the milkmaid Manika halted the King pleading for the unpaid cost of yogurt consumed by His army's two leading soldiers riding on black and white horses. She produced the gold ring as evidence. King Purusottam Deva identified the ring as that of Jagannath. Considering this a sign of divine support for his campaign, the king enthusiastically led the expedition.

In the war between the army of Kalinga inspired by the Divine support of Jagannath and of the army of Kanchi, Purushottam Deva led his army to victory. King Purusottam brought back the Princess Padmavati of Kanchi to Puri. To avenge his humiliation, he ordered his minister to get the princess married to a sweeper.[139] The minister waited for the annual Ratha Yatra when the King ceremonially sweeps Jagannath's chariot. He offered the princess in marriage to King Purusottam, calling the King a Royal sweeper of God. The King then married the Princess. The Gajapati King also brought back images of Uchchhishta Ganesh (Bhanda Ganesh or Kamada Ganesh) and enshrined them in the Kanchi Ganesh shrine at the Jagannath Temple in Puri.

This myth has been recounted in the Madala panji chronicle of the Jagannath Temple of Puri, in relation to Gajapati Purushottama. At any rate, the story was popular soon after Purushottama's reign, as a text of the first half of the 16th century mentions a Kanchi Avijana scene in the Jagannath temple. There is currently a prominent relief in the Jaga mohan (prayer hall) of the Jagannath temple of Puri that depicts this scene. Now in the modern culture, episodes of the Kanchi Vijaya are a major motif in Odissi dance.

The Kanchi Kingdom has been identified as the historical Vijayanagar Kingdom. As per historical records, Gajapati Purushottam Deva's expedition towards Virupaksha Raya II's Kanchi (Vijayanagar) Kingdom started during 1476 with Govinda Bhanjha as commander-in-chief. 

Ramanuja, the great Vaishnav reformer, visited Puri between 1107 and 1111 converting the King Ananatavarman Chodaganga from Shaivism to Vaishnavism. At Puri he founded the Ramanuja Math for propagating Vaishnavism in Odisha. The Alarnatha Temple stands testimony to his stay in Odisha. Since the 12th century, under the influence of Ramanuja, Jagannath culture was increasingly identified with Vaishnavism.

Under the rule of the Eastern Gangas, Vaishnavism became the predominant faith in Odisha. Odia Vaishnavism gradually centred on Jagannath as the principal deity. Sectarian differences were eliminated by assimilating deities of Shaivism, Shaktism, and Buddhism in the Jagannath Pantheon.The Ganga Kings respected all the ten avatars of Vishnu, considering Jagannath as the cause of all the avatars.

The Vaishnava saint Nimbarkacharya visited Puri, establishing the Radhavallav Matha in 1268.The famous poet Jayadeva was a follower of Nimbaraka, with a focus on Radha and Krishna. Jayadev's composition Gita Govinda put a new emphasis on the concept of Radha and Krishna in East Indian Vaishnavism. And the Jagannath Temple, Puri became a place where for the first time the famous Krishnaite poem Gita Govinda was introduced into the liturgy.This idea soon became popular. 

Sarala Dasa in his adaptation of the Mahabharat thought of Jagannath as the universal being equating him with Buddha and Krishna. He considered Buddha-Jagannath as one of the avatars of Krishna.[8] Sometimes Jagannath is venerated as Vamana, the avatar of Vishnu.

In the 16th century, the worship of Gopal (Krishna), associated with Jagannath, had already flourished in Odisha. Thus the raja Languliya Narasimha Deva installed the image called Gopinath with eight figures of gopi. During Hera-Panchami festival, Jagannath is regarded as Krishna.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauda region (present day Bengal/Bangladesh) with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of the monotheistic Deity or Supreme Personality of Godhead, often addressed as Krishna, Narayana or Vishnu".The focus of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the devotional worship (bhakti) of Krishna, as Svayam Bhagavan or the Original Supreme Personality of Godhead.[153]

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu emphasised bhakti and encouraged the identification of Jagannath with Krishna.He spent the last 20 years of his life in Puri dedicating it to the ecstatic worship of Jagannath, whom he considered a form of Krishna. Mahaprabhu propagated the Sankirtan movement which laid great emphasis on chanting God's name in Puri. He converted noted scholars like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya to his philosophy. He left a great influence on the then king of Odisha, Prataprudra Deva, and the people of Odisha. According to tradition, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is said to have merged with the idol of Jagannath in Puri after his death.

Since then in the annual festivity of the Lords, in the Ratha Yatra, the three deities are taken from the Jagannath Temple in the chariots to the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for seven days. Thereafter, the deities again ride the chariots back to Shri Mandir in Bahuda yatra. On the way back, the three chariots stop at the Mausi Maa Temple and the deities are offered poda pitha, a kind of baked cake which are generally consumed by the poor sections only.

The observance of the Ratha 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. Kapila Samhita also refers to Ratha Yatra. During the Moghul period, King Ramsingh of Jaipur, Rajasthan, has also been described as organizing the Ratha Yatra in the 18th century. In Odisha, kings of Mayurbhanj and Parlakhemundi also organized the Ratha Yatra, though the most grand festival in terms of scale and popularity takes place at Puri.

In fact, the ruling Ganga dynasty instituted the Ratha Yatra at the completion of the great temple around 1150. This festival was one of the Hindu festivals celebrated in India and abroad.

The temple's historical records the Madala panji maintains that the temple was originally built by King Yayati of the Somavamsi dynasty on the site of the present shrine. However, the historians question the veracity and historicity of the Madala Panji. As per historians, the Deula and the Mukhashala were built in the 12th century by Ganga King Anangabheemadeva, the grandson of Anantavarman Chodaganga and the Natamandapa and Bhogamandapa were constructed subsequently during the reign of Gajapati Purushottama Deva (1462–1491) and Prataprudra Deva (1495–1532) respectively. According to Madala Panji, the outer prakara was built by Gajapati Kapilendradeva (1435–1497). The inner prakara called the Kurma bedha (Tortoise encompassment) was built by Purushottama Deva.

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Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Lord Jagannath & Rath Yatra over the Yugas- a confluence of culture, custom and divinity spread out from Odisha
Rath Yatra

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