Written by Srijeet Satpathy Saturday, 21 January 2012 07:06
In India and abroad, people might not know about the existence of a state called Odisha but Puri (one of the many districts in Odisha) most definitely has a high recall value globally for being the land of Lord Jagannath and Puri Jagannath temple. Popular as one of the four dhams (must visit destinations before death to attain Mokshya as per Hindu religion), Puri sees millions of devotees throng the Puri Jagannath Temple premises through the year for blessings of the Lord Jagannath.
Trade analysts may regard Puri Tour to be the USP of religious/pilgrimage tourism in Odisha. Pandas, Brahmins who conduct prayers and services for Shri Jagannath, may earn their extra buck by being proactive salesmen and promoting varied holy products and costly compulsory rituals to most visitors and devotees in the premises of the Puri Jagannath Temple. Also, the national television may cover a LIVE coverage of the famous annual chariot festival (Puri rath yatra) when Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra mount the rath and step out of the Jagannath Temple Puri to visit their Maushi (maternal aunt). However, the real essence of this age-old religious land lies in Puri Jagannath and his Mystics. The atheist in you could decide to reject the mystical facts as speculation, mere coincidence or folklore but the believer in you shall most definitely be amazed by the revelations below. After stating the facts and observations, we solely leave it to the reader to derive conclusions.
The entrance gate of the palatial house of Lord Jagannath and his siblings is called Singha dwar (since it used to be guarded by Lions as per mythology). As one enters, the Jagannath Puri Temple there are Baaisi Pahachas (22 steps) that lead to the Lord's abode. The first mystery that has been floating in the air since ages is the reverberating, roaring noise of the sea which is well heard till the entrance of the Singha dwar, but as we climb up the Baaisi Pahachas, the roar of the sea dies. It is believed that the noise of the sea disturbed the Lord and hence he built the great Meghanada Pacheri (wall that surrounds the temple premises) to act as a tremendous acoustic against the noise of th waves. Although, physics would deny an open air restriction but somehow, the theorems have fallen short of giving a firm explanation to afore mentioned phenomena.
Who is Lord Jagannath?
- Incarnation of Lord Vishnu/ Lord Krishna.
- Worshipped primarily in Odisha and West Bengal as a triad with brother Shri Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra.
- The idol of Lord Jagannath is carved out of wood, an exception since all major Hindu deity idols are made of stone.
- The idols of the triad seem to be incomplete in the making since inception, as they have no hands and legs. The story of how Lord Jagannath came into being offers a mythical explanation for the same.
- Sometimes, he is treated as the ninth incarnation in the Dashavatar (ten supreme incarnations) upon substituting Buddha.
- Most famous festival: Puri Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival).
- His consort is Goddess Laxmi.
After making our way up the Baaisi Pahacha, one would find an age-old Kalpa Bata Bruksha (mythical banyan tree) while touring inside the temple. The spiritual belief of devotees is that the tree has special powers and fulfils desires. It is ritualistically believed that one's wish turns true and asked desire is realized if one ties a strand of sacred thread on the branch of the Kalpa Bata Bruksha. This custom continues till date and the Kalpa Bata Bruksha is covered with millions of sacred thread all over itself. Tying thread around trees is common religious gesture in various places in India. However, the sheer number of threads around the Kalpa Bata Brukshya is a sight to behold and makes one contemplate if there might be some truth in the folklore due to which people haven't stopped tying threads on to the tree or it is a standing proof of the blind faith of the devotees on their Lord Jagannath.
Right next to the Kalpa Bata Bruksha is the Kanchi Ganesha. The idol of Lord Ganesha placed in this temple was allegedly brought from Kanchi. In front of the Kanchi Ganesha is a small idol of a Musika (mouse) which is the bahana (legal animal follower) of Lord Ganesha. In Indian mythology, every God has a legal animal follower who accompanies him/her everywhere and is a major help to devotees. It is said that bahanas are the principal secretaries of the particular Gods/Goddesses and devotees whisper their wishes in the ears of these bahanas guarding the entrance of the God's house so that they can help the worshippers to get a quick revert on the expressed wish. The body idol of the Musika, dutifully standing outside the gate of Kanchi Ganesha's temple, has a thorny, prickly surface ever since the day of its establishment. Visitors do not forget to touch the idol of the Musika to get a sense its peculiar thorny surface; it is almost a ritual to do so. Scientifically, regular friction on any stone object is supposed to make the surface smooth with time. But, even today, the body of the Musika feels like a rough, prickly surface despite being touched by thousands of devotees daily over times immemorial.
Our next destination is the Maha Laxmi Mandir (temple of the wife of Lord Jagannath). Here, one can feel the cool breeze of the Bay of Bengal with the soft murmuring sound of the sea. It's the only place within the premises of the Jagannath Puri Temple where the sound as well as the breeze of the sea is distinctively felt. Astonishing but true, the sound dies the moment one climbs down the steps of the Maha Laxmi Mandir. Folklore testifies that since Goddess Laxmi happens to be the daughter of the mighty ocean; there still persists a strong bond between the two, which is experienced at her house inside the temple.
There are several peculiar Gods and Goddesses residing in the premises of the Jagannath temple. The Jara Thakurani (Triplet Goddesses who cure fever) are worthy of mention in this context. They reside at the entrance of the Sun Temple (the original idol of Lord Surya or Sun God is kept behind a curtain and a dummy idol is worshipped since plunderer Kalapahada damaged the original idol in his attempt to steal it out of the temple). The Jara Thakurani are known to cure any form of fever be it malaria, typhoid, dengue or viral. Thousands of devotees bear testimony to the same. The existence of these three in one Goddesses is known to a select few and it is said that if one makes an offering of milk and bananas to them and prays for the concerned patient, the fever abates almost miraculously and immediately.