Swami nayana pata gami bhavatu me!
"O Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe, please be visible before my eyes."
The Appearance of Lord Jagannatha
Five thousand years ago,
Lord Krishna, with His elder brother Balarama and His younger sister Subhadra,
once visited Kurukshetra in a chariot. Two thousand years later, King Indradyumna
started the temple of Jagannatha in Orissa at Puri, and he wanted to establish
a picture in the temple of Krishna, Subhadra, and Balarama coming to Kuruksetra
in the chariot during solar eclipse. He employed Visvakarma to carve them from
wood, and made a contract with Visvakarma that the sculptor would do his work
behind closed doors and the King should not disturb him. But the King, being very
impatient to see, forcefully opened the door. Visvanatha stopped carving, but
the king decided, "Never mind it is half finished. I shall install these
deities in the temple." Since then, the three deities Jagannatha, Balarama
and Subhadra are being worshiped in India at Jagannatha Puri.
- Subhadra - Jagannatha
The significance of Jagannatha
Puri and the story of how the Deities first appeared goes back many hundreds of
years to the time of King Indradyumna, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
It is related that one time in his court the King heard from a devotee about an
incarnation of Lord Vishnu, named Nila-madhava. (Nila-madhava is the Deity form
of Lord Vishnu.) The King very much wanted to see this form of the Supreme and
sent many Brahmanas to search for Nila-madhava. All came back unsuccessful except
for Vidyapati, who did not come back at all. He had wandered to a distant town
which was populated by a tribe of people known as Shabaras of non-Aryan heritage.
He had stayed in the house of Visvasu, and later, at Visvasu's request, married
his daughter, Lalita.
After some time Vidyapati
noticed that Visvasu would leave the house every night and return at noon the
next day. Vidyapati asked his wife about this. Though her father had ordered her
not to tell anyone, she told Vidyapati that Visvasu would go in secret to worship
Nila-madhava. After repeated requests, Vidyapati finally got permission to go
see Nila-madhava, only if he went blindfolded. But Vidyapati's wife had bound
some mustard seeds in his cloth so that a trail could be left to follow later.
When they reached the shrine, Vidyapati saw the Deity Nila-madhava after the Shabara
took off the blindfold, and he felt great ecstasy.
The story continues to relate
that while Visvasu was out collecting items for worship, Vidyapati saw a bird
fall into the nearby lake and drown. The soul of the bird suddenly took a spiritual
form and ascended back to the spiritual world. Vidyapati wanted to do the same
and climbed the tree to jump in the lake. Then a voice from the sky declared that
before he jumped he should tell Indradyumna that he had found Nila-madhava.
When Visvasu returned to
worship the Deity, Nila-madhava spoke and said that He had accepted the simple
worship from him for so many days, but now He wanted to accept the opulent worship
that would be offered by King Indradyumna. When Vidyapati went back to tell the
King, Indradyumna immediately went to find Nila-madhava but could not locate Him.
So the King arrested Visvasu, but a voice told him to release the Shabara and
that he should build a temple on top of Nila Hill where the King would see the
Lord as Daru-brahman, the wooden manifestation of the Absolute.
After great endeavor, King
Indradyumna built the temple at Sri Kshetra, now known as Jagannatha Puri, and
later prayed to Lord Brahma to consecrate it. However, Lord Brahma said that it
was not within his power to consecrate the temple since Sri Kshetra is manifested
by the Supreme's own internal potency and is where the Lord manifests Himself.
So Brahma simply put a flag on top of the temple and blessed it, saying that anyone
who from a distance saw the flag and offered obeisances would easily be liberated
from the material world. Nonetheless, after much waiting the King became anxious
since Nila-madhava had not manifested Himself. Thinking his life was useless,
the King decided he should end his life by fasting. But in a dream the Lord said
that He would appear floating in from the sea in His form as Daru-brahman.
The King went to the shore
and found a huge piece of wood that had the markings of a conch, disc, club, and
lotus. This was Daru-brahman. But try as they might, the men could not budge the
wood. In a dream the Lord spoke to the King and instructed him to get Visvasu
and put a golden chariot in front of Daru-brahman. After doing this and forming
a kirtana party to chant the holy names, and praying for Daru-brahman to mount
the chariot, Daru-brahman was easily moved. Lord Brahma performed a sacrifice
where the present temple now stands and installed a Deity of Lord Narasimhadeva,
the Deity that is now on the western side of the temple.
From the wooden Daru-brahman,
the King requested many expert carvers to carve the form of the Deity, but none
could do so for their chisels immediately broke when they touched the wood. Finally
the architect of the demigods, Visvakarma, (some say the Lord Himself) arrived
as an old artist, Ananta Maharana, and promised that he would carve the Deity
form of the Lord inside the temple in three weeks if the King would allow him
to work behind closed doors. But after 14 days the King became very anxious because
he could no longer hear the sounds of the carving. Finally he could stand it no
more. On the advice of the queen he personally opened the doors of the temple
to see what was happening. Then he saw the forms of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama,
and Lady Subhadra. But because the King had opened the doors sooner than he was
supposed to, the Deities were not completed; Their feet and hands had not yet
been carved. Thus, the Supreme manifested Himself in this form.
The King felt he had committed
a great offense for having opened the doors before the allotted three weeks had
passed, so he decided to end his life. But in a dream Lord Jagannatha told the
King that though he had broken his promise, this was just a part of the Supreme's
pastimes to display this particular form. The King was told that this form, even
though it appeared to be incomplete, was actually the form of the Lord that was
meant to be worshiped in this age of Kali-yuga. Occasionally the King could decorate
the Deity with golden hands and feet. Yet those devotees filled with love would
always see the form of Lord Jagannatha as the threefold bending form of Syamasundara,
Krishna, holding a flute. Thus, the Supreme appeared in this form so that people
could approach and see Him, especially as He rides through town on the huge carts
during the Ratha-Yatra festival.
Five hundred years ago,
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to live at Jagannatha Puri after taking sannyasa.
He enjoyed many pastimes there worshipping the deities of Lord Jagannatha (Lord
Krsna), Balarama and Subhadra, and dancing in ecstasy before the ratha yatra cart
at the yearly festival in Puri.
In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (118) it is said that King Indradyumna later took
birth again in his own family as Maharaja Prataparudra, during the time of Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Maharaja Prataparudra was as powerful as King Indra. He belonged
to the dynasty of the Ganga king, his capital was in Cuttak, and he was the Emperor
of Orissa and a great devotee of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The drama named Caitanya-candrodaya
was written under his direction.
The records of Sri Jagannatha
Temple in Puri reveal that after Maharaja Indradyumna had the deities installed
in the temple, he requested Lord Brahma to prescribe the proper worship of Lord
Jagannath (seva, puja and niti), which included twelve annual yatras, of which
ratha yatra is the main one.
Rathayatra Chariot Festival
Ratha yatra is a celebration
of the occasion when Sri Krsna (Lord Jagannatha) attended a religious function
in Kuruksetra some 5,000 years ago, traveling from Dwarka in a big chariot along
with Subhadra and Balarama. In remembrance of that event, the car festival takes
place in Jagannath Puri every year, and millions of people go there to participate.
Today, ratha yatra festivals are performed at temples around the world, and they
are one of the paraphernalia of our Krsna Consciousness movement because they
revive our consciousness about Krsna.
Rathayatra Chariot Festival in Jagannath Puri, Orissa India
Each year in Jagannath Puri,
three enormous chariots are built anew for Lord Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhardra.
Over 1,000 logs are brought from the Dasapalla and Ranpur forests, and more than
100 carpenters work for two months constructing the three chariots. A local mill
provides nearly 2,000 meters of cloth each year, and the chariots are radiantly
draped in color. Very strong coconut fiber ropes, 8 inches in diameter, are used
by the devotees to pull the chariots along the parade route. The nails, brackets
and fixtures are all made locally, and the smiths work for a month on them. The
ratha's main structure (above the wheels) contains eighteen pillars and roofs.
Each chariot holds nine parswadevatas (subsidiary deities), two dwarapalas (door
keepers), one Sarathi (charioteer) and one presiding deity of the crest banner
(dhwaja devata), and all are made of wood.
In Oriya, the language of
Orissa, the word "yatra" means journey, or tour. Yatra might be performed
on foot (pada yatra), by train, or by air (vimana yatra). Advanced devotees are
also able to perform invisible yatra, traveling with the subtle body. For Lord
Jagannatha's ratha yatra, the means of transport for Lord Jagannatha, Balarama
and Subhardra is by way of chariot, or 'car'. This chariot vehicle is known as
Once each year, for a period
of about 15 days, Lord Jagannatha travels out to spread his mercy. Those who have
the good fortune to view the Jagannatha deities, or who help to pull the chariots
along on their ropes, are benedicted by the Lord during the ratha yatra parade.
Srila Prabhupada said, "Therefore
if you participate in these car festivals, as it is stated in the scriptures,
rathe ca vamanam drstva punar janma na vidyate... If you kindly see these
Jagannatha deities riding on these cars and in procession, and as Caitanya Mahaprabhu
chanted the Hare Krsna mantra in front of this car, then according to our Vedic
scripture, in your next life you'll go to back, back to home, back to Godhead."
Chaitanya's Pastimes in Jagannatha Puri