Jagannatha Parivaara and Nrusingha Yajna for Nirmaan
(Compilation for a Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, July 2015)
Nabakalavera also called Nirmaan is an ancient tradition followed in Jaganaath Temple of Puri where the wooden icons of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarsana are replaced by new set of icons with a series of sacred rituals like Jeernoddhara Kumbhabhishekam done in South India for stone icons every twelve years to carry out the needed repair and restoration. The old icons in Puri are also given a warm send-off (visarjan ceremony). This is more logical because the wooden images cannot last long like stone icons. This Nabakalevara or Punar-nirmaana ceremonies are symbolically performed in all Jagannath Temples built and worshiped wherever Hindus are settled on the globe as they can’t afford to replace the old deities. A year with an Adhika Maasa (extra month ) as per Hindu calendar is considered to be auspicious and the year 2015 is one such. Last ceremony was done in 1996.
It is customary to do Samadhi Ritual for the old shrines and install new deities on Ratnavedi in a ceremony called Nava Nirman and Mangalaarpana starting with Nrisingha Yajna every 12 or 19 years like Jeernoddhaara Praanapratishtha Ceremony in South Indian Temples. Before that we should know what constitutes Jagannatha Parivar based on Puranas and History and the practice of amalgam worship of deities of Siva, Sakta and Vishnu concepts.
Some of the famous shrines in India are shrouded in mystery. The shrine in Palani in Tamil Nadu is worshiped as Murugan by Hindus and as Palani Baba by Muslims. Who was Venkateswara? Today he is accepted as a manifestation of Vishnu, but his identity has been a hot debated subject. The biggest mystery of all is which God could he be—Skanda, Shakti, Siva, Vishnu--all or none? The origins of this God are shrouded in a mystery which will probably never be solved. The deity of Puri, Lord Jagannath surpasses all. His shrine in Puri is the amalgam of all religions and encompasses all philosophies. It is more of an inclusive philosophy than exclusive.
The deities of Puri are made of wood. Bhagavata Purana says Moorti Upasana can be done by worshiping an icon carved out of stone, metal wood or some kind of clay material, crystal, a sketch or picture drawn out by hand or imagined in mind—“Sailee daaru mayee lauhee lepyaalekhyaacha saikatee | manomayee manimayee pratimaashta vidhaasmritaa ||
One may worship an icon sculpted from stone or metal or paste or a drawn picture or made from sand or imagined in mind or from crystal.
Does Rigveda talk about Moorti Upaasana?
A verse from Rigveda (10.155.3) is quoted to support the theory that Jagannaatha Puri with its temple of wooden images is a very ancient center of pilgrimage:
“Ado yaddaaru plavete sindhoh paare apoorusham | tadaarabhasva durhano tena-gaccha parastaram” --Rigveda Mantra (10—155—30)
Sayana commented on this as follows:
“Vipra krishnadese vartamaanam apoorusham yaddaarumayam purushottamaakhyam devataa, devataa sareeram, sindhoh paare samudra teere plavate… taddaru…hay stotah aalmbhasva upaasva”
From this it is obvious that this Rigveda mantra talks about the historic background of Puri Purushottamakshetra. Its meaning is as follows:
Oh Unconquerable Learned man, located in the Land of Krishna! Meditate and follow the wood that comes floating around and comes to the shore that has not been created by anybody Seeking its protection reach the yonder shores of Parampada (Supreme abode)
It is clear from the Rigveda mantra that this natural log of wood which is not in the human form made it appearance on the sea shore where River Sindhu merged with the sea and made its travel afloat to the shores of Puri which is considered to be Bhoo-Vaikuntha (Heaven on Earth). People are also asked to follow it, worship it (upaasva) and take refuge (aalambhasva) in it.
Brahma Vaivarta Puraana declares that Indradyumna, the pious King of Maalwa country with its capital Avanti (modern Ujjain) came to Orissa and built the temple at the command of Lord Krishna.
Brahma Puraana says that the image of Jagnnaatha (Purushottama) is four armed carrying conch (sankha), discus (chakra) mace (gadaa) and lotus (abja). The present image is only two-armed. The image is draped in yellow silk cloth (peeta vastra) and its chest is covered by the garland of wild flowers (vanamalaa-vritoraska) and adorned by Sreevatsa gem (sreevatsoraha samyukta), and that the crown and armlets (muktaangada sobhita) can be seen.
In Sharada Tilaka, Purushottama has Lakshmi seated on his lap and is embracing her. She holds a lotus and Purushottama looks amorously and intently at her.
Brahma Vaivarta Puraana refers to the dream or vision of Indradyumna and describes the images as follows: Janaardhana was stationed on a divine throne (divya-simhaasana-gatah) along with Balbhadra and Sudarsana. He had four hands, and held in them conch, discus, mace and lotus as described in Brahma Puraaana. Balabhadra had also four hands. He carried in them plough (hala), pestle (musala), discus (chakra) and Lotus (abja). He was of the form a serpent (Pannagaakriti), seven-hooded snake raising its hoods over him like a parasol (chhatreekrita-phanaas-sapta). He wore gorgeous ear-rings (ujjvala-kundala) and a crown. Subhadra was pretty faced, carried in her hands the gesture of boon bestowal and protection as well as lotus (Vara-abja-abhaya-dhaarinee). She was verily Lakshmi, who manifested herself as life-force of all beings (sarva-chaitanya-roopinee). Sudarsana, generally seen in the hand of Vishnu was concealed in a pillar (stambha madhyastam).
In Skanda Puraana, Jagannaatha is identified with Vishnu, Balabhadra with Siva and Subhadra standing between Jagannaatha and Balabhadra (trayormadhya-sthitaam bhadraam subhadraam) with Lakshmi or Kaatyaayini or Bhuvaneswaree or Ekaanamsaa. Subhadra, in this description stands separately (prithak sthitam). She is red in complexion (kumkumaarunaa) and two armed carrying in the hands the gesture of boon-bestowal and lotus (vara-abja-dhaarinee).
Taantric worshipers have drawn enough guidance from scriptures and Puranas to consider Puri as a Sakti Peetha. Devi Bhaagavata says: “Srishthibhootaa mahaasakti manipura nivaasinee Vimalaa saa Paraasakti uddyaanapureswaree | Anjunaa dehi me devi bahiryoge mamaambikaa maadhavaa-bhairavas- sakshaat pranatosmi jagatpate ||”]
In Orissa, Vimala is Paraasakti and Pureswari, the source of the creation of the Universe residing in the city of jewels. Oh Goddess! I offer my obeisance to you together with Maadhava, the Lord of the Universe hailed as Bhairava.
Mahaa Nirvaana Tantra says: “Ugrataaraa soolapaani Subhadraa bhuvaneswaree neelaadrau tu saakshaat Jagannaaatha dakshina Kaalikaa”—In Neelaadri, Soolapaani or Bhalabhadra is worshiped as Taaraa (the second Mahaa Vidyaa); Subhadraa is worshiped as Bhuvaneswaree (the fourth Mahaa Vidyaa); and Jagannaatha himself is Dakshina Kaalikaa (the first Mahaa Vidyaa).
Kubjaka Tantra describes the center of Orissa, the Sree Mandira in Puree as the abode of Mahaalakshmi-“Mahaalakshmee maayaa peethah vidyaanam athah param”
The four images now seen in the temple are all on a common stone platform called Ratna-vedee. The platform also accommodates small metallic images of Lakshmi to the right of Jagannaatha image, Visvadhaatree (Bhoo-devi) to the left of Jagannaatha and a wooden replica of Jagannaatha (representing Neelaa Maadhava). All the images face the eastern direction. All the four images are wooden. They are all dressed in sarees (typical dress for Hindu woman) and are seen with nose ornaments made of flower. The height of the images of Bala-bhadra and Jagannaatha are the same (84 Yuvas) but that of Subhadra is shorter (52.5 Yuvas). The images of Jagannaatha and Balabhadra, consists of a trunk surmounted by a large head. The two arm stumps are separately added. The image of Subhadra does not have the arm-stumps (which are believed to be hidden). It consists merely of trunk and head. The head of Jagnnaatha is flat on top. There are large round eyes which dominate the face with an angry look. The head of Bala-bhadra, as also that of Subhadra is oval-shaped. The eyes in both the cases are almond shaped. The Jagannaatha figure is visualized to have the shape of a wheel or discus (Chakraakriti) and that of Bala-bhadra the form of a conch (Sankhaakriti). The image of Subhadra is visualized as a lotus on a thin stalk (Padmaakriti).
Harivamsa makes a tribal goddess Ekaanamsaa (a prototype of the later Devi image as sister to Krishna and Balarama). The worship of the three (Including Ekaanamsaa as Subhadra) has survived to this day in the famous Jagannath temple at Puri. The belief, that all the three of these deities especially Krishna-Vasudeva as human incarnations of Vishnu, had gained ground even in the centuries prior to the Christian era.
Gajapati Pratap Rudra Dev was very strongly influenced by Sri Chaitanya’s uddanda kirtan during his visit to Puri. King Prataprudra surrendered to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as his Spiritual Master, and took diksha initiation from him. From this point onward, Lord Jagannath became more widely known as Sri Krishna. By the mercy of Mahaprabhu’s visit to Puri Dhama, the traditional observance of Chandana Yatra, Janmaashtami, and Radhaashtami, were popularly celebrated at Sri Mandir from the 16th Century AD onward.
The image of Sudarsana which stands to the left of Jagannaatha is a wooden pole with cloth-strips wrapped round it. There is no visible representation of discus (chakra) on it. But the pole is believed to contain a hidden small discus made of gold. Pratishthaa-pradeepa, a text used for the temple worship in Puri claims that this image represents the Narasimha form of Vishnu. Among the various forms of Narasimha in Puraanas are included Sudarsana Narasimha and Mahaa Sudarsana Narasimha. Both Sudarsana and Narasimha are described with the prefix jwaalaa [Jwaalaa Narasimha; Jwaalaa Maalaa (Sahasraaraa), Mahaa Jwaalaa for Sudarsana (in the Sudarsana gayatree)]
Siva called Panchanana is considered equivalent to Vaishnava Narasimha, both in their terrifying forms. Both are addressed as Panchaanana, Chandramouli, Neelakantha, and Trilochana. In Narasimha Tapaneeya Upanishad Sri Narasimha is praised as “Easaanah Sarva vidyaanaam”. Easaana is one of the names of Rudra—Sadyojaataa, Aghora, Vaamadeva, Tatpurusha and Easaana. Sadyojaata (instant born) is a term most appropriate to Narasimha. Panchabrahma mantras directed to Jagnnaatha in Mahaa Naaraayaa Upanishad are equally applicable to Panchaanana Rudra and Panchaanana Narasimha (Naagayajnopaveetinam tam panchaanana-susobhitam| Chandramoulim neelakantham prativaktram trilochanam …… Khadgam soolam cha baanam cha Nriharim Rudragopanam || —description of five faced Narasimha). In Jagannnaatha Puri the two concepts are tied together. The same relationship in the worship of Jagannaatha, Narasimha and Rudra is also confirmed by the prominent presence of these deities in the Lingaraaja temple at Bhuvaneswar also. Narasimha is extremely important in the worship of Jagannatha and particularly so during the complex rituals of Nava Kalevara.
Each of these images on Ratna Vedee has a cavity in it, and a mysterious soul substance called “Brahma-Padaartha” is hidden inside in a secret ritual at the time of the installation of the images during Nava-Kalvara ceremony (renewal of images). This is presumed to provide spiritual continuity to Indradyumna’s first consecration for these deities despite the periodical changes of images.
One of the Mantras used in Tantric worship says: “Odreshu Bimalaa saktir Jagannathastu Bhairavah”—In Orissa Bimala is Sakti and Jagannaatha is Bhairava.
Taittareeya Aaranyaka says: “Tvam streem tvam pumaan aci tvam kumaara uta vaa Kumaree tvam jeerna dandava checi tvam jaata bhavati visvato mukhah”—You are simultaneously woman and man, you are youthful girl and boy at the same time eldest. You are self-manifested and your divine presence is everywhere”.
The biggest mystery of all is which Gods could be on the Vedee to-day in Jagannaatha Puri and which were there before? Which are male deities and which or female? Common innocent devotee worship them as Krishna, his brother Balarama and his sister Subhadra influenced by the Vaishnava influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Jayadeva and others as well as the great epic Mahaabhaarata.
It is said that until the British period, a Bhairava deity was sitting on the Ratna Simhasana together with Jagannath. Another interesting fact is that Bhairava Shiva is also identified with the Sun, with the name Martanda Bhairava. The worship of Surya Narayana is also an extremely important part of the rituals of the Puri temple: the Surya Puja is performed every morning before any other activities take place in the temple. The strict connection between Jagannath, Narasimha, Surya and Bhairava is also confirmed by the prominent presence inside the Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneshwar.
Saura Purana in one of the hymn says that Sudarsana Chakra is another form of Lord Bhairava - Chakra Bhairava. This goes with the contention that at one time Ratnasinghaasan was occupied by Sudarsana in the form of Chakra Bhairva.
Thirupullani, an important pilgrimage place near Rameswaram - a place where King Dasaratha was bestowed with divine nectar (Payasam/kheer) to get progeny and where Lord Rama prayed to Samudra Raja atop kusa grass to reach Sri Lanka. The Adi Jagannatha Perumal Temple in this place is one of the 108 Divya Desams and a very important site related to Ramayana. So Jaganntha temple is not exclusive to Puri alone. Ramanuja visited Jagannath temple also. But Tirupullani is among the 108 Srivaishnava Divya Desas. Puri temple finds a mention in Vedas which connects the temple to Indradyumna’s dream, whereas Thirupullani temple connects to Ramayana.
There is another famous shrine in the South, in Tirupati. Who was Venkateswara? Today the devotees accept him as a manifestation of Vishnu and a male. His identity has been a subject of bitter debate for centuries. The origins of Venkateswara are shrouded in mystery which will probably never be solved. The word Venkat--is it Tamil or Sanskrit? Vem means in Sanskrit dire sins and kata means the immunizing power. According to Vaayu Puraana Venkata means “Destroyer of sins” In Tamil Vengadam means burning debts. This has a reference to Puraanas of Venkatesa’s loan from Kubera. Only thing we know is Venkateswara is the Lord (Iswara) of Venkata.
Here also the biggest mystery of all those devotees who are ignorant and innocent is which God could it be—Skanda, Shakti, Siva or Vishnu, all or none? This has consumed times of scholars and had been the subject of bitter debate for centuries as in Jagannaatha Puri! As is normal this is more debated in the South than in the upper regions of India. Swami Pushakarani in Thirupati may refer to Skanda (often addressed as Swami) who is the God of Hills. There are also frequent references in early Tamil literature on festivals on the Vengadam Hill including hunting festival. The drapery of the Lord resembles Sari as in Jagannath Puri. The ceremonial bath is performed on Friday as is usual for female deities. Thomalaseva in Tirupati is also known as Bhagavati Aaraadhana (worship). The Vimaana of the temple mounts Devi symbol, Lion. In Devi Bhagavatam the Lord of Tirumalai is described as Venkateswaree. The deity is also called Balaaji derived from Baalaa, the Universal Mother (Baalaa Tripura Sundari), and woman’s name. So another view is that this is a form of Durga or another Sakti. The Saivites maintain the matted hair, the cobra on one arm, the snake ornaments and the crescent on the head are undoubtedly marks of Siva. Pooja is also done with the leaves of Bilva which are exclusively used for worship in Siva temples. Saivites recite Vedas here and Vaishnavites recite Divyaprabhandam (Tamil Veda), a rare phenomenon in a Vishnu Temple. A Jaina author of Silappadikaaram says, “Lord Vishnu… is seen in a standing posture on the top of the Vengadam hill… adorned with brilliant cloth of gold round his loins and… a beautiful garland on his chest and holds in his lotus-like hands the invincible discus and milky white conch”. This is an unbiased opinion from an author who is neither a Saivite nor a Vaishnavite. Brahmaanda, Bhavishyottara and Vaayu Puraanas describe Venkatesa as a manifestation of Vishnu.
Venkataadri samam sthaanam brahmaande naasti kanchana |
Venkatesa sama devo na bhooto na bhavishyati ||
There is no place equal to Venkataadri in the whole Universe! A God equal to Venkatesa has never born nor will be!
To a spiritual devotee these have no significance for his thought is focused on Nirguna Brahman who looking at the deity meditates upon with the symbol OM, who has no gender or form who is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. He goes with his prayer without noticing the differences stated above:
“Om Tad Brahma | Om tad Vayuh | Om tad-aatmaa | Om tat Satyam| Om tat sarvam | Om tat Puror- namah |” Om is that Brahman. Om is that Vaayu. Om is that Aatman (Self). Om is that Truth. Om is all that. Om is the primeval cause that existed before creation; so obeisance to that Pranava.”
To a religious devotee probably the answer lies in the hymns of the earliest Vaishnava saint Poygai Azhwar who saw both Siva and Vishnu as his Lord of contemplation:
His name is Aran (Hara or Siva) and Naaranan (Naaraayana)
His Vehicle is the bull (Nandi) and the bird (Garuda)
His word is the book and Marai (Vedas)
His residence is the hills (Kailaasa) and in the waters
His function is destruction and protection
His weapon is the trident and the disc
His form, though One, is fire and dark cloud”
Contrary to the popular belief of Puranic origin, the first thought about iconic worship seems have sprung from Vedas and that too sculpted from wood which incidentally supports the dream King Indradyumna had later as described in Puranas. The following mantra from Rigveda supports the same: “Ado yaddaaru plavate sindhoeh paare apoorusham | tadaarabhasva durhanoe tena-gaccha parastaram (Rigveda 10-155-3). Saayana the famous commentator on Vedas and Upanishads has the following to say: “Vipra krishtadese vartmaanam apoorusham yaddaru mayam purushottamaakhyam devataa, devataa sareeram sindhoepaare samudra teere plavate…. Taddaru … hay stotah aalmbasva upaasva”—Worship the log of wood that nobody has created and came floating on sea that drifted to the shores, oh unconquerable! Take refuge in it and reach the yonder shores of Paramapada, the abode of Vishnu.
The traditional story concerning the origins of the Lord Jagannatha temple is that here the original image of Jagannatha at the end of Tretaayuga manifested near a banyan tree, near sea shore in the form of an Indra- Neelamani or the Blue Jewel. It was so dazzling that it could grant instant Liberation which would make Yama, Lord of Death jobless progressively. So Yama wanted to hide it in the earth, and was successful. In Dwaparayuga, King Indradyumna of Maalwa had a dream and wanted to find that mysterious image, and to do so he performed severe Yajna to obtain his goal. Vishnu in his dream then instructed him to go to the Puri Seashore and find a floating log to make an image from its trunk.
King Indradyumna did severe penance (Yajna or Fire sacrifice) with the blazing fire of which Yajna Nrisimha appeared and instructed that Lord Naraayana of four Vyuhas should be made as four-fold expansion, i.e. Purushottma as Vasudeva; Balabadhra as Sankarshana; Yogamaaya as Subhadra, and his Vaibhava as Sudarsana. This may be the reason why it is customary to conduct Maha Nrisinga Yajna at the beginning of Navakalevara Ceremony, generally performed every twelve years to renew the wooden icons even today. As Indradyumna contemplated getting his vision translated into iconic representations, a huge log of wood of Manjishtha, madder red came floating on the sea, and there also arrived Vardhaka, an old sculptor-carpenter who volunteered to carve out of the log the images exactly as the king was asked to make by Yajna Nrisimha. The Vardhaka was none other than Viswakarma, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in his role of Divine Architect. After the mortal remains of Lord Krishna had been cremated in Prabhas-patan near Dwaraka, there rose from the ashes a great palaasa (peepal) tree that in due course fell into the sea and made its way to the coast of Orissa.
The images that are now worshiped in the temple are also wooden ones, but not the original images as carved out by Viswakarma half-done. Every twelve or nineteen years depending on the Adhika masa of Aashaadha (based on Chandramana Calendar) the old images are given Samadhi within the temple complex and new ones are installed in their places. It is interesting to note Adhikamaasa is also called Purushottama masa as its creation is attributed to Purushottama. Puri is also called Puroshottama Kshetra.
Puranas elaborate the description of these images as stated above but they differ in details from the images that are made now and seen on the Ratna-vedee, popularly called Ratna Singhaasana.
The four images now seen in the temple are all on a common stone platform called Ratna Singhaasana. Apart from the main images of Purushottama, Balabhadra and Subhadra the platform also accommodates small metallic images of Sridevi to the right of the Jagannatha and Viswadhaatri (Bhoodevi) to the left of Jagannatha. A wooden replica of Jagannatha representing the original Neelamani icon can also be seen. All images face east. Each of these four images has a cavity in it, and a mysterious soul substance called Brahma-padaartha is hidden inside in a secret ritual at the time of installation of the images during the Nava- Kalevara, renewal of images, ceremony. This is believed to provide spiritual continuity for the deities despite the periodical change of images.
According to Prabir Dash of Jagannath Committee, Nashville, TN, USA, Lord Jagannatha of Puri is a darling of many faiths contributing to the amalgam of all religions and encompasses all philosophies. It is more of an inclusive philosophy than exclusive. He has the following to say:
“Jagannath once upon a time was the God of Tribal in Eastern part of India and was made of some precious blue stone. That could be during Pre-Vedic times because He was mentioned in Vedas as the Daru Brahman or The Lord of wood. Later King Indradyumna found out about it (myth says through a dream) and sent the son of his chief priest to find and bring Him back to capital. To achieve this, the man has to live in the tribal community and during his stay he fell in love with the tribal princess. Later they married and that was first synthesis of Brahminic culture with tribal. Even today the tribal communities are one of the main servitors of Jagannath in the Puri Temple.
Then during Buddha's time, Buddha visited Puri and at some point of time the then King was converted to Buddhism. When the King converts the Land follows too (Yathaa raaja tathaa prithvee); and Kalinga (currently known as Odisha) became a Buddhist country. After death of Buddha, his tooth was embedded into the pedestal of the Lord and Puri temple became a Buddhist shrine. Right after, Jain religion raised its head and one of the most powerful King named Kharabela, who expanded Kalinga to a vast empire, was a Jain and he prayed to Jagannath as Lord of Jains and Jagannath became a major deity of Jains.
[Jagannatha was a family deity of Ikshvakus. Rama in his parting advice to Vibhishana advises him to do Jagannatha Aradhana in Uttara Kanda, So Jaganntha was a deity worshiped in Tretayuga or even earlier. Jainism was founded much later when Rishabha of Ikshvaku dynasty, its founder succeeded Rama and revived humanity as well as barren city of Ayodhya left behind by Rama.
Valmiki says in the last chapter of Uttara Khanda Sloka 10: “Ayodhyaapi Puree ramyaa soonyaa varshaganaan bahoon| Rishabham praapya Rajaqnam nivaasamupaayaasyati || The beautiful Ayodhya remaining desolate for long years, will become habitable again having secured the protection of King Rishabha. Rishabha is an incarnation of Vishnu acceptable to both Jains and Hindus like Buddha. Hence it is King Karabela's personal admiration to have worshiped him Jaganntha as a Jain Tirthankara. Jagannatha is a much ancient deity and the contention of Orissa that he is a Jain deity is purely a concoction.]
Hindus mention about Buddhavatara as given Bhagavata purana and often end up in contradictions looking at historic Buddha mentioned in Jayadeva's Dasavatara stotra. His images sanctified in Hindu Temples resemble only historic Buddha. For Jina idols they also wrongly choose Mahavira Vardhamana the 24th Tirthankara. they could have avoided all controversies if they had chosen Adinatha, the First Tirthankara who is also an incarnation of Vishnu. Orissa was so influenced by Buddhism and Buddhist culture they too are confused. In my opinion Buddha is a title like Brahma, Indra, Jina and Christ as I often spoke. When Hindus fight over the subject they are having different Buddhas in mind. The confusion has been created by iconography. Buddhism itself talks about 50 different Buddhas.
The next is a myth about Jesus; some believe, during the missing period of his life when he was wandering in search of truth, he actually entered India and visited Puri and learnt about him. At that time due to the influence of Buddhists and Jains, the philosophy was more monolithic. Some Christians in India do believe this and pray to Jagannath as our Lord, a deity with no distinct shape, sex or form.
Muslim religion became ruling power after Muslims entered India and conquered it. Unlike the rest of India, they could not take Odisha for a long time, whether by design to leave an enclave of Hindu symbol alone (lord Jagannatha) to avoid trouble or due to the resistance it is unknown. Such a story is also told about Tippu Sultan who left Srirangapatna Temple untouched! However one of the King's sons in line to the throne contacted leprosy and faced ugly disfigurement and death. In those days leprosy was believed to be a deadly disease. His father was despondent, but his mother who was a Hindu coaxed him to travel to Puri and pray to Lord Jagannath for cure. He did and was cured. The prince never returned to take the throne. He spent rest of his life in Puri and was considered one of the most important devotee of the Lord Jagannath. He, Salabega, had left behind hundreds of his songs in praise of Lord Jagannath which are song in Puri temple even today as well as in other Jagannath temples too. Wherever Oriyans settle down, they try to establish a temple for Jagannath like Venkateswara Temples and Aiyappan Temples. Today many Muslims consider Lord Jagannath as their deity.
So do the Sikhs, since Guru Nanak spent last part of his life in Puri; and for the Tantriks of India Puri is the most important sacred temple.
Then, one may ask, why people of other religions are not allowed into the temple at Puri? That is based on the fear that bothered Hindus during the Muslim invasion when most of the temples were ransacked and destroyed and thereafter the encroachment of Christian religion and forced conversions; hence the resistance. Hindus guarded the temple risking their lives preventing entry of their enemies. There is an effort currently led by few to change the system by educating the orthodox priests who over the period have confined temple visit to Hindus only but it will take time to change their minds and go back to the original concept of One Jagannath for All!”
RATNA SINGHAASANA ASSEMBLY WORSHIP—ONE WORSHIP FOR ALL TRADITIONS
The worship of various deities on Ratnavedi comprises of worship of Avataras of Vishnu (Krishna, Balabhadra, Narasimha) with his wielding power Sudarsana, Devi worships of Subhadra, Bhoodevi and Sridevi all directed to Purushottama or Parabrahman employing both Aagama as well as Tantric forms of worship. Thus it is amalgam of worships of Vishnu, Siva and Sakta deities of different traditions. This sort of amalgam worship is prevalent with Smarta tradition even today in South India. Sankara is presumed to be the founder of this tradition and the founder of Smarta Sampradaya who introduced Panchayatana Pooja, worshiping the assembly of five deities consisting of Siva, Vishnu and Devi. He also casually praised Mahanarayana Upanishaad (MNU) though he had no time to comment upon it.
MNU is a Smaarta text and not a Vaishnava text as many think. It includes a variety of subjects of great importance in the daily observances of a religious Hindu. Whatever was left over to be mentioned in respect of Karma, Upaasana and Jnaana after the recital of the Samhitas and Brahmanasa, says Sayanaacharya, is brought together in this miscellaneous work (prakeerna). This Upanishad contains all Veda Mantras used in present day worship of Siva, Vishnu and his avatars, Soorya, Bhoodevi, Sridevi, Durga, Medhaadevi etc. Please refer to my discourse on “Some Veda Mantras used in Hindu Worships and Rituals” posted on the Blog <nrsrini.blogspot.com> It is a compendium of all essential Veda mantras used in worships and therefore can be used for daily chanting (Veda Parayana) which fulfills our Vedic study as required by Nitya Karmas (daily rituals).
I often feel Lord Venkateshwara as well as Lord Jagannatha (both are compromising deities of different concepts) will be ideal for worship as deities and Smarta Sampradaya as ideal tradition for all American Hindus drawn from different traditions. This will go well with the concept of “One Temple with Common Worship for all Traditions”. Instead of having multiplicities of deities and confused about worships based on sectarian traditions they can just have Jagannatha or Venkateshwara or both and concentrate on few major festivals drawing huge crowds instead concentrating on trivial many festivals and rituals in temples. Aiyappan may be a welcome addition! It is interesting to note that Sankara was born as Namboodari. Namboodaris are both Saivites and Vaishnavites at the same time or Smartas as they worship today Aiyappan who is supposed to be born to Siva and Vishnu in his Avatar as Mohini.
It is also interesting to note Nava-Kalevara ritual starts with Nrusigha Yagna where importance is given to Narasimha Avatar. Normally I expected it would start with the most popular Sudarsana Homa as Sudarsana is a deity in the Jagannatha Parivara on Ratna Singhasana. This gives some food for thought and an interesting study.
One may wonder how Narasimha is so closely associated with Lord Jagannatha. Jayadeva refers to Krishna as Parabrahman and excludes Krishna from Dasavataras. By coincidence only in Krishnavatara Lord Krishna shows his Viswaroopa as Jagannathaa (Universal Person) to his chosen few and also declares he is none other than Narayana or Parabrahman in Bhagavadgeetaa. In place of Krishnavatara Jayadeva includes Balabhadra and Historic Buddha of Buddhism. MNU includes five Panchabrahma mantras directed to Jagannatha which Saivites call Panchaanana mantras and direct them to Lord Siva as he is also often addressed with the five names contained in Panchabrahma mantras—Sadyojaata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Easana and Tatpurusha. In Narasimha Tapaneeya Upanishad Lord Narasimha is praised as “Eaasaanah sarvavidyaanam”, the epithet Easaana referred in Panchabrahma mantras to Brahman. Sadyojata (instant born) is a term most appropriate to Narasimha. (Please refer to Panchbrahma mantras in my discourse on “Some Vedic mantras from Mahanarayana Upanishad”). Also Brahma Vaivarta Purana says Sudarsana the usual discus in the hands of Vishnu was inside a pillar. That is why Sudarsana is seen as a pole on Ratnavedee. Sudarsana-Narasimha like Varaha-Narasimha is a composite image of Sudarsana, having on one side of the Shatkona (six cornered figure) within the flaming discus and that of Narasimha on the other side (poorve Sudarsanam devam aparena Nrisimhakam). While Sudarsana is in the standing posture or in the moving posture Narasimha is always shown in Yogapatta. This simulates Sudarsana—Nrisunga shown as a pole in the Ratnavedee where Narasimha is contained within (Narasimha bursted out of a pillar in Puranas). Narasimha in this case has four, eight and sixteen hands, and carries discus in each of them. Vihagendra Samhita which describes the iconic representation of Sudarsana-Narasimha also declares the two forms are really one (Sudarsane Nrisimhe vaa eka roopam ihochyate). This clearly substantiates that Sudarsana in pole form on the Ratnavedee is really Sudarsana-Narasimha and so the pole is worshiped as Narasimha and Sudarsana both simultaneously. That is why in my opinion Nrusinga Yajna takes a lead over popular Sudarsana Homa in Nava-kalevara. There is a sanctum for Narasimha even in Bhubaneswar Temple and Narasimha is one of the popular deities in Orissa Hindu Culture. There both Linga and Saalagraama are worshiped together.
Yet another custom worth recalling here is the Pentadic worship (Panchopaasana). It is difficult to ascertain when exactly this custom commenced but we find it recommended in Puranas and Smritis. Sankaracharya is supposed to have been responsible for its defining and prevalence. Sankara visited Puri and spent lot of time there. Probably he would have noticed the worship of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Narasimha and Soorya together in Purushottamakshetra which should have inspired him for promoting Smaarta tradition and Pentadic worship. The arrangement of five deities on a common platform would signify the equal status. Sometimes the five deities are associated with five elements. In Pancharatra concept the four deities are considered as aspects (Vyuhas) of Para or Supreme.
Worshiping Krishna with his Parivara and Narasimha is not something special to Odisha tradition alone. May I draw your attention here to the famous Parthasarathy Temple in Chennai which I regularly visited in my student life! Tiruvallikkeni in Chennai is one among the 108 Diyakshetras of Vaishnavas. The main deity Venkata Krishnan faces east while Narasimha sanctum faces west something unusual and away from the tradition. Garbagrihas (sanctums) usually face East or North only. Here again simultaneous worship of Narasimha and Krishna as Jagannatha takes place together at one place at the same time. The name Venkata added to Krishna gives it the sanctity of Bhoovaikuntha (Vaikuntha on Earth) and shows Jagannatha status. You know Tirupathi is called Bhoovaikuntha. Along with his consort Rukmini Krishna holds sword in one hand while the other hand is in the boon bestowal gesture. Krishna's brother Balarama is positioned on his right, Satyaki to his left; Krishna's son Pradyumna and grandson Aniruddha are also found in the sanctum. Satyaki was the grand-son of Shini of the Vrishni clan, and son of Satyaka. A valiant warrior, Satyaki was devoted to Krishna and was a student of Arjuna. He was commander for one Akshauhini of the Paandava army. Among several thousand wives of Krishna only Rukmini is considered as she is the senior most and Patta-Mahishi, ruling q ueen where Krishna is considered as Kshatriya King and King of Yadavas.
This portrayal of Krishna Parivara and worship together demonstrates Grandfather-Father-Son relationship, a strong tie for humans to follow. Pitru devo bahava and pitruloka and Nandi shraaddha concepts perhaps spring here! He has not forgotten his devotee too! Here again you see Krishna and his direct Parivara being worshiped on the same platform. It is interesting to see here how the Creation took place in Puranic concept. Puranas talk of Brahma being born out of the navel of Narayana (Vishnu) and Rudra being born of Brahma. This establishes father-son-grandson relationship as the plan of Creation; being all of them in masculine gender in Sanskrit it shows the importance given to Father; Brahma divided himself as male and female and started the process of creation. Here all thoughts are focused on Father! Parthasarathy temple in Chennai is one of the Vishnu temples where the Vishnu is present along with his three generations. That is why Hinduism talks about Pitruloka and Pitru devo bahva.
Lord Krishna with his sword is surprising since in Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna holds conch only in his right hand, as he had promised not to take up arms in Mahabharata War. In Shodasaayudha Stotra on Sudarsana, Sudarsana is depicted as carrying sword Nandaka in his hand. This sword then should be Nandaka the sword of Vishnu. Probably this sword represents Sudarsana which Krishna once or twice called for in Mahabharata War. It could also be the reason why Sudarsana is shown separately on Ratnavedi and not in the hands of Jagannatha. In Chennai Krishna is also seen with his moustache typical as a Kshatriya warrior and not the usual Krishna with flute. Krishna with flute and his unwed love Radha together is often seen in Krishna temples. This portrayal is not amorous but philosophically interpreted as attraction between Jeevaatman and Parmaatman. It is also strange Radha-Krishna wedding is ceremoniously celebrated in all temples though Puranas say Krishna did not marry Radha and their longing for one remained a boy-hood dream. Carefully, Puri Temple excluded wives of Krishna including Radha in the Jaganntha Parivara to avoid controversies, instead brought Subhadra, whom Krishna loved too much being the wife of Arjuna, to the dais. Who can fathom Lord’s mind and workings?
Worshiping Rudra and Vishnu together about which Odisha Tradition often talks about can be traced back to Puranas where Rudra and Vishnu are both praised as Janardhana or Jagannatha. Normally Puranas glorify its subject matter God as the Supreme to all other Gods. But Koormapurana is not so. That is why in some traditions Sarasvati, Ganesha and Lakshmi are worshiped as children of Parvati to combine all sectarian traditions.
Hymns on Lord Koorma are just very few, in spite of being one of the most important incarnations of Lord Vishnu. In fact Kurma Purana contains many hymns on Lord Shiva and elaborates on the Paratattva of Lord Shiva, with the constant rider that there is no difference between Shiva and Vishnu. In fact, Lord Shiva mentions that He Himself is Lord Narayana in this Purana. Here is a sloka from the rare Dasaavataara Stuti by Sage Gauramukha taken from Varaaha Puranam/Chapter 15. It is mentioned that Sage Gauramukha attained emancipation after worshipping Lord Vishnu with this hymn.
Gauramukha uvāca – Stosye mahendram ripu darpaham Sivam Naaraayanam brahmavidaam varishtam | Aaditya chandras-viyugastam aadyam puraatanam daitya harim haram||
The following glorifying Vishnu and Rudra together from Koorma Purana, Chapter 14 Verses 87-89 is reproduced below:
Manyante ye jagadyoniM vibhinnaM viShNuM IshvarAt | mohAd Aveda-niShThadvAt te yAnti narakaM narAH || 87 ||
VedAnuvarttino rudraM devaM nArAyaNaM tathA | ekI-bhAvena pashyanti mukti-bhajo bhavanti te || 88 ||
Yo viShNuH sa svayaM rudro yo RudraH sa JanArdanaH | iti matvA yajed devaM sa yAti paramAM gatim || 89 ||
Meaning: One who sees the difference between Lord Vishnu and Lord Rudra due to ignorance and meditation on non-Vedic texts enters into the hell. Those who follow Vedic Maarga see both Lord Narayana and Lord Rudra as one and the same and attain emancipation. He who is Vishnu is Lord Rudra Himself and He who is Lord Rudra Himself is Lord Janardana. (Please refer to Mantras from MNU on Rudra and Vishnu together and Panchabrhama mantras focused on Rudra and Narasimha at the same time and popularly used for meditation as Panchaana mantra by Saivites).
Of late Hindus living outside India build temple in which we find Siva Vishnu and Devi deities side by side, a rarity in India. Essentially these can be called Siva-Vishnu Temples as Devi is associated with both though in different forms. The trend to adrift from Tadekam and set up sectarian traditional worship which has grown in leaps and bounds is thus receiving a new attention towards amalgamation. Such a trend is perhaps inspired by the Siva-Vishnu Temple in Chennai or Bhuvaneshwar Temple. Siva-Vishnu temples are from the Vishnu-Rudra in Vedic concept. Vishnu means Vyaapyate iti vishnuh meaning one who pervades the entire Universe. Rudra means rutaat traayate iti Rudrah one who protects all from miseries. When we bring these concepts together this would mean the universal Lord who protects all of us from insurmountable miseries that is Samasaara and brings us salvation.
Motivation and Backgroud Notes on Nrusingha Yajana
Nrusingha (man-lion form deity) is the link between the 'theomorphic' and 'anthropomorphic' evolution of Jagannath. Man-lion form was popular among the autochthonous people. In avatar concept also emergence of human form from animal form starts with Narasimha Avatar and ends with Krishna Avatar which is considered to be the most perfect Avatar as Human being physically, intellectually and spiritually. It is only in Krishna Avatar Vishnu showed his Cosmic Form or Virat Purusha. It is strange both these avatars live side by side in Purushottama Kshetra in Puri and Thiruvallikkeni in Chennai.
As per Vaikahanas Aagama, the main deity of Vishnu should be surrounded by four side icons as Parsvadevatas-- Para, Vasudeva, Sankarshna, Aniruddha and Pradyumna. That is why you will find five deities worshiped together in one sanctum in Parthasarathy Temple in Tiruvallikkeni in Chennai, my favorite temple of visit in my boyhood days. By strange coincidence this temple that was originally a Temple for Narasimha also houses Lord Parthsaarathy (by Narasimha obliging turning to the West) in his valorous form as Parthasarathy with pronounced moustache and Sword Nandaka instead of Chakra returning from War tired with his Parivara--Rukmini, Aniruddaha , Pradyumna , Balarama and Satyaki. Narsimha sanctum faces West (an unusual feature) and Krishna Parivara sanctum faces east.
It is also strange that usual Chakra form of Sudarsana is replaced by a rod on Ratnavedi in Puri Jagannatha where he is worshiped along with Jagannataha, Subhadra, Balarama, Bhoodevi and Neelmadhav. It seems logical that sword of Vishnu, Nandaka in Chennai Parthasarathy Temple here is shown is rod form. But Sudarsana is the custodian of all weapons as glorified in Shoedasaayudha mantra. Also Sudarsana in his human form with eight hands carries eight different weapons among which Nandaka is one. Therefore it is reasonable to assume form of a rod from which a sword is made should represent Sudarsana. Here part for the whole logic prevails. Also Sudarsana is always associated with Narasimha who emerged out of a pillar. All these logics have gone into this iconography. In south Indian Temples Sudarsana has a commanding position as Chakratt-aazhwar or disc shaped Azhwar. In both these famous Vaishanva Temples, Narasimha sanctum exists separately.
These thoughts haunted me when I visited Puri Jagannath. I did not fail to visit Narasimha temple here. To the Western side of Gundicha temple and to the east of sacred Indradyumna Tank there is a temple known as Yajna Narasimha Temple, 60 feet high. Local people call it Nrusingha Mandir. This sacred tank includes a shrine of little child Lord Krishna in the form of Bal Gopal and the shrine of King Indradyumna which are located at the bank of the lake. Besides its religious significance as a customary temple tank the tank is also known for the legend of Ashwameda Yagna conducted by King Indradyumana here. Many Brahmin priests participated in this Yajna arranged by King Indradyumna as per the legend. This place associated with King Indradyumna’s Sacrifice (Yajna) afterwards became the place for a sacred tank and so named after Indradyumna to cherish his memories as the famous temple builder. The Central deity is the Ugra Narasimha inside the sanctum sanctorum and the first expansion is Shanta Narasimha. Here also similar Pancharaatra pattern is followed where the main deity Narasimha faces west direction, and other deities are surrounded as follows. The three sides of central niches of the side of Vimana house the images of Varaha, Trivikrama (Vamana) and Vishnu as the Parsvadevatas of the main presiding deity. Together with Brahma and Narasimha Pancharatra concept is completed. Vishnu is flanked by Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side.
When Kalapahad, Afghan General attacked Puri and was smashing Deities of various temples, he saw Saanta Narasimha image and his anger subsided; hence he could not break the Deity as he had planned. Saanta Narasimha’s features are human-like--sharp human nose, a large curly moustache, and an outstretched tongue. Non-Hindus can have the vision of the deities visible from the door as they are not allowed inside.
As narrated in Skanda Purana once King Indradyumna stayed near Nilakantheswar temple to make arrangements to perform Horse sacrifice (Aswamedha) for one thousand years. On the advice of Sage Narada, King Indradyumna made an icon of Narasimha out of black stone and placed the image under black sandal wood tree and worshiped Him. It is believed that in front of this temple the Ashwamedha Yajna took place and so the deity is called Yajna Narasimha. Devotees usually visit Sri Nilakantheswar, Yajna Narasimha and Panchamukhi Hanuman (Lord Hanuman image with five faced) after the sacred bath in Indradyumna Tank. Festivals like Narasimha Janmaashtami, Satapuri Amavasya etc. are observed in Nrusingha temple with great devotion. I wonder why Sudarsana Jayanthi is not celebrated in Puri Temple though he is in a commanding position on Ratnavedi?
Aswamedha Yajna to Narasimha by Indradyumna before the construction work for Jagannatha temple is what motivates Nrusinga yajna before Jaganntha Nirman. As a king he performed Aswamedha Yaaga, a prestigious sacrifice by Kings in Early days to establish their Supremacy and religious faith to be custodians of Raaja-Dharma. Normal people worship Him with different kinds of simpler Yajnas.
"Yajna" is derived from the root "Yaj" in Sanskrit meaning worship "Haviryajna" is a specific form of worship, which is popularly known as "Homa". Yajna refers to a Vedic ritual in which one offers specific material such as ghee (melted butter) and fagots to various deities through the medium of fire. Worship through "Yajna" is a unique form of prayer in the Vedic tradition, even though, any "Karma" or action performed for the sake of the Lord is "Yajna". Homas are generally performed for the benefit of the world at large, for the well -being of self and their family, for the fulfillment of human pursuits like giving away ones possession and becoming an ascetic, a ritual pertaining to ancestors, desire to enter Heaven, gain of unrivalled sovereignty, to wish for a progeny to carry on the family tree etc.
Yajna iti yajno hi devaanaam yajnena hi devaa divam gataa yajnena asuraan apaanudanta yajnena dvishanto mitraa bhavanti yajne sarvam pratishthitam tasmaat yajnam paramam vadanti(MNU)
Vedas say that sacrifice is the means of liberation. Sacrifice is indeed dear to divines. Verily divines have attained heaven by their previous deeds of sacrifice. They have driven away demons by sacrifice. By sacrifice those who are hostile (enemies) become friendly. Everything is supported by sacrifice. Therefore Vedas say sacrifice is the Supreme means of liberation. The
Braahmana portion of the Vedas declare that demons were destroyed by divines (Devas) through the potency of sacrifice. It is believed that a sacrifice like Jyotishtoma will fulfill any desire entertained by its institution, and that by its power anyone who disliked the performer of Yajna may be transformed into a friend of his. This is evident that after Asvamedha Yajna all kings wo hated the King performing Yajna accept his sovereignty, forget enmity and become loyal to him recognizing him as suzerain power and Emperor.
Vedas prescribe about 400 forms of fire rituals. Homa is a form of Haviryajna in which the oblations offered include butter, boiled preparations of rice, barley, wheat, and fagots of selected trees, which have medicinal value. The smoke from the Homa is said to be very auspicious and therapeutic for inhalation, also the smoke that permeates the air is said to cleanse and purify the atmosphere of disease causing germs and other impurities. Srauta Homas are generally performed for the benefit of the world at large, while the Smaarta Homas are performed for the well-being of self and their family.
Vedas perceive "Fire" as the medium of worship and enjoin varieties of Homas for the fulfillment of human pursuits. Since fire carries brilliance and heat energy, it is the life sustaining principle in the creation and lands itself for the worship through Vedic homas. Fire is a blessing but if looked as a mere form of energy, it is an inert blessing, not a deity or a Devata, a part of God. However if one perceives the fire as a Devata, one recognizes it as a non-separate entity of the Lord. One then discovers the harmony in the Lord and his creation. The various elements are therefore considered as "Devatas"; Varuna, the devata for water; Agni, the devata for fire; Pruthvi, the devata for the earth; Vayu, the devata for air; Aakash, the devata for space; Kaala, the devata for time. Narasimha is an avatar of Vishnu whose energy and brilliance are manifold compared to the "Surya" (sun) and "Agni" (fire) and he is often associated with Sudrsana (the pole form deity on the Ratnavedi)) the wielding power of Vishnu as Sudarsan Narasimha his disc to increase the energy and brilliance and devastating power beyond even the imagination of all divines. In this form of Sudarsana Narasimha He is known as Ugra Narasimha. On the advice of Narada, Prahlada instantly composed Narasimha Stotra (as found in Bhagavata), on listening to which Narasimha melted down and became Prahalaada Varada whom Odisha people venerate as Shaant Nrusinga. After granting Prahlaada his wish he gave moksha to Hiranyakasipu and also Chiranjeevi boon to Prahlaada and went into Meditation. His devotees praised him as Yogaa Narasimha and offered Him sacrifices. The cooled down and happy Narasimha assumed the form of Yajna Narasimha who was worshipped by Indradyumna in his Asvamedhayaaga. As we all know Vishnu, the very embodiment of every aspect of the cosmic sacrifice (as we learn in Purushasookta) became known as Yajna-purusha. Yajna Narasimha is none other than Vishnu in his emanation as Yajna-purusha.
Om-antas-charati bhooooteshu guhaayaam visva-moortishu | tvam yajnastvam vishnustvam vashatkaarastva(ga)m rudrastvam brahmaa tvam prajaapatih ||
ou are addressed as Om! You move within the cave of the heart of all living beings as their controller (antaryamin). You alone are the Sacrifice, Vishnu Vashatkaara (Mantra chanted in Yajna), Rudra, Brahma and Prajaapati.
Mahaa Yajnas are performed periodically at temples for the "Yoga-Kshema "(welfare of all living beings), not only in a particular community or society but the entire world, for the abundance of rain/crops, kindness among human beings, amongst themselves and towards the animal and plant kingdom. Additionally, Yajnas are performed as a form of penance, asking forgiveness of the almighty for the "apacharas" (unintentional mistakes) committed by the "ajjnanis" (illiterate folks); to restore and preserve the sanctity, faith, peace and prosperity, and to seek the almighty's blessings.
Nrusingha Yajna is performed for the "Yajna Purusha" Jagannatha (the protector of mankind), to whom oblations are offered in this sacred event. It is believed that what is offered to the raging fire reaches directly to our Creator through the Purifier Agni (Fire). Yajnas are to be performed with a lot of dedication and concentration combined with purity of self and soul. Cleanliness is of utmost importance at these events. The priests intake "pancha-kavyam (five cleansing agents), before they perform the Homa. The place where the Yajna is to be performed is thoroughly cleaned before the Yajna is performed.
Nrusingha Shanti homa of this magnitude if performed with sincerity is said to help societies overcome personal and public obstacles, calamities, dispel harboring evil forces and vibes. In contrast, it promotes a sense of well-being, builds strong friendships, a positive attitude among mankind, promotes the lush growth of flora and fauna, and helps the animal kingdom to flourish, ensures safety when facing danger; wins over enemies when going through critical and bad planetary periods, wards off physical and mental illnesses, averts accidents through machinery or weapons, last but not the least, helps to overcome the fear of death, thus promoting a healthy, prosperous society.
I am neither an Aaagma expert or Tantric expert to dwell into the details of this Mahaa-yajna. In my opinion it will be appropriate to conduct this Yajna based on Prahlaadakrita Narasimha Stotra or Lakshmee-Narasimha Karaavalmba Stotra by Sankara. Sudarsana homa is very popular in Vaishnva tradition like Ganesha Homa in Saivite and Sakta traditions which will also be appropriate for the occasion, invoking Narasimha as Sudarsana Narasimha. Sudarsana is an important member of the Jagannatha Parivara. As is always, when in doubt go to the starting point of all Yajnas, Purushsookta where Jagannatha presented himself as Yajna-purusha and gave the meaning of Yajna to the world. This sacrifice was responsible for entire Creation whereas in Christianity people believe Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for the sin of others. We need both kinds of sacrifices. Here I mention Jesus Christ because Odisha people also believe in his association with Jagannatha as stated above in Jagannatha Philosophy.
There are many mantras appropriate to Narasimha Homa of various forms. The most appropriate mantra that appeals to me for Nrisingha Yajna for Jaganaatha Nirmana rituals is the Mantra of Sudarsana Narasimha and Nrisimha Gaayatree :
Mantra -Om Sahasraarajwaalaavartine Kshreem hana hum phat swaahaa
Taaram sahasraarajwaalaavartine Kshroum hanadvayam |
Hum phat swaahaa chonavimsavarno mantra udaahritah ||
Munirjayanta aakhyaatacchaando gaayatramuchyate |
Sudarsana nrisimho asya devataa parikeertitah ||
[The rishi of this mantra is Jayanta, Chandas is Gaayatree and the Devata is Sudarsana Narasimha]
NRISIMHA GAAYATREE (MNU)
Om nrisimhaaya vidmahe | Vajranakhaaya dheeemahi | tannoe simhah prachoedayaat
Sudarsanaaya vidmahe | mahaajwaalaaya dheemahi \tannaschakrah prachoedayaat ||
[Please also go through my elaborate discourse on Lord Jagannatha of Puri and Ratha Yatra posted on the Blog: Hindu Reflections:< nrsrini.blogspot.com>]
1) Prof. Ramachandra Rao S.K., Vishnu Kosha, Kalpataru Research Academy, Sharadha Peetham, Shankar Mutt, Bengaluru, India.
2) Devadutt Pattanaik, Vishnu, Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai, India.
3) Swami Harshanada, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
4) Srinivasan N.R., Jagannatha of Puri and Rath Yatra, Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com>
5) Varadaraja Tirumale, Veda Maarga, Sri Lakshmee Hayagieva Sevaa trust, Bengaluru, India.
6) Prabir Dash & Rahul Acharya, Personal communications to the compiler from Nashville TN. USA & Puri, India.
7) Various Internet sources on Navkalebar.
I had an occasion to meet Rahul Acharya one of the authoritative research scholars on Jagannatha Philosophy who comes from the priest family conducting worship for Jagannath. He has the following to say on Tantric Followings of Lord Jagannatha:
“Jagannatha is described as the famous deity of Odra or Utkala in Tantrik texts like Kalika Purana, Rudrayamala, Brahmayamala, Tantrayamala. In the Tantric tradition Jagannatha is worshipped with the Bija Mantra Klim and sits on the Mahakali Yantra as Mahakalika, similarly Balabhadra is worhsipped with the Bija Mantra Srim and sits on the Tara Yantra as Ugratara, similarly Subhadra is worshiped with the Bija Mantra Hrim and sits on the Bhuvaneswari Yantra as Bhuvaneswari. According to the Mahanirvana Tantra:
Ugratara shulapani subhadra bhuvaneswari
Niladrau tu sakhsat jagannatha dakshinakalika
“In Niladri, Shulapani or Balabhadra is worshipped as Tara (the second Mahavidya), Subhadra is worshipped as Bhuvaneswari (the fourth Mahavidya) and Jagannatha is himself Dakshina Kalika (the first or the Adi Mahavidya.”
Jagannatha is also considered the Bhairava of Vimala, who is the Bhairavi:
Vimala sa mahadevi jagannathastu bhairava
The Kalika Purana says:
Udrakhyam prathama pitham dvitiyam jalasailajam tritiyam purnapithantu kamarupam chaturthakam
"Among the Tantra Pithas, the first and foremost if Udra or Uddiyana (Orissa), the second is Jalasaila (Jallandar), third is Purnapitha (Sringeri) and fourth is Kamarupa (Assam).”
Devi Bhagavata says:
Srishtibhuta mahashakti manipura nivasini vimala sa parashakti uddiyanapureshvari
Anjuna dehi me devi bahiryoge mamambika madhavahbhairava sakshat pranatosmi jagatpate
“In Orissa, Vimala is Parashakti and Pureshvari, the source of the creation of the Universe, residing in the city of jewels. I offer my homage to you Oh Goddess, together with Madhava, the Lord of the Universe as Bhairava. “
The Kubjika Tantra describes the centre of Orissa, the Sri Mandira in Puri as the abode of Mahalakshmi: mahalakshmimaya pitha uddiyanamtha param. The Tantric Jaganatha is not very different from the Vaishnava Jagannatha as we may think. After all, the Tantric texts or Agamas also include a number of Vaishnava Tantras that give specific ritual instruction for the worship of Vishnu. Particularly, the Gautamiya Tantra is often quoted by the six Goswamis of Vrindavana in their writings. The Pancharatra method of worship is also Tantric : Vaishnavism is divided into Vaikhanasa (the Vedic method of the followers of the Nigama Shastras) and Pancharatra (the Tantric method of the followers of the Agama Shastras). At one point of time, Tantra and Veda merge, as Tantra is considered an expansion of the Atharva Veda. The Tantric system of worship of Jagannath was not to the liking of Ramanuja, and in fact when he visited Puri, he attempted to change it but without much success.
This fact is related in the traditional texts of the Ramanuja Sampradaya such as Prapannamrita by Anantacharya and the Ramanuja Divyacharita, where it is said that Ramanuja came to Puri from North India and attempted to reform the worship system in the Jagannath temple and appoint a new group of priests. Jagannath manifested his displeasure and Ramanuja was mystically carried from Puri (it is said by Garuda) all the way to Sri Kurma Kshetra. However, the Gaudiya Vaishnava method of worship is definitely contemplating the passionate Kama form of Krishna that follows closely the tradition celebrated by Jayadeva Goswami in his Geeta Govinda. The Kama Gayatri in the daily Sandhya practice of Gaudiya Vaishnavas is coupled with the eighteen syllabled Gopal Gayatri Mantra that is the same basic Mantra that is used in the Jagannath temple for daily worship:
Klim krishnaya govindaya gopijanavallabhaya swaha
Klim kamadevaya vidmahe pushpa banaya dhimahi tanno ananga prachodayat
It is also very important to know that all the Bija Mantras used in all ritualistic ceremonies (including those of the Vaishnava tradition) are taken from the Sharada Tilaka Tantra.
There are four main schools of Hindu Tantra namely Oddiyana, Jalashaila, Srhata and Purnagiri. The Oddiyana, the most important, has its seat in Orissa and is also the Adi Bhumi of the Bauddha Tantra (the Buddhist Tantra). Here Sarahapada started the tradition based on the Buddha Kapala Tantra, Kambhalapada and Padmavajra started the tradition based on the Hevajra Tantra, Luipada started the tradition based on the Samputa Tilaka Tantra. Lalitavajra started the tradition based on the Krishnajamari Tantra, Gambhiravajra started the tradition based on the Vajramrita Tantra period,
Kukkuripada started the tradition based on the Mahamaya Tantra.
In the Viharas (Buddhist monasteries) of Ratnagiri, Pitopada started the tradition based on the Kalachakra Tantra, and Jayadratha started the tradition based on the Chakrasambhara Tantra.
In the 8th century, the famous Buddhist scholar Indrabhuti, who was the king of Sambalpur, started the tradition called Vajrayana. This tradition unites the knowledge of the Tantras with the philosophical concepts of Buddhism. “It spread throughout the world, and has been very prominent in Tibet and the Himalayan area”. Jagannath is the main deity (Vajreswara) of the Vajrayana tradition, while Balabhadra is considered as Vajrodaka (the manifestation of Mahavahreswara), Subhadra is Vajreswari and Sudarshana is Vajra. Indrabhuti’s sister and disciple, Lakshminkara Devi who was the queen of Lanka (present day Sonepur), started the Sahajayana tradition, by simplifying the Vajrayana method.
From the Puranic episode of the Daksha Yagna, we learn that Sati (the consort of Shiva) attended a Yagna performed by her father Daksha. When Daksha insulted Shiva, Sati became disgusted with him and her own relationship with her father, so she decided to destroy her own body by jumping into the sacrificial fire.
Immediately Shiva rushed to the spot and picked up the half burnt body of Sati from the fire, manifested a great anger and started to dance as he does at the time of destruction of the Universe. Terrified, the Devas prayed to Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe, begging him to save them from imminent destruction, and Vishnu used his Sudarshan Chakra to cut the body of Sati into pieces. Sati’s navel fell at Jajinagar of Jajpur (in Orissa), the abode of Goddess Biraja, and other parts of Sati’s body fell at fifty one different places all over the Indian subcontinent. Finally only Sati’s feet were left and Shiva was still walking around Purushottama Kshetra in a trance like state.
Vishnu finally asked him to keep the feet of the Mother Goddess here: thus this area came to Bimala.
Lokanatha shivoyatra tirtharaja mahodadhih
Bimala bhairavi yatra jagannathastu bhairavah
“In that place where Lokanatha Shiva resides, Mahodadhi is the Tirtharaja, Bimala is the Bhairavi and Jagannatha is her Bhairava”.
Several temple images of the Bhauma period depict Ekapada Bhairava, carved in the form of a wooden pillar (the base of the pillar constituting the single foot that translates Ekapada), with the big round eyes that characterize the Ugra form, a tiger skin on his hips and the Urdhwa Lingam. It is said that Adi Shankara installed a Bhairava deity on the Ratna Simhasana together with Jagannath, a deity that was removed when Vaishnavism became prominent in Orissa.
According to the Tantra Shastras, every Tantra Pitha is protected by the Ashta Shaktis along with their Ashta Sambhus, seated each on one petal of an eight petalled lotus. In the case for Sri Kshetra, the Ashta Shaktis are: Bata Mangala in the Agnikona, Bimala in the Paschimakona, Sarvamangala in the Vayukona, Ardhasoshani in the Uttarakona, Alamba Devi (Alama Chandi) in the Ishanakona, Marichika in the Purvakona and Chandarupa in the Nairuttakona. Similarly the Ashta Sambhus are Kapalamochana, Yameswara, Ishaneswara, Bilveswara, Nilakantha, Batesha and Lokanatha.
In Sri Kshetra the following Devis are prominent: Kuttama Chandi, Mashani Chandi (Smashana Chandi), Khambakali, Bedhakali, Mahakali, Bata Mangala, Khamba Mangala, Bimala, Kamala, Jhadeswari, Sitala, Khamba Bimala, Uttarayani, Alama Chandi, Varahi, Chamunda, Ramachandi, Harachandi, Shyama Kali, Dakshina Kali, Bata Kali, Grantha Kali, Marichika, Narayani, Hatajodi Thakurani, Sholapua Ma etc.
he cremation grounds are used for Sadhana: in Sri Kshetra on the north of the temple the Koili Baikuntha is the Deva Smashana, where Smashana Chandi resides.
The animal sacrifices (also called Bali) are also an important aspect of the worship. In the Jagannath temple, in front of Goddess Bimala, fish is cooked in a temporary makeshift kitchen and animals (especially goats) are sacrificed during the Mahasaptami, Mahashtami and Mahanavami in Durga Puja.
The Durga Saptasati Chandi, a very important text of the Tantrics, is divided in three Charitras: Prathama, Madhyama and Uttara Charitras, each presided by a particular Devi in a chronological order- Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. In the Puri temple Balabhadra is connected with Mahasaraswati, Subhadra is Mahalakshmi and Jagannatha is Mahakali. To highlight this identification, the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra always wear sarees and a nose ornament made of flowers.
The Aranyaka Taittiriya Upanishad confirms:
Twam strim twam puman asi twam kumara uta va kumara
Tam jirna dandava chesi twam jatabhavati vishwato mukhahah
“You are simultaneously woman and man, you are youthful girl and boy and at the same time you are the eldest. You are self-manifested and your divine face is everywhere.”
According to the Saudarshini Bamadeva Samhita, (credited to Padmapadacharya, the first and foremost disciple of Adi Shankaracharya, who was installed as the Paramacharya of the Govardhana Pitha):
Tara yantra pralambagno subhadra bhuvaneswari
Syama yantra madhava che dakshina kalika swayam
“Balabhadra, the enemy of Pralamba, is sitting on the Tara Yantra, Subhadra on the Bhubaneswari Yantra, and Madhava Jagannatha who is Dakshina Kalika himself sits on the Shyama Yantra (Kali Yantra).”
The Purushottama Trailokya Mohana Gayatri Mantra used in Jagannath worship in Puri is as follows:
Klim trailokyamohanaya vidmahe pushpa banaya dhimahi tano Vishnu prachodayat
A further Mantra says:
Devam sri purushottmam kamalaya svakasthaya pankajam
Bibhratya parirabdhan ambujaruca tasyam nibaddheksnam
“Jagannath is meditated upon a jewel Mandapa decorated with four Toranas (archways) under a Kalpavrikshya in the Heavenly garden filled with flower beds, peacocks and cuckoos. Jagannath is sitting with Lakshmi (who sits on his left thigh on a red lotus flower). Both have reddish intoxicated eyes and Lakshmi wears two yellow pieces of cloth (as upper and lower garment).”
The worshipper invites him to manifest in his heart with this meditation:
Om trailokyamohana hrisikesha apratirupa manmatha srava stri hridaya akarshana agaccha agaccha namaha.
In the center of the lotus Mandala sits the Bija Mantra Klim (the Kama Gayatri Bija Mantra), and the first eight petals around the lotus center are the eight Shaktis – Bimala, Utkarshini, Gyana, Kriya, Yoga, Prahvi, Satya and Ishana). The eight weapons that are part of the Mandala are Ankusha, Mushala, Khadga, Chakra, Pasa, Sankha, Dhanu Sara and Gada.
The Pancha Makara rituals of the Kaulas, is symbolicaly practiced in the Jagannath temple:
1. Matsya: symbolized by Kanti (a particular type of Pancake)
2. Maamsa: symbolized by Biri Pitha
3. Mudra: Yoni Mudra
4. Maithuna: symbolized by the dance of the Bhitara Gauni during the Badaa Shringara dhupa, on this occasion the Maharis remove the cloth covering their breasts
5. Madhya: symbolized by green coconut water mixed with camphor offered in a bell metal (kansa) container known as Ghasa Jala.
Regarding animal sacrifices, the tradition in the Jagannath temple is that on Sandhi Puja (at the junction of Mahashtami and Mahanavami in Durga Puja) one sacrificial animal is purified by a Ratha Samanta Brahmana and taken near to the Bakula Pindi adjacent to the Bimala Temple, in front of the lion (Bimala’s Vahana). A sword is kept in front of Goddess Kali’s image painted on the wall on the right of Goddess Bimala: the sword is worshiped there before being used to behead the goat. Then the goat’s head is kept in an earthen pot and Goddess Bimala’s attendants Chaya and Maya, are offered plantains mixed with Sacrificial blood: uncooked rice also mixed with the sacrificial blood. Goddess Bimala’s face is covered with a silk cloth called Sri Mukha Khandua.
During Solapuja, the sixteen days of the Durga Puja festival, in the month of Ashwina, the Chalanti Pratima of Goddess Bimala (Kanaka Durga) is worshipped along with Nila Madhava in the Bimala temple. At this time a secret Ratha Yatra called Sarat Gundicha or Gupta Gundicha or Shakta Gundicha is held in which Kanaka Durga travels to the Narayani temple along with Nila Madhava. For the entire Sola Puja period, no women are allowed inside the Bimala temple. Contrary to what many think, this is not because women are considered inferior or unqualified to access the temple: rather the opposite, all women are considered direct incarnation of the mother Goddess and therefore if a lady entered the temple during the Puja, the priests would have to interrupt the worship to pay homage to her.
Krishnananda Bhattacharya also mentions, in his Tantra Sara, that Jagannath is worhsipped as the Sammohana Krishna (the all attractive Krishna with the Klim Kama Bija).
The Gyanasiddhi by Indrabhuti also quotes:
Namaskrutya jagannatham sarva gyanarchitam sarva buddhamayam siddhi vyapinam gaganopamam
The other strong Bhava manifested by the Tantric Jagannath is Krodha, in the terrifying (Ugra) aspects in which Jagannath is worshipped as Narasimha.
Narasimha is considered the Vaishnava equivalent of the Shaiva terrifying form of Bhairava and in Puri the two concepts are closely tied together. Narasimha is extremely important in the worship of Jagannath, and especially in the long and complex rituals of the Navakalavera.
The Rudrayamala Tantra recites:
Odreshu bimala shaktir jagannathastu bhairavah
It is said that until the British period, a Bhairava deity was sitting on the Ratna Simhasana together with Jagannath. Another interesting fact is that Bhairava Shiva is also identified with the Sun, with the name Martanda Bhairava. The worship of Surya Narayana is also an extremely important part of the rituals of the Puri temple: the Surya Puja is performed every morning before any other activities take place in the temple. The strict connection between Jagannath, Narasimha, Surya and Bhairava is also confirmed by the prominent presence inside the Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneshwar.
Brief description of Navakalebara of Lord Jagannath in Puri
Navakalebara activity starts in the month of Chaitra Sukla Chaturdasi. The search team takes the betel nut and pan as a token of permission and commitment for the work to be executed. They go to Kakatpur (80 km NE from Puri) and after taking bath in river Prachi pray before the Goddess Mangala (the reigning deity of Kakatapur) while fasting and lying prostrated (called Adhia in Oriya). Rationalists will raise their eyebrows high if they hear that the Goddess directs the senior most team member in the dream about the location of the neem trees destined to be the body of the deities and in utter faith he with all his team members go to the 'dreamt locations' on foot. Though it might seem incredible, all the four neem trees (fourth one being that of Sudarshana) satisfy the following qualifying prerequisites defining the suitability:
1. They must have a wheel (chakra) sign on them
2. Poisonous snakes like Cobra must be hiding under them or in nearby anthill
3. A tamarind tree must be in the vicinity
4. A funeral yard in the vicinity of each tree
5. Each tree must have 4 to 7 branches over the main trunk
6. From ground level up to 10/12 feet it should be straight and solid
7. No nest of birds on treetop
2. Poisonous snakes like Cobra must be hiding under them or in nearby anthill
3. A tamarind tree must be in the vicinity
4. A funeral yard in the vicinity of each tree
5. Each tree must have 4 to 7 branches over the main trunk
6. From ground level up to 10/12 feet it should be straight and solid
7. No nest of birds on treetop
In addition the wood for Jagannatha image must be dark red (manjistha) in color and the tree must have four main branches, and also marks of conch and discus: the wood for the Balabhadra image must be light-brown or white in color, and the tree must have seven main branches, and marks of plough and pestle; the wood for Sdubhadra image must have an yellow tinge, and the tree must have five main branches, and the mark of a lotus and five petals, and the Sudarsana image must have reddish bark, and the tree must have three branches and mark of a wheel (chakra).
After prescribed rituals like 3 days fire sacrifice (Nrisunga Yajna) the trees are cut, a small cart with four wheels is made out of smaller branches and the main trunks of the trees are transported on the cart thus made to Puri. The cart is pulled all the way by the devotees of the villages it passes through. After reaching Puri, from Nrusingha Temple near Gundicha Temple the Gajapati of Royal Family is informed about the arrival of the sacred logs. Then the daru enters the temple through its Northern gate (Uttara Dwara) before the scheduled date of Annual Bathing Ceremony of the Deities (Devasnana Purnima) which occurs in June. The deities are bathed and the new Darus are also bathed with ritual water drawn from specified sources. From next day of the bathing ceremony the deities are carved out of the trunk, in secrecy, as per norms laid down, at the specified place inside the temple premise (Koili Baikuntha). Silk wrappings and face-painting jobs are done by hereditary functionaries whose generations have survived on the land owned by the temple.
Although wood forms the main material, it is covered with several layers (bahu lepa vilepita) of resin (Niryaasa) of the Saala tree, sandal-wood paste (chandan), camphor (karpoora), and musk (kastoori). Red cloth known as Netra-pata is wound round all the parts of the images; and the images are also painted.
On the midnight of Adhika Ashadha Krishna Chaturdasi the Tattva Padartha is transferred from the old deity to the new deities in a secret and sacred ceremony. Side by side the making of the new statues, the consecration ceremony of the Nabakalebar function continues. After the transfer of Brahmapadartha also knownas Tattvapadartha the new deities are worshiped and the old deities buried in the earth inside temple premises. Some believe ‘Brahmapadartha’ is a Buddhist relic and it is a tooth of the Buddha. Some others believe that the ‘Brahmapadarthas’ are the ‘Salagrams’ of the rarest variety.
On the ‘Snana Purnima day’, the old statues receive the ritual bath on “Snana Mandap”. The ‘Anabasara’ period of the Nabakalebar year actually extends over a period of one month and fifteen days. During this span of time, the temple remains closed to the public, similar to Jalavaasa of stone deities in water and worship to hand drawn pictures only in Jeernoddhara ceremony in the South Indian Temple practice.
The newly made images are taken around the Temple on the previous night of the main function day. The perambulation is done thrice in the order of Sri Sudarsana, Sri Balaram, Devi Subhadra and Sri Jagannath one after another. The new images are thereafter taken to the Temple and placed on the Anabasara Pindi near the old statues. The servitors conducting the secret ritual are old and experienced persons. Their eyes and hands (up to elbows) are covered with cloth-bands so that they can’t touch and see the ‘Brahmapadarthas’ at the time of their transfer. However, the transfer of the ‘Brahmapadarthas’ is done at the dead of the night. Before transfer of the ‘Brahmapadarthas’, a special Bhog is offered to the old deities known as ‘Sarbanga Panti Bhog’. This is the last ‘Bhog’ of the old statues. As soon as the ‘Brahmapadartha’ is taken out of an image, the same considered dead. It is then loaded in the same cart in which the corresponding new image had been brought in and the same is immediately carried to Kaili-baikuntha which is considered the graveyard of the old deities. Here a pit deep and 6 is kept ready in the midst of a beautiful garden to receive the old wooden images. The pit is spreads out with red velvet and the old images are buried.
The months’ long function ends with Grand Ratha Yatra and Grand celebrations and cultural activities.
Why Goddess Lakshmi is not found on Ratnavedi?
Through Courtesy, The Editor | IndiaDivine.Org
The Goddess Mahalakshmi is connected with ‘Mahat Lakshana’, i.e. having noble characteristics. Lokamataa: ‘World Mother’. She is the mother of all the people of the world, distributing affections and nourishment equally to everybody. Ramaa: ‘Beautiful’. She likes to be connected with the beautiful (ramya) nature (prakrti) of human life.
Pankajabasini: ‘Pankaja’ is lotus which comes out of the mud (panka). The Goddess likes it very much to settle on this, for which She is called ‘Pankajabasini’. The cause of selecting the lotus for settling on is to teach the world that although born from the dirty mud, still the lotus can be blessed for its cleanliness, softness, beauty, purity, splendor and fragrant disseminating qualities. Hence one should not be disheartened for bad family background only, but try to be clean in habits, pure in heart and noble in behavior.
Padmalayaa: Here ‘Padma’ is lotus and ‘Alaya’ is adobe. Goddess Laxmi has selected “padma” for Her “alaya”, for which She is called Padmalayaa. In the true sense, ‘Padma’ is compared with a clean and sacred heart and the Goddess always wants to make this pure heart her abode. In other words, the man with a clean heart can get the blessings of Goddess Mahalaxmi forever.
Kamalaa: ‘Kamal’, the flower, being very soft, sacred, pure, clean, splendid and fragrant disseminating, has been liked very much by the Goddess Mahalaxmi, for which She is known as ‘Kamalaa’. This gives the indication that the man who seeks blessings of Goddess Mahalaxmi should become like a flower.
Chanchalaa: The Fickle Goddess--Her movements being very fickle (chanchal). She immediately leaves the man whose character starts to become impure.
Chapalaa: The unstable Goddess. She leaves the men like lightening (chapalaa) who starts to become impure, immoral, a deserter, proud and arrogant.
Ksheerabdhi Tanayaa: ‘Daughter of Ocean’. ‘Ksheerabdhi’ is Ocean and ‘tanayaa’ daughter. She is Ksheerabdhi Tanayaa because She was produced from Ocean when its water was churned out for nectar to make persons immortal. She appeared before the world being ornamented with precious gems and jewels, giving indications that the Ocean is the treasure of gems and jewels from time immemorial.
Men Blessed by the Goddess
According to Hitopadesha – Mitralava, “Goddess Laxmi blesses the man who is industrious and of very promising character. It is the version of the cowards that the wealth is given by Fortune. So discard the fortune and achieve success through your own efforts. If the success is not achieved after all of your efforts, then find out, there must be some faults somewhere.”
Men Debarred from Blessings
Persons not industrious, who are devoid of duties, lazy, coward, desperate, selfish, jealous, tempted, irritable, greedy, envious, despotic, mean, hypocritical, cruel, tyrant, thief, liar, ungrateful, incontinent, inhuman, too much miser, deceitful, crooked, unruly, notorious, stupid, impudent, sinful, devilish are debarred from blessings of Goddess Mahalaxmi.
Outwardly, Mahalaxmi Purana contains a very beautiful story of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Mahalaxmi, in which Mahalaxmi was driven out from the temple (Srimandir) by the two Lords with the allegation that She frequently visited the cottages of very low class people who were untouchable, and without being purified enough entered the temple palace to cook food and feed the two Lords. They gave her much insults calling bad names to Her father and drove out, after dis-ornamenting Her, with caution not to keep steps in temple premises in future.
The bride Mahalaxmi, even after being so much tortured, begged apology to the Lords, but they turned a deaf ear to her prayer and closed the temple door mercilessly. She cursed them to suffer for this injustice and inhuman behavior r by not getting food to eat till they repent for their misdeeds and request her to serve the food for them.
Mahalaxmi ordered the ‘Betals’ to take away all the belongings of Srimandir, including food stocks, grains, jewels, clothes, and a golden cot in the dead of the night, when the Lords would be sleeping, and dry the water source completely so as to make non-available a drop of water in the morning.
The Betals worked strictly according to the orders of their Mistress, and the two Lords Jagannath and Balabhadra became street beggars, begging alms from door to door. But they were mercilessly driven out by all the citizens taking them to be thieves, their robust health and appearance having no resemblance with beggars. They adopted all possible means of begging but were not successful in getting alms continuously for twelve years, and suffered from starvation. At last they reached the door of an aristocratic house on the seashore in the guise of Brahmins and begged for food to eat, and this was actually the house of Goddess Mahalaxmi, built by Viswakarma in the boundary of Varun’s kingdom.
Mahalaxmi, being aware of all the facts, asked the two Lords through her maids, who were ‘Chandal’ by caste, the most untouchable persons of the society, how the two brothers, being Brahmins by caste, would take meals in their house. The two brothers decided to cook foods themselves if all the commodities like rice, vegetables, firewood and utensils would be supplied to them by the Mistress of the house, and accordingly they made their request.
Goddess Mahalaxmi arranged a supply of everything for them that they needed, and at the same time prayed to the Wind God to blow violently so that the wood would not burn to heat the water and turn black, creating heavy smoke and troubling the two brothers by causing a flow of tears from the eyes. They tried one after the other to keep the fire burning, but failed to achieve success. The elder brother, out of rage, took a piece of wood in his hand and giving a strong blow to the earthen pot, broke it down into pieces.
Now the two God brothers, finding no other alternative to save their lives, requested the maids to tell their Mistress that they were prepared to take meals in the house, even if they were Chandals. The heart of the Goddess was immediately melted with those surrendering words and out of joy, she cooked many things instantly for the Gods and served them through the maids.
From the mode of preparation of different delicious foods and from the style of serving the same, the two brothers recognized well the Mistress of the house to be none other than the Goddess Mahalaxmi. They begged an excuse for their faults with repentance and took Her on a procession to the Grand Temple, accepting all the terms and conditions brought by the Goddess against untouchability, inhumanity, high-handedness, caste and many other points. From that day forward, the people of all castes and creeds, from Brahmin to Chandal, began taking of foods cooked in Srimandir together, without the slightest hesitation. The Mahalaxmi puja has continued to be performed in each house in the month of Margashira, every year.
The story above describes how the twin brothers accepted foodstuffs cooked by the Goddess Mahalaxmi, and served by maids of low class. This pastime is purported to symbolize Mahalaxmi as representing the good and pious housewives of aristocratic families, who are very affectionate and sympathetic towards the servants and laborers. The dependents and their family members regard them very highly, addressing as ‘Maa’ (Mother) or ‘Laxmi Maa’ (Holy Mother) and putting forth all of their difficulties before them without the knowledge of the housemasters, which the Landlords or Headmen do not prefer.
To discuss the subject matter of the story, we can name the landlords as ‘Baladeva’, but not ‘Balabhadra’ or ‘Balarama’. The meaning of ‘Bala’ being the ‘bullock, strength’ and ‘Deva’ being the ‘master’ or ‘owner’, the meaning of ‘Baladeva’ is akin to ‘the powerful landlords’. Similarly, we can name the ‘Headmen of the Societies’ as ‘Jaganath’ but not ‘Jagannatha’. Here ‘Jaga’ is ‘people’, ‘society’ and ‘Natha’ is ‘Head’. So ‘Jagannatha’ is ‘Samajapati’ or ‘Head of the Society’. As the housewives of the aristocratic families were being called as ‘Maa’ or ‘Laxmi Maa’, we can gladly call them as ‘Maa Laxmi’ but not ‘Mahalaxmi’.
Now Sri Baladeva, being addicted to luxury spent his time and wealth lavishly on opulence, voracious eating (it is mentioned of his taking 56 patties of cooked rice at a time), and then having snoring slumber till the foods taken were digested. As the common men of the society always follow the footprints of their superiors, they all pretended to follow the same path as Baladeva, becoming luxuriant, careless and pleasure-seeking. The result was complete inactiveness on their part, with idleness prevailing everywhere. The housemasters had got no attachment to their families and what they earned they spent in merriment, pleasure trips, voluptuous eating and gambling outside, neglecting their wives, children, to suffer from starvation at home. If any objection was being raised by the housewives they were mercilessly beaten, misbehaved and ill-treated.
But Maa Laxmi, who had herself appeared to be victimized in the pastimes, could realize well the conditions of her dependents, even if they were untouchable ones. She used to visit their cottages very frequently and help them to the extent it was possible. She advised the women folks to bring their family members to the correct path by way of good behavior, simplicity and cleanliness. She devised some ways and methods for introduction in each family, so that all of the members would automatically be forced to be guided by her methodized principles in the name of ‘Mahalaxmi Puja’ and ‘Sudasha Brata’. The procedures of their institution were so scientifically and hygienically framed that they would automatically correct the habits of all the family members, so they would become active, energetic, broadminded and able to achieve a very good moral character and success in life.
While instructing about Mahalaxmi Puja, she advised not to become an idolater, worshipping the idols in the temple, but to convert one’s own cottage into a temple by way of cleaning, decorating and purifying it by one’s own labor, then worshipping the food grains obtained from the fields, which is according to the Goddess Mahalaxmi herself.
She has not emphasized reciting hymns (mantras) or exhibiting hand poses (mudras) but offering things with emotion (bhava) and devotion (bhakti) in the heart and mind. It has been mentioned of her attending the cottages of Sadhavani, the house of Sadhava (the merchant), and Chandal (the sweeper). In doing so she has given indications that apart from the cultivations, prosperity can also be achieved through merchandise and the untouchable persons have also got equal rights to worship, provided they should become neat and clean in physique, dress and habits.
The instructions given by Maa Laxmi to achieve ‘Mahalaxmi’ are very educative for the males and females both to convert their cottages into heaven on earth. From Her teachings on human behavior it is evident that a housewife can easily convert her housemaster into “Purushottam”. In case the housemaster has already gone astray, he can also be brought into the way if a housewife is resolved to do so, provided she should be prepared to stand boldly on her feet, even if violent storms would start to blow against Her. She has also proved this in her own life by bringing the two most powerful and proud Lords of the time to the correct path.
Regarding the knowledge of Baladeva, that Maa Laxmi is frequently visiting the cottages of untouchable persons and entering the Grand Palace without being purified enough, He induced Lord Jagannath to divorce her immediately. But Jagannath remained silent over the matter, though He was neither against the untouchability nor had He any objection for the activities of Maa Laxmi. Still, He could not oppose as He would not stand against the will of a most powerful Lord like Baladeva. Now the two Lords drove away Maa Laxmi after mistreating, misbehaving and dis-ornamenting Her, and even scolding to Her innocent father. When Maa Laxmi prayed them to excuse Her they closed the palace door turning deaf ears to Her prayer. This infuriated Maa Laxmi to curse them to suffer for their misdeeds by becoming poor and not getting food to eat for a complete twelve years, till they surrender to Her with request to serve food for them.
When the most-affectionate, pious and active Laxmi Maa left home, being everything for the poor, for the servants and laborers, they all quit their Masters’ house immediately after the departure of the Holy Mother. Now acting as ‘vetals’, they caused destruction to the management of their Lords’ palace and took away all the belongings and food stocks in the dead of night. At the daybreak, when the Lords got up from slumber, they saw no servant in the palace and no belongings and food stock. They did not even get a drop of water to wash their face.
Now realizing their wretched conditions, the Lords decided not to show their faces in the society and went out in the guise of yogis in quest of food, which they did not get anywhere due to the much wretched condition of the state for want of production. In the long run they adopted the work of begging, going from door to door, but each time they were driven out with caution not to beg, but to work and earn food. But they were so unfit for any work that they could not even protect a handful or corn-flake donated by someone in their hands, which easily flew away when the wind blew.
On the other hand, Maa Laxmi, being driven out from the Grand Palace, got a palace built immediately on the seashore in the jurisdiction of God Varun, by the help of Her dependents, ex-servants, laborers, merchants, sweepers and tenants, as if the things were done by Vishwakarma, so suddenly. The tenants, without depositing the crops of the lands in the Grand Palace, supplied sufficient foods and clothes to Maa Laxmi’s palace. In addition to that the dependent workers were kept engaged in collecting oceanic products, including gems and jewels for oversea trades through Sadhavas, from which sufficient wealth was being received for maintenance of all the people depending on Maa laxmi and distribution of cooked foods daily to the beggars, irrespective of castes and creeds in the palace premises.
Now the two Lords, being under starvation for a complete twelve years, came to know of the distribution of foods in the palace premises on the seashore, and they reached there in the guise of Brahmins to take food. But when they were told by the Mistress of the house, who had already recognized the Lords in disguise, that she was Chandal by caste, they tried to cook foods themselves with the materials supplied to them. But there also they failed to achieve success and at last surrendered themselves to the donor, even though she was Chandalini, requesting food from her hands.
Maa Laxmi immediately prepared many types of delicious foods in Her hands and got them served to the Lords till they were satisfied fully. Now the Lords, knowing well that the housemistress pretended to be Chandalini in front of the Brahmin pretenders, was none other than Maa Laxmi. They begged apology for their misdeeds and misbehaviour and received Her with honor, going back to the Grand Palace in a great procession. They agreed to all the terms and conditions brought by Maa Laxmi to remove casteism and untouchability fully from the land, to treat all men equally, and to allow all to take meals together.
In this way, the most powerful and proud Lords were punished for their misdeeds and misbehaviors, being compelled to suffer from starvation for complete twelve years while roaming as street beggars. Maa Laxmi with honor spent these years leading a most prestigious life, giving shelter to so many due to Her purity of mind and heart, high thinking, activeness and courageousness. Hence this pastime of Mahalaxmi should be studied in detail by all men and women. They should be guided by the instructions laid down in it, to get peace and happiness and achieve success and wealth in life.
[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference given as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further. These lectures are posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]