Idol Worship and Temple Tradition Prompted by Srirama Worshipping Jagannatha
(Adi Jagannatha of Pullani and Jagannatha of Puri)
(Compilation for a Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, October 2016)
The three sages Kanva, Kalava and Pullva, bogged down by fear of death, raised their voices to the Unknown with the Upanishad Mantras: “Mrityor maa amritam gamaya; trayambkam yajamahe …mrityor moksheeya mamritaat”. This prayer was focused on the worship of Dissolution aspect of Parabrahman that is Siva and the simplest form of icon today worshiped as Linga in temple traditions with Abhishekam. But the Lord heard their prayers appeared before them as Aswattha Tree (aswattha Narayana Vata Vriksha) which has its roots in the Supreme abode of Brahman with its branches spreading above them. Trees particularly Aswattha (Vatavriksha) symbolize Life, Inspire Spiritual Thoughts and are Divine. We will discuss about this in detail later. The tree symbolized our long enjoyment and struggle on earth having come out of its seed and gradually withering out to sprout again. They realized that it was Vishnu on whom they had to focus while living on earth and therefore wanted to see Him in his true form. He therefore came floating on the sea being carried on the Vatapatra (leaf of the tree) as “Vatapatra-syaayee” and soon grew to his adult form with four hands with conch and discus as revealed in Brahma-Vaivasvata and Skanda puranas. He soon turned Himself to a Salagrama identified as Koorma by the rishis the earliest Avatar as Vishnu of Krita Yuga on earth. Rishis were happy. Today we find in that place a temple built around an icon that appeared on the same seashore as Adi Jagannatha with his consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi, an unusual phenomenon as even in Tirupathi Vishnu icon was found alone without his consorts. Sridevi and Bhudevi are seen only as bronze processional deities in Vishnu temples. Who could be the sculptor who used his chisel and hammer to sculpt these beautiful images other than Viswakarma the divine sculptor? But we have no record! The local legend (Sthala Purana) says it is here Dasaratha got his mantra for begetting children from Jagannatha which inspired him to perform Putrakameshthi Yajna. Agnideva got Sweet Pudding from here in Amrita Kalasa brought by Garuda and gave it to him emerging out of sacrificial fire. Rama knew the sacred spot from his father and so worshiped Adi Jaganntha here to persuade King of Ocean (Samudra Raja) to oblige him to build a bridge across the sea to reach Lanka.
In all Vishnu temples the main deity (Moola Vigraha) is seen as Vishnu or his avatar without his consorts mostly except in Lakshmi Narayana Temples. Sometimes she is seated on the lap of Vishnu but invariably in his chest as pendant. Indradyumna visualized Jagannatha accompanied by Balabhadra as “Pannagaakriti and Chhatreekrita-phanaas-sapta” (serpent with seven-hoods) along with Lakshmi as his consort as described in Skanda Purana. He was at once excited to build a temple around and prepare icons. To his surprise he saw a log of wood coming afloat on sea a travelling all the way from Dwaraka the submerged city of Lord Krishna after his departure. This made people think of Jagannatha as Krishna to-day! Soon there appeared an old carpenter from nowhere and offered his services. You know the rest of the story. When he left in anger Indradyumna realized he was none other than Viswakarma. He felt sad but decided to install the idols in the same way as he left. Unfortunately these original icons have either been lost or not preserved and today we have man-made icons, made afresh every 12 or 19 years from same kind of wood with divine marks (Conch, discus and lotus) and consecrated. With this brief introduction let me go with details of three famous ancient temples in India where Jagannatha is worshiped as Universal Lord or Preserver.
CONCEPTUALIZATION OF JAGANNATHA MOORTI UPASANA (ICONIC WORSHIP) AND TEMPLES
Hinduism at present is mainly focused on Bhakti Marga and focused on temple worship in their own manner encouraged by Bhagavad Gita. They need symbolically a deity before them and to plead the deity for their day to day survival and progress. Bhagavad Gita says world needs to-day different religions, traditions, cults and deities to meet the vastly different needs of individuals though the aim of the Gita doctrine is to lead one to tranquility, happiness and equanimity needing no ritual or temple worship. This philosophy brought in bewildering forms of rituals confusing the masses. Sanakara tried to bring in some orderliness over the confusion prevailed then, by Shanmata Sthapana (six traditional worships). Ramanuja later tried to bring orderliness by uniformly establishing Pancharatra form of worship wherever Vishnu deities were installed. Why only Vishnu Temples? Probably he was inspired by the parting advice of Sankara who wanted everyone to focus on the Sustenance aspect of Parabrahman Vishnu in Bhajagovindam for worship. But Ramanuja failed in his mission while trying to set right the confusions that prevailed in Jagannatha worship in Puri based on the work done in Adi agannntha Temple that existed in Tamil Nadu about which Orissa had no idea. They refused to listen to him. There was even an attempt on his life. Jagannatha came to his rescue, shifted him bodily to Srikurma in Andhra Pradesh while in sleep. Jagannatha revealed to him that he was present as Kurma in his second avatar in Srikurma in Salagrama form long before Orissa people visualized him as his eighth and ninth avatars of Vishnu including Subhadra and he could go ahead with his reform here as he planned for Puri temple there as people there will be pleased with his advice. Probably this is a South North Cultural conflict that exists even today in India. e also reminded him mthat he3 He also reminded him that he is pleased in whatever form or whatever way he is worshipped and so should not worry about what is going on in Puri. It is also interesting to note that Sankara after having composed several hymns (stotras) for praying to various deities stipulated in his Shanmata felt that Vishnu as Parabrahman in his sustenance role is One Deva on whom all should focus for Liberation or Mukti.
Tamils think Thiruppullani is the birth place of Jagannatha being much older to Puri Temple. They believe Pullavar, Kalavar and Kanva Maharshi did penance there. The prime deity faces east in the sitting posture with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi here Similarly, His Consort Sri Padmasani Thayar sits and renders her blessings to the devotees. Near this shrine is the age-old Pipal (Aswatha) tree (Vatavriksha) and is considered to be the incarnation of Aswatha Narayanan who revealed Himself to the three sages, Pullavar, Kannuvar, and Kalavar. The Prime Deity is also known as ‘Dakshina Jagannathan’, installed as a Saalagrama by the Devas during the Swayambhu Manvantara. As per Hindu legend, Rama in the epic Ramayana prayed to the Samudraraja (God of Ocean) to seek way to reach Lanka. He did a penance lying on Kusa grass, the act of which is described in Sanskrit as Dharbasayanam. Pulllani means, bridge of grass. As per another legend, Dasaratha, the father of Rama, performed different sacrifices and did a lot of penance to obtain the sacred payasam (sweet pudding). He distributed it among his three wives, resulting in the birth of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrughna. Following this legend, childless couples perform a worship called Naagapratishtha (installing a statue of snake deity) in the temple. Sweet pudding is offered to childless couple praying for a child. It is believed that Adi Jaganatha bestows a child-like Rama when such a worship is performed.
The presiding deity of this temple is Kalyana Jagannathan. He is found in sleeping posture facing along the East direction. Thousands of centuries ago, three Maharshis, Pullavar, Kalavar and Kannvar performed severe penance on Lord Mahavishnu sitting on the Darba grass. The Lord gave Darsan (vision) to the Rishis in the form of an Aswattha (Arasu in Tamil) tree. Though they were happy to have the Darsan of the Lord in the form of Arasu Tree they begged him to show them His original form. The Lord obliged and appeared as Adhi Jagannatha Perumal. This is the present Thirupullani. It is here king Dasaratha also received the Mantra for getting the child and had Rama as his son.
Puranas ascribe different reasons for the wild growth of Kusa grass in this particular spot. There is a version which says that Lord Vishnu assumed the form of the ‘Divine Koorma’ (tortoise) which form Lord Vishnu assumed to hold the Manthara mountain that was used as churner in place, on His hard, rock-like shell. When the mountain was turned over and over again on His back in the efforts to churn the Ocean of Milk several hundreds of strands of hair on the shell of the Divine Koorma fell off due to the friction and were washed ashore and with the passage of time, they turned into Kusa grass. The story goes on. When nectar was churned out of the ocean, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a damsel, Mohini, and distributed it among the celestials. Several drops of nectar fell on the ground when it was distributed and also when it was consumed by the Devas, some drops fell on the ‘dharba’ or Kusa grass and therefore the grass is considered sacred. In fact, it is considered as a part of Vishnu himself. Hence Dharba grass got its sanctity. The eighth day of moon in the month of Bhadrpada (September 9 in 2016) is observed as Darbha Ashtami and is an annual festival in this shrine.
Tirupullani is one of the celebrated 108 Vaishnava temples. Sri Rama graces this place in a reclining form. The Bodhi Tree (Arasa Maram) dates back to centuries said to have been graced by the Darsan of the Lord.
Based on the above it is logical to conclude the Hindu deity Lord Jaganntha in Tiruppullani is the Sthiti (sustenance) aspect of Prabrahman Vishnu and not the Hindu deity of Krishna the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. There is no mention of Subhadra here. Subhadra is worshipped in lone temple of Puri Jagannath where it seems she occupied Ratnavedhi after Lakshmi was driven away. Jayadeva who is almost a contemporary of Ramanuja firmly established that this deity is Krishna in the form of Jagannath which paved the way for Krishna Consciousness Movement of today, inspired by Chaitanya Movement. Jagannatha Tradition of Orissa is the only place where Subhadra (wife of Arjuna) is raised to the status of deity. ISKCON focus is on Radha and not on Rukmini who is the incarnation of Lakshmi. It is interesting to note here that in Chennai where Lord Krishna is worshipped as family or Parivar include only Rukmini (Avatar of Lakshmi), Balarama, Aniruddha, Pradyumna and Satyaki. In this assembly not even Satyabhama (avatar of Bhudevi) is considered among family deities though included in processional assembly.
Jagannath idol, 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 out of wood because He was mentioned in Vedas as the Daru Brahman or The Lord made of wood. Later a king living in the tribal community fell in love with the tribal princess and married her. This was the first synthesis of Brahmin culture with tribal and even today the tribal community are one of the main servitors of Jagannath in the Puri temple. Gautama Buddha visited Puri and converted the then King to Buddhism. Kalinga (currently known as Odisha) then after 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. The most powerful king at one time, named Kharabela, who expanded Kalinga to a vast empire, was a Jain and he prayed Jagannath as Lord of Jains and Jagannath became a major deity of Jains.
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 Jain.
During the missing period of Jesu’s life when He was wandering in search of truth, He actually entered India and visited Puri. Robert Arnett mentions about his visit in his book India Unveiled. At that time due to the influence of Buddhists and Jains, the philosophy was more monolithic. Jesus was impressed but felt Hindus were polytheistic not able to grasp Sanatana Dharma. He had all reverence for Lord Jagannath worshipped by Jains and Buddhists. Some Christians in India do believe this and pray to Jagannath as Our Lord, a deity with no distinct shape, sex or form and identified with Holy Father and Holy Spirit.
One of the Muslim King's son in line to the throne during the Muslim Rule of India contacted Leprosy and faced sure disfigurement and death. His mother who was a Hindu prevailed upon him to travel to Puri and pray to Lord Jagannath for cure. He did so and was cured. The prince spent rest of his life in Puri and he was considered one of the most important devotee of Lord Jagannath. He, Salabega, had left behind hundreds of his songs in praise of Lord Jagannath which are song in Puri temple even today. Since then 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 and they consider Puri as Srikshetra and not Puroshottma Kshetra— Sakti Peetha of Katyaayini. Mother earth is hailed as Katyaayini (MNU) though Saktas identify her as Durga, influenced by Devi Culture of Bengal. They say Indradyumna dreamt Krishna Balabhadra and Katyayini.
Jagannatha is thus an amalgam of all religions and encompasses all philosophies reflecting the Vedic wisdom “Eko Viprah bahudaa Vadanti”—the one the Wise (pundits) call by many names. It is appealing to all Inter-faith people also.
Deities on Ratna Vedhi in Puri were for some time worshipped as Krishna, Rudra and Katyaayani. Jayadeva was mainly responsible to promote the present day worship Krishna (Parbrahman) as Jaganntha. He reversed the concept of Jagannatha (Prabrahaman) worshipped as Krishna deity, eighth Avatar of Lord Vishnu, calling Saguna Brahman as Krishna and all other 10 Avatars emanating from Him alone as glorified in his Dasavatara stotra. He thus laid the foundation for Gowdiya Sampradya and the later Krishna Consciousness. During his period Rudra worshipped for some time along with Jagannatha was also replaced by Balarama and Katyaayini recognized as Subhadra, sister of Krishna and Balarama and wife of Arjuna. I understand in between there was Lakshmi on the Ratna Vedhi who was also replaced by Subhadra. Sudarsana the powerful weapon of Sri Krishna took a prominent position who is also sometimes identified with Narasimha concealed inside the pillar. In fact Jagannatha, Rudra and Katyaayani represented Supreme Principle as sustainer and Vishnu, Rudra, the dissolution aspect of Supreme Principle and Katyaayini as the power aspect of Supreme principle while Brahma as creative aspect was not considered as He had already completed his job when humans are born who are only concerned with Sthiti (Sustenance) and Laya (Dissolution) and its Sakti or Power aspect in keeping with Temple Traditions not to worship Brahma. Some attribute Brahma Padartha to Trinity Brahma, the creative essence.
The basic philosophy that reflects in the unusual iconic representations of these deities on the Ratnavedhi can be summarized as follows: Jagannatha is the emblem of Saguna Brahman having no other form than the eyes and the hands. They mean to symbolize that God sees and knows and creates. Upanishad call Him as eye of all eyes and ear of all ears. Balarama is the source of Jiva Shakti of God; Subhadra, the Maya Shakti; and Sudarshana is the energy of Will. We cannot form any ideas of these energies and hence it is worship of Jagannatha that depends upon the collection of these four forms on the same platform. Here we see God analyzed in the shape of forms for the sake of those who want to conceive of Him.
Adi Sankara belonged to much earlier period. He had also visited Puri. Bhajagovindam was his last poetic composition as Stotra (prayer hymns). Govinda here refers to Lord Krishna one of the 12 names with which Purification (achamana) ritual is performed magnetizing twelve parts of the human body. There is no mention of Krishna in these twelve names and they were in vogue much earlier to Krishna. There are also Veda Mantras in which mention is made of Krishna as in MNU “uddhritaani varahena Krishnena satabahuna”— Mother Earth lifted by Varaha Krishna of 1000 arms. Referring to earlier avatar of Vishnu Varaha of dark complexion in Krita Yuga. Here Krishna means one who delights the world. The word Krishna and Rama existed long before the Avatars took place. We have Parasu Rama, Kodanda Rama, and Bala Rama, Kodanda Rama being most popular as Rama. Rama refers to Vishnu in general meaning one who sports you (ramyate iti ramah). In Bahajagovindam your attention is drawn to the following sloka:
Tvayi mayi sarvatraiko vishnurvyartham kupyaci mayyasahihnuh | sarvasminnapi pasyaatmaanam sarvatrotsrija bhedajnaanam ||
Vishnu is there in me, in you and in all others. You are angry with me being unnecessarily intolerant. Please visualize the same Self (Atman) in all. Leave all your thoughts of difference.
Satrou mitre putre bandho maa kuru yatnam vigrahasansanghau | bhava samachittah sarvatra tvam vaanchasyachiraad-yadi Vishnutvam ||
Don’t try to quarrel or compromise with friends, sons or relatives. If you desire the status of Vishnu you should soon become balanced in your thoughts.
These two hymns are not written by Adi Sankara as generally believed but by his successor Medhaatiti Sankara (Ramakrishna Math edition) who projected the final thoughts of his predecessor. So all these are presented as “Sankaracharya kritam” written by Sankara, and so also Jagannathaashtakam where lot of references to eighth Avatar of Vishnu, Krishna are made. As you all know Sankara established four Sankar Maths in Char-dhams during his life time and Puri is one. Sankara, the founder of Advaita philosophy in his confession before Lord Viswanatha repented for his three mistaken notions about which I have talked about a lot, went in praise of Vishnu as Paramaatman the visible form of Saguna Brahman being Vishnu which thought is expressed in the concluding part of Bhajagovindam, as in this day-today life we look to him for guidance. When we are spiritually ready Saguna aspect Siva takes care of Atman which is an amsa (ray) of Paramaatman as Gita Says (mamaivamaso jeevabhootah sanatanah).
Again in Aatma Bodha Sankara strongly promoted worship and meditation of Vishnu;
Sacchidaatmanya-nusyoote nitye-Vishnau prakalpitah |
Vyaktayo vividhaassarvaa haatake katakaadivat ||9 ||
All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by imagination upon the substratum which is the Eternal All-pervading Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different ornaments are all made of the same gold.
Ramanuja, the Vaishnava Saint by then had completed his task in reorganizing the worship in Adi-Jagannatha Temple in Thiruppullani according to Paancharaatra Aagama, one among 108 Divyadesas (sacred regions) and during his conquest tour visited Purushottama-kshetra. Swami Ramakrishnanada writes in his Book on Sri Ramanuja: “Resting in Puri for some time Ramanuja founded the monastery there called Embar Math after the name Govinda, his own disciple. Out of fear of defeat the scholars of the place did not meet Ramnuja in any discussion, though the latter invited them. Ramanuja grew all the more eager to establish his doctrine there. He requested the priests of Lord Jaganntha to worship the deity according to his doctrine of Paancharatra Aagama there, similar to the worship of Adi Jagannatha of Kritayuga installed in Thirupullani. When they refused to adopt any new doctrine, he appealed to the king for arranging a discussion. Being frightened at this, the priests took refuge in Sri Purushottama. It is said that, on the night, Ramanuja while asleep, was lifted away by Jaganntha to Kurmakshetra, a hundred yojanas (equal to nine miles) away from that place. When woke up Ramanuja saw that he had come to a different place where none of his numerous disciples were near to him. On enquiry, he came to know that he was in Kurmakshetra. Knowing for certain that it was an artifice of Narayana, after his morning duties, Ramanuja went to the temple of Sri Kurmadeva, and with deep devotion, worshipped that image of the incarnation. Pleased with, the Deity commanded him through His priest to wait there for some time for his disciples and Ramanuja complied. Reunited with his disciples after few days, He went to Simhachala.” A detailed version and an attempt on his life there is described below. Life threat was nothing new to Ramanuja. Staunch Saivites who opposed his philosophy wanted to harm him once in Tamil Nadu. His disciple Kuresha posed himself as Ramanuja and went to take part in discussion in his place pleading to him. During the discourse his eyes were plucked as he would not submit to Saivism and he remained blind forever. Ramanuja spent lot of time in Karnataka as a refugee fleeing from Saivite fanatics.
Here is a detailed episode on Ramanuja’ visit to Puri Jagannth as well as Srikurma well received by many critiques: Source-- https://vaadinen.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/puri-jagannath-and-sri-ramanujacharya/
“Sometime during his trip to Puri, Sri Ramanujar visited a place located some 28 km south of Puri, known as Brahmagiri. It is said that during Satya Yuga, Brahma performed great tapas on Vishnu, and Vishnu pleased with the worship instructed Brahma to construct a temple here with a standing pose of Vishnu. This place came to be known as Brahmagiri. It is said that Sri Ramanuja also visited this temple during his Orissa visit. He must have been delighted to see a beautiful deity of a four armed Sri Maha Vishnu, with Conch, discus, Mace and Lotus flower. It is also believed that he named the deity ‘Sri Alwarnath’ or the ‘lord of the alwars’. As we know, the azhwars were the divine saints of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. The place which housed Alwarnath hence also came to be known as Alwarpur. And today the words have been shortened with time, the temple known as Sri ‘Alarnath’ or ‘Alalanath’ and the place called ‘Alarpur’!
Sri Ramanuja establishes the Embar Mutt at Puri
On reaching Puri, Sri Ramanujacharya began to interact with the local priests and scholars. His natural brilliance attracted people and soon he found a crowd of devotees following in his foot- steps. He decided to establish a monastery to be headed by Sri Govinda (his cousin). Govinda was also fondly called Embar, hence the mutt came to be known as ‘Embar Math’.
Today the monastery is known simply as ‘Emar mutt’. The Emar mutt is located right outside the Puri Jagannath temple.
Sri Ramanuja and the King of Puri
Ramanuja had many meetings with the king, holding religious discussions with him. ‘Ananta Varman Choda Ganga Deva’ (Chodaganga) was the king at that time, who earlier had a leaning towards Saivite philosophy. The king developed a strong belief in Vaishnavism in his later years, during which time he had the opportunity of meeting Sri Ramanuja. The king was impressed by his preaching and deep knowledge of Vedic literature. It is believed that king Chodaganga grew deeper in his faith in Vaishnavism by the devotion and brilliance he witnessed in Sri Ramanujacharya.
Sri Ramanuja and Puri Jagannath Mandir
Sri Ramanujacharya had a deep interest in establishing proper temple worship procedures wherever he went. He strongly believed in the Pancharatra Agama School of temple worship, as followed at Sri Rangam. He desired to lay the foundations of the same style of worship in the Puri Jagannath temple. King Chodaganga eagerly supported this move. The temple priests came to know about Sri Ramanujacharya’s intentions and grew uncomfortable. They were very stiff in their opposition and were not ready to accept any changes in their earlier practices. During the night, the priests grew anxious and prayed to Lord Jagannatha to prevent Ramanuja from changing the customs followed by them. Lord Jagannatha in all his mercy decided to grant the priests their wish. While Ramanuja was asleep, Sri Jagannatha appeared in his dreams and informed him that his current mission needed to be abandoned due to the requests of His devotees.
Meanwhile it is believed that a bunch of people wanted to eliminate Ramanuja and headed to where the Acharya was asleep. The Acharya was oblivious to the danger that was expected to befall him. They brandished their weapons ready to strike. And suddenly, Sri Ramanujacharya disappeared from sight right in front of them!
Sri Ramanuja magically transported to a town in Andhra!
With the rising sun the following day, Sri Ramanuja found himself transported several miles away from Puri, to a place near the town of Srikakulam in the present day Andhra Pradesh. Viewed in the perspective of how difficult it would have been for people to travel distances by foot or by cart in those days, the distance to which he had been transported overnight was phenomenal! It is said that Sri Jagannatha out of His kind mercy sent Garuda to transport Sri Ramanuja way from a problematic situation.
Ramanuja was surprised to be alone in an unknown land and saddened by the separation from his loving disciples. However he could sense that he was in a divine location, and noticed that he was near a temple tank. He explored the temple to find out that the inner sanctum housed a black stone which seemed to be Linga. Sri Ramanuja was saddened further as he thought Lord Jagannatha had in anger denied the Acharya a glimpse of His form in the temple. As the Acharya would not eat food not offered to the lord (Vishnu), he fasted that day. In his dreams the following night, Sriman Narayana revealed the true identity of the deity at the temple. Ramanuja woke up the next day and was overjoyed! Lord Jagannath had not sent him here for nothing!
Sri Jagannatha informs Ramanuja of his true form
The deity at the sanctum sanctorum was a swayambhu – or naturally occurring stone. It has a distinct shape, of the fossilized structure of a turtle. The lord appeared in the Acharya’s dreams to inform him that the deity was none other than the manifestation of the Kurma avatara of the Lord. Sri Ramanuja also discussed it with the locals and was surprised to note that many of them already considered the stone as Sri Kurma, based on ancient stories. Even from a geological perspective, the temple is not too far from the sea, which supports the fossilized structure of a turtle theory. Interestingly there is also another stone – apparently a Sudarshana-salagrama which had been placed earlier by Adi Sankara’s disciples at the tail end of the turtle-structure.
However, there was still a dispute in the village about the true identity of the deity. It is said that to convince everyone that it was indeed a manifestation of lord Vishnu, Ramanuja asked the deity to turn towards him, towards the west. The deity did as was requested! Hence another dwaja-sthamba or flag post was constructed for the new direction in which the deity faced. This is one of the rare temples in which there are two dwajasthambas! There are more stories to this temple.
Influence on Choddaganga and on Jagannath temple
Despite Sri Ramanujar’s sudden departure from Puri, the influence of his vision on Puri Jagannath temple remains. There is a shrine/sannadhi for Lakshmi built inside the compound of the Jagannath temple by Choddaganga, as suggested by Ramanuja. Even a metallic Lakshmi icon is placed near Jagannatha on Ratna Vedhi. The Puri temple is actually also known as Sri Mandira, in line with the belief that Jagannath is always with Lakshmi. There is also said to be considerable influence of Sri Ramanuja on other procedures, including their Rath yatra festival fashioned after Ratotsava in Adi Jagannatha Temple. King Choddaganga as a devotee remained significantly mesmerized by the teachings of Ramanuja.”
I often wonder why Ramanuja went to Puri Temple and wanted to regulate its worship where the incomplete icons were consecrated against his orthodox views, unless it was told by Jagannatha alone. It is not surprising this temple is not included among 108 Divyakshetras though Badrinath, Dwarakanath, Muktinath (Nepal), Mathura Krishna, Gokula Krishna, Joshi Muth, Ayodhya and Adi Jagannath are included. One may surmise this is because of its past history as to which God he is. So was Venkateswara in Thirupati but that is the most popular among 108 Divyakshetras as Sri Vaikuntha. I therefore believe it should be because of its unconventional iconic representation based on a mythological story. Had the sculpting been the way as it is in Puri, I am sure the deities would not have been installed in Pullani Adi Jagannatha temple. The sculpting there is complete and as per temple scriptures and Vaastusastra followed in all Southern temples. Even in the North, Puri is the only exception to worship a deity with many limbs missing. I believe even hands were added later when Viswakarama left enraged. South Indian temples abandon worship if they find the deity is defective as in Brihadiswara temple in Tanjavur. The limbs of an idol are divided into three sections - anga, pratyanga and upanga. If there is any defect or damage in the pratyanga or upanga, it can be fixed. If there is any damage or defect in the main anga, the idol should be abandoned. Worshipping mutilated or defective idols is not permitted in South Indian temple tradition. Here I would like to narrate an incidence that occurred in the famous temple of Beluru built by Jakanacharya.
At Beluru, Jakanacharya’s son Dankanacharya found a job as a sculptor and noticed a flaw in a figure sculpted by the famous artist. Dankanacharya told Jakanacharya not knowing him as his father that the idol which he had carved had a toad living inside which was considered to be a flaw by the sculptors, and not acceptable for consecration. South Indian temple traditions do not accept any icon whose material is defective and any icon missing any limb (angaviheen) for consecration. Furious at this, Jakanacharya challenged to cut off his right hand if the young sculptor was correct in his assessment of the sculpture. Dankanacharya chiseled the place where the flaw was present and a toad jumped out with a little water flowing from that spot. Upon testing the figure, the flaw was indeed revealed and Jakanacharya kept his promise and cut off his right hand. Then he sculpted a new idol as is seen today. Eventually, the two sculptors became aware of their relationship as father and son and he was proud of his son. Jakanacharya then received a vision to build the Chennakesava temple in his native place Kridapura. After this was completed, legend has it that God restored his right hand. The place also got its present name Kaidala after this incidence. “Kai” in Kannada means hand.
I strongly believe Ramanuja was guided by Lord Himself to go to Puri and undertake the work of regularizing worship much against his orthodox views. Ramanuja would not have questioned or refused the wish of Jagannatha. He would have accepted the deity as it was. But when Jaganntha found that his devotees there were upset He decided otherwise not to upset his devotees even if they were not well organized and prejudiced against Ramanuja and so asked Ramanuja to abandon his plan though earlier asked him to do so. Ramanuja did not talk on all these in his memoirs and so we do not have any historic evidence.
South Indians believe Jagannatha in Krita Yuga revealed his identity as Kurma Avatar on appearing as Vishnu to the three sages while people in Orissa today make people believe tha Jagannatha is none other than Krishna of Dwapara Yuga who called himself Bhagawan in Gita influenced by Gowdieeya Sampradaya and Bhakti Vedanta of Krishna Consciousness. ISKCON followers even make us believe that originally Ganesha was none other than Lord Krishna who descended on Earth as a human child. Saturn cast his evil eyes, as a result the child's head that of Baala Krishna had originally got separated and flew towards Goloka, the world of Krishna. The trunk was then grafted with the head of an elephant and a child got emerged with elephant head and human body.
Brahma-vaivarta-purana while narrating the dream of Indradyumna describe the four images as follows: “Janardhana was stationed on a divine throne (divya-simhahaasana-gatah) along with Balabhadra and Sudarsana. He had four hands, and held in them were conch, discus, mace and lotus. Bala-bhadra also had four hands in which he carried plough (hala), pestle (musala), discus (chakra) and lotus (abja). He was of the form of a serpent (pannagaakriti), and seven hooded snake raised its hood over him like a parasol (Chhatreekrita-phanaas-sapta). He had gorgeous ear-rings (ujjvala kundala) and a crown. Subhadra, pretty-faced carried in her hands the gestures of boon-bestowal and protection and lotus (Varaabjaabhaya-dhaarini). She was verily Lakshmi who manifested herself as the life-force of all beings (sarva-chaitanya rupini). Sudarsana, the discus in the hand of Vishnu, was inside a pillar (stambhamadhyastam)”. Viswakarma wanted to sculpt his images as described in Brahma-Vaivarta-puraana but left in rage, task incomplete.
Both Brahma Vaivasvata Purana and Skandaa Purana describe Balabhadra’s appearance as serpent which relates to Adisesha. Puranas ascribe Lakshmana Avatar and Balarama avatar too that of Adisesha. Vaishanvites feel even Ramanuja is an avatar of Adisesha while Saivites believe Sankara to be an Avatar of Siva. Balbhadra is also praised as Haladhara-- one who carries a plough as his work-piece or weapon. Earth needs to be ploughed to be made fertile to bring forth crops. Plough is therefore a symbol of fertility. It implies Balarama as Adisesha avatar is the God of Fertility. That is why probably women install serpent icons under a tree and worship. You find lot of them under the Aswattha Tree in Thiruppullani being worshiped for begetting children. Of course there are other explanations as discussed in my discourse on Naga Panchami.
Skanda Purana identifies Jagannatha with Vishnu, Balabhadra with Siva (sesha) and Subhadra standing (trayor-madhya-sthitam bhadraam Subhadraam) with Lakshmi (or Katyaayini, Bhuvanesvari, or Ekaanaamsa). Subhadraa, in this account stands separately (prithak-sthitam), is red-complexioned (kumkumaarunaa), and two armed, carrying in the hands the gesture of boon-bestowal and lotus (varaabja-dhaarini). Adi Jagaantha icon in Pullani matches with the description in Brahma –vaivarta-purana. I am more inclined to go by the description in Skanda Purana which treats Vishnu, Siva and Brahma on equal footings unlike other Puranas which are sectarian biased that I have explained in detail. Skanda purana includes Subhadra and Lakshmi both being on Ratna Vedhi, Subhadra standing separate. This goes well with the story popular in Orissa where it is stated that Lakshmi was driven away from Ratnavedhi by protagonists who believed in sister-in-law and daughter-in-law conflict prevalent in Orissa culture in those days. To those who do not like this story they have another story. An elder brother is not even supposed to look at the wife of his younger brother. She always covers her head and face with Sari when moving around the house if brother-in-law or father-in-law or even older males are around. Hence Lakshmi was replaced by Subhadra later.
Later a metallic Lakshmi was installed on Ratnavedhi not very prominent to those who believe in Jagannatha as Vishnu and not the later Avatar of Krishna. Thus we see that Ratnavedhi often went with house-cleaning which is not acceptable to South Indian Temple traditions.
The images now worshipped in Puri Temple are wooden ones but not the original images of the days of Indradyumna. As you all know every twelve years or nineteen years the old images are discarded and buried and new ones installed in their place in an elaborate ritual known as “Nava Kalevara”. However the new images are sculpted and prepared for worship in exactly the same manner as the original images as said to have been prepared and sculpted. So there is nothing ancient about these deities whereas the deity of Adi Jagannatah is of stone and believed to be Udbhava Murti (self-emerged) as it was discovered and consecrated. Only Kumbhabhishekam (consecration ceremony) done every 12 years to carry out repairs in sanctum but the deity is not touched. You may kindly recall the first ever Jagannatha was made from a reddish brown wood (daru) that Indradyumna got from the sea shore that started its journey from the sea in Gujarat near Dwaraka where the ancient city of Yadavas got submerged in water and the whole Yadu dynasty got destroyed as cursed lot after the departure of Sri Krishna from the mortal world. This makes one believe that the non-identifiable Jagannatha icon of Puri is that of Krishna. Even today lot of care is taken in identifying the trees suitable for the purpose by experts which is kept as guarded secret and the wood brought every time mysteriously. There are prescriptions about the color of the tree, number of main branches the tree must have, and the characteristic divine marks it should have like Padma, conch, discus etc., as marks of identification for each deity.
In South Indian Orthodox and conservative tradition does not permit installation new deities unless the original deities are damaged or mutilated or become defective in organs. That is why they do not worship Ganesha whose one tusk is broken later and instead worship Vishwaksena with both the tusks. South Indian temples abandon worship if they find the deity is defective as in Brihadiswara temple in Tanjavur. Jains do not bother. They carried out patchwork on stone icon of cracked Gomatesvara with the help of French experts and continue their worship.
Kumbabhisahekam and Nav Kalevar rituals for periodic consecration after carrying out repair or replacement work in sanctum d sanctorum is of later origin introduced by Pancharatra, Saiva and Tantra Agamas. I do not think Indradyumna ever thought of Nav Kalevar ritual or discarding his dream deities. Had the people of Orissa preserved these deities today they would have thrown lot of information about Indian architecture. You may be surprised that Venkateswara icon is also believed to be carved out of wood and not stone and is several centuries old, yet it withstands regular Abhishekam every week without any sign of deterioration (Swami Harshananda of Ramakrishna Math) though popular belief is, it is out of Salagrama. Ancient Thirunarayana icon in Melkote though of black stone is deteriorating even though made of stone and they have restricted Abhishekam to the main deity once a year. There is no way to know whether the icon of Lord Venkateswara is of stone or of wood. Hindu priests will not allow any scientist to touch their deities and conduct investigations to study the date of the icon by suitably taking samples from the icon unlike the Japanese Temple, So, we have to go by the Sthala Purana or local story. This deity was also recovered half buried in the soil.
I do not doubt or question the Venkateshwara deity as being carved out of wood. Wood permits lot of intricate carvings and details which you find on Venkateshawara icon. Also there are other ancient wooden icons in South India, may be in Kanchipuram. I do not recall. Our ancient temple architects and Sthapanis were very skilled and they had sound knowledge of the material and the great skill. Particular type of timber lasts forever withstanding all harsh aging and weathering conditions as well as insect damage. May be Abhisheka techniques adds to lasting preservation! Indradyumna requested Viswakarma to make the idols from a wood floating on sea that was subjected to severe conditions in its long travel. You will be amazed to hear about the magnificent skyscraper temple in Japan published with photographs published in The Economist September 2016: “The five-story pagoda of The Temple of Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan is one of the world's oldest wooden building. It has withstood wind, rain, fire and earthquakes for 1400 years. Analysis of the rings in the central pillar supporting the 32-meter structure suggests the wood that it is made from was felled in 594 A.D. and construction is thought to have taken place soon after." There are more scientific explanation and modern research to improve wood modifying its annular structure etc., to last long against the cruelty of weathering but I would not like to go deep into it as I am not dealing with science here. It is amazing how our ancient temple architects and Sthapanis (sculptors) had such scientific knowledge several centuries ago which baffles modern scientists. The timber of Aswattha tree which is glorified as divine in Bhagavad Gita and many scriptures is believed to possess such durable qualities.
Ancient Temple traditions have tribal background as revealed in Jagannatha worship. The religious assumptions and aspirations, however concealed by layers of modernity, hearken to the tribal mooting. In many of the great temples such as the Jagaannth temple at Puri, Vindhyaavasini temple, Kaamaakya Temple and the Tirumalai Temple, we find even today survivals of customs and practices that throng these shrines tribal figure prominently. Ignoring the myth, the worship of Jagannthaa shows the gradual evolution of iconic worship. Jagannatha was worshiped as a natural element tree (a tribal tradition), and then as mountain (Govardhan worship) which assumed the form of Salagrama (aniconic form—vyaktaavykta) manifest yet un-manifest. There are good number of ancient temples in India that contain in their sanctum natural rocks including Viswanatha in Varanasi. These rocks and stones, untouched by the sculptors chisel and Hammer, are regarded as icons or rather aniconic representation of divinity. Here is indeed to be found the genesis of Linga and Salagrama worship by Hindus. Oftentimes the area covered by the outer compound walls (Prakaras) of a stylized temple represents the ancient tribal enclosure; and the sanctum is associated with the tree or stone that originally stood with it. Puri Jagannath Temple made eyes and ears prominent in the deity and later added hands to solid wood deity (of Salagrama shape) to symbolize Supreme Being having his eyes, ears and hands everywhere taking care of us while the rest of the body parts are unnecessary and that the human body is considered as divine temple. Adi Jagannatha in Thiruppullani reveals the deity in full and complete form and worshiped to-day with aesthetic and divine supremacy and awe revealing the high skills of iconography and sculpting developed from the beginning of the first century A.D. if not earlier.
The Adi Jagannatha Temple is a South Indian Hindu temple in Thiruppullani, a village in the outskirts of Ramanathapuram in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries CE. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Adi Jagannatha and his consort Lakshmi as Padmaasini. The Jagannatha Temple in Puri was built in the 12th century during the Era of Eastern Ganga Dynasty by King Ananta Chodaganga Deva, a dynasty known also for building the Sun Temple in Konarak and several Shaivism temples. King Choddaganga as a Vishnu devotee remained significantly mesmerized by the teachings of Ramanuja. In spite of Ramanuja being thrown away from Puri Temple there is said to be considerable influence of Sri Ramanuja on its temple procedures, including the Ratha Yatra festival fashioned after Rathotsava in South Indian Temples. Rathotsava is the concluding festival of annual ten days of Brahmotsava celebrations that was already in vogue in all Vishnu temples in South India before it was introduced in Puri temple. May be this is to remember Lord Krishna as the Charioteer in Mahabharata War sitting on which He preached Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. Rathotsava in Orissa introduced for the first time in Puri Jagannath Temple soon caught up the fantasy of devotees to make it popular, unique in the North, which made Jagannatha Temple in Puri famous. Ratha with six horses and charioteer with its occupant is philosophically discussed in Chandogya Upanishad which I had discussed in detail which also caught up the imagination of Temple Traditions for a symbolic festival. The name Jagannatha in Rathayatra mistakenly pronounced as Jagger Naught (a strong military vehicle) caught the admiration of all Western rulers who ruled India later. Thus Jagannatha became famous to ignorant too because of Ratha Yatra.
Starting with the Tamil Sangam (Third century B.C. to 4th century A.D.) period onwards followers of Siva are very active in Tamil Nadu spreading Saivism and so their main focus is on Rameswaram and the Linga consecration of Rama after his return from Lanka. In this race the Jaganntha Temple built in the South earlier where Rama worshiped Jagannatha before he launched the Sethu Project across the sea went to the background. Even to-day the regular tourist itinerary does not include this important ancient temple where Rama started the tradition of Moorti Upaasana but falsely lead to seashore and show nine pillars of Navagrahas saying that they were installed by Rama. Danushkodi submerging under water added to its disadvantage as that rail-route got abandoned.
Here I would like to draw your attention to Ramayana. Influenced by the blind belief in Navagrahas and horoscope promoted by clever marketing by astrological Pundits religious enthusiasts in recent times have installed Navagrahas as nine pillars on the seashore near Rameswaram and allure the make-believe devotees that Rama actually installed Navagrahas. Rama never worshiped Navagrahas but worshiped only Surya and chanted Adityahridayam before the final battle with Ravana. There are also references as to his worship of Narayana and also He never revealed his avatar of Vishnu like Krishna who did often. He always presented himself as the champion of Kshatriya Dharma and the upholder of his duties to parents. Rama never consulted horoscope for marrying Sita. He only waited for the auspicious time of Phalgun Uttara (Panguni Uttiram). He also chose this auspicious day to march his army of monkeys and bears to reach the sea shore. Ramayana only imparted knowledge about the birth of Lord Kartikeya and made no mention of Ganesha. I wonder how Siva devotees missed Kartikeya in the Rameswaram area while they have built a famous temple for Siva on the Seashore and created one for Navagrahas. Rama had great veneration for Siva and equally Siva to Rama as you learn from Vishnu Sahasranaam (Srirama rama rameti).
To a spiritual seeker it does not matter whether Jagaannatha deity is Krishna of Dwaparayuga or Kurma of Krita Yuga. To him He is all pervading Vishnu (vyaapyate iti Vishnuh), the Sthiti aspect.
“The Hindu Temple is a constellation of symbolism. It is an image that at once relevant to human aspirations and persistent in human thought and actions. The texts of Indian architecture which provides us with also details of measurement and parts of the temples, and prescribe the rites of installation and rituals of worship also indicates the real value of a shrine.
Agnirdevoe dwijaateenaam muneenaam hridi daivatam |
Prathima svlpabuddheenaam sarvatrea viditaatmanaam ||
The ritualists have their God in the fire (Agni); but the wise folk find him in their own heart. It is the dull-witted one that seeks God in the icon. Those who have higher understanding see God in everything” writes Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao in his book of Indian Temple Tradition.
It is logical to conclude that Moorti Upasana in Archana Moorti Form (iconic worship form) started with Sri Rama showing the way and the also the first temple was built for Jagannatha which started the Hindu Temple Tradition. Rama also started praying to deities and Aditya Hridayam was the first Stotra which gave birth to millions of stotras to worship countless number of Devatas and Upadevatas pleading for special benefits however temporary they may be.
It is logical to conclude that Temple Tradition started with Jagannatha worship as Nature, in the form of Aswattha Tree that reappeared as Koorma Saligrama, from very early times. In Gita Bhagawan declared that among trees I am Aswattha and also said he will be pleased with the offerings of “Patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam” a leaf, a flower, a fruit or little water--all materials of nature. In Puri such a worship was started by simple Tribal folks with pure hearts before civilized people came to picture to build gigantic temples and complicate worship. They worshiped a simple icon in an enclosure whose eyes, ears and hands only mattered to them to take care of their welfare (yogakshemam vahamyam). Moorti Upasana, iconic worship in the form of Salagrama and Linga (vyktaavyakta form) in Thiruppuillani and Rameswaram was started by Rama himself as Puranas tell us. Before that it was all sacrificial (yajna) form of worship. Whether it is Krishna or Krishna Dwaipayana in Gita one can come across divine assurance that: “Om ityekaksharam brahma anusmaran…… yaati parammam gatim” --Whosoever meditates on single syllable AUM knowing that it represents the Supreme Brahman, he will certainly attain the Supreme abode. This is the mode of Aaraadhana (Moorti upaasana ) or Hindu Temple Worship today seen with all “Sambhramas” and “Shoedasa Upachaara Puja”.
Parting advice given by Sri Rama to Vibhishnana in Ramayanais as follows: In Sarga 108, Slokas 30-31 he said to Vibhishana: “Rakshsendra Mahaa bala! Aaraadhaya Jagannaatham Ikshvaaku Kuladaivatam | Aaraadhaneeyamanisam devairapi savaasavaih ||”—O mighty Rakshasa King! Worship Lord Jagannatha the presiding deity of Ikshvaaku dynasty. He (Vishnu) is to be worshiped even by the Devas (divines) together with Indra”.
Jagannatha of Puri is pleasing to all sectarian followers of Vishnu, Siva as well as Sakta for it is Three-in-One deity like Venkateshwara of Tirupati which attracts large North Indian crowd. One can also avoid going to different temples at different times for special worship and consolidate all their prayers to Parabrahman or Paraasakti to one deity. “Tvameva maataa pitaa bhanduscha” holds good symbolically to Jagannatha. This is all the more important to Hindu Americans who usually find One Temple for All Traditions and Sampradayas. Thus they can focus on few major rituals and festivals as well as a grand annual function of Brahmotsava including Ratha Yatra and at the same time focus on Parabrahman with Parasakti as the sustenance aspect, Vishnu propagated by all philosophers which is most important in our day-to day practical life. This has been focused by Jayadeva followed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and recently by ISKCON followers. Of late Jagannatha of Puri has caught up the imagination of Hindu Americans and they add Jagannthas sanctum in American Hindu Temples successfully promoted by Jaganntha Philosoph besides Venkateswara. But Indians hailing from South India have some reservation because of the form of the icon which is incomplete in main limbs in the wooden icons (anga-viheen) of Puri. This need not be so because Jagannatha is no stranger to South Indians; before Jaganntha of Puri there was Adi Jaganntha of Pullani worshiped by Dasaratha and Rama who started the Moorti Upaasana Tradition (Iconic worship) and prompted people to build temples by putting a wall enclosure around a self-generated icons as in Thiruppulllni or Tirupati. Udhbava Moortis of Adi Jaganntha with Sridevi and Bhudevi in Thiruppullani near Rameswaram should be acceptable to both Northern and Southern Indian Temple Traditions in the same sanctum of Jagannatha of Puri which tradition has made many changes on Ratnavedi with moving of times. As explained above. Alternately the processional deities can be that of Adi Jagnnatha with Sridevi and Bhudevi. Jaganntha of Puri historically extends to other major Religions of the world if other religions are not willing to accept the basic philosophy of Hindu Sanatana Dharma “Eko viprah bahudaa Vadanti”--the One Supreme Being the Pundits call by many names (and many religions too).
1) Ramachandra Rao S.K., Indian Temple Traditions, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Bengaluru, India
2) Harry Bhalla, Bhagavad-Gita, International Gita Society, Freemont, CA, USA.
3) Chief Editor, Bhaja Govindam, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
5) Ramachnadra Rao, S.K., Vishnu Kosha, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Bengaluru, India.
6) Wikipedia on Adi Jaganntha of Thiruppullani and personal information gathered.
Three Confessions to Lord Viswanatha by Sankara
Sankara offered oblations to Lord Siva at the Viswanatha Temple in Varanasi and Prayed thus: “O Lord! My first sin is that in spite of my knowing and also teaching others that God is beyond mind and speech, I have tried to describe you through the several hymns (stotras) composed by me. This betrays lack of conformity between my thoughts and my word. Next having been convinced of the scriptural sayings that God pervades and permeates everything in the manifested Universe, I have been preaching this truth to one and all. Nevertheless, I have come to Varanasi to have your Darsan (viewing). This shows that my thoughts, words and deeds are at variance with one another. This is my second offence. Thirdly, I have a firm belief in the teaching of the scripture that the one and the same Aatma (Self) is imminent in all beings and there is no difference between the so called Jivatma (Individual Soul) and the Paramatma (Supreme Soul). While I have been proclaiming this Truth in all my discourses, I have now come here to stand before you as if we two are separate and different from each other. This is my third laps. Hence I pray that I may be absolved of all these three sins, of which I am guilty.”
DETAILS OF JAGANNATHA TEMPLE COMPLEX IN THIRUPPULLANI
Thiruppullani is a small village situated 10 kms from Ramanathapuram and is famous for its ancient temple and the Adhi Sethu, the seashore. Of the 18 divya desams of the Pandya region, Thiruppullani is the most ancient and important sacred city. The place is also hailed as Pullaranyam, Pullanai, Thiruvanai, Adhi Sethu, Dharbasayanam, Rathnaakara Kshetram, Nalasethu, Saranagati Kshetram and Pullangadu.
The Prime Deity faces east in the sitting posture with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. Similarly, His Consort Sri Padmasani Devi sits and renders Her blessings to the devotees. Near this shrine is the age-old Pipal (Aswatha) tree and is considered to be the incarnation of Aswatha Narayanan Who revealed Himself to the three sages, Pullavar, Kannuvar, and Kaalavar. The Prime Deity is also known as ‘Dakshina Jagannathan’, installed as a salagrama by the Devas during the swayambu manvantharam. It is said that the childless Emperor Dasaratha worshipped Lord Jagannatha and received as blessings his four sons.
Sri Dharbasayana Ramar under the ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ is in a reclining posture. Since he is lying on the dharba grass (sacred grass used in the rituals), he is called so. The dwaarapaalakas (divine securities at the doorstep) installed at the doorstep of the sanctum sanctorum have majestic appearance with a domineering moustache in their faces. Such an imposing figures could not be seen in any other temple. They have hands with ‘aahvaana sign’ (inviting sign) as if inviting into this unique sanctum, where the stately Rama reposes with his sword beside Him. But, He presents Himself as the Lord of Milky Ocean – from His navel arise three Lotus-stems, the center lotus with Lord Brahma flanked on his sides with Sun and Moon with head gear. Along with them sculpted on the wall are Madhu-Kaitaba, Lakshmi, Kausthubam and Sundopasundas. On the side of the crown are Garuda and Markanda. At His feet are the Ramayana personages, Sukha and Sarana, and also Hanuman enjoying the feet of Rama in a valiant posture! At the southern side of the Ardha Mantapa stands politely Vibishana holding the mace and on the northern side are the Emperor and his wives of ‘Mahodadi’ (Ocean) making surrender to Lord Rama. Lakshmana as the Serpent-bed Adisesha carries his Lord. The Procession-deity (Utsava murthy) is ‘Kothandaraman’ with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman standing respectfully as though trying to effect an alliance between Rama and Vibishana. The entire sanctum is a splendid piece, a superb sculpted tableau representing a few scenes from Ramayana. This is an exclusive presentation which could not be seen anywhere else.
The shrine of Pattabhiramar has a separate flag-pole, altar, Dwaarapaalakas and ardha mantapam. The victorious Rama, after killing Ravana returns to Ayodhya with Sita in the Pushpaka Vimanam. He rests for a while at his place, where – it is said – He recounts to Sita the events that had happened during their separation. The belief is that limitless blessings will be bestowed to the devotees who worship Pattabhiramar after taking a bath in the Adhisethu.
Thiruppullani is closely associated with the Ramayana especially with the incidents in the latter part of Rama’s life-history, when He goes in search of Sita. Here, Vibishana makes his ‘saranagati’ (surrender) to Lord Rama. On his counseling, Lord Rama reposing on the dharba grass for three days, requests the Samudra Raja (Emperor of the Oceans) to give way to Him to go to Lanka. The Samudra Raja does not concede to His request and infuriates Him. The furious Rama takes His bow and warns the Samudra Raja that He would dry up the entire waters. The frightened Samudra Raja with his wives rush to him and surrenders. Because of the surrenders made here by Vibishana and the Mahodadi, the place is rightly called ‘saranagati kshetram’ and since the Lord reposes on the darba grass, He is named ‘Darbasayana Ramar’.
On the outer mandapam of the ‘Darbasayan Ramar’ shrine is a small shrine dedicated to Santhana Gopalan, known as ‘Nagar Mandapam Santhana Krishna Mandapam’. It is a lovely sculptural wonder. Lord Krishna sits on the Adisesha who rests on the ‘kurmam’ (tortoise) surrounded by eight elephants and eight serpents. It is believed that the childless couple will be blessed with a child, if they worship the deity offering ‘paalpayasam’ (sweet-milk porridge) to Him. This is a famous offering in the Thiruppullani temple.
Another very important sacred place is the ‘Sethukarai’, the seashore about 3 km from Thiruppullani. This is also called ‘Adhisethu’ or ‘Ratnaakaram’. ‘Sethu’ means ‘Bridge’. This is the place where Lord Rama built the bridge to cross over the ocean to reach Lanka, to retrieve Sita. Even today, we can see on the eastern side within the sea a long stone-way. A recent satellite photograph has proved the existence of such a causeway under the sea. This bridge was built by Nala, the monkey-architect and hence the name ‘Nala Sethu’. At the shore, there is a small shrine for Hanuman with enfolded palms facing south. He is a deity loved and worshipped by the people here.
Another landmark and a small temple is ‘Chinnakoil’ (small temple) situated about 3 furlongs from the seashore. It houses Lord Srinivasa and has beautiful sculptures. On the northern side there is the white-image of ‘Swetha Madhavan’, believed to be found from the sea. This is a marvelous sculptural piece, lauded by the Archeological Survey of India. Another interesting image is that of ‘Agasthyar’, which is believed to be found from the sea. There are water-eroded marks on the knees of the image.
Puri Jagannath and Sri Ramanujacharya
It has been a while since adiyen has got the opportunity of witnessing a ‘ther’ or chariot procession. Such an opportunity presented itself today!
Today was the temple ther/rath yatra of Sri Jagannath of Puri, Orissa. The event was being telecast live on Doordarshan and was running for close to 7 hours. The Puri Jagannath temple rath yatra consists of 3 rathas – one each for Balabhadra (Balarama), Subhadra and Sri Jagannath. It was interesting to witness an elaborate ritualistic ceremony, including a slow rythmic carrying of deities into the ratha, the arrival of the king – ‘Gajapati Maharaj’ in a palanquin and a ritualistic broom sweeping done by him for all the 3 rathas (legend has it that an earlier king of Puri was protected by Krishna and Balarama themselves in a battle against the king of Kanchi). The procession then began with the traditional Oriya drums playing out loud. There was literally a sea of humanity out on the streets witnessing the sequence of the procession, with Balabadra followed by Subadra, and finally the pulling of Sri Jagannath’s ratha.
The Puri Jagannath temple is one of its kind with the inclusion of deities of Sri Krishna’s siblings – Subhadra and Balabhadra. The temple is recognized as one of the ‘char dhams’ or four important places of pilgrimage as identified by Sri Adi Sankara. The other three identified by him include – Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameswaram.
The live telecast also featured a section on another temple known as Alalnath – originally known as Alwarnath. I had not heard of this temple before, and was surprised that this temple had a significant connection with our Udayavar, Sri Ramanuja.
Adiyen will try and enlist some of the events, not necessarily in sequence, of Sri Ramanujar’s time at Puri and thereabouts. These incidents are based on reading up of several documents and may not be accurate in occurrence.
Sri Ramanujar goes to Puri
Sri Ramanujacharya’s visit to Orissa occurred at a stage in his life when his divnity was well known and he had countless followers. He was at the prime of efforts in holding the flag of Sri Vaishnavism high. He made several trips to holy places in the north of India including Kashmir. It was during one of these trips that he visited Puri, Orissa.
A north-Indian temple named after Azhwars!
While adiyen does not know the exact sequence of events, some time during his trip to Puri, Sri Ramanujar visited a place located some 28 kms south of Puri, known as Brahmagiri. It is said that during Satya Yuga, Brahma performed great tapas on Vishnu, and Vishnu pleased with the worship instructed Brahma to construct a temple here with a standing pose of Vishnu. This place came to be known as Brahmagiri. It is said that Sri Ramanujar visited the temple during his Orissa visit. He must have been delighted to see a beautiful deity of a four armed Sri Maha Vishnu, with conch, discus, mace and lotus flower. It is also believed that he named the deity ‘Sri Alwarnath’ or the ‘lord of the alwars’. As we know, the alwars/azhwars were the divine saints of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. The place which housed Alwarnath hence also came to be known as Alwarpur. And today the words have been shortened with time, the temple known as Sri ‘Alarnath’ or ‘Alalanath’ and the place called ‘Alarpur’!
There is more to the history behind Sri Alarnath temple connected to Vaishnavite traditions, which I shall explore in another post.
Sri Ramanujar establishes the Embar Mutt at Puri
On reaching Puri, Sri Ramanujacharya began to interact with the local priests and scholars. His natural brilliance attracted people and soon he found a crowd of devotees following in his foot steps. He decided to establish a monastery to be headed by Sri Govinda (his cousin). Govinda was also fondly called Embar by Emperumaanar, hence the mutt came to be known as ‘Embar mutt’.
Today the monastery is known simply as ‘Emar mutt’. The Emar mutt is located right outside the Puri Jagannath temple.*
Sri Ramanujar and the king of Puri
Emperumaanar had many meetings with the king, holding religious discussions with him. ‘Ananta Varman Choda Ganga Deva’ (Chodaganga) was the king at that time, who earlier had a leaning towards Saivite philosophy. The king developed a strong belief in Vaishnavism in his later years, during which time he had the opportunity of meeting Sri Ramanuja. The king was impressed by his preaching and deep knowledge of Vedic literature. It is believed that king Chodaganga grew deeper in his faith in Vaishnavism by the devotion and brilliance he witnessed in Sri Ramanujacharya.
Sri Ramanujar and Puri Jagannath mandir
Sri Ramanujacharya had a deep interest in establishing proper temple worship procedures wherever he went. He strongly believed in the Pancharatra Agama – school of temple worship, as followed at Sri Rangam. He desired to lay the foundations of the same style of worship in the Puri Jagannath temple. King Chodaganga eagerly supported this move. The temple priests came to know about Sri Ramanujacharya’s intentions and grew uncomfortable. They were very stiff in their opposition and were not ready to accept any changes in their earlier practices. During the night, the priests grew anxious and prayed to lord Jagannatha to prevent Emperumaanr from changing the customs followed by them. Lord Jagannatha in all his mercy decided to grant the priests their wish. While Emperumaanar was asleep, Sri Jagannatha appeared in his dreams and informed him that his current mission needed to be abandoned due to the requests of His devotees.
Meanwhile it is believed that a bunch of people wanted to eliminate Ramanujar and headed to where the Acharya was asleep. The Acharya was oblivious to the danger that was expected to befall him. They brandished their weapons ready to strike. And suddenly, Sri Ramanujacharya disappeared from sight right in front of them!
Sri Ramanujar magically transported to a town in Andhra!
With the rising sun the following day, Sri Ramanujar found himself transported several miles away from Puri, to a place near the town of Srikakulam in the present day Andhra Pradesh. Viewed in the perspective of how difficult it would have been for people to travel distances by foot or by cart in those days, the distance to which he had been transported overnight was phenomenal!It is said that Sri Jagannatha out of His kind mercy sent Garuda to transport Sri Ramanujar away from a problematic situation.
Emperumaanar was surprised to be alone in an unknown land and saddened by the separation from his loving disciples. However he could sense that he was in a divine sthala, and noticed that he was near a temple tank. He explored the temple to find out that the inner sanctum housed a black stone which seemed to be Linga. Sri Ramanujar was saddened further as he thought lord Jagannatha had in anger denied the Acharya a glimpse of His form in the temple. As the Acharya would not eat food not offered to the lord (Vishnu), he fasted that day. In his dreams the following night, Sriman Narayana revealed the true identity of the deity at the temple. Emperumaanar woke up the next day and was overjoyed! Lord Jagannath had not sent him here for nothing!
Sri Jagannatha informs Emperumaanar of His true form
The deity at the sanctum sanctorum was a swayambhu – or naturally occurring stone. It has a distinct shape, of the fossilized structure of a turtle. The lord appeared in the Acharya’s dreams to inform him that the deity was none other than the manifestation of the Kurma avatara of the lord. Sri Ramanujar also discussed it with the locals and was surprised to note that many of them already considered the stone as Sri Kurma, based on ancient stories. Even from a geological perspective, the temple is not too far from the sea, which supports the fossilised structure of a turtle theory. Interestingly there is also another stone – apparently a Sudarshana-saligrama which had been placed earlier by Adi Sankara’s disciples at the tail end of the turtle-structure.
However, there was still a dispute in the village about the true identity of the deity. It is said that to convince everyone that it was indeed a manifestation of lord Vishnu, Emperumaanar asked the deity to turn towards him, towards the west. The deity did as was told! Hence another dwajasthamba or entrance pillar was constructed for the new direction in which the deity faced. This is one of the rare temples in which there are two dwajasthambas! There are more stories to this temple, which is a revered Abhimana sthalam for Sri Vaishnavas, which adiyen hopes to capture in another post.
Influence on Choddaganga and on Jagannath temple
Despite Sri Ramanujar’s sudden departure from Puri, the influence of his vision on Puri Jagannath temple remains. There is a shrine/sannadhi for Lakshmi built inside the compound of the Jagannath temple by Choddaganga, as suggested by Emperumaanar. The Puri temple is actually also known as Sri Mandira, in line with the belief that Jagannath is always with Lakshmi. There is also said to be considerable influence of Sri Ramanujar on other procedures, including the Ther or rath yatra festival. King Choddaganga as a devotee remained significantly impacted by the teachings of Emperumaanar.
No matter what the form, or the manifestation – Lord Jagannatha or Sri Kurma – rest assured lord, we as devotees shall always drown in the beauty of your various forms as well as worship the divine feet of our Acharyas!
Azhwar Acharyargal thiruvadigale sharanam l
Srimathe Ramanujaaya Namah l
Srimathe Narayanaaya Namah l
*In early 2011, the Embar mutt in Puri has unfortunately run into trouble due to unaccounted assets or treasures, and illegal dealings of silver items. The chief of the mutt had been arrested and investigations are being carried out.
The Life of Sri Ramanujacharya
Posted by Sampradaya Sun | IndiaDivine.Org
“Sri Ramanuja Acarya appeared around 1017 A.D in a pious Brahmana family. He became the foremost Acharya in the Sri Sampradaya and was reputed to be the incarnation of Laksmana, the younger brother of Lord Ramachandra.
He was a boy of extraordinary intelligence and placed himself under the charge of Yadavacarya, a renowned Advaita scholar. His guru was struck with his marvelous intellect and became very uncomfortable on account of his firm faith in Bhakti.
One day while taking a massage, Yadavacharya was explaining to Ramanuja a sutra “tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamaksini” (Chandogya 1.6.7), saying that according to Sankara, the two eyes of Pundariksa are like two lotuses which are red like the nates of a monkey. On hearing this interpretation with the unbecoming and low simile, Ramanuja’s soft heart, tender by nature and softened by devotion, melted and as he was massaging, tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes like flames of fire and fell on the thigh of Yadava. Looking up at the touch of the hot tears, Yadava understood that something troubled his disciple. Ramanuja explained his dismay at hearing such an unbecoming explanation from his guru. He thought it sinful to compare with the posterior of a monkey the eyes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead – who is endowed with all gracious qualities and who is the repository of all the beauty of the universe. Yadava was angry at the boy’s audacity and told him to explain the verse if he could. Ramanuja analysed the word kapyasam to mean `blossomed by the sun’ and the verse to mean “The eyes of that Golden Purusa are as lovely as lotuses blossomed by the rays of the sun.”
After a few more such incidents when Ramanuja corrected his guru, Yadavacharya thought him to be a threat to the Advaita line and plotted to kill him. Later it came to pass that Yadavacharya was to become the disciple of Ramanuja.
Yamunacharya, the foremost exponent of Vaishnava philosophy of the time, knowing of his extraordinary ability and purity, called for Ramanuja with the intent of placing him in charge of the mission after his disappearance. Ramanuja was on his way to see Yamunacharya when he received the news of Yamunacarya’s departure from the world. Arriving at Srirangam, Ramanuja went to have his last darshana of that great soul. There he noticed three of Yamunacarya’s fingers were clenched. Ramanuja then made three vows: he would make the people surrender to God and initiate them by the panchasamskara; he would write a commentary on the Vedanta sutra which was later called Sri Bhashya ; he would also write what is like an encyclopedia on the Puranas and would name one well versed Vaishnava scholar after Parasara Muni who wrote the gem among the Puranas, the Vishnu Purana.
Later Ramanuja took Sannyasa and traveled throughout India vigorously defeating atheists and impersonalizers by preaching the Vishishtadvaita doctrine. He never failed to win over a rival in spiritual disputations.
His philosophy is Visishtadvaita. Brahman is Narayana --(cit-acit-isvara), Narayana with Lakshmi – (transcendental form), Four Vyuha forms, Vaibhava forms. The qualities of Brahman are both nirguna and saguna. The soul is real, eternal, individual, not omnipresent, not independent of Isvara, but part. Isvara is the efficient cause of creation. It is from His will out of delight. The cause of bondage is beginning-less karma. The process of release is Bhakti based on Pancharatra and Vishnu purana followed by detached karma that brings jnana – Prapatti. The goal is to attain the same nature of Isvara and companionship with Him. He does not return and has no power of creation, etc.
Once while Ramanuja Acharya was staying in Jagannath Puri he offered prayers to Lord Jagannatha, who became very pleased. Lord Jagannatha appeared before Ramanuja and said, “Ramanuja, go and visit Sri Navadwipa, for very soon I shall appear there in the house of Jagannatha Misra. Sri Navadwipa is my most beloved abode and is a part of the spiritual sky manifest in this world. As my eternal servant and a leader amongst my devotees, you should go there. Let your students stay here, for they are absorbed in dasya rasa (servitude in awe and reverence) and will not understand the advanced devotional mood, so travel there alone. Any living entity who does not go to see Sri Navadwipa has been born worthless. Just one portion of Sri Navadwipa contains Ranga Kshetra, Venkatesvara and Yadava Achala. Therefore go to Sri Navadwipa and see my form of Gauranga. After gaining the Lord’s blessing go to Kurma Sthana and rejoin your disciples.”
Folding his hands, Ramanuja humbly requested Lord Jagannatha, “My dear Lord, You have mercifully told me something about Gauranga, but exactly who He is, I do not know?”
The Lord answered, “It is known to you that Lord Sri Krishna, the Lord of Goloka, is the Supreme Absolute Truth. That much is well known to My devotees. That same Supreme Personality of Godhead who resides in Sri Vrindavana is fully manifest as Gauranga, and His beloved abode, Sri Vrindavana, is manifest as the holy land of Sri Navadwipa. Navadwipa is the Supreme spiritual abode and it is transcendental to the influence of the material nature. In that divine land, Lord Gauranga eternally resides. By My mercy that holy abode has come to exist within the universe, but it remains completely unaffected by maya. This is the verdict of the scriptures. If anyone thinks that Sri Navadwipa is only a material location, then whatever devotion he has developed will wither and perish. By My will, My inconceivable energy preserves this transcendental abode within this material world. Simply by studying the scriptures, one will not be able to understand the Absolute Truth. Only by My mercy can that My devotees understand.”
Hearing these words of Lord Jagannatha, Ramanuja was filled with love. “My dear Lord,” he said, “Your pastimes are truly astounding. The scriptures cannot fully describe Your opulence. Why is Gauranga-lila not described in the scriptures? Upon reflection, I find some hint of Gauranga tattva in the srutis and puranas. Now, however, all my doubts are gone and I am ready to execute Your will. If it is Your desire, I will go to Sri Navadwipa and from there, I will set out to preach about Lord Gauranga throughout the three worlds, giving evidences from the scriptures to all, converting them to the devotional service of Gauranga. Please instruct me. You have just to give me Your order.”
Lord Jagannatha replied, “Ramanuja, do not broadcast in this way. Keep these secrets of Lord Gauranga’s pastimes as they are for the present. Only after He has concluded His pastimes will the people in general come to understand them. Preach about me on the level of dasya rasa as you have always done, but within your heart, worship Lord Gauranga constantly.”
Following Lord Jagannatha’s order, Ramanuja secretly cultivated his attraction for Sri Navadwipa. Being very merciful, Lord Narayana led him to Vaikunthapura and showed him His transcendental form, worshipped by manifestations of His different energies. Ramanuja felt himself most fortunate to see this, but, as he watched, the Lord manifested His form as Gauranga, the son of Jagannatha Misra. Ramanuja’s mind became stunned by the brilliance of His shining golden form. Lord Gauranga then placed His two lotus feet upon Ramanuja’s head and Ramanuja, filled with inspiration, began to offer prayers.
Ramanuja said, “I must see Your pastimes when You appear here in Navadwipa My Lord. I shall never leave this place.”
Lord Gauranga replied, “Your wish will be fulfilled, O son of Kesava. When My Navadwipa lila is revealed you will again take your birth here.”
Lord Gauranga then disappeared. Greatly satisfied by the Lord’s promise, Ramanuja returned to Kurma Sthana, where he joined his disciples. During his life he preached devotional service to the Lord in the mood of dasya rasa, or servitude throughout South of India, whilst internally he was absorbed in meditating on the pastimes of Lord Gauranga. By Lord Gauranga’s mercy, he was born again in Sri Navadwipa as a devotee named Ananta to assist in the Lord’s pastimes. When Lord Chaitanya made His appearance in Sri Navadwipa, Ananta Vipra was already quite old, He lived in a cottage which was situated beneath a huge old banyan tree. There, within his humble abode, he would worship his Deities of Laxmi-Narayana. None could describe the pure way in which he worshipped them.
SWAMI RAMAKRISHNANADA’S REPORT
Reaching Sripurushottama kshetra (puri) after a few days. Ramanuja took resat for some time. He founded a monastery there and called it Embar Math after the name of Govinda, his own disciple. Out of fear of defeat the scholars of the place did not meet Ran manuja in any discussion though eager to establish his doctrine there. He requested the priests of Lord Jagannatha to worship the Deity according to the Pancharatra Agama. When they refused to adopt any new doctrine, he appealed to the king for arranging a discussion. Being freightened at this, the priests took refuge in Sri Purushottama. It is said that, on that night, Ramanuja while asleep, was shifted by Garuda ordered by Jagannath to Kurmakshetra, a hundred yojanas (a measure of distance equal to about nine miles per yojana) away from the place.