13 September, 2006

Jagannatha Triad

King Indradyumna was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. One day in his court he heard from a devotee that Lord Vishnu had incarnated in the form of Nila Madhava. The king wanted to see this form of th Lord and so sent few Brahmanas in search of the Lord. All the unsuccessful Brahmans returned except for Vidyapathi.

Vidyapathi had wandered to a distant town inhabited by Shabaras, a non-ayan tribe. He stayed in the house of VishvaVasu (also referred to as "Vishvasu" by some authors; 'Vishvasu' and 'VishvaVasu', here in this post, refer to the same person) and married his daughter Lalitha. Everyday VishvaVasu would leave the house in the night and return the next noon. Though Vishvasu had instructed his daughter not to reveal where he went everyday, Lalitha told Vidyapathi that her father would go to worship Nila Madhava. Vidyapathi requested VishvaVasu to take him along to worship the lord. Finally Vishvasu conceded to take Vidyapathi with him blindfolded. Lalitha tied some mustard seed in a cloth so that a trail could be left to follow later. When they reached the shrine Vishvasu took off the blindfold and Vidyapathi saw the lord. He felt great esctasy.

One day while Vishvasu was out collecting the items for worshipping the lord, he saw a bird fall into a lake nearby and drown. The soul of the bird took the shape of a spiritual form and ascended to the spirit world. VishvaVasu wanted to do the same and climbed a tree to jump into the lake. A heavenly voice informed him to tell Indradyumna that he had found Nila Madhava. When Vishvasu went to worship Nila Madhava, the Lord spoke to him and told him to inform the King that he had found the lord.

Vidyapathi went to Indradyumna's court to inform the king. The king could not find Nila Madhava and so he arrested Vishvasu. The Lord appeared in the King's dream and instructed him to release Vishvasu. He also told the king that he would appear as a Daru-Brahmana, a wooden manifestation of the supreme almighty.

King Indradyumna built the temple for Nila Madhava in Puri and went to heaven to invite Brahma to consecrate the temple. Brahma was praying at that time and he asked Indradyumna to wait. Hundreds of earth years passed and when they finally returned to earth, Galamadhava was claiming that he had built the temple. Bhushandi Kaka (king of crows) and a tortoise who were the witness to Indradyumna's temple construction testified in favour of Indradyumna. Lord Brahma however said he could not consecrate the temple as the Shri Kshetra was manifested by the Lord himself. He put a flag on top of the temple and blessed it. He said that anyone who saw the flag from a distance and offered respect to it would be liberated from the material world.

The king waited for a long time for Nila Madhav to manifest himself in the temple. When the lord did not manifest the temple, he decided to fast unto death. The Lord then appeared in his dream and said he would appear in the sea as a floating Daru-Brahman. The King went to the sea and found a huge log of wood that was marked with a conch, club, lotus and disc. This was the Daru-Brahman! However hard the king and his men tried, they could not budge the Daru. The Lord then appeared in his dream and instructed him to bring Vishvasu. VishvaVasu then moved the Daru-Brahman easily onto a golden chariot. Lord Brahma then installed a deity of Lord Narasimha.

The king requested many expert carvers to carve the form of the Deity. But as soon as their chistel touched the wood, it would break. Then Vishvakarma (the architect of the demigods) arrived there in the guise of an old carpenter Ananta Maharana. He promised the king he would carve the deity in three weeks time if he was allowed to work behind closed doors. The king could hear the sound of the carving till 14 days. But on the 15th day there was no sound. On the advise of his queen, Indradyumna opened the doors to see what was happening. (It has been mentioned by a few authors that the King opened the door as he was concerned when he did not hear the sound. There is no mention of his queen suggesting him to open the door.) There he saw the deities Jagannatha, BalaBhadra (Balarama) and Subhadra in their incomplete forms. The hands and legs of the deities had not yet been carved. But since the king had broken his promise and opened the door sooner than he was supposed to open Vishvakarma did not complete the carving.

The king felt he had committed a sin and so he decided to end his life. Then Lord Jagannatha appeared in his dreams and told him that the Lord himself wanted to manifest in this form though it appeared to be incomplete. The lord said it was the form in which was meant to be worshipped in the Kali yuga. The king would occasionally decorate the Daru with golden hands and feet.

All the pictures used in this post have been borrowed from "hare krishna inspiration". Thanks to Radha-Raman Das and Aisvarya Kumar for sharing the wonderful pictures. Thanks to Bhaktin Veronica for optimising the images.

There is another legend that explains the incomplete form of the Lord. Once Narada went to Dwaraka and he saw a big festival taking place in Queen Rukmani's palace. All the 16,108 gopis present there were headed by Rukmani, Sathyabhama, Jambavathi, Bhadra, Mitravrinda and Nagnajiti -- the eight prominent queens of Krishna. Narada approached the queens and mentioned how fortunate they were to be serving the lord everyday.

Rukmini then mentioned that Krishna always yearned for Radha and the other Gopis. He would cry for his mother Yashodha. He called for his friends Sridama, Subala, Madhumangala, Kokila, Bhringa. He longed to take his cows Shyamali, Dhavali, Kalindi, Ganga and Pisanga to graze.

Krishna was sitting in his assembly hall Sudharma. While the queens were talking, his associates were sitting in the chamber discussing the various problems. Ugrasena maharaja was sitting on the throne in the middle surrounded by Akrura, Krishna, Baladeva, Uddhava and others.

Mother Rohini entered the room. She was Baladeva Prabhu's mother. She had lived in Brindavan with Yashoda for 11 years while Krishna and Baladeva were growing up. The queens turned to Rohini to find the reason for Krishna's discomfort. They wanted to learn from her what was it about the Gopis and Brindavan that Krishna could never forget them and always long for them.

Rohini replied
The vrajvasis have known Krishna as their son, their beloved or a friend. They see him as an innocent boy who is always dancing and playing his flute. He is Gopi-Jana-Vallabha, the beloved of all the Gopis. The gopis do not require a formal relationship with Krishna. They have given their heart to him since childhood and served him selflessly. They give him their undivided attention. They always remember him. Krishna has promised "ye yatha mam prapadyante" - I will remember those who remember me. He keeps his promise by remembering them.

Then Rohini began glorifying Radha's love for the lord:
Once Radha was sitting on Krishna's lap. A bee started hovering around her feet. She tried to chase it away, but it kept returning. Meanwhile, Madhumangala came and drove it away with his stick. He boasted "Madhusudana (the bee) is gone. I drove him away with my stick and he will never come back." Hearing this Radha thought that her Krishna (Madhusudana) had gone away. She forgot she was sitting on his lap and began crying thinking that the lord had gone away never to return. Such was the love of Radha for her beloved Krishna.

Krishna realised Rohini was talking about his beloved Brindavan and Brijvasis. He walked to queens' chamber with Balarama. Subhadra was standing guard at the door to prevent Krishna from entering. Although Subhadra stopped Krishna and Balarama from entering the room, they could hear through the door. Krishna was standing to the left of Subhadra and Balarama to her right. When they heard Rohini speak, their hearts and fingers began to melt. When they wept with joy, their hands, feet and mouth melted. Only the shape of the Jagannatha deities remained. When Rohini stopped speaking, he slowly regained his original form. Krishna then walked into the chamber and realised Narada had spoken about Brindavan and so Rohini had described to the queens the glory of Brindavan and the Gopis. He was so happy that Narada had helped him remember of Brij, he granted him a boon. Krishna said "ask what you want and your wish will be granted". So Narada requested the lord, subhadra and Balarama to remain in the melted form for the world to pray. They agreed to remain in this form at Puri.

Nava Kalebara Yaatra (ritual of transformation)
The deities are made of wood. New ones need to replace the old ones every 12 years. This is known as the Nava Kalebara yaatra (ritual of trnasformation). Right trees are found, deities are carved, transformation is made and the old ones are buried in the ground. The last rites of the lord are performed in absolute secrecy. Only a few appointed priests and servants can be present while the procedures are conducted.

Searching for the right tree
The search party consists of exact number of men belonging to specific casts and families. They reach Kakatpur village after many stops. The oldest member of the Dayitapati family will have to sleep in the temple of Goddess Vimala (The Auspicious one). The special tree selected to carve the deities should have a symbolic mark of chakra, conchshell mace and lotus.

Each deity is made from different tree. They have to find four trees in all to make the four deities , the fourth one being Sudarshana. The trees for each of the deities will be in different places. When the search party locates the places, they have to find the right tree as only one of them will be fit to serve the wood for the Lord's idol.

The right place
There should be a Shiva's temple and a pond nearby. Rare types of trees like
  • Varuna tree -- protects you from snakes and also has the power to destroy anger and pride. It is a local practice to carry the bark of a Varuna tree when they meet a bothersome person.

  • Sahad tree -- Gives the power to forget onself

  • Vilua tree -- has the power to cure diseases like heart disease, cancer and leprosy.

  • Neem tree

When the search party finds the right place, they construct a small hut nearby and reside in it. They set up a great fire sacrifice to invite all the demigods to bless them so that the trees can be cut.

First the wood cutters touch the tree with golden axe, then silver and finally the iron axe is used to finish off the work. They chant the 108 names of Lord continuously. Since Neem is called "Daru", Jagannatha is also known as "Daru-Brahman". Only members of the Dayitapati family are allowed to carry the log back to Puri and the descendants of the original carver can carve the deity. Only few precisely designated servants can participate in the rites of transformation. Old deities are placed in front of the new ones and three oldest members of the Dayitapati family tranfer "Daru Brahman" to the new deities. Not even the head priest can be there during the actual transformation. Nava Kalebara yatra is actually the transformation ceremony. Old deities are buried in a place known as "Koili Vaikuntha". Koili means "burial ground" and vaikuntha means "Heaven".

1 comment:

Vinutha and Lingaraj said...

oh wow.. they serach for trees every year ???
Amazing details ....
who is sudarshana ?
but reason for the dieties being in tht form.. there cud be more reasons...