India has several festivals dedicated to various gods and goddesses. Odisha, known as India’s best kept secret, celebrates numerous unique festivals that contain many secrets. Puri in Odisha is well-known for the temple of Lord Jagannath, who is considered an avatar of Lord Vishnu. However, did you know that Lord Krishna is linked to Lord Jagannath?
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The Heart of Krishna
At the end of the Mahabharata, Gandhari was devastated by the death of her sons. She believed that Lord Krishna would have avoided the battle with his divine abilities, but he did not, thus she cursed Lord Krishna that for the next 35 years he and his yaduvansh would come to destruction by killing each other, and Dwarka would be flooded.
After 35 years, her curse began to manifest itself when, due to a disagreement amongst the yadavas, they began killing one other, resulting in the destruction of Dwarka. Lord Krishna was laying down under a tree on the side of a river one day when a hunter named Jara came to the jungle, thinking there was a deer hiding behind the tree. So he shot a lethal arrow at the deer and hurried towards the tree when he noticed that his arrow had through Krishna’s feet, mistaking Krishna’s foot for a concealing dear.
Jara went in search of Arjuna informing him of the situation. Arjuna conducted Lord Krishna’s last rites while listening to this with intense grief. His whole body turned to ashes, except for his heart, which remained alive and magnificent. Arjuna placed the heart on a wooden board and let it float down the river. The heart flowed down the river, eventually reaching the ocean at Puri, Odisha.
The Protectors of Neel Madhav
According to the puran, Biswa Basu, the reincarnation of Jara, and his tribal clan Sabaras discovered Lord Krishna’s heart, which was in the shape of a concentrated blue stone. They recognized its sanctity and worshiped it as an idol of Neel Madhav in a cave that was only known to the tribal people. One day, Indradyumna, the ruler of Malwa country and a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, became aware of the idol of Neel Madhav and desired to own it. He dispatched his brahman priest vidyapati to ask Sabaras, but Sabaras’ head, Bishwa Basu, refused.
Meanwhile, Vidyapati fell in love with Lalitha, the daughter of Biswa Basu, and married her. After some time, he requested Lalitha to persuade her father that Vidyapati would see Neel Madhav. After considerable deliberation, Biswa Basu decided to accompany Vidyapati blindfolded to the cave of Neel Madhav. Vidyapathi was very clever because he put mustard seeds all along the pathway so that when the yellow mustard blossoms grew from the seeds, he could trace the path to come back with King Indradyumna. When Biswa Basu arrived in the cave, he removed Vidyapathi’s blindfolds and stood in awe at the extremely heavenly and magnificent Neel Madhav.
He returned to the kingdom and briefed King Indradyumna about everything. After some time, the King and Vidyapati proceeded to see the cave by following the mustard blossoms. When they arrived at the cave, they discovered that the idol was vanished because Biswa Basu had relocated it in the belief that Vidyapati would come to take it. King Indradyumna was quite upset since, despite being a huge follower of Lord Vishnu, he couldn’t see him that time.
He had a dream in which Lord Vishnu told him that a wooden plank of neem plant is floating across the ocean of Puri and that as my devoted follower, you should carve statues out of that wood and set them in the temple. You should also include Neel Madhav in the sculptures.
The Sculpture of Lord Jagannath
After waking up from his dream, he ran towards the ocean, where he discovered this neem wooden plank. He and his entire army attempted to lift the wood but were unsuccessful, so he sought the assistance of Biswa Basu, who assisted him by lifting the massive wooden plank and bringing it to his kingdom. When the king returned to the realm, he began looking for a craftsman to create a sculpture out of it.
Lord Vishwa Karma appeared in the appearance of an old craftsman at that time and promised the monarch that he would construct sculptures out of wood on the condition that no one interrupt him while the sculptures were being made. According to the terms, he began working in a locked room without food or drink for an extended period of time, however the sound of the hammer was silenced roughly 15 days later.
As a result, the queen became concerned and inquired of King Indradyumna if the craftsman could survive for so long without food and drink. As a result, King Indradyumna had to inspect the room, but as the doors opened, the craftsman left, leaving three unfinished idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabadra, and his sister Subhadra. These idols were just human sketches with red lips resembling hibiscus flowers, wide eyes resembling large circles, and only the arms protruding from the neck.
Looking at it, the king was taken aback, and realizing his mistake, he begged Lord Vishnu for pardon. Lord Vishnu then urged him to put the incomplete statues in the temple. As a result, King Indradyumna surrendered to Lord Vishnu and established a temple for the idols near the Puri ocean. He placed the incomplete statues in the temple and placed Lord Krishna’s heart, Neel Madhav, inside the sculptures. This is how Lord Krishna’s heart was placed in Lord Jagannath’s idol. Even today, Lord Jagannath worshippers do all the practises and pray for their well-being.
The Rituals of Brahma-Padarth
When the full moon comes twice in the month of Ashadha every 12 to 19 years. The followers replaced Lord Krishna’s heart, which is today known as Brahma-Padharth. These re-created wooden statues of Lord Jagannath are crafted from a special neem wood called as Daaru-Brahma. The ritual is conducted and celebrated as the Nabakalebara festival, on the day that the whole city of Puri cuts electricity. To avoid the electric shock caused by brahma-padharth, the devotees who replace the heart wear gloves. They also get blindfolds and replace the heart in complete darkness since the heart vibrates when confronted by light.
Devotees of Odisha also celebrates Rathyatra, the most famous festival of Lord Jagannath. The gigantic self-built and painted gorgeous chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabadra, and Subhadra are carried by worshippers to the aunt’s residence at Gudicha temple. It is believed to represent Lord Jagannath’s voyage to his aunt’s abode. During this rathyatra, people from all over the world gather to visit the deities and receive blessings, since Jagannath literally means “Lord of the Universe.”