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LORD JAGANNATHA - History and story of Lord Jagannath as told in the Skanda Purana

Shri Jagannath, lord of the Universe, is the supreme solace and saviour of countless devotees around the world. Since time immemorial, H...

Shri Jagannath,
Shri Jagannath, lord of the Universe, is the supreme solace and saviour of countless devotees around the world. Since time immemorial, His monumental and magnificent Shrine located in Puri (Orissa), one of the four major Dhamas of India (Jagannath Puri Dham), has been a most sacred centre of pilgrimage and worship.

In Satya-yuga there was a pious king in the solar dynasty named Indradyumna. One day after performing Vishnu puja the King came to his court and requested the enlightened audience to inform him about a sacred place where he can see, with his naked eyes, the Divine Lord Vishnu. Hearing this a pilgrim saint, who visited all the sacred places of Bharatvarsa told the King that there is a sacred place on the East coast known as "Purushottama Kshetra", where exists the beautiful and sacred mountain Nilagiri or Neeladri by name, surrounded by various kinds of trees.

In the centre of the mountain there is a big banyan tree called Kalpa Vriksha or desire tree near a pond named Rohini Kunda. That holy pond lies to its Western end. One gets immediate salvation by touching or seeing the sacred water of the kunda. On the eastern bank of the kunda is Deity of Lord Krishna called Neelmadhav made up of pecious neel mani. His Darsan makes one immediately immortal and he can realise the transcendental reality. The nearby village named Sabar Deepaka is inhabited by Sabars or Adivasies. It is situated on the western bank of the Kunda. O Maharaja, I stayed there for one year as an ascetic, to please the Vishnu Murti, Neelamadhav. I used to see the flowers falling from the "Kalpataru" and heard melodious prayers of Vishnu. There I heard a very old story that a crow, which drank the water of Rohini kunda attained salvation or "Sarupya Mokshya". Suddenly that matted hair saint disappeared from the view.

King Indradymna order the younger brother of his preist name Vidyapati to find this holy place as soon as possible. Vidyapati drove out his chariot towards Utkal Desha. On the way he was considering himself as a most fortunate soul to see "Neela Madhav" with his own naked eyes, whom yogis and jnanis visualise in their minds. Nearing Neelachala the thick mountain, Vidyapati could not find the way to proceed further and so he got down from the chariot and sat under a tree praying for the darsan of Neela Madhav. After a while he saw some people sitting little away, discussing about "Bhagavan Vishnu“. When Vidyapati went nearer to them, a Sabara named Viswavasu welcomed him and offered him cold water, fruits and sweets to eat. The hungry Vidyapati was pleased to accept his offerings. Afterwards Vidyapati told him that he was a priest of Indradyumna Maharaja of Avanti, who hearing the glories of Neela Madhava from a pilgrim devotee sent him to find out the sacred place of Neela Madhava, anxiously awaiting His Darsan with fasting.

Upon hearing this Vishwabasu become worried, thinking Neelamadhav, whose presence has been kept a secret, is the sustainer of our lives. It will be our misfortune if He becomes known to all people because the intimacy of our relationship would be lost. He was put into the dilemma. He began to think the matter seriously. He remembered the ordnance given by Lord Neelamadhav to him personally. King Indradyumna will come here and perform one hundred horse sacrifices after the disappearance of Neelamadhav into the earth. After that he will install deities made of wood.

Then he replied to Vidyapati that I had the news that King Indradyumna will come here, but you are more fortunate as you could be able to see Lord Neelamadhav, who will disappear before Indradyumna Maharaj’s arrival. Vishwabasu took Vidyapati by the hand and led him along a forest path. They had to climb up to a very high place along the rocky path which is wide enough for one man to pass at a time. After about two hours they reached the pond called Rohini. Vishwabasu told him by bathing in this holy pond one is assured to go back godhead. Vidyapati bathed in the kunda and offered nice prayer to the holy kunda. He then went to see the deity of Lord Nilamadhav situated nearby. Vidyapati spend the whole day before coming back. Finally they reached home. Vishwabasu fed him a royal feast and foods are very tasteful, which he never tested before. He become wondered how this shabar bring these food items which are not found anywhere in this earth, this place is very difficult and inconvenient to collect anything.

Vishwabasu said to vidaypati, “You are the royal priest; you would have very nice food in the King’s palace. I hope that you are satisfied.” Vidyapati replied he is very much satisfied and curious to know how he accomplished such wonderful things which he had never seen in the kings palace. Vishwabasu said, “My mind is not very enthusiastic to reveal this to you, but because you are my guest I must speak.” Every day, the hosts of demigods, headed by Indra come here to worship Lord Neelamadhav. They perform Sankirtan and dance in ecstasy before returning to heaven. Whatever I have given to you are the remnants left by the demigods after their worship to the Lord. It is because we subsist on the Prasad of lord that we are free from disease and old age. While hearing this, the brahmana felt a thrill of transcendental ecstasy course through his body as his eyes filled with tears. He considered himself to be most fortunate one.

Vidyapati wanted to inform the location of Neela Madhava to the anxiously awaiting Indradyumna Maharaja. On the next day after taking bath in the sea and again having the "attractive darsan" of Neela Madhava he returned. At the time of Vidyapati's departure from that place Viswavasu gave him the prasadi garlands being offered by Indra to Neela Madhava Murti, so that Vidyapati might give them to Indradyumna Maharaja. Vidyapati reached Avanti after a month and offered the ever fresh prasadi garland to the Maharaja. Indradyumna was very much delighted to accept the prasadi garlands and Mahaprasad given to him by Vidyapati. The garlands were sweet-smelling and fresh to look at as they were offered by Indra with devotion and were borne by Neela Madhava.

Vidyapati revealed the facts to the Maharaja that a man after having the darsan of Neela Madhava with his physical eyes will definitely attain salvation. The Vigraha was made out of Neel-mani and since a long time Brahma, Indra and all other gods have been worshipping Him with sacred scented beautiful flower garlands of which one was brought to him. He again said, when I reached the top of Neeladri Hill, I could smell the heavenly scent. The immortals while sprinkling sacred water over the mountain, slowly the gods approached the Lord while dancing and singing heavenly songs. The gods were invisible to human eyes and offering their thousand varieties of articles and prayers to Neela Madhava they slowly disappeared.

The Neela Mani Murti is 81 (eight one) inches high, standing on the golden lotus flower. His eyes defeat the beauty of a pair of smiling, blue lotuses. His forehead is more charming than the crescent moon. is moon-like face dispels the three-fold miseries of whoever casts his glance upon it. His lips display a captivating smile. His cheeks are adorned with dimples because of His laughter. His shoulders are broad and His four arms extend to His knees.”

“By bowing down to Lord Nila-madhava and seeing Him with love and devotion, one is liberated from the bondage to the material body. Lakshmi, holding a lotus in her hand standing left to the Lord, being embraced by Him. Her eyes are fixed on the lotus face of the Lord. I saw these two on that mountain. They were silent but with their smiling eyes, They bless all who see Them. Indeed as I gazed at the Deities, I thought that they were truly alive! Shesha with His one thousand hoods, is stationed behind the deities forming an umbrella over their heads. In front I saw the Sudarshan cakra in his embodied form. Behind him was Gauda with his palms joined in reverence.”

King Indradyumna said “I am very satisfied that you have accomplished your mission. After hearing your words and wearing the garland you gave me, I only desire to go and see Lord Nila-Madhav myself. I shall go there and built there a new kingdom with cities and forts. Every day I will worship the Deity with hundreds of presentations. If I do so Lord will certainly become merciful upon me”.

Hearing the truth from Vidyapati and adorning the prasadi garland as the blessing of Lord Neela Madhava Indradyumna purified himself clearing all his sins. He attained the eligibility to have the darsan of Neela Madhava with his naked eyes. At last he decided to proceed to Sri Kshetra with royal splendour, to perform Sahasra Aswamedha Yagnas with severe austerities to please the Lord Purushottama. He proceeded immediately to Odra desha (Orissa) on a pilgrimage to see and worship the Deity.

But the deity had disappeared. The king was disappointed. The Deity was hidden in sand. The king was determined not to return without having a darshan of the deity and observed fast unto death at Mount Neela. Then a celestial voice said 'you will see him '. Afterwards the king performed a horse sacrifice.

At the conclusion of the sacrifices, as the king was taking his ceremonial bath, some servants excitedly came to him and said, “O lord, a great tree was seen by us on the shore of the ocean. It’s top is sunk into the water but its roots are above the waves. It is marked with symbols of a conch and chakra. It is exceedingly wonderful to behold! It is a tree like one never seen before. It is effulgent, like the sun, and it has rendered the atmosphere fragrant with its scent. It must be a celestial tree or else some god in the form of a tree.”

Then Narada Muni and King Indradyumna went to see the tree. When the king looked at the tree, which had four branches, it looked just like the four armed Lord that he had seen in his trance of meditation. His lamentation due to the disappearance of Lord Nila-madhava was now dispelled. The King bowed down again and again on the shore. He then had the brahmanas bring the tree, which was being tossed by the waves, onto the beach.

Conch shells were blown, drums were beaten, and thousands of people shouted, “Jaya! Jaya!” The tree was fanned with chamaras by courtesans of great beauty in the prime of their youth. It was decorated with flags and fine cloth and it was glorified by great sages. The tree was taken and placed on a great altar that had been prepared and covered by a canopy. Being instructed by Narada, King Indradyumna performed the arati. King ordered his carpenters to begin the wood carving. However, the wood was so hard that whoever tried to carve it simply broke his tools. The king was very perplexed and thus he took rest for the night.

The next day, Vishvakarma, the architect of the celestial world, came to see King Indradyumna. Vishvakarma informed the king that the log which he had found at the seashore was daru-brahman or divine wood. Vishvakarma said that it would not be possible for any mortal to carve this wood, but that he himself would do it if the king desired.

As Vishvakarma prepared to do his work, he informed King Indradyumna that there was one stipulation: no one should be allowed to observe the work of carving until everything was complete. Vishvakarma said that if his meditation were disturbed, he would immediately abandon the king and return to the celestial world. The king agreed.

King Indradyumna was mortified at this turn of events and his heart felt heavily burdened. In order to expiate for the interruption and incomplete work, the king decided to fast until death. While fasting he had a dream in which Lord Vishnu told him that the incompleted forms of the deities were in fact perfectly worshipable forms. The so-called incompleteness, he said, represented bodily transformations resulting from intense love in separation, a particular ecstatic mood known as vipralambha. In the case of Jagannath, it was the purusha's longing for his female aspect prakriti in intimacy. Overjoyed by these instructions, King Indradyumna arranged for the building of a beautiful temple. Sri Narasimha Murti brought by Narada was also installed in the temple.