“Jai Jagannath! Jai Jagannath! Jai Jagannath!”
The small compound was echoing with these loud shouts. And with that went many hands in the air, of devotees! I was tempted to join them in chanting when another sound came from the background. It was a familiar sound; I had often heard it in movies – typical Bong weddings. The Uluk Dhwani – it’s supposed to be auspicious.
To my right, my parents were sittting, busy in their prayers & to my left, my sister sat, chanting “Om Namoh Bhagwate Vasudevaay”. In front of us was the sanctum sanatorum & inside that, the deity stayed. Between us & the god were a crowd pushing and shoving each other for a good view of the Gods. We have had the Darshan! We had stolen a good glance & now we sat in the compound – absorbing what we just witnessed.
We were inside the premises of Jagannath Puri – one of the four dhams. It’s being said that Lord Vishnu himself carved the first set of idols from wood & since then the temple has kept the ritual of worshipping the wooden deities while the rest of the world keeps stone or marble figures of Gods inside the temples.
Jagannath Puri – the abode of Lord Jagannath whose name means that he looks over the entire world, merely by sitting there.
The Bhog & how it’s cooked defying the laws of Science!
In Vaishnavism, there are four major dhams namely Rameshwaram where the God takes a bath, Jagannath Puri where the God eats, Badrinath where the God meditates & Dwarkadheesh where the God retires for the day.
This is why they prepare 56 delicacies (also called Chappan Bhog) in the temple everyday. The food is offered to the Gods & then distributed amongst the devotees. Most of it is also available in Ananda Bazaar inside the temple complex for a nominal price.
What remains a mystery, however, is – how the cooking inside the temple works against the laws of Science. The food is cooked in a traditional style using earthen pots kept one above the other. By this logic, the food inside the vessel kept directly on fire must be cooked first. But no! It doesn’t happen that way. The food kept on the top most vessel, however, is cooked first.
And till this date, the Bhog has never run out or had been left over. At the end of the day, every day, Bhog is just the right amount.
The winds that change their course!
The main temple dome is adorned with a flag & a chakra. A temple priest (or panda), climbs up to the dome & changes the flag everyday. It’s believed that if they miss the flag-changing ceremony even once, the temple will remain closed for 18 years.
18 years reminds me of another story. In the reign of Aurangzeb, many Hindu temples were plundered & looted. Aurangzeb’s men would also damage each and every idol & temple carvings because they knew that we won’t worship an idol that’s interfered with.
So, these men came up to Jagannath Puri too, but the Pundits here bribed the men & saved their temple from damage at the hands of invaders. Post that, the temple remained closed for 18 long years. What’s absolutely interesting is – how the flag always flutters in the opposite direction of wind. Yes! The Temple Flag fails Science here.
Every year, they organise a Rath Yatra where Gods are given a round of the city on a chariot which witnessed a strength of lakhs of devotees and followers. The Rath Yatra sometimes gets difficult to manage & results in mayhem. The English must have noticed it since they coined the word, Juggernaut after being inspired by the Rath Yatra of Jagannath temple.
The world might try to demystify the secrets of Jagannath temple, and perhaps may achieve success one day.
The belief in Lord Jagannath, however, continues to strengthen with each passing day & many undertake the pilgrimage to offer their prayers, take God’s blessings & leave Puri happier & brighter!
You are not allowed to clicked pictures near the temple. So, you would see no photos of Jagannath Temple in my blog post. These pictures were clicked in and around Puri.