Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SRI KRISHNA, THE CENTRAL FIGURE OF ALL LOVE

By

His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri
Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj

Heart is the seat of love. As love is Godhead Himself, so the God of love dwells eternally in our heart of hearts. So we should love god and all beings with all our heart. We do not say, “I love you with all my intellect” but we say, ‘I love you with all my heart’.

The brain is the seat of the intellect. It leads us to polemnic discussions without arriving at any definite conclusion. On the contrary, it leads us to endless dry reasoning resulting in agnosticism. It is the Vaishnavas who are Godloving in their element and possess the qualities of head and heart simultaneously, because without the knowledge of Godhead, Sri Vishnu or Sri Krishna, there is no love for Him. So sambandha-jyana is indispensably necessary for releasing Krishna-Prem.

The three qualities which are characteristic traits of pure love are :

1) Eternal qualities after the entire satisfaction of the Object of Love (Sri Krishna).

2) Eternal searching after the happiness of the Object of Love (Sri Krishna) despite all
obstacles standing on the way.

3) Self-delight in consequence of the unmixed happiness of the Object of Love (Sri
Krishna). In other words, when the Object of Love is delighted, the lover gets soul
delighted automatically. When the Paramatma or All Pervading Soul is delighted, the
as part and parcel of the same is similarly delighted. When the Whole is satisfied, the
parts included in the Whole are also satisfied, example, when the root of a tree is
watered, the whole tree is fed and nourished (Bhag. IV. 13. 14). absolute surrender of
everything namely-body, mind, soul properties, both movable and immovable to Sri
Krishna.

4) complete renunciation of all desires of Krishna’s sake and pleasure

5) complete reliance on Sri Krishna for the maintenance of life and none else.

‘The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna who is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of this world dwells in it as Jeevatma and Paramatma, inseperably connected with the tie of divine love. Who is the material as well as the efficient cause of Prakriti and Purusha. Who preserves this world as the seat of enjoyment or suffering for the Jeevas, and they are absolved from all sins when they take absolute shelter at his Lotus Feet wherein they rest as if sleeping with ceaseless innumerable prostrated obeisances or as a man when asleep does not see his own self but sees other embodied but does not see his own real self. So the Supreme Lord Who is the witness of all actions of animate and inanimate beings. Who is the giver of assurances of safety or fearlessness to all Jeevas and Who is the bestowever of Divine Love to His own faithful and loving devotees, should always be meditated upon’ (Bhag. X. 87. 50).

Supremacy of Gopees sentiments are spoken of by Sri Udhava Maharaj : ‘O how blessed I should be if I could live in Vrindavan as a creeper, herb, plant or brush that comes in contact with the dust of the feet of the Gopees. Blessed are the Gopees who abandoning their friends and relations and all propriety of conduct, the standard of ethics of Aryas, have resorted to the Lotus Feet of Mukunda (Sri Krishna) sought after by the Vedas, but not reached by them. Blessed are the Gopees who embraced the Lotus Feet of the Glorious Sri Krishna and Who have placed Those Feet on their bosom during the Rasa-Dance quenched their fire of separation, the Feet which are worshipped by Sri Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and are meditated upon by Brahma and other great Yogis in their heart of hearts, but hardly found by them. I salute again and again the dust of the feet of the Milk Maids of Nanda’s Vraja whose constant singing of Sri Krishna’s qualities and deeds purifies the three ‘Sudarshan’ means spiritual vision of the whole including Jiva-Souls as the only object of enjoyment of the Supreme Lord Krishna. In other words, to see things or persons in relations to Sri Krishna is known as ‘Sudarshan’ or ‘Samadarshan’, while to see things or persons with an enjoying mood or Purushabhimana is known as ‘Kudarshan’ or ugly vision, that is seeing the physical structure of the thing or person bereft of the soul, which is the characteristic feature of a fallen soul. He sees things or persons with his material eyes and is attracted by their physical charm. But a true Vaishnava sees things or persons with his spiritual ears and eyes opened by his Gurudeva, his Divine Master. Hence to see things with listening ears is the characteristic feature of a true Vaishnava (Bhag. VII 5. 23.24.). Of the nine methods of pure devotion, hearing and chanting the Holy Names of Vishnu or Sri Krishna are the most important factors. Without hearing, no chanting is possible. Hence he who does not hear is a deaf and dumb person, although endowed with a material tongue.

By listening to and singing the glories of Sri Krishna, a spontaneous inclination of love for Him is created. It is supreme object of attention, the height of what can be achieved by man. This feeling of affection (Rati) when intensified is know by the name of love. This love is the goal, the repository of All-Bliss.

The bhakti or devotion spoken of in the Gita is Vidhi-bhakti, a form of discipline (Cf. Gita Ch. XII. 13-19). When this Vidhi-bhakti reaches its full growth, it becomes Shudha-bhakti or pure devotion. Love of God involves ‘Mamata’ or ‘Mineness’ in relation to Sri Krishna. The last sloka of the Gita gives us a clue as to how to love God, “And let go these rites and writ-duties. Fly to Me alone. Make Me thy single refuge. I will free thee from all sins. Be of good cheer, O Arjuna. Arise ! Awake and stop not till the Supreme Lord, the highest goal, is attained” (Kathopanished, 1. 3. 14).

The five plenary requisites constituting the love-sentiments of Sri-Krishna are :

1) completeness of transcendental knowledge about Sri Krishna

2) feeling of Sri Krishna as the nearest and dearest object of love satisfaction of Sri
Krishna, the most beloved of their hearts.

When such s state is reached i.e. when a devotee gives up all thoughts of status, breeding, shame, fear, honour, dishonour, virtue, vice and welfare in this life or after, he shouts like a madman – ‘O Dearest, O Light of my life, O Enchanter of my heart, I cannot live for a moment more without Your Sight, a moment now appears to me like an age’. He then begins his pursuit for Sri Krishna. This Bhava (ecstatic state of love) is constant among the Gopees of Vraja and it reaches it’s climax in Radharani who is the embodiment of mahabhava sentiment (supreme ecstasy), casting of all bonds of family, sense of decorum, modesty and fear, on hearing the soulstirring melody of Sri Krishna’s flute. She offers her life, her youth, her mind, senses and all to Sri Krishna and says :- ‘Whether He clasps me to His Bosom or tramples me under His feet, whether He inflicts agony on me, by denying me His presence, let Him do whatever He likes : nevertheless, it is certain that no other than He is the Lord of my heart’. Having given up her all to Sri Krishna, she says, ‘O Love, in the ocean of the bliss of Your love, my family honour, decorum and modesty, all are drowned. What else shall I give You ? I trouble my head with this question. The wealth that I shall offer You, that very wealth of mine are You. O Love ! What more shall I say ? In death, in every life to come, by You the Lord of my life !’.

When the fire of anguish of separation from Sri Krishna burns her, she says :-

Each moment of my life is turned into eternity.

My eyes are turned into clouds of rain.

The separation from Govinda has made the whole world a void for me,

The days in anguish do not pass.

Each moment appears to have lengthened into an age.

Tears come out of my eyes like torrents of rain.

The separation from Govinda has made the three worlds a void.

The body is burning through a slow fire.

worlds’ (Bhag. X 47.61-63)

The women of Mathura say : ‘Blessed are the Gopees who minds are completely absorbed in Sri Krishna, whom while attending to their various household duties such as milking the cows, husking the paddy, churning the curds, clearing the courtyard and smearing it with cowdung, swinging the children, singing lullabies to them or sweeping the rooms, sing songs in praise of Sri Krishna with a heart full of love and eyes moist with tears in a voice choking with emotion’ (Bhag. X. 44. 15-16).

When the Madhura-sentiments is cultivated, the devotees casts off the manly feeling of Purushabhimana and becomes a spiritual Prakriti (woman) and addresses the Lord as such :-

Sweet than sweet art Thou, O Lord of my heart :

Make me serving-mind of Thy Feet.

I shall not ask Thee anything in return, but shall only serve Thy Feet;

‘Grant me this boon, O my Lord’.
- Kavi Krishnadas

The heart of the Gopees repeat the following sentiments : ‘How are the wishes of our Beloved Sri Krishna to be satisfied ? How are our homes and possessions, body, mind ‘heart’ soul and senses to be utilized so that they may contribute to Sri Krishna’s happiness ? Hallo ! Are not these things already His ? If they are His, what is the meaning of the desire that He should accept them for His service and make Himself happy through them ? We could offer Him things which actually belonged to us, but here all things are His anyway. Does He not exercise undisputed sway even over us ? Then how are we to say, You accept us and make us your slaves ? Yes, this is the truth. Now we shall say no more. O Lord ! You are the showman in the puppet-play and we are the puppets, we are instruments in Your Hands. Do whatever You like with us, whatever You like’. The Gopees cut through the eight-shackles to which men of the world are tied to and therefore cannot advance towards Sri Krishna. The Gopees freed themselves from these octopus knotty ties. That is how they renounced everything, turning all their thoughts, words and deeds for the Yet life does not depart’.

Says Sri Krishna to Narada – ‘There is one more secret, Oh Narada. It is this, over and above all other efforts, let one worship Sri Radha for the attainment of the Gopees-sentiment. O Narada, if you desire to capture Me, seek the favour and patronage of My dearest consort Sri Radha’ (Vide ‘Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’ App. II P. 58).

Thirst for this world and hunger for worldly enjoyment is thirst for misery and hankering after death. But thirst for Sri Krishna’s Grace and hankering after love for him is thirst for eternal peace and eternal bliss.

He is our father, mother, husband, friend and brother who bestows upon us loving devotion at His Lotus Feet.

Holy shrines and holy images purify the worshipper for many years, but the very sight of a true devotees of Sri Krishna removes all evil at once and enkindles love for Sri Krishna.

Parents, husbands, friends and relatives are available in every birth but not so is Guru Krishna in all births.

He is the foremost among the true devotees who does not forget even for half a second, even at the attainment of the sovereignty of the three worlds the Lotus Feet of Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Who is worth the trouble of search by the Gods whom have dedicated their lives unto Him (Bhag. XI 2. 53). This is the real nature of a true devotees.

Just as the heat of the sun is removed by the rising of the moon, so is the suffering of the devotees from the threefold afflictions which cease to operate on them when their hearts are illumined with the moon beams emitting from the Nails of the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna (Bhag. XI 2. 54).



SRI SRI PRABHU SHYAMANANDA

Om Vishnupad Paramhansa Paribrakacharya Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj


Gouridas was born at Saligram, about eighteen kilometers away from Sreedham Navadeep. His father was Kansari Mishra, mother Kamala Devi. Suryadas was his elder brother. Suryadas had two daughters, Basudha and Jahnavi.

Suryadas was a boyhood companion of Sri Gouranga. He was a sadhaka of Sakhuyabhava, i.e. friendship with God. He told Gouridas : “Go and live at Ambika-Kalna and do your sadhana and worship at a lovely place near the river Ganga.” What could have been more close to the heart of Fouridas? He left for Ambika.

One day Sri Gouranga was returning from Shantipur. He took a boat at Harinadi village. Pulling the oars with his own hands he crossed the Ganga and arrived at Ambika. But he did not leave the oar behind. He went to Gouridas’ house with the oar in his hand. Gouridas was astounded. Sri Gouranga said : “The oar is meant for you.”

“What shall I do with the oar?”

“What shall you do ? You shall take people across the world-river with the help of this oar.”

With profound reverence Gouridas accepted the oar with folded hands. The Lord also embraced him. He said, “Come with me to Navadweep. I shall give you something there.” Gouridas become full with the Lord’s embrace. He could not comprehend what more than this could be there. What was the thing that lay beyond imagination even ?

It was indeed beyond imagination. The Lord handed over the Gouridas the Gita written with His own hand. From beginning to end it was written with pearl-like letters. The nectar of his winkless gaze is gathered in it. The compassion had incessantly flowed into it from the touch of his hand. It was sheer bliss to look at this writing, to hold it in one’s hand, to read it and to contemplate on it. It was a joy flowing from the absorption of consciousness.
Holding the Gita close to his heart, Gouridas returned to Ambika. How painstakingly must He have written it with His own hands, and yet he gave it to me so unhesitatingly. What meditation and worship would Gouridas do? He was pondering over the incident and was weeping. What love, what play! Gouridas could not fathom its vastness.

When the Lord came to Santipur after His Sannyas, Gouridas did not go to see him because of his hurt feelings. If Prabhu renounces the world in this way, how can we live then? With which shall we live? Prabhu’s elder brother Nityananda is already a Sannyasi. Prabhu is also on the same path. If the light of both the eyes is gone, how shall we spend our days in the darkness of the jungle?

Prabhu himself came to Gouridas’ house along with Nityananda. Gouridas wept and said: “I will not let you go again. Let both of you stay here as permanent captives. I shall serve you to my heart’s content.”

Prabhu smiled and said: “Do one thing. You shall serve our images.”

- Will the images be alive?
- Surely
- Can they sit with a squatting posture?
- Yes, of course.
- Do they take rice with their own hands?
- Yes, certainly. Let you do one thing. Bring a Neem tree from Navadweep and make images of our two brothers from its wood. We shall surely fulfil your wish.

Gouridas wiped his tears. He sent men to Navadweep who brought a neem tree from there. He made two wooden idols out of it – one of Nityananda and another of Gourhari. On the instructions of Sri Advaitadev, his son Achyutananda anointed both the idols with the ten-letter Gopal mantra and installed them. These were the first idols of Nitai-Gourhari. Gouridas was the first founder of serving and worshipping the dual idols.

Prabhu said: “Now feed the four of us.”

- Four of you?
- Yes, four of us. We two brothers, and the two idols. Make places for the four.
- Will these two idols also eat?
- Of course, otherwise, why will you believe in them?

With great joy Gouridas prepared many dishes. He placed four seats. Prabhu and Nityananda and their two idols partook of the food. There were no difference between the real persons and their idols. Prabhu said: “From among us, two will stay at Ambika and two will go to Nilachal. We stay back with you and your wish is also fulfilled.”

Gouridas installed the idols of Gour-Nitai. Now there was the need of a sincere and competent devotee who would undertake the regular service and worship of the idols. In search of such a person Gouridas approached Gadadhar and said : “I have come to beg one thing from you”. Gadadhar looked at his face and said : “I have nothing that I cannot give to you.” Gouridas said: “Please, give your Hridayananda to me.”

Madhab Misra, known for his virtues lived at Bharatpur in the district of Murshidabad. He had two sons, Gadadhar and Kasinath. Kasinath had two sons, Nayananda and Hridayananda. This Gadadhar was one of Mahaprabhu’s close companions. He became known as Gadadhar Pundit, Gadadhar nurtured Hridayananda, gave him education and initiation. Hridaynanda was Gadadhar’s attendant, as well as his student. Gadadhar handed over this Hridayananda to Gouridas. Gouridas gave mantradiksha (initiation with Bijmantra) and appointed him to serve the idols.

There would be a great celebration on the occasion of Mahaprabhu’s birthday. Gouridas went out to beg. He had asked Hridayananda to serve and worship properly. “I shall come back at proper time.” But how was it? There was no news about Gouridas after he had left. If invitation letters were not immediately sent to the Mohants how could they be present on the fixed date? There was lot of related work unfinished. Hridayananda had completed all the arrangements before his Guru returned.

Gouridas returned just the day before the celebration. “Seeing your delay, I have myself completed all the arrangements,” said Hridayananda with some satisfaction. Gouridas did not bless him. Rather, he became angry and asked: “What is the meaning of your independent action without my permission?” Hridayananda fell dumb. “Since you have gone over me and thus have disregarded me, you have no longer a place here. Go somewhere else,” ordered Gouridas.

Hridayananda obeyed Guru’s order with bowed head and with a heavy heart. He took shelter under a tree on the bank of the Ganga.

Gouridas himself started the celebration at the ashram. People were gradually assembling at the ashram on getting the invitation from Hridayananda. One person was coming with huge offerings for the Lord. Seeing Hridayananda by the side of the Ganga he asked the bearers to stop. Hridayananda said, “The celebration is going on at the ashram, not here. Please, take these things to the ashram.”

But Gouridas refused to accept those things. He said, “These have come because of Hridayananda’s invitation. I shall not take them. Tell him to make a separate celebration with the help to these offerings.”

The bearers once again brought the offerings back to Hridayananda. “Has Gurudev asked me to make the celebration separately? So be it” Hridayananda began the celebration under the very tree on the bank of the Ganga. Hearing the commotion of the celebration, most of the invitees started assembling under the tree.

At the other end, Gouridas also was holding the celebration at the Ashram as per his own arrangements. At the time of the midday bhog he ordered priest Gangadas: “Open the door of the temple and make the offering of food”. The door of the temple was opened, but the temple was empty! The idols were missing. Gouridas ran towards the bank of the Ganga with a stick in his hand. “This is definitely the work of Hridayananda. He has removed the idols from the temple.”

On reaching the riverbank he saw a strange sight. Kirtan was going on and in the midst of the kirtanyas the two idols were dancing! Seeing the stick in Gouridas’ hand the two idols wanted to disappear. But Gouridas saw Sri Chaitanyachandra entering into the heart of Hridayananda. With outstretched hands Gouridas closely embrace Hridayananda. He said: “you are truly blessed. From today your name should be Hridaychaitanya.”

Returning to his ashram, Gouridas saw that the two idols were back at their usual places. They were laughing in their bright eyes, as if saying: “Do you comprehend Hridays’ devotion to his Guru ? Do you understand who is enshrined in whose heart?”

This Hridaychaitanya became the Diksha Guru (initiator) of Prabhu Shyamnanda.

Shyamananda’s Childhood name was Dukhi. After taking initiation from Hridaychaitanya his name became Krishnadas.

He was born in a village called Dharenda-Bahadurpur (presently known as Kalaikunda in Midnapur in a family of Milkman caste. His father’s name was Srikrishna Mondol and his mother was Durika.

As the child was born amidst much suffering he was named Dukhi. Some called him Dukhia. His father left his native place and migrated to Dandeshwar in Orissa. Since his very childhood signs of renunciation became visible in him. As soon as he had completed his lessons of grammar, a wish to take a bath in the Ganga suddenly arose in him. He told his father : “I am going to bathe in the Ganga.” Where? With whom? Srikrishna Mondal became very anxious. “A group of bathers is going to Ambika-Kalna. I shall go with them.” There was no point in refusing the permission. The boy could not be held back. Only let it be hoped, he would return home after taking his holy bath.

But Dukhia never returned home. There was chance meeting with Hridaychaitanya at Ambika-Kalna. Hridaychaitanya found that an effulgent lotus of devotion was blooming on the stem of renunciation. He said: “Come, I will give you a mantra.” He gave him Krishna mantra and said: “from this day your name is Krishnadas” Dukhia smiled and said: “Yes, Dhukhi Krishnadas”.

How true! Every living being remains afflicted with misery until he gets Krihsna.

Krishnadas’ heart could not be pacified with the bath in the Ganga alone. He said: “I shall see the Yamuna”. “Yes of course, you shall see it. You shall go Brajadham.” After Krishnadas had spent sometime in serving the Guru, Hridaychaitanya gave him permission to go to Vrindavan.

Dukhi Krishnadas went to Navadweep and from there proceeded to Vrindavan. There he met another Krishna-this was Krishnadas Kaviraj. Dukhi Krishnadas took refuge at the feet of Jiv Goswami. What more could be have asked for! Jiv Goswami began to teach him the scriptures. With the light of knowledge, the darkness of Krishnadas’ ignorance began to melt away.

One morning Dukhi Krishnadas was walking down a lonely path lined with the trees. His forehead was adorned with Gopichandan tilak (tilak of sandalwood), he had prayer beads in his hands and he was singing the praises of Gouranga. While walking thus, he suddenly stopped on the path. A golden anklet was lying on the path. Krishnadas eagerly picked up the anklet, pressed it to his forehead and then held it in his breast with both his hands. After a while he saw a young maiden coming up the path, searching for something on the ground.

“Devi, have you lost something?” asked Krishnadas politely in a soft voice. The maiden looked up, startled. She saw a handsome and dignified young man standing before her. She said, “Yes, something is lost, but it does not belong to me, but to my dear friend”.

“What?”

“The anklet was on my friends’ left foot”. The maiden added a bit more : “Last night while dancing, the anklet had loosened, which is why while returning home, it fell off on the way.” “Please, see if this is the same one.” Krishnadas took out the anklet, which he was keeping close to his heart.

The maiden held out her hand. Before she had said a word or had wanted anything the anklet on its own fell in her hand.

Was it magic? Or was it mirage? The girl disappeared that very instant. Krishnadas fainted and fell to the ground.

When he regained consciousness, Dukhi Krishnadas found that he was lying near Jiv Goswami. Jiv said: You are a blessed soul, you have held on your breast the anklet which adorns the feet of Srimati Radhika, the Goddess of Rasa dance. You have also seen her dear friend Lalita. Having got back her anklet Srimati is definitely delighted and so is her beloved Shyamsundar. From today, let your name be Shyamananda. Shyamananda sat up. “And look”, said Jiv Goswami, “as you had held the anklet to your forehead, a tilak in the shape of the anklet has emerged on your forehead. From today, let your tilak also be in the shape of an anklet, and let this tilak be called Shyamanandi Tilak.”

News reached Hridaychaitanya that Krishnadas had taken initiation anew from Jiv Goswami and has also adopted a new tilak. When Shyamananda returned to Kalna and Hridaychaitanya noticed the new tilak in place of the old one, he became very angry. He renounced Shyamananda.

“I had fixed the form of your tilak. But you have erased it. In its place you have adopted a new form. This disrespect is unbearable. I renounce you. Leave this ashram this very moment.” Said Hridaychaitanya.

Eyes filled with tears, Shyamananda looked on silently. Perhaps Hridaychaitanya felt a bit sorry for him. He said: “If you wash away that tilak and put on the old one once again, I can withdraw my order.”

But how could Shyamananda wipe out the anklet form of tilak form his forehead? It emerges spontaneously as soon as he touches his forehead.

Shyamananda left the ashram and went away. He stayed on the bank of the Ganga without having taken any food.

The idol in the temple could not remain quiet any longer. He appeared before Hridaychaitanya in his dream and said: “What have you done? Have you not banished my joy? It is the sign of my anklet that is on his forehead. It is my anklet that Radhika wears.”

The whole incident was revealed through the dream. Hridaychaitanya realized his mistake. He ran all the way to the riverbank and picked up Shyamananda on his lap. He asked: “Who is your Guru ?” “My Guru is Hridaychaitanya Prabhu”. There were no more doubts. The rapprochement between the Guru and the disciple was complete.

It was in Vrindavan that Shyamananda had befriended Thakur Narottam and Acharya Srinivas. These three remained loyal to Sri Virachandra and planted the victory flag of Vaisnavism in Bengal and Orissa. They released a great flood of love and devotion.

After the holy texts had been plundered at Vishnupur, Srinivas sent Shyamananda to Kheturi. He was present at Kheturi Mahotsav – the great festival at Kheturi. After receiving the information that the plundered texts had been recovered, Shyamananda returned to Kalna. From there he traveled towards Orissa. In a village called Rohini on the banks of the river Subarnarekha, the village chief Achyuta and his son Rasiknanda became the disciples of Shyamananda. Devotion is supreme, devotion is the ultimate-this was what he preached and it drew to him many disciples. Gradually, a large following collected around Shyamananda and thus grew up the Shyamanandi family.

Damodar was a yoga practicing Vedantist. Shymananda defeated him in a debate. He filled the emptiness of his heart with the nectar of devotion. Having become the disciple of Shyamananda, Damodar began to weep with the words ‘Nitai-Chaitanya’ on his lips.

Shyamananda emancipated a Pathan named Sher Khan at Dharenda. His disciple Rasikananda also preached love and devotion and thus transformed many wicked persons into devotees. The land became mad with Shyamananda. The whole of Orissa and Dharinda, Nrisinhapur, Balarampur, Gopiballavpur etc. became the centre of Preaching of love and devotion by Shyamananda and his chief and dearest disciple Rasikananda. The news arrived that Hridaychaitanya had passed away. Shortly after that, Shyamananda installed Rasikananda as the Mahanta of the Sripat had handed over the responsibility of the Shyamanandi sect to him. Then Shyamananda entered into the world of eternal Leela.



Translated from original Bengali by Sukhvinder and
Pabitra Kumar Ghosh
The Harmonist

THE RATHA YATRA OF PURI

OM VISHNUPAD 108 TRIDANDI SWAMI SRI SRIMAT BHAKTI SRAVAN TIRTHA GOSWAMI

Shree Shree Jagannath is the beloved deity of the Vast sea of humanity -, of one and all. ‘Jagat’ means ‘Universe ‘ and ‘Nath’ means ‘Lord’. Hence, the name, ‘Lord of the Universe’ or ‘Lord Jagannath’.
Lord Jagannathis considered to be the Supreme God, head of the pantheon of Indian deities and his abode ‘Puri’ is considered to be the most sacred of all four ‘dhamas’ – places of pilgrimage. He is also said to be the ‘Uttam-Purusha’ meaning ‘the best and highest of mankind’ or, ‘Purushottam’. Puri is also named as ‘Purushottam Kshetra’ or ‘Sri Kshetra’.
The wooden image of Lord Jagannath is unique in the sense that all religions seem to have some sort of affinity and irresistible attraction, spiritual experience and a great reverence for this particular ‘God-head’. This can be confirmed from the texts of ‘Dadavya-Bhakti’, where one comes across the devotions of saints, religious leaders and even the commonest of common men and women. Amongst three names which are specifically mentioned often and well known are Sant Guru Nanak Dev (Sikh), Bhakta Salbeig (Muslim), Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Of the Nadia Cult of Krishna Chaitanya).
There are hundreds of commonest names of men that immediately come to mind. The names are those of Raghu Behera, Doma Bource, Bandhu Mohanty, Jagannath and Balaram Das and others. Jains and Buddhists too have a great reverence for Lord Jagannath.
Lord Jagannath, being the Lord of the Universe, is the epitome of Sanatana Dharma – That Dharma which attracts and embraces the whole of mankind. In Hindu philosophy, since time immemorial, often reference is made to the four main ‘Centres of Pilgrimage’ – Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Dwaraka and Puri.
Puri Dham is, as we have mentioned, known by several names – Neelachal Dham, Niladribihar, Neelachal Kshetra and Shree Kshetra. The exact point of time during which Jagannath Dham came into existence is known only to Sree Niladri Bihari or Lord Jagannath Himself – although the historians try to give a lot of interpretation about it.
In various Puranas, dating back to very ancient times, one finds the date of existence to be …….. ‘since time immemorial’. For instance, in Rig Veda, the reference is made –
‘From very very ancient times, lending to infinity, a divine log of wood (Daaru) has been floating far and wide in the vast oceans, yet untouched by men’.
The uniqueness of Jagannath Dhaam is that unlike Badrinath, Rameshwaram, and Dwaraka, it has its own unique culture – Jagannath Culture. He is the supreme and beloved deity of every Oriya household and He is treated as a very special person – as Purushottam.
‘Rath Yatra’ or the ‘Car Festival’ of Lord Jagannath is unique to the Jagannath Cult. This world-famous festival takes place sometime in the month of July and finishes after the Snana Utsav (or Snana festival). Before, the Rath Yatra, the ‘Netro Utsav’ takes place, where the two infinite eyes of Lord Jagannath are worshipped, and then the deities are ready for the Rath Yatra. This annual festival has lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country as well as from outside India.
The use of ‘Rath Yatra’ or ‘Chariot’ is not a new phenomenon. It has been in use in Hindu mythology for a long long time. For example, there is reference to ‘Ratha’ in the Upanishads, Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and others. The Konark temple is architecturally modeled as a Chariot or Rath.
According to the Hindu calendar, the Rath Yatra takes place on Asada Shukla Paksha 2nd (Duliya) soon after the most auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, when the construction of three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra starts.
The construction of the three chariots as a matter of tradition from time immemorial is carried out in front of the Palace of the King of Puri.
It may be noted that the previous year’s wood used for the chariots is not used in the subsequent year, but after a few days from the festival being over, they are sold out by auction by the temple authorities and those who take part in the auction are mainly great devotees of Lord Jagannath. They vie with each other for a block of wood in order to possess the same in their homes as an auspicious and sacred wood from the sacred chariot of Lord Jagannath.
Hence, each year, new block of wood are used for the construction of the Chariots. However, the images of the spiritual trinity along with Sudarshan are not altered. The same wooden images are used.
The Rath Yatra is one of the oldest and most important festivals of the spiritual trinity at Puri. Lakhs of people from all over India and even from different parts of the world come to see the festival.
Some historians are of the view that this festival has its origin from the Buddhist religion. But in the Brahma Purana it is said that whilst the devoted King Indradyumna was in prayer and in deep meditation on Lord Vishnu, whom he wanted to see in his most resplendent form, Lord Vishnu visited the Gundicha temple.
However, the Skanda Purana says that Lord Vishnu incarnated himself, whilst Indradyumna was performing Ashwamedha Yajna.
Today, as per the Skanda Purana, the chariots are made at the place where the Lord incarnated Himself.
The Sanidha, Purana names this festival of chariots as Naba Yatra, Gundicha Yatra, Nandi Ghosha Yatra, Patita pabana Yatra and Mahabedi Utsav.
On the day of Ratha Yatra, the pooja starts early in the morning and after the ‘Pahandi’, the images are brought out one by one from the temple. The statues of Ram-Krishna and Madan Mohan also are brought to the chariots. The entire range of pooja requisites such as deeps, dhoop, vessels, belts, cloths jewelleries, camphor etc, are kept inside a box and carried to the chariots. Each deity has its own range of pooja requisites. On the chariots, the three deities are dressed, bedecked and adorned with their respective jewelleries and a great abundance of various types of flowers and garlands are placed on their respective images.
Here, the ‘Tulsi’ (or Basil) leaf garland and bouquets of the leaves in great abundance are placed round the three deities and particularly on the idol of Lord Jagannath.
Lord Jagannath and Tulsi leaf are inseparable from each other and Tulsi is the symbol of the goddess Vrindavati
When the three deities are ready on these chariots after their respective adornments and poojas, it is time for the King of Puri to come and sweep each of the three chariots. The King comes with his retinue of orderlies on horseback and then climbs the chariot of Lord Jagannath first, with a golden broom in his hands. This custom of sweeping each of the three chariots is known as ‘CHEERA PAHANRA’.
This ritual symbolizes the King’s humility and subjugation to the Lord of the Universe – coupled with a sense of deep-rooted devotion and tremendous respect for Lord Jagannath.
After this ritual, the King himself performs his worship or pooja of the three deities and thereafter, when this ‘Pooja’ is over, the ‘Sarathi’ or Charioteer of the Rath climbs the steps of the Rath and into the main platform of the Rath, and commands the horses, which are made of wood and attached to the Rath to start pulling the chariot forward.
There are series of very thick coir ropes tied to each of the front extremes of the Chariot and on the slightest signal of the Sarathi, the devotees who are all around the chariots in thousands, start pulling the same – thus the great festival of Rath Yatra begins.
The movement of the three chariots heads towards the Gundicha Temple.
Now and then the chariots stop on the way, and especially the chariot of Lord Jagannath, who has to be lovingly coaxed and entreated to continue HIS YATRA and then suddenly, as if responding to the entreaties of His devotees, His chariot suddenly starts to roll.
History has several authenticated accounts, such as ‘Bhakta Salbeig’ who as one of His most ardent devotees, implored Him not to start His Yatra till he reached His chariot, and the Lord responded and stopped His journey till Bhakta Salbeig reached His chariot and had His darshan.
Lord Jagannath is lovingly and affectionately addressed by the Oriyas as ‘Manua’ which is Oriya means ‘Moody’. Hence what ‘He’ chooses in his infinite wisdom He does. However, there are innumerable occasions when devotees in distress prayed to Him and He immediately responded by rushing to their aid and by the intervention of His divine Grace rescued them.
When the three chariots reach the Gundicha Temple the three deities including Sudarshan, (who is in the chariot of Lord Jagannath) are kept in the open overnight.
The next day, the three trinity images are taken to the Gundicha Temple where they stay for seven days and are worshipped. They are then bedecked with clothes, ornaments and flowers and are once again taken to their respective chariots.
Then the return journey of Yatra, known as the BAHUDA YATRA, starts. On the day of the ‘Bahuda Yatra’ the chariots of Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra return to the main temple of Puri. From the Singha Dwara, their images are taken inside.
However, the chariot of Lord Jagannath stays on near the MASIMA temple and here sweets are offered to Him. Then Lord Jagannath’s chariot is pulled by the devotees upto the palace.
The image of Devi ‘Mahalaxmi’ on the CHAHANI MANDAP looks down towards Lord Jagannath on the Rath and then enters the Rath and sits beside Lord Jagannath.
This is where Laxmi and Narayana meet each other. Then the chariot is drawn upto the Singha Dwara. On the 10th day of the Rath Yatra, the Gods adorn the Raja Vesha. Then, after some poojas and rituals, on the 12th day, the images are taken back to the Ratna Bedi.
Before we conclude this article on Rath Yatra, it will not be fair if we do not make any reference to the chariots of the deities, which are magnificent in themselves. The wood for these chariots are procured in a special way which we are not referring in this article as it has a long and a special procedure. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as NANDIGHOSHA and Garuda Dhwaja or Chakra Dhwaja. It is the name given by Lord Indra – the God of Rain. It is made of 832 blocks of wood and is 33 hands in height (one hand measured 1½).
The Guardian of this chariot is Garuda, the eagle like bird. The flag of the chariot has as its emblems – Sree Hanuman and the weapons like the Chakra (Discus) and the Conch Shell or Shankha.

THE CHARIOT OF DEVI SUBHADRA

It is said that the chariot of Subhadra Devi is given by the gods and the height of the chariot is 31 hands and is made of 593 blocks of wood and has twelve wheels. It is named as Devadalan. Shakarcharya has said that it reflects Shiva-Shakti Yuktoji known as the Ishta Devi (main sanor) of the rath. The feet of the chariot has as its emblem Tripura Sundari and the weapon depicted is – Padma Kalhara. The canopy of the rath alternates between red and black colours running from top of the rath to the base and the presiding deity of the top position of the chariot is known as Bhakti Sarmedha. The “chamara Seva” is done by Devi Sumedha – and the presiding deities depicted on the sides of the rath are goddess Bimala, Chamunda, Bhadrakali, Hara Chandika, Mangala, Barali, Katyayani, Jai Durga and Kali.

The name of the sarathi or charioteer of the rath is Arjuna and the protector of the rath is Ugra Chandra.
There are four horses attached to the rath, two on each side, in a galloping position and names of the four horses are – Rochika, Mochika, Jeta and Aparajeeta. The rope of this chariot is supposed to be made in the form of a king cobra and out of coir and is called Swarna Chuda and it is supposed to pull Subhadra Devi’s chariot. The front position of the chariot is known as Bramarata.
The other goddesses of the rath are Sree and Birihu. The two Gandharva’s names are Ha and Hi, and the rath chakra’s name is king Javalika. The rath’s Garbhadiswars are Sakti, Sapta, Jaya, Bijaya, Ghora, Aghora, Gukhmat, Gyasi. On the down position of the rath are the rishis, carved and pasted, namely Bhrigu, Suprabha, Bajra, Grangi, Dhuba and Ulika.
The Kumbhas of the top position are known as Amrita, Jiva Kaya and Hing Biga. The Dwadasa Barnas are Bhubaneswari, Ganga, Jamuna and Swarapalika and the neta’s name is Nadambika.
The construction of the chariot begins on the day of Vaishakha Shukla Tritiya and it takes about ½ months for the construction of the chariots to be done in all respects, including the filling of the canopy, horses, wheels etc. In the Skanda Purana, [Utkalakhanad, the 33rd and 35th chapter], the details of how the wood is procured from the forest is given.
Once the chariots are ready, the ratha yatra starts and the deities are taken to the “Guadicha Mandir” which is situated to the north of the main temple within a distance of 2½ to 3 kms. This mandir is also known as the Mahavedi, Yajna Mandap, Janakpuri and Gundicha Mandap. The legend says that a great king Indradyumna had constructed a “Vedi” here to perform the ‘Ashwamedha Yagna’ hence the name Mahavedi or Gundicha Mandap.
The canopy of the chariot is a combination of bright red and yellow – appearing alternatively one after another lengthwise from top to bottom. The top portion is called Kalyan-Sundar. On each of the four sides of the chariot are the emblems neatly carved and painted, of the mythological Hindu gods and goddesses, namely Hanuman, Ram Laxman, Narayan, Krishna, Gobardhan, Chintamani, Raghava and Narasimha. Of four horses which are carved out of wood two are attached on each side of the chariot, in the galloping position. They are named Sarkha, Balahara, Sweta and Hari Das.
The name of the Sarathi or charioteer is known as Daruka. The rope attached to the chariot is known as Sankhachuda and face of the Rath is known as Nandi Mukha. The goddess of the rath is know as Jogmaya and the Rath’s Bhairava is known as Akapada. The Rathas are ___________ Nam and Kubera. The Jakhya of the Rath is Hadrakhya and the Rath’s Garbhadhiswar is Hiranya Garbha.
The shakti of the rath is goddess Bimala. The Urdhasanis are – Kriya, Yoga, Agya, Anugya, Pragya and Medha.
Towards down below the rath, are painted wooden images of Narada, Debala, Vyasa, Suha, Prasana, Vashista, Viswamitra, and Rudra – These are the eight Rishis from whom the Hindu race originated.
The main Kumbha is called Harijawaju and the Dwarapals or guardians to the entrance of the Rath are two in number and are known as Joyo and Bijoya.


CHARIOT OF LORD BALABHADRA

The name of Lord Balabhadra’s Rath is Tala Dhwaja and this name has its origin from the Tala-Bara, given by the gods to Lord Balabhadra. The height of this rath is 32 hands and ten fingers, and made of 763 blocks of wood. It has 14 wheels.
The protector of this rath is Vasudeva as the colour of the canopy of cloth from the top to bottom, alternate between red and green colours, in broad stripes.
On the flag of the rath are the weapons Hala (ploughshare) and Musala. On the side of the rath are the gods of the Hindu pantheon of deities – Prapanbari, Chandratakoni, Harihara, Traiyambaka, Basudeva, Nalambara, Aghora, Tripura and Rishabha. The name of the Sarathi is Matali. The keepder of the rath is named as Vaskara and the name of the six horses, three attached on either side of the rath, in galloping position, are Teebro, Ghora, Dirgha, Srama, Swarna and Nana.
The rath’s kshetrapal, the Gandharva’s name is Ha. The flag that flutters on top of the ratha is known as Unanni.
The story behind the Ratha Yatra is that Lord Jagannath himself had directed the king and his associates, ---
“On this day, along with Subhadra and Balabhadra, take me in the Rath to the Gundicha Mandap, the place where I was born and where the AswamedhaYagna was performed. This is my birthplace and I was there worshipped for a long time. That is why, I have a great attachment and affection for that place. (Skanda purana, Utkalakhanda 29th Chapter)
In the Skanda purana itself, mention is also made that Lord Jagannath wished to visit His birthplace every year for seven days.
This festival, which covers a period of 9 days, when the three deities alongtwith Sudarshan visit Gundicha Mandap and then return to the main temple, is known as the Ratha Yatra.
In the Gundicha Mandap Lord Jagannath has the “Dasavatar Vesa” and that is why the Ratha Yatra is also known as the “Dasavatar Yatra”.
The total yatra is divided into three parts – the first part “Parbayatra”, the second part is “Gundicha Mandap” and the third part is “Bahida Yatra”.
Lord Jagannath is worshipped as “Narayan” on the “Ratnavedi” in the main temple, as “Gajanana Vesa” during the “Snana Purnima” and in the chariot he is worshiped as “Sun” or “Vamana”.
It is believed by the Hindus that if you have a darshan of Lord Jagannath as the ‘Vaman Avatar’ in the chariot then you are free from the cycle of birth and death.
That Yatra is also considered to be the symbol of unity. People of different caste, class, colour, belief, faith and religion come together to have the darshan of Lord Jagannath.