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Guiding Light: The Eternal Juggernaut

Free Press Journal logo Free Press Journal 02-07-2022
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Every year, in the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) of the holy month of Ashadh, hundreds of thousands of devotees throng to Puri in Odisha to pull the chariot of Lord Jagannath, quite literally the Lord of all the worlds. This is a very special form of Lord Krishna, where he appears with the most beautiful, excited round eyes along with his brother, Balrama and his sister, Subhadra. The immense force it takes to pull these humongous chariots, which are carved each year from special Neem wood starting on the auspicious Akshaya Tritiya, is the origin of the English word 'juggernaut'. This year the yatra is back with full gusto, with devotees being allowed to participate, after it had to be held with a restricted audience during the pandemic.

The origin of this form of the Lord traces its origin to the time in Dwarka when Queen Rukmini urged Balrama’s mother Rohini to narrate the pastimes of Vrindavan, where the two brothers grew up with their gopa and gopi friends. Noticing this, the brother-sister trio of Krishna, Subhadra and Balrama tiptoed to the doorway and listened silently to the tales of their childhood being recounted. They were so thrilled with the nostalgic tales, that their countenance reflected this happiness, with large eyes and huge smiles, their hands and legs retreated into their bodies, giving rise to this most alluring form.

The legend of the temple in Puri dates back to the pious King Indradyumna in the Satya Yuga, who was desirous of having darshan of the Lord on earth. Legend has it that after advice from Narada Muni, he had an opulent temple constructed to welcome the incarnation, and the deities were to be carved from a log of sacred wood that was found floating in the river. None other than Vishwakarma appeared in the form of an old artisan, and agreed to carve the form with the condition that no one should disturb him for a full 21 days.

As time passed, the King grew impatient and when after 14 days, the sounds emanating from behind the closed doors stopped, he pried the doors open only to find what he thought were unfinished idols of the deities, as they had no hands and feet! But his despair gave way to relief, when he had a vision which confirmed that this was indeed the form that the Lord had wanted to manifest! Thus appeared Lord Jagannath with his siblings Balbhadra and Subhadra, and to this day, devotees and tourists from all over the world throng to the Jagannath Puri temple for this most unique of Rath Yatras! Jai Jagannath!

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