Today is Niladri Bije, the last day of the Rathjatra festival when the three siblings – Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra enter the temple after coming back from their annual outing to their aunt’s place. No one stops the other two siblings from entering the temple, but when Lord Jagannath approaches the temple gates, his wife Devi Lakshmi closes the gates and does not allow him to enter. She is angry with Him, as He didn’t take Her along when He went out nine days earlier. Like any other husband, Lord Jagannath has to pacify Her with gifts. And He gifts her Kheermohan, a sweet made of chhena, that somewhat looks like His eyes. The modern name of Kheermohan is Rasagola (or like Bengalis would prefer calling it, Rosogulla). Now, that I have put down facts which prove that Rasagola is infact an Odia delicacy, let us move to a rather more serious topic, that of Lord Jagannath’s origins.
“Niladri” means blue mountain in Sanskrit, and “Bije” means climbing. It is believed that the original Jagannath temple was built on a blue mountain. The current Jagannath temple was built on the same site as the original one.
After the Mahabharata, the Yadavs went extinct after killing each other in a fratricidal war. Lord Krishna had one last “leela” to take care of, before the end of the Avatar. The last “leela” had one more character – Jara, reincarnation of Angad, son of Bali from Ramayan, and a tribal hunter in his current life. Angad was given a boon in the previous life by Lord Ram, who had killed his father Bali, that he would get his chance to avenge his father’s death.
One hot afternoon, Lord Krishna was resting under the shade of a tree. Jara, who was out hunting, from behind the bushes mistook Lord Krishna’s toe for the ear of a deer, and shot an arrow. The arrow proved fatal for Lord Krishna, and the Avatar came to an end. Thus, Jara avenged his father’s death.
Image: Remains of a statue of Lord Krishna in a dilapidated building near the Ananta Padmanabha Sway temple, in Ananthagiri, Telangana, India.
Lord Krishna’s dear friend Arjun was called for His cremation. At the end of it, everything else except Lord Krishna’s heart had turned into ash. Arjun then picked up his dear friend’s heart, put it inside a neem log with Shankh (conch), Chakra (disk), Gada (mace) and Padma (lotus) symbols on it (the four symbols of Lord Vishnu, of whom boh Sri Ram and Sri Krishna were avatars), and floated it in the sea.
That piece of log with Sri Krishan’s heart in it voyaged through the sea, from Dwarka on the west coast to Puri on the east, and eventually took the form of the first Lord Jagannath. How it took the form of Lord Jagannath is a tale for another time. Wait! Did I say “first” Lord Jagannath? Does it mean that there were many Lord Jagannaths? Much to your astonishment, the answer is yes!
Every twelve to nineteen years Lord Jagannath reincarnates into a new body, in an event called Nabakalebara. During Nabakalebara, the “brahma” or the “tattva”, the life of Lord Jagannath, which is said to be the heart of Lord Krishna, is placed in a new body, and the old body is cremated. Him going through the cycles of life and death highlights the fact that everything that is here on Martyalok (as Earth is also called in Sanskrit, where death is inevitable) has to function by the rule of the land. More on Nabakalebara is also a tale for another time.
/Disclaimer: Based on legends, folklores and part fiction/
In frame: Remains of a statue of Lord Krishna in a dilapidated building near the Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple, in Ananthagiri, Telengana, India.
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