64 Yoginis – And a message to my father

The 64 Yogini Temple:

Ranipur Jharial was the first stop on the recent road-trip I did with my parents in Odisha. We reached here after a gruelling 6 hours drive from my home town. The 64 Yogini temple of Ranipur Jharial in Bolangir district in Odisha, is one of the only 4 such temples dedicated to 64 Yoginis that exist in the whole country. Two of them are in Odisha – the other one in Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar.

The 64 Yogini temple is located atop small hill, which is a single rock spread over many acres. On that rock there are also many small temples dedicated mainly to Lord Shiva. What would catch your eye however is the peculiar structure of the 64 Yogini temple.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple under the sun on a cloudy day, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

It is a circular hypaethral temple. The deities of 64 Yoginis adorn the inner side of the circular temple. The centre of the temple is adorned by an image of three faced Lord Shiva, Adi Yogi himself, embracing his wife Goddess Parvati. This temple is believed to have been built by Somavamshi Keshari kings in 9th-10th century AD. All the deities are made of sandstone.

Lord Shiva
Three faced Lord Shiva at the center of 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

The temple is designed in such a way that energy from all the 64 Yoginis would stay within the circular wall of the temple, and the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here would benefit immensely from the concentrated energy from all Yoginis. The 64 Yoginis also represent 64 types of Siddhis a human can achieve.

The Indralath Temple:

Indralath Temple
The elevation of Indralath Temple from up close, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

Another attraction in Ranipur Jharial is the 60ft tall Indralath temple, the oldest and tallest brick temple in Odisha. Also built during 9th/10th century AD by Somavamshi Keshari kings, it is believed that this temple was probably dedicated to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. Interestingly however, the designs and statues on the outer wall of the temple suggest Buddhist influence on the architecture. The statues on the outer wall are made of clay and mud and are burnt to give them longevity, as it was done for the bricks.

The Experience:

Before I started the journey, I was told that it is not advisable and safe to go on top of the hill during the month of Ashadh, or the first month of monsoon, because of the numerous lightning strikes that have happened in the past. We were well past Ashadh, so that was a relief.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

When I went on top of the rock, near the temple, the first thing I noticed about the place was the calmness, even if it was windy. However, the calmness was only on the surface. The place was full of some mystic energy, as if all the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here left their legacy behind for the later generations to experience. Although there were many things running through my mind, when I closed my eyes, it was as if I got teleported instantaneously into another realm. What happened with my father however, was interesting! And I was a witness.

My father, as were both my paternal grand parents, is a follower of Satya Mahima Dharma, and he has been practising meditation for many years now. One of the youngest sects of Hinduism, quite interestingly, this sect also had 64 Siddh Purush (64 men with Siddhis). Numbering just a tiny fraction of Odisha’s population the followers of this sect do not worship any deity. Very much a part of Hinduism, they believe that to reach the Supreme you do not need any mediums. One of my next projects is to highlight this sect to the mainstream, so look out for that.

Being himself, my father decided to check how it feels to sit in meditation near the 64 Yogini temple. So, he removed his shoes, sat on the platform and closed his eyes and went into a meditative state. And I got busy taking photos. Few minutes later, I got back to him, and by that time he was done. I asked him how was it, and he told me that he could feel some kind of energy. After that we decided to visit the nearby Indralath temple nearby, and it was all fine till then.

It got weird when after having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and said “A Mahima sadhu (a preacher of the sect of which my father is a follower) had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a Balyaleela (a ritual done only special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.”

There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of that particular sect. The practitioners of this sect are very very small fraction of  the total population. To give you all an idea, there are only 2/3 families of this sect in my hometown which a population of at least one lakh. Too much of a coincidence, right?

The only thing that could possibly explain this incident was probably the fact that there are strong energies still existent in the 64 Yogini temple and nearby, and after father meditated there, he “was sent a message” that the path he had chosen for himself (that of Satya Mahima Dharma) is right for him, and he does not need to divert now. We reached at this conclusion after discussing on this incident for some time.

And then we decided to move ahead with our journey, a 2,000km road-trip across Odisha, which turned out to be quite eventful in its own right. More on that later!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

 

Nine parts of One

Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga during Durga Puja of 2017 at Hyderabad Bengali Samiti, Hyderabad, Telangana

So big and black a void it was, you could lose everything,
Even the most significant, would seem like nothing.

Into the emptiness of the universe she was summoned,
To lay a strong foundation, we know today as the creation.

The universe that you know as it is today,
She created it in a past far far away.

She then resided in the sun and in the stars,
Emanating light that could wipe out scars.

To marry Shiva, She would be born to a mighty King,
As austerity, from the world She would be abstaining.

As the daughter of the mountain She would be born again,
She would be so fair, not just superficially as others feign.

Married to Shiva again, the half moon would adorn Her head,
Mother to a child, armies of the Gods who eventually led.

Summoned to defeat the dark forces when everything else would fail,
She came as the deadly dark night without leaving behind a trail.

One last demon was left before goodness prevailed,
The demon of disguise who She finally had killed.

She is the saviour, since the days of the time immemorial,
Even by Gods she has been invoked to help good to prevail.

Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga from another angle during Durga Puja of 2017 at Hyderabad Bengali Samiti, Hyderabad, Telangana

This poem is my tribute to the nine forms of Adi Parashakti or, as we know her today, Shakti, worshipped during the nine days of Navaratri. The nine forms of Shakti who are worshipped during Navaratri, are: 1. Shailaputri, 2. Brahmacharini, 3. Chandraghanta, 4. Kushmanda, 5. Skandamata, 6. Katyayani, 7. Kaalratri, 8. Mahagauri, 9. Siddhidatri. Together they are also called Navadurga. The image of Shakti worshipped during the Navaratri/Durga Puja is actually that of Katyayani. To read more about the Navadurga please here.

 

In frame: Goddess Durga during Durga Puja 2017 at Hyderabad Bengali Samiti, Hyderabad, Telangana.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

Caro(m)kshetra

Caro(m)kshetra
The Striker and the pieces on a carom board

They are family, kin and friends, how could one kill,
Void they would leave behind, who would be able to fill.

The ones that he grew up playing with, and the ones who taught,
Unable to take on them, was there a way the battle won’t be fought.

The battlefield lay in front of him, and the warriors gave battle cries,
He was unable to pick up his weapon, even after a million tries.

He was given a code to live by, and million reasons to kill,
Told they were his enemies, whose void he need not fill.

He was shaken violently, when he hesitated and refused to fight,
To see things clearly, like he would in the morning after a dark night.

He was chosen for this task because he was mighty and just,
Unlike mightier warriors filled with jealousy and blood-lust.

The ones in front of him were dead the day they joined the wrong,
With justice and morality on his side, he felt ever so strong.

Understanding his duty and worth, he started killing with rage,
Without seeing who was in front of him, or what was their age.

He killed for many days, and many of his beloved ones were taken away,
Rule of justice finally established when he stopped, and was there to stay.


This poem and the accompanying photograph are my attempt to draw an analogy between the Kurukshetra war and our day to day life, even something as uneventful as playing carom.

I try to portray one of the most important teachings of Bhagvad Gita, that attachments make us lose sense of right and wrong, just and injustice, moral and immorality. To uphold and do what is right, one must rise above every form of attachment, and look at things objectively. And when the time comes to do one’s duty, it has to be done no matter what.

In frame: The striker and the pieces on a carom board, clicked on manual mode using my Oneplus 3 phone during the carom tournament at office. This photo was edited using Google Snapseed.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Mountain Song

I was unsure and had many questions when I started,
Unable to understand whether to hold on to those who departed.

I tried and any attempt to touch my past was futile,
As from behind the veil it waved at me with a “smile”.

In a failed attempt, I fought with my past in present,
An act that I would never consider to be decent.

I cried as I saw the past slip away, to which I was so attached,
It was a healing process and I thought I was being attacked.

I decided to quit the things that I was doing,
With tears in my eyes I tried a new beginning.

There was one more thing that I had still to let go,
The sense of I, me and mine, which they call the ego.

As I looked at the winding road up the hill,
Towards a destination I hadn’t started still.

It looked like I was a long long way away from my goal,
I decided to climb nonetheless and it started taking a toll.

Shivering while climbing as cold touched my bones,
On the roads I found freshly fallen pine cones.

The pine cones reminded something that I had chosen to forget,
That even those high up also fall and eventually turn to dust.

When hungry, I found fresh apples from a road side garden,
Tastier I am sure than the one had by Eve and Adam.

When I was thirsty I drank from a mountain spring,
A respite that only pure mountain water could bring.

It was the Almighty telling me to relax and not to worry,
And that I would be provided for and I need not be sorry.

The mountains and highlands that people called divine,
When I reached there, I was sure I would be fine.

The mountains were so big, and the snow so white,
And I told myself that the teachers were always right.

Mountains told me to accept that I was puny and the outcome I can’t influence,
I am not even a speck of dust, when it comes to the whole vast universe.

The snows told me that everything here is inherently pure,
And we pollute everything looking for useless cure.

When I came down from the mountains, I was not like when I went,
Left there many things I was attached to, for which I was sent.

I was questioned for the decisions I took and things I left behind,
I told them as long as this did good to me, I really didn’t mind.

Been a year since I came back from the mountains,
And the memory still as fresh as last night’s rains.

Looking back at last year, it all makes sense now,
The answers to my why, what, when and how.

In human terms, this journey has lasted only a year long,
Ode to the mountains and my evolution, this mountain song.

Mountain song
A temple by the mountain road, high in the Himalayas

The poem was penned by me, where I have tried to put in to words my evolution from what I was a year back when I went to the Himalayas.

In frame: A temple by the mountain road high in the Himalayas, on the way from Naitala to Guptakashi, in Uttarakhand, India. I found these small temples dedicated to local Gods as well as such ritualistic things, common place in the Himalayas.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

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Buddha, who?

He is Avalokiteshwara also known as Padmapani. He is a Bodhisattva, who embodies compassion of all the Buddhas. Avalokiteshwara literally translates into “Lord who contemplates”, and Padmapani is someone who has a lotus in his hand (Padma – lotus, Pani – hand).

Per early Buddhism, Bodhisattva is Gautama Buddha in his previous lives, and forms the very foundation of Jataka tales. According to later Buddhism, Bodhisattva is someone who has a wish and mind compassionate enough to attain Buddhahood.

Who is a Buddha?

Wait! What do I mean by “a” Buddha? Were there more than one Buddhas?

By Buddha, we generally mean Gautama Buddha. And He was just one of them, but unquestionably the most popular one. Actually, Buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment and has fully comprehended the four noble truths of – pain, origin of pain, cessation of pain, and the path that will lead to the cessation of pain.

According to contemporary Tibetan Buddhism, Avalokiteshwara is someone who looks after all beings with compassion, and usually emanates as Dalai Lama. He is also known as Shadakshari, the “Lord of six syllables”.

What six syllables?

If you have seen those colourful Tibetan prayer flags, have you ever wondered what is written on them? This is what you will find written on them – “Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum”. That’s six syllables. Each of these six syllables are believed to purify the following things in humans, respectively – Pride or Ego, Jealousy or Lust, Passion or Desire, Ignorance or Prejudice, Greed or Possessiveness, Aggression or Hatred. That is precisely all of humanity’s problems in six syllables.

Padmapani
Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India.

Why Buddha?

In ancient India, when the vedic culture turned from being highly scientific into merely ritualistic, the caste system became very rigid. And a vacuum was created which demanded the presence of a spiritual leader who could make humans see the things the way the were, and hence emergence of Gautama Buddha. And He became popular for taking a scientific approach towards attaining Nirvana. His teachings were very simple and spread like wildfire, sweeping settlement after settlement, and laid foundation of early Buddhism.

In frame: Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India. You can find this painting on the left side of the sanctum in cave no.: 1 of Ajanta. Because of extremely low light, photographing paintings inside the Ajanta caves can be challenging and can put your technical skills to test, especially if you are clicking in manual mode.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

FIRE

Ember and ash, that is left of everything you knew,
Burning faster with anger, as the winds blew.

It burned up the tears, and the joy and the sorrows,
All emotions, even the deepest ones hidden in burrows.

The ego, and the grudges and the red book that held them,
It ate up all, including your pride and the little game.

It killed what is left of you, good and evil, and otherwise,
It is the genesis, and it seeds the phoenixes to rise.

And when everyone thought it was all but over,
A new life germinated, tearing up the ashened cover.

It left everything that was left behind, burning,
Beginning of the end, and a whole new beginning.

A new you, in new surroundings with new desire,
It kills, but facilitates new beginnings, the Fire.

Fire
Holy fire during a ritual.

The poem was penned by me, and looks at the end of things from the perspective of beginning of new things.

In frame: The holy fire during a ritual. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400. This is the first frame from Project 35.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

108 days that mattered

Lucky Max!

I had a friend called Max. His father was a very rich man, with a lot of money. So, on Max’s 21st b’day his father gifted him a jet plane. When Max saw it, he was very happy. As always, he threw away the user manual and got into the cockpit, and after a lot of trying, he could make the jet plane move on the road. Happy with his new found love for “driving” the jet plane, he would “drive” his jet plane to college, to meet friends and to nightclubs.

Lucky Max! Would you like to be like Max? Who wouldn’t want a rich father gifting a jet plane on birthdays.

If you think about it, we are all Maxs “driving” our jet planes around. Without understanding true potential, we “drive” around in our jet planes, rather than figuring out what the jet plane is actually capable of. The jet plane being the body and the mind.

I am talking about Yoga. But wait, isn’t Yoga about physical exercise?

Yoga is the answer

Honestly, I did not know what the question is, though! And I am glad that I did not know the question. Be it physical, metaphysical, mental or spiritual, all the roads in these dimensions converge and emerge from Yoga. Yoga or Yog in Sanskrit means “to add” or “to join”. What are we adding or joining? I will get to that.

Yoga WM

Basically, there are four forms of Yoga. Yeah exactly, four. The Yoga you see in TVs is called “Kriyayoga”, and as the name suggests it is a set of actions. And these actions activate certain points in your physical and subconscious self. Then there are Bhaktiyoga (devotion), Gyanayoga (knowledge), Karmayoga (duty). It is only when a person does all the four Yogas in some proportion or the other (yeah, individual requirements are different), that (s)he sets in motion the harmony (answer to what we are joining or adding, from above) that propel her/him towards a higher state of being.

What can you achieve by going to a higher state of being? Well, I can’t tell you more, other than the fact that the view is nice from higher up. It will help you achieve control over things that happen to you and around you. It would mean your inner self is aligned with the outer being and the universe. You are part of everything and everything is a part of you.

My Yoga

In my case, in one way or other I was already doing the other three Yogas except Kriyayoga, subconsciously. In fact, we all do! And when I was suggested by good friend to add Kriyayoga to the mix, I gave it a try. And the results I have achieved surprise me. The results may seem insane to some. But again, sanity is a relative term. Sanity for some could be outright insanity for others.

The Kriyayoga that I do is called “Shambhavi Mahamudra”, taught by Sadhguru. I have done it for 108 days at a stretch, without fail. And I feel connected to myself and everything else around me like never before and that outcome itself is good enough. But, I am also exploring the capabilities of my body and mind (which are potentially limitless). And what 108 days these have been. Never in my life have I felt so empowered.

One piece of advice, though. Nothing undermines any form of Yoga more than doing Yoga with a specific purpose in mind. In fact, do not have any purpose at all. Let it do its own thing, and your transformation to another being will become possible in an infinite number of ways. But still, if you want to understand the tangible benefits that I derived from what I do, here are 10 of those:

  1. Better sleep quality
  2. Being endlessly energetic throughout the day
  3. No need of external stimulants
  4. Being happy all the time
  5. Worry a lot less
  6. Focus a lot more
  7. Fall sick a lot less (like never!)
  8. Observing an event from multiple point of views, simultaneously
  9. Sharper intuition

And last, but not the least, and my favourite one at that,

  1. Manifesting people, events and things into my life

But again, these are just the side effects, and changes that I have observed just at the surface level. The real achievement stays at a much much deeper level, and very personal at that.

When should you start?

Are you waiting for that bad time at office to get over to start Yoga? Are you waiting for your personal life to be sorted to start Yoga? May be you think you are too young to start Yoga? May be you think you are too strong to start Yoga? May be you want to experience “everything” before you embark on this path? Are you too cynical and think yoga doesn’t really help?

Well! I was waiting for that bad time to get over. I was waiting for my personal life to get sorted. I thought I was too young and strong to start Yoga (yes, I did!). I wanted to experience “everything” before I embarked on this path. And I was too cynical and really believed that Yoga doesn’t help. And, I realised that I had lost precious time thinking these. I don’t know if the things that worried me are at satisfactory level at present, because they really don’t bother me anymore.

Also, it is only wise to learn to pilot the jet plane and take off as soon as possible, rather than driving it around endlessly. No?

So, here is wishing all of you a healthy and content state of being.

Keep calm, do Yoga!

Please note: I do not have any intention of being a yoga teacher. But I can guide you to one of the best in the field. If you are keen, just drop me a message or a comment below.

In frame: My Gyanamudra

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Jagannath Series – Part II: The Krishna Connection

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.

Krishna Connection

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.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

Jagannath Series – Part I: Master of the Universe

There is hardly any lingusitic tribe in India, which relates to any particular God like Odias relate to Lord Jagannath. Being an Odia myself, I grew up in the midst of Jagannath culture. Most part of a religious Odia’s life (and majority of us are quite religious) revolves around Lord Jagannath, to the extent that the first invitation card of any auspicious occasion from an Odia household goes to Him. In even the smallest villages of Odisha, you will find a Jagannath temple, and all the rituals/festivals being observed as it happens in the Jagannath temple of Puri. Oh, and yes! For those of you unaware, it is said Odias observe thirteen festivals in a year i.e. in twelve months, and almost all of them are someway or the other related to Lord Jagannath.

Jagannath FB

Image: Lord Jagannath on his chariot Nandighosh, on His way to His aunt’s place during Rathyatra. 

So, what is it with the Odias and this seemingly “physically incomplete” deity? Wait! Did I just call a God “physically incomplete”? Well, I am allowed to. Because, although his name translates to “Master of the Universe” and Kings sweep his chariot, Lord Jagannath is as much a friend to all Odias, as he is God. He inspires as a friend, philosopher and guide to every Odia in true sense, to the extent that He lives like a human, His wife fights with Him like any other man’s wife, and He also dies like a human to take birth again. And He is also known as “Patitpavan”, which translates to “He who lifts the downtrodden”.

Among all the things that Lord Jagannath is to Odias, most importantly He is the pride, He is The Odia identity. And He is the ultimate symbol of valiant resistance by this tribe against attacks and oppression by foreign invaders – from Turks to Afghans to Mughals. The Jagannath temple in Puri has been attacked twenty times, over the centuries. And the tremendous belief that Odias put on Him can not be described in simple words. Why not! I mean, no other God is accessible, like Lord Jagannath is.

When a King was marching on a mighty kingdom to the south, He answered the King’s prayers, came out and marched ahead of the King’s army, and fought on the King’s side. When a low caste devotee was not allowed inside the temple to offer his prayers, Lord Jagannath himself walked down from his temple to accept his devotee’s offering. When his favorite devotee was not allowed inside the temple because he was a Muslim, Lord Jagannath made sure that His chariot stops in front of His favorite devotee’s tomb every year during Rathyatra.

Today happens to be “Bahuda”, the day of homecoming from His annual outing to his Aunt’s place. Well, that is what Rathyatra is all about! Didn’t I tell you in the beginning that He is more human than any God can be? At the same time, Rathyatra is also about meeting all those who could not pay Him a visit at His abode. And it is said, if you see Lord Jagannath on his chariot only once, you are free from the cycle of life and death and will attain Moksh.

True Master of the Universe, don’t you think?

And what better day to start a series on Him and related tales, legends and history (which also includes that of Konark, by the way), than on the day of His homecoming. Get ready for the “Jagannath series”, all of you!

Jai Jagannath!

In frame: Lord Jagannath on His chariot Nandighosh, on the way to His aunt’s place during Rathyatra 2017. Rathyatra is also one of the largest congregation of humans in the world.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Sees it all!

“Chaka aakhi sabu dekhuchi”, is a popular saying in Odia. Which translates to “Lord Jagannath sees it all”. Chaka in Odia means round, Aakhi in Odia means eyes. Notice His round eyes.

When I was in Puri last month, I had mentioned that I was planning to visit Puri during Rathyatra. Well, here is a secret! I was not planning, I had actually promised Him. 26 years were too long a gap, you see. You can read about my last month’s visit here.

Reached here in Puri, just in time to see the annual outing of the Gods, the Rathyatra of 2017. Saw Him gracefully moving towards his chariot (we call it Pahandi in Odia), with his crown (called Tahia in Odia) moving back and forth as He moved. I was quite far off when this was happening, at least couple of hundred meters, may be more. But as He appeared out of the temple main gates, the atmosphere was filled with cries of His name all around. And guess what, I am the first person from my whole family to witness it happening in front of my eyes (as confirmed by my father).

He sees it all!!
Lord Jagannath on a devotee’s t-shirt as he plays his Gini (a traditional Odia music instrument).

The energy on the Grand road (called Bada Danda in Odia) was so much, I saw people dancing for hours (you read that right!) to folk songs from all over Odisha, as well as to the tune of drums (dhol and mridang) and khanjanis (see picture to know what it is). It was like a rave party from another age. And it was as if they were drawing their energy from an eternal source, may be it was Him as He smilingly moved towards them on top his chariot. Because, what I saw there today is not humanely possible. You got to see it to believe it. And boy, was it overwhelming for me. Add to it all the people around (my estimate is half a million, at least), a perfect recipe to get disoriented (in a good way), call it trance!

There were a lot of traffic restrictions all around the town, so I walked all the way, and the last few kilometers were barefoot on the beach as the waves played hide and seek. By the time I reached back at my hotel, I must have clocked 15 kilometres, all in a days walk.

Now, as I sit in my hotel room and write this, I was thinking. How about I bring to you all the tales, legends, facts and stories about Lord Jagannath, that I know? Also, how about stories of Konark? You know that the construction of the Sun temple in Konark was related to events that unfolded in Puri, right?

So, let’s call them “Jagannath series”.

Signing off from Puri, land of Lord Jagannath!

In frame: Lord Jagannath on a devotee’s t-shirt as he plays his khanjani (a traditional Odia music instrument). You can see Him anywhere you want. You just need to look harder. And He sees you, all the time.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.