धरोहर

कहानियां बीते सदियों की जब हालात कुछ और हुआ करते,
इनसानों के बीच फुट कम, और पुल बहुत सारे थे जुड़ते।

सदी, जब ना था किसीका कोई भगवान, और ना कोई धर्म,
गोरा या काला, इनसान का रंग ना पैदा करता था कोई भ्रम।

जब मानसिकता नहीं थी भ्रष्ट, और ना था सोच में कोई पक्षपात,
सृष्टि का भला होता था एकमात्र धर्म, बस एक ही थी इनसानियत।

वैसी एक धरोहर हमरा हक था,
विरासत में मिला केवल विवाद,
फुट इतनी गहरी, और घाव इतने,
के पूरा समाज होने चला है बर्बाद।

क्या ऐसी एक धरोहर पर हक है हमारे बाद कि पीढ़ियों का?
क्या ये हमारा फ़र्ज़ नहीं के हम उनके लिए छोड़ जाएं कुछ अच्छा?

The stories of a different time altogether, when bridges between men outnumbered the differences.

A time when there was no God and no religion, and color of the skin did not create any confusions.

A time when the mentality was not corrupt and thoughts were not prejudiced, and everyone’s well-being was the only religion, and was the only humanity.

We deserved such a heritage. Instead, we inherited only differences, the fault-lines so deep and wounds so many, that the society is headed for destruction.

Do generations yet to come deserve such a heritage, a legacy of differences? Isn’t it our duty to leave something better for them?


Assembly Hall
The Assembly Hall, as this cave in the Bhimbetka rock shelters is called. It is open on both sides and held a very important place among the inhabitants. This cave was used for community meetings, with the boulder at the center believed to be the seat of the Chief.

Rock shelters of Bhimbetka were continuously inhabited from at least a hundred thousand years ago to as recently as the medieval period. These rock shelters look over the alluvial plains of the Betwa river (a tributary of Yamuna to the north), the plains which extend right up to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.

Bhimbetka gets its name from Bhim Baithak (sitting place of Bhim of Mahabharat). The rock shelters find themselves mouth of the Deccan traps, along the Dakshinapath, the ancient important trade route that connected the southern India, which lied beyond the Satpura-Vindhya range, with northern India. The location makes the then inhabitants of these rock shelters prime witnesses to India’s unfolding history – Lord Ram’s exile and subsequent southern campaigns, the exile of the Pandavs, civilizational shift from Indus plains to Gangetic plains, Emperor Ashoka’s ascend, rise of the Satavahans and Islamic invasion of southern India. It was as if destiny had reserved the best seats of an epic called “India”, for the “primitive” inhabitants of these rock shelters.

They first find mention in modern times in 1888, by British India officer W. Kincaid in his scholarly paper, the rock shelters were physically discovered only in 1957 by V. S. Wakankar. Though thought to have been lost, their proximity to Bhojpur, the ancient capital of Raja Bhoj, and to the Dakshinapath means there have been exchanges between the inhabitants of Bhimbetka and other human encampments/civilizations.

What make these rock shelters special and earn them the badge of a “World Heritage Site”, are the paintings on the rock faces, created by the inhabitants. The oldest painting here is believed to be at lease 30,000 years old (oldest existing painting in the world is at least 40,800 years old and is in El Castillo, northern Spain). And then there are the cup marks on few rocks, believed to be as old as the habitation itself in Bhimbetka, and would be earliest evidene of human creativity, and so make Bhimbetka one of the earliest cradles of cognitive human evolution in the entire world.

Rockshelters of Bhimbetka, is entire mankind’s heritage indeed!

Note: As I keep digging my storage device for photos from Bhimbetka, I will update this blog post.

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.

Danda Jatra – The Festival of Punishment

ହେ ଋଷିପୁତ୍ରେ!
ଆଇଲେ ହର, ଦେଇଗଲେ ବର,
ଅନ୍ୟ ସେବା ଛାଡି ଏ ସେବା କର।

ଏ ସେବା କଲେ କି ଫଳ ପାଏ,
ଉଷୁନା ଧାନ ଗଜା ହୁଏ,
ଶୁଖିଲା କାଠ କଞ୍ଚା ହୁଏ,
ଭଜାମୁଗ ଗଜା ହୁଏ,
ଅପୁତ୍ରିକ ପୁତ୍ର ଦାନ ପାଏ,
ଅନ୍ଧ ଚକ୍ଷୁଦାନ ପାଏ,
ଜରାରୋଗ ଭଲ ହୁଏ।

“Dear Sons of the Sages! Lord Shiva has come and granted you boons. Give up everything else and do this service. If you do this service, you can make the impossible possible, parboiled rice and fried green gram will sprout, dried wood becomes a living tree, childless mothers bear children, blinds get vision and old people become young again.”


It was the Hindu month of Chaitra and I was driving by a village in southern Odisha. While passing, by I heard the sound of the drums and the grave tune was potent enough to teleport you into another dimension. It had to be, for it was meant to please the fiercest forms of Shakti and Shiva – Goddess Dandakaali and Lord Rudra, respectively. As I grew curious and stopped the car, my father told me it was Danda Jatra, pronounced as thuh (as in “the”)-wn-daw zaat-ra, literally meaning the festival of punishment.

Drummers
Drummers beating a very grave tone, announcing the arrival of Danduas to villages from far off.

Danda Jatra traces back its origins to more than a millennium ago, when it found importance in the Tantrik practices of a predominantly Shakta (worshippers of Shakti) Kalinga of 10th century AD, or thereabouts. Danda Jatra is by the farming community and for the farming community, cutting across all castes, and revolves around the daily life of a farmer. In simple words, the practice revolves around the age old tradition of “barter”, wherein in this case the Dandua (as the people who take part in this festival are called) asks for a few wishes to be fulfilled by Goddess Dandakaali and Lord Rudra and in return promises to spend 13, 18 or 21 days in penance and abstinence (the punishment), spreading the message of Shiva and Shakti.

Danda Jatra
Danduas walking past a village in a procession holding these flags, to the beat of drums, and spreading the message of Shiva and Shakti.

Every team comprises of 13 Danduas and there are more than 300 teams in existence today. From the start, for 21 days the Danduas abstain from any kind of indulgence like meat (of all kinds), liqour and physical intimacy with their partners. On the strike of midnight of the first day, they take bath in the village pond, wear saffron colored clothes and congregate near the village temple. After a few rituals Hara-Gouri (basically Shiva and Shakti) are consecrated as two holy sticks (also called Danda in Odia). Then they light the holy fire by (you guessed it right!) rubbing two bamboo sticks against each other, and this holy fire remains lit till the end of the festival. I saw them roaming around in villages with the holy fire and the consecrated sticks, and blessing households and shops as the walked along.

Danda Jatra
A Dandua carrying the holy fire around the village, to bless the households and shops. The holy fire is kept lit for whole 21 days.

They go around giving performances in villages upon invitation, and through the use of comedy and light-heartedness (sometimes vulgar), they spread serious messages from the scriptures, about ways of life and righeousness. When they perform on the dirt, it is called Dhuli Danda (Dhuli in Odia means dust), and when it is in the water, it is called Pani Danda (Pani in Odia means water). And then there is something known as Danda Suanga, which usually starts around midnight and continues well into the morning next day.

I had heard about it as a kid and had seen it a couple of times when I went to the villages with my father. I had the opportunity of watching Dhuli Danda this time. The Danduas had made square shaped farmlands on the ground, by lying down on the dirt, and one of them acted as a farmer, who used two of them as oxen to cultivate the farmland and then planted seeds. And so the daily life of a farmer continued.

Dhuli Danda
The Danduas on the dirt are mimicking farmlands, and two running towards the camera are acting like oxen cultivating the farmlands. The Dandua behind them acting as the farmer.

Danda Jatra is one of the toughest festivals to take part in for the Danduas, high summer temperatures, lack of sleep, off-schedule and mainly midnight rituals, and just one full meal take a toll even on the most seasoned of them. The meal that is prepared is neither grinded nor boiled, and is offered to Goddess Dandakaali and Lord Rudra first. The Danduas have the food after that in the dead of the night, outside the village and amidst the deafening sound of the drums. They are not supposed to hear any sound while eating, not even that of a bird chirping. If they hear any such sound, or find any impurity in their food, they won’t take that food and stay hungry that night.

Exhausted
A Dandua sitting on the road exhausted. High summer temperatures, lack of sleep, off-schedule and mainly midnight rituals, and just one full meal take a toll even on the most seasoned of them.

On the day of Vishubh Sankrati (the day when Sun crosses the equator and moves into the northern hemisphere), also the last day of the Danda Jatra, the Pata (Paa-taw) Dandua, the leader of the team who wears only black, plays an important role. It is said that Goddess Dandakaali herself possesses him, and then he is tied upside down with holy fire lit right below his head. Sal tree resin (locally called Jhuna) is thrown into the fire repeatedly and it creates a lot of smoke. Amidst loud chantings, it is repeated till the Pata Dandua bleeds from the nose and exactly three drops of blood fall in the holy fire right below. This signifies Goddess Dandakaali having accepted the offerings, and the Danda Jatra culminates.

Pata Dandua
The Pata Dandua plays a very important role in the Danda Jatra, and acts as the medium of communication between Goddess Dandakaali, the Danduas and the villagers.

Danda Jatra is a religio-spiritual practice, and is held with reverence and much fanfare in rural southern Odisha, even after a millennium since it started. Modernity has influenced it in many ways. And, my quest for knowing the practices around Danda Jatra more intimately, and bringing them out to the larger audience, remains a medium-term project.

Jai Dandakaali!


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.

Bhakta Salabega

“ଆହେ ନୀଳ ଶୈଳ ପ୍ରବଳ ମତ୍ତ ବାରଣ,
ମୋ ଆରତ ନଳିନୀ ବନକୁ କର ଦଳନ।”
– ଭକ୍ତ ସାଲବେଗ

Dear Lord of the blue mountain, trample and subjugate my restless mind, like a mighty elephant destroys a lotus pond. Thus save me!
– Bhakta Salabega


Salabega (pronounced Saa-law-be-gaw), one of the greatest devotee of Lord Jagannath was a Muslim by birth. He wrote very beautiful devotional songs dedicated to the Lord. Bhakta Salbeg’s era dates back to about half a century after Kalapahad (yes, I will tell his story too, but that’s for a different time!) had wreaked havoc on Odias, in the early 1600s. Odisha was reeling under Mughal rule. Lalbeg was the Mughal subedar of the Odisha province at that time.

While returning from a conquest, Lalbeg fell for the beauty of a bathing Brahmin widow near a place called Dandamukundapur (which is near present day Sakhigopal between Bhubaneshwar and Puri). Lalbeg forcefully took away the Brahmin widow to his harem and married her. Bhakta Salabega born in 1607/08 AD was their only child. After growing up, Salabega accompanied his father to many military conquests. In one such battles Salabega was grievously injured.

On his death bed, Salabega listened to his mother who was still a Jagannath devotee and started praying to the Lord. By the grace of the Lord and under his mother’s care Salabega had a miraculous recovery and became Lord’s devotee for life. After recovery from his injuries Salabega went to Puri for Lord’s darshan but was turned away from the temple for his religion of birth. Heartbroken Salabega left for Vrindavan hoping that he would have the Lord’s darshan around a year later during Rathyatra.

When Salabega was returning to Puri during Rathyatra a year later, he fell ill midway. He was very disappointed, as now he would have to wait for another year to be able to see Lord Jagannath. So he started praying, and Lord Jagannath being how He is, obliged and His chariot Nandighosh didn’t move even an inch from where it was, till Salabega didn’t reach Puri, and was able to see Him in his own eyes.

After his death, Salabega was cremated at the same spot on Puri Badadand (grand road) where Nandighosh had stopped. His samadhi still stands there, and it is customary for Nandighosh, Lord’s chariot to stop in front of Salabega’s samadhi during Rathayatra.

Bhakta Salabega wrote many beautiful devotional songs dedicated to Lord Jagannath, each of those equally expressive of a devotee’s devotion and His greatness. “Ahe nila shaila”, pronounced “Aa-he nee-law shai-law” (the same one from where the opening lines of this post are taken) is the most well known. You can watch a much shorter and slightly modernised version of the original here.

For those of you interested in the original lyrics of “Ahe nila shaila”, below are the stanzas in Odia and their English translation.


Devotion
A Russian devotee of Lord Jagannath singing His praise right outside the Singhadwar (Lion gate) of the temple in Puri, Odisha.

“ଆହେ ନୀଳ ଶୈଳ”

ଆହେ ନୀଳ ଶୈଳ ପ୍ରବଳ ମତ୍ତ ବାରଣ,
ମୋ ଆରତ ନଳିନୀ ବନକୁ କର ଦଳନ।
“Dear Lord of the blue mountain, trample and subjugate my restless mind, like a mighty elephant destroys a lotus pond. Thus save me!”

ଗଜରାଜ ଡାକ ଦେଲା ଥାଇ ଘୋର ଜଳେଣ,
ଚକ୍ର ପେଶି ନକ୍ର ନାଶି କୃପା କଲ ଆପଣ।
“When the King of elephants cried out your name in pain when his foot was caught by a crocodile, you sent your disc to kill the crocodile and rescue the elephant. Thus save me!”

କୁରୁସଭା ସ୍ଥଳେ ଶୁଣି ଦ୍ରୌପଦୀର ଜଣାଣ,
କୋଟି ବସ୍ତ୍ର ଦେଇ ହେଳେ ଲଜ୍ଜା କଲ ବାରଣ।
“After hearing Draupadi’s cries for help from the Kuru court, you saved her from being ashamed in front of the court full of men by providing her with a million yards of clothes. Thus save me!”

ଘୋର ବନେ ମୃଗୁଣିକୁ ପଡିଥିଲା କଷଣ,
କେତେ ବଡ଼ ବିପତ୍ତିରୁ କରି ଅଛ ତାରଣ।
“When the deer was in excruciating pain in the dense forest, you saved her from a grave danger. Thus save me!”

ରାବଣର ଭାଇ ବିଭୀଷଣ ଗଲା ଶରଣ,
ଶରଣ ସମ୍ଭାଳି ତାଙ୍କୁ ଲଙ୍କେ କଲ ରାଜନ।
“When the Raavan’s younger brother Vibhishan came to take refuge under you, you gave him refuge and made him the King of Lanka. Thus save me!”

ଅଜାମିଳ ଡାକ ଦେଲା ଜୀବ ଯିବା ବେଳେଣ,
ତେଡ଼େ ବଡ଼ ପାପୀ ଗଲା ବଇକୁଣ୍ଠ ଭୁବନ।
“When a grave sinner like Brahmin Ajamik called out your name while dying, you liberated him. Thus save me!”

ପ୍ରହଲ୍ଲାଦ ପିତା ସେ ଯେ ବଡ଼ ଦୁଷ୍ଟ ଦାରୁଣ,
ସ୍ତମ୍ଭରୁ ବାହାରି ତାକୁ ବିଦାରିଲ ତକ୍ଷଣ।
“Prahalad’s father (a demon named Hiranyakashipu) was terrible and atrocious, and you came out of the pillar to tear him apart. Thus save me!”

ନୀଳାଚଳେ ବିଜେ କରି ବୌଦ୍ଧ ଅଵତାରେଣ,
ବେନି ଭୁଜ ଟେକି ପ୍ରଭୁ ଯାଚୁଅଛ ଶରଣ।
“You have chosen Neelachal (another name of Puri) as your abode, residing there as the Buddha incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and are offering shelter to everyone by lifting your hands.”

କହେ ସାଲବେଗ ହୀନ ଜାତିରେ ମୁଁ ଯବନ,
ଶ୍ରୀରଙ୍ଗା ଚରଣ ତଳେ କରୁଛି ମୁଁ ଜଣାଣ।
“Thus speaks the insignificant Salabega, who is a Muslim by birth, and I am appealing under your lotus feet, please save me!”


In frame: A Russian devotee of Lord Jagannath singing His praise right outside the Singhadwar (Lion gate) of the temple in Puri, Odisha. As was for Bhakta Salbeg, it is forbidden for this devotee also to enter the temple, because of his religion of birth and foreign origin.

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.

Genesis of Jagannath

The mythical King Indradyumna saw in his dream a manifestation of Lord Vishnu as Nila Madhava (the Blue Vishnu), in the form of an Indranil gem. He sent out his courtiers in all directions to find out more about his dream. Among the courtiers was Vidyapati, the younger brother of the royal priest. He travelled east from King Indradyumna’s capital city of Avanti (present day Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh). On his way he came to know about the legends of Kitung, a Sabara (tribal) God, being worshipped by the Sabara chief Vishwabasu. Kitung’s description sounded very much similar to that of what King Indradyumna had seen in his dreams.

With lot of difficulties, Vidyapati reached the Sabara village near Brahmadri hills on the banks of a big river (present day Mahanadi, in Odisha), the place where Vishwabasu lived along with his daughter Lalita and his other subjects. Vishwabasu was very secretive about the location of his God, Kitung, because he was bound by a pre-condition by Him that the day any outsider came to know about His secret location, He would vanish. After living there for many months, Vidyapati was able to win Lalita’s heart and gain Vishwabasu’s confidence, after being one of them.

After Vishabasu agreed for the marriage, on Vidyapati’s request he also agreed to take him to Kitung, but put up a condition that Vidyapati must be blindfolded for the entire route. Vidyapati agreed to this condition, however, secretly kept a handful of mustard seeds under his waist belt. While walking behind Vishwabasu, blindfolded and holding his hand, Vidyapati kept sprinkling the mustard seeds all through the way. After reaching the cave of Kitung, he could confirm that Kitung was what his King was looking for. He was indeed Nila Madhava.

On pretext of calling his parents and other family members for his marriage, Vidyapati went to Avanti, and reported to King Indradyumna about the location of Lord Nila Madhava. The King having found his Lord, gathered everyone and marched east, towards Vishwabasu’s village. Upon reaching the village, Vidyapati easily identified the route because the mustard seeds he had sprinkled had grown into small trees, and their bloom marked the path with their yellow flowers. When King Indradyumna reached the cave, with Vidyapati, Vishwabasu, Lalita and everyone else in toe, it was empty. Vishwabasu’s Kitung had vanished, as per the condition with him.

Having not found Nila Madhava, King Indradyumna repented. That’s when the voice from the heavens directed him and others to go further east, to the sea, where the Lord would then manifest Himself in the form of a very large, fragrant, reddish log, and the signs of conch, disc, mace, and lotus can be found everywhere on it. They were instructed to take out log from the sea, and make four deities out of it and worship them.

The location they found the log at would be present day Puri, on the east coast. The four deities would be the siblings – Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Goddess Subhadra, and Sudarshan. The descendants of Vidyapati and Lalita, and the people from Vishwabasu’s tribe still serve Lord Jagannath and His siblings in Puri. Vishwabasu’s village on the banks of Mahanadi is today known as Kantilo, in Nayagarh district in Odisha. A temple was built in later centuries and Lord Nila Madhava was consecreted at the same spot where Vishwabasu once worshipped Kitung.

What happened of King Indradyumna? Well, that’s a story for some other time!

I grew up listening to these as bed time stories, and at other times reading them from story books. The more I listened and read, I got fascinated by things of the past, legend or truth. I wonder if the later generations could ever relate to these.

Nila Madhava
A priest comes running down the stairs of the west gate of the Nila Madhava temple, in Kantilo, Nayagarh district, in Odisha.

In frame: A priest comes running down the stairs of the west gate of the Nila Madhava temple, in Kantilo, Nayagarh district, in Odisha. Kantilo is believed to be the place where Lord Jagannath was being worshipped in his earlier manifestation of Lord Nila Madhava or Kitung, by the Sabara chief Vishwabasu.

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.

Women in India

“यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः ।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥”
– मनुस्मृति

“The divine are extremely happy where women are respected; where they are not, all actions are fruitless.” – Manusmriti


All the women who are reading this, I beg for your forgiveness. I hope this International Women’s Day brings about a change, not just in words, but in actions too.

It was on the morning of 17th December 2012, I trembled as I read the gory details of what was done to Nirbhaya the previous night. How could men do those things to a woman? Were they men, after all? And weren’t they born to women? And Aruna Shanbaug, ever heard of her? Before dying, she spent forty three years in a vegetative state in Bombay hospital. Her only fault was she was alone in the basement of the hospital where she used to work as a junior nurse.

In India, five women get raped every hour, seven get assaulted every ten minutes. From worshiping the feminine form as the source of creation to committing unfathomable crimes against her, we as a society have deteriorated a long way. From revered Goddesses to not even as equals and objects of pleasure, how did this fall happen? This calls for some soul-searching as a civilization.

In 9,000BC, some eleven thousand years ago, emerge the first evidences of humans doing agriculture for the first time in the Indian subcontinent. Till then, humans had been hunter-gatherers, leading a primarily nomadic lifestyle. They would seasonally move up and down the subcontinent in search of food. Agriculture was a serious affair, the fields needed to be tended to, and the crops needed to be watered. And in this transitory phase, just when they were starting to hone their skills in agriculture, the humans of the subcontinent faced a new challenge. How to be hunter-gatherers and farmers at the same time?

Because the women were not as strongly built as their male counterparts, given their existence by nature was for a different purpose, the answer was obvious. The women stayed back and started to tend to the agricultural fields, while the men ventured out, at first to hunt/gather, and later in history to explore and conquer. There was the foundation of our civilization as a matriarchal one. And it functioned with women at the center, everything else revolving around them. Given the large role women played at that time in procreation and keeping the household sorted, they began to be revered as Goddesses. Progressively, women took over all the intellectual jobs/vocations, those which weren’t physically as demanding and did not include much travelling, and allowed them to act as the foundation of a household.

The early invaders of this civilization did not have much success, not because of the lack of their military prowess, but because the foundation of this civilization, its smallest unit, the household remained intact, thanks to the above design. Over the period, they changed their tactics and went after the very foundation itself. When the women were attacked, the men didn’t have a choice but to protect them, and hence they kept them inside the houses. After a few generations, the act of protection became “traditions”, and then followed the ill-practices of purdah and sati. As time passed women lost their rightful place in our societies, a seat above rest of us all, earned by them for being creators themselves.

We as a civilization  failed them, and continue to do so even today!

First of all, women don’t need equal rights as men. Because, equal right would be equal in true sense if men too are capable doing things that women do, including managing a household, taking care of everyone’s needs and child birth. As a man myself, I am incapable. So, when feminists shout for equal rights, I cringe and rightly so!

Secondly, women were created better than men, and any objectification or anything considered demeaning in the household and outside needs to be dealt with sternly. The mindset that women as someone inferior needs to be shunned.

And lastly, just let her be. Stop ogling!

Remember, we can’t be the Vishwaguru if we keep ill-treating the source of creation itself.

Innocence
A small girl smiling for the camera on the hanging bridge across the Bhagirathi river, in Nautela, Uttarakhand.

In frame: A small girl smiling for the camera. Her smile could qualify for borderline grinning. I was busy taking photographs on the hanging bridge across the Bhagirathi river, in Nautela, Uttarakhand when I saw her and her tiny tot friends crossing. They were really fascinated by the camera in my hand.

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.

 

The Last Gajapati

ईन्द्रद्युम्नो महाराजो जगन्नाथार्चकः पुर,
जातः प्रतापरुद्रः सन् सम ईन्द्रेण शो धून।

King Indradyumna, who previously worshiped Lord Jagannath and built His temple in Puri, was born as Prataprudra, with the same opulences as Indra himself. (Gauro Ganoddesha Dipika)

When the reigns of Gajapati kingdom were handed over to Gajapati Prataprudra Deva, borders of Kalinga extended from river Ganga in Bengal in the north to Kaveri in the south and bordered the Bahamani in the west. His title read Gaudeshwara – Lord of Gaudadesh (present day Bengal), Nava Koti – King of nine crore subjects, Karnata Kalabargeshwara – Lord of Karnataka and Gulbarga (Bahamanis ruled from Gulbarga, or Kalaburgi as it is known today). Undoubtedly the most illustrious King of Kalinga, he was the longest serving monarch of the Gajapati kingdom and ruled for forty-three years (1497-1540 AD), and he was also the last.  In 16th century AD the Indian subcontinent was going through unprecedented churning and the Gajapati empire of Kalinga was not untouched.

The last King to have ruled when Kalinga at its greatest extent also happened to rule during the time when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was spreading the message of Bhakti (devotion) through out the Indian subcontinent. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself. Such was his appeal among everyone that once when the fierce armies of Gajapati Prataprudra Deva and that of the Sultan of Bengal were fighting a battle with each other, He and His devotees crossed unharmed right across the battleground into Kalinga.

Gajapati Prataprudra Deva was a devout Vaishnava. Prataprudra Deva had always wished to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but was denied audience, because Mahaprabhu was an ascetic, and having renounced material life He did not want to have anything to do with women and Kings. Till the time He had only heard that Prataprudra Deva led a very simple life, unlike that of any other King, having utmost respect for scholars and learned men. To test Prataprudra Deva further, He even likened Prataprudra Deva to a black snake obsessed with power. The King was disheartened and even went to the extent of abdicating the throne, so that he would be able to meet with Mahaprabhu. Prataprudra Deva was advised against it.

The King of Kalinga is not the King, but merely a servitor of Lord Jagannath, and rules the land in His name and only as His representative. Lord Jagannath is the true King. As a normal servitor, the King with a broom in his hands, sweeps the three chariots of the siblings – Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra, during the annual Rathyatra festival, during which they embark on their annual visit to their aunt. And this has been the practice from millenia.

And it was during Rathyatra, that Mahaprabhu saw Prataprudra Deva sweeping the chariot like a common man. Impressed with Prataprudra Deva’s humility and piety, Mahaprabhu granted him a special power through which he could see miracle that was about to unfold. Prataprudra Deva saw there were seven groups of devotees dancing in front of the chariots, and each of the groups had Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu dancing with them. He was there with all seven groups, at the same time. Seeing the miracle Prataprudra Deva’s beliefs became stronger about Mahaprabhu being an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and hence Lord Jagannath himself.

Devotion
Devotees of Lord Jagannath praying when he appears on his chariot, during Rathyatra.

In the meantime, Prataprudra Deva saw that Mahaprabhu took a break from dancing and went to a nearby garden. He followed Him, changed his clothes from that of a King to that of a commoner, and started recited verses from Mahaprabhu’s favorite chapter from the Bhagavatam. Moved by the way the King recited the verses, Mahaprabhu told him, “I have nothing material with me to give you, however I can embrace you.” And then He embraced the King.

It is believed that the mythical King Indradyumna had built the Jagannath temple in Satyayug. Gundicha Devi, the aunt to whose place Lord Jagannath travels every year during Rathyatra was the queen of King Indradyumna. As events turned out, King Indradyumna could not meet his Lord for the last time before dying, and hence took birth as Gajapati Prataprudra Deva during the time of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu so that he could meet his Lord in flesh and blood.

More about Gajapati Prataprudra Deva:

Gajapati Prataprudra Deva did not have a smooth sailing as the King. He was only seventeen years old when he faced his first challenge, an invasion from the north, by the Sultan of Bengal (1497-1500 AD). He had just finished defending the north of his empire, when he was challenged from the south, this time by the Vijayanagara empire (you can read more about the Vijayanagara empire in my earlier post called “The Torchbearer” by clicking here). His Vijayanagara campaign was about to end after eight years (1500-08 AD), when the Sultan of Bengal again sent his general, who taking advantage of the absence of Gajapati, was able to march all the way till Puri. Prataprudra Deva hurried back and in 1509 AD drove out the invading army of Sultan of Bengal.

In 1509 AD, the most illustrious emperor of Vijayanagara, Krishnadevaraya ascended the throne (you can read about Krishnadevaraya in one of my earlier posts by clicking here). He challenged the Gajapati’s supremacy, and Kalinga and Vijayanagara were locked in battle that lasted for seven years (1512-19 AD). The battle ended when Prataprudra Deva conceded defeat after the capture and death of his son and crown prince Virabhadra. The Gajapati had to retreat to the north of river Krishna as per the treaty. A few years later, the Gajapati supremacy was challenged by Quli Qutub Shah, of Qutub Shahi dynasty of Golconda, and remained greatly intact with only minor losses of territory.

Apart from defending the borders of Gajapati kingdom to a very large extent during a largely tumultuous period in the Indian subcontinent, Prataprudra Deva also patronized art and literature, himself having authored nine literary pieces in Sanskrit. It was during his time that the Panchasakha (five poets and friends Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Ananta Dasa, Achyutananda Dasa and Jasobanta Dasa) produced their best work and flourished despite being openly opposed to few of Prataprudra Deva’s actions. This proves that the King was very tolerant and lenient towards his dissenting subjects too.

With the Gajapati kingdom ended the military hegemony that Kalinga held in the Indian subcontinent, which had so far helped Kalinga sway history in its favor, right from the time of Emperor Kharavela in 2nd century BC.


You can read my other works related Lord Jagannath here:
1. A wait too long – Click here
2. Sees it all – Click here
3. Master of the Universe – Click here
4. The Krishna Connection – Click here

In frame: Devotees of Lord Jagannath praying when he appears on his chariot, during Rathyatra. This unique way of praying, extending two arms in the air with open palms symbolizes the devotees urging to Lord Jagannath to rescue them from the figurative mortal sea. Interestingly, the followers of Mahima Dharma also pray in a similar fashion.

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.

 

 

The Torchbearer

अविद्यारण्यकान्तारे भ्रमतां प्राणिनां सदा ।
विद्यामार्गोपदेष्टारं विद्यारण्यगुरुं श्रये ॥

To souls that wander in utter dismay in the dense forests of ignorance, He shows the path of true wisdom; In sanctuary of that great Saint Vidyaranya!

Not many people from the past have contributed to the shaping of India as a civilization as it is today, like Saint Vidyaranya did. Saint Vidyaranya was 12th Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peeth mutt and was the chief pontiff for six years, from 1380-86 AD, before attaining Samadhi. He succeeded his younger brother, the 11th Jagadguru of Sringeri mutt Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha, who was the chief pontiff for forty-seven years, from 1333 AD till his Samadhi in 1380 AD. Saint Vidyaranya was probably by far the shortest serving chief pontiff of all the monasteries founded by Adi Shankara. What contribution could Saint Vidyaranya have done in those six years that could have shaped the civilization to such a large extent. Well, it wasn’t what he did in those six years, but what he did before that!

Once Saint Vidyaranya was in deep meditation on the Matanga hill, near Hampi, in present day Karnataka (Oh! You have an idea where this is headed?), when he was approached by two brothers, Hakka (Harihara Raya) and Bukka (Bukka Raya). These two brothers were commanders in the army of the Kakatiya King of Warangal. In the battle with the army of Sultan Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, they were captured and taken to Delhi, where they were forcefully converted to Islam. After having won the confidence of the Sultan, they were sent back south to establish order. Seizing an opportunity, they converted back and declared independence. They had come to Saint Vidyaranya to seek guidance, after one of them had a dream about it. That is how the foundation of Vijayanagara empire was laid.

Legend has it that Saint Vidyaranya chose a site for the capital city, Hampi, for the empire to last for eternity. As per the legend, this was the place where a hare had stared down a tiger while being chased. Apparently, after some studies he came up with the exact date when the foundation was to be laid by the two brothers, and the chosen auspicious time was some time in the night. The legend goes on that he instructed Hakka and Bukka to touch the pick-axe to the ground and there by symbolically lay foundation of the city, at the precise moment when they hear the conch that he would sound from far off. As per the legend, it didn’t go according to the plan. It was pitch dark and both the brothers were waiting for the sound of conch to touch the pick-axe to the ground. And finally, after hearing it, they followed the rituals as instructed. After the rituals were done, they returned back to their horses, and that was when they heard the conch again. Confused, they rode back to Saint Vidyaranya and reported hearing two conchs. That’s when Saint Vidyaranya apparently had an inkling of the empire not lasting forever. Vijayanagara empire lasted for slightly more than three centuries.

The contributions of  Vijayanagara to the civilization, be it in literature, architecture, irrigation, economy, trade, diplomacy or military campaigns and tactics, are immense. For example, when Babur was establishing his foothold in the north, Vijayanagara was being ruled by one of its most prominent rulers – Krishnadevaraya. If not for him, Babur probably wouldn’t have hesitated marching down south, and India as we know today as a civilization would have been completely different. I wrote something on parallel history, where I touched upon this topic and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

As advised by Saint Vidyaranya, Harihara ascended the throne of Vijayanagara empire first, while the work on the new capital in Hampi was still on. He reigned for twenty years. After him, his brother Bukka ascended the throne and reigned for twenty one more years. It is during the reign of Bukka that the capital was shifted from Anegondi to Hampi. Saint Vidyaranya was the spiritual guru and a trusted advisor of the Emperors of Vijayanagara for close to half a century, during which time the boundaries of Vijayanagara as well as its prosperity expanded manifolds. It was during his time that the Sringeri Jagadguru came to be addressed as ‘Karnataka Simhasana Pratishtapanacharya’. It is believed that he also initiated the first three Emperors of Vijayanagara into Atmavidya, the Emperors who ruled Vijayanagara in its formative days for seventy years among themselves.

Legends aside, the new capital of Hampi was designed under the guidance of Saint Vidyaranya as a Sri Chakra. A Sri Chakra has nine triangles of varying sizes with a centre point. The triangles are arranged in five concentric levels, and are circumscribed by two concentric circles, a total of seven levels. Hampi has Virupaksha temple at the center, seven layers of fortified walls, with nine gates around. Well, Connect the dots?

Sun and the hawk
The setting sun over the rugged terrain of Hampi, capital of erstwhile Vijayanagara empire, in Karnataka, India.

Had Saint Vidyaranya not laid the foundation of Vijayanagara empire and had not imbibed his teachings in the early rulers, don’t you think our history would be entirely different? During the course of my research, I have developed an interest for Sringeri, in Karnataka, and have added to the list of places I must visit.

विद्याविद्याविवेकेन पारं संसारवारिधेः ।
प्रापयत्यनिशं भक्तान् तं विद्यारण्यमाश्रये ॥

In the sanctuary of Saint Vidyaranya, who holds aloft the torch of discrimination between the knowledge of the real from unreal, and helps the devoted across the sea of birth!

In frame: The setting sun over the rugged terrain of Hampi, capital of erstwhile Vijayanagara empire, in Karnataka, India. As if the drama unfolding in the horizon to the west was not enough, this hawk while returning to its nest unexpectedly flew into my frame, heightening the drama manifolds. Decisive moment, I say!

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.

ଘରବାହୁଡା

ସବୁ ସନ୍ଧ୍ୟାରେ ସଜବାଜ ହୁଏ ଗତକାଲିର ନିରାଶାକୁ ଭୁଲି,

ବାର ବର୍ଷ କାଳ ଅପେକ୍ଷାରେ ତୋର ହେଇଟି ଆସିବୁ ବୋଲି।

ମାଆ ମୋର କୁହେ, “ଝିଅ ଲୋ, ସେ ଆସିବନି ଆଉ ଫେରି”,

ହେଲେ ମୁଁ ଆସି ଠିଆ ହୁଏ ଦୁଆରେ ହେଲେ ଯେତେ ବି ଡେରି।

ଗାଁକୁ ଫେରନ୍ତି ସାଙ୍ଗ ସାଥି ହେଲେ ତୋର ସେତେ ସମୟ କାହିଁ,

ମନ୍ଦିର ତୋଳାରେ ବ୍ୟସ୍ତ ଅଛୁ ତୁ, ଆଉ କୋଉଠି ତୋ ଧ୍ୟାନ ନାହିଁ।

ତୋ ମୁକୁତା ହାର ଗଳାରେ ମୋର, ସିଏ ବି ଗଲାଣି ଥକି,

ସତେ ଯେମିତି ପଚାରେ ମୋତେ, “ସେ ଆଉ ଆସିବନି କି?”

ସବୁ ସନ୍ଧ୍ୟାରେ ଠିଆ ହୁଏ ବୋଲି ଗାଁ ଲୋକ କହିଲେଣି କେତେ କଥା,

କେହି ଡାକିଲାଣି ମୋତେ ଅଳସକନ୍ୟା ତ ଆଉ କିଏ ଡାକେ ଅଭିସାରିକା।

ବାର ବର୍ଷ ତଳେ ଯାଇଥିଲୁ ତୁ, କହିଲୁ ଫେରିବି କିଛି ଦିନରେ,
ମନ୍ଦିର ତୋଳା ତୋର ସରିନି ଆହୁରି, ଘରକୁ ଜଲଦି ଫେରେ।

Abhisarika
A sculpture of a lady waiting with half the door open, with a smile on her face. You can see this on the south side of Konark temple, in Odisha, India.

The Odia poem I wrote above is called “ଘରବାହୁଡା”, (pronounced as ghaw-raw-baa(as in baba)-hu(as in who)-da(as in dark), which means homecoming. A fiction based poem, the central character is a woman, who has been separated from his male consort or husband for twelve long years, because he is a sculptor by profession, and has been summoned by the King of the land, for construction of the Sun temple at Konark. She narrates how she dresses up every evening and stands near the door smiling, hoping against hope that he would come back, even though she had returned inside disappointed the previous evening. It has been twelve years and even her mom has now lost hope that he would ever return, but she stands and waits every evening, no matter how late. Even the pearl necklace that he had gifted her has become pale, as if tired of waiting for him and asking her whether he would ever return. Looking at her standing at the door every evening, people around her have starting thinking of her a dance girl, or a whore, in search of patrons. Then she goes on to urge him to come back home as soon as possible, regardless of the temple completion.

This sculpture, might be a figment of imagination of the sculptor, shows how his consort or wife might be waiting for him to return. By the time he must have finished this sculpture, he must have been away from home for twelve long years, or slightly more. Did you notice the smile on the figurine’s face? This was how the sculptor must have imagined to see her upon his return home, with a smile on her face.

1200 architects and sculptors took twelve years to build the Sun temple at Konark and it was finished in 1256 AD. King Narasimha Deva III spent 40cr gold coins to build this architectural marvel, the cost also included that of land reclamation from the sea (you heard that right!), as it is believed that the temple was built in the sea. There are many legends and stories associated with Konark, which I am saving for some other time, with your permission of course!

In frame: A sculpture of a lady waiting with half the door open, with a smile on her face. You can see this on the south side of Konark temple, in Odisha, India. Konark temple is full of sculptures which showcase every human emotion, and not only erotica as is popularly believed. In the words of Ravindranath Tagore, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.”

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.

Crimson Love

I had fallen back, to witness the drama that was unfolding in the sky.

My guide called out my name from a distance….

It was only minutes ago that he was here,
Telling me stories from the yesteryear,
Tales of opulence, generosity, valor and love,
For an open heart it was like a treasure trove.

Of all the stories, one was of interest in particular,
A King, his Queen, and love that was spectacular,
A poetess and a singer, she could bring words to life,
Smitten by her, the King convinced her to be his wife.

They were living happily ever after, or so they thought,
A big army attacked the kingdom, and a battle fought,
The King was killed in battle, was what the messenger told,
The Queen drank poison, and her lifeless body went cold.

The medieval fort, a witness to her love story,
Her eternal love for him that took her to glory,
Walking on that pavilion even I felt as a part it,
Kind of gloomy that in the end they couldn’t unite.

I glanced beyond the ramparts, as I walked back…

Crimson sun set over the horizon,
Leaving behind a familiar emotion.

And as it went…

The hues that it painted and the winter sky it tore,
Colors of desire and pain, that touches one’s core.

More than a year has gone since…

Crimson, is the color that I remember of that evening,
Of longing, the want of belonging and a love undying.

Crimson Love, ‘t was!

Drama in the sky
Brilliant hues of the winter sky just after the sunset, as seen from Roopmati pavilion in Mandu

I had earlier written a Hindi poem on Roopmati and called it “Jauhar”. You can read it here.

Mandu, or Mandav was capital of erstwhile kingdom of Malwa. Mandu is dotted with love tales of Sultan Baz Bahadur of Malwa, and his queen consort Roopmati.

Kingdom of Malwa used to be a vassal of the Mughals, and had declared indepedence taking advantage of the instability that ensued just after Akbar had taken control.

Akbar then sent his foster brother Adham Khan and a large contingent of the Mughal army to subdue Malwa. Adham Khan, who had by then heard of Roopmati’s enchanting beauty, had resolved to defeat Malwa and take her as a prized possession of his harem.

Baz Bahadur faced Adham Khan and the Mughals in Sarangpur with a small contingent. Baz Bahadur’s contingent was no match for the mighty Mughals and he escaped after being defeated.

Adham Khan then marched on to Mandav. Thinking that Baz Bahadur was slained in the battle, Roopmati poisoned herself, as she could not have seen another man in her life. Such was her love.

In due time, Adham Khan was executed by Akbar. Baz Bahadur surrendered to Akbar and was in return made the mansabdar of Malwa.

And for Roopmati, her love and loyalty for Baz Bahadur still fascinates imagination of the new generation of tourists to Mandu.

In frame: Brilliant hues of the winter sky just after the sunset, as seen from Roopmati pavilion in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, India. Roopmati pavilion was built by Sultan Baz Bahadur for Roopmati, so that she could Narmada darshan everyday (one of her pre-conditions to her marriage with him). Narmada flows at a distance, in the plains.

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.

One toe!

“इति श्रीरावण-कृतम्
शिव-ताण्डव-स्तोत्रम्
सम्पूर्णम्”

“Thus ends the Shiva Tandava Stotram, written by Sri Raavan.”

You subjugate all nine planets (navaghrah), all three worlds – heaven, earth and underworld, and all living beings. You are master of such knowledge that even your worst enemies would seek your presence to consecrate yagyas and offer prayers on their behalf. Things like all the wealth of the world is yours for the taking (albeit by force from your half-blood brother). When you are the strongest, the most knowledgeable and the most intelligent being alive, you would have some pride, wouldn’t you? Raavan did.

Was anything impossible for Raavan? Virtually no! Apparently, Naarad once told him that if could impress Lord Shiva somehow, He would grant Raavan boons that would make him invincible. As nothing was impossible for Raavan, he marched to Mount Kailash the adobe of Lord Shiva. Upon reaching, he did penance for many years but Lord Shiva was unimpressed. Angry with ignorance, Raavan sat down on one knee and picked up Mount Kailash on his shoulders, Mount Kailash with Lord Shiva and His family on it.

When He felt the tremors, Lord Shiva understood what was happening. To teach Raavan a lesson, while sitting on top of Mount Kailash He pushed it down with one toe. Raavan, the strongest, the most knowledgeable and the most intelligent being alive, was pinned down, and cried out loud in pain (and hence Lord Shiva gave him the name Raavan, from its Sanskrit root word “Ru”, which means to cry, bewail, roar, scream).

Lord Shiva was unmoved by Raavan’s cries. Raavan’s pain was compounded by the agony of not being able to impress Him, so he decided to do the unthinkable. Still pinned down under Mount Kailash, he ripped apart one of his heads (he had ten!) and one of his hands, took out his intestines and used them as strings to make a makeshift Veena, and started singing praises of Lord Shiva, which would go on to become known as Shiva Tandava Stotram (click here), which is still sung by devotees of Lord Shiva.

Raavan, the strongest, the most knowledgeable and the most intelligent being to have ever lived – fixed with one toe!


In the mortal world, nothing comes closer to depiction of Mount Kailash and the many stories associated with, than Kailash Temple in Ellora, Maharashtra, India. A World Heritage Site and commissioned by the Rashtrakutas, built in 8th century AD, Kailash (also known as cave no. 16) measuring 82m X 46m, is a megalith, i.e. built from one single rock. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Kailash Temple
Kailash Temple is a World Heritage Site and was dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Kailash Temple was built top down (unlike other temples which are built bottom up) from a single rock mountain. It is estimated that in the process of building this temple, 400,000 tonnes of rock must have been scooped out, yet there is no large deposit of excavated rock to be seen nearby.

The temple is filled with depictions of many stories from the mythologies, and also includes full depiction of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The elephants carved at the base of the main temple give an impression as if they are holding the temple aloft. The ground floor of the main temple is solid rock, and takes the weight of the huge Shivling in the sanctum on the first floor. If looked closely, one can also see a painting on the ceiling in the first floor, and the painting has stayed intact more than a millenium.

The courtyard is surrounded by an arcade three stories high and depicting stories related mainly to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu through lively sculptures, complete with even facial expressions.

All of it, from one freakin’ rock, which was freakin’ ‘uge!


In frame: Front view of the Kailash Temple, in Ellora, Maharashtra, India. A World Heritage Site, Kailash Temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva and built in 8th century AD. It is a megalith i.e. built top down from a single rock mountain.

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.