Three Great Devotees of Lord Jagannath
BY: SOMANATH JENA
Jan 18, PURI, ORISSA (SUN) Bhakta Manohar Das and the Padma Besha (Lotus dress) of Lord Jagannath of Shriksetra, Puri.
Lord Jagannath is connected with numerous Besha (dressing for appearance) on stipulated days linked with specific incidences that happened in the past. The Beshas help the devotees to remember those happenings and inspire the devotees perennially. The dressing has become the ritualistic regular tradition in Srimandir, Puri. Padma Besha (to dress Lord Jagannath with Lotus flowers) is one of such important Besha. Traditionally from the Sukla Sasti of Margasira month till the Basanta Panchami, the Sri Vigrahas, seated in Ratnasinghasan of Sri Mandir, Puri are covered with winter wrappers at night called 'Ghoda Lagi' to protect the Lord from excessive cold.
On the Wednesday or Saturday, coming in between Amabasya of Magha and Basanta Panchami, the Lord is dressed in Padma Besha. On the Wednesday, the wrapper covering the Vigraha is blue in colour and on Saturday the colour of wrapper is black during the 'Ghoda Lagi' period. In case of the Besha falling on Wednesday, the Lotus dressing is a blue wrapper covered around Vigraha. The Chandan Lagi (Sandal paste offering) is made, than in Badasinhar such Lotus Besha is made and the Vigraha is dressed accordingly at night.
Lord Jagannath is reputed as devotee friendly: Bhakta Batsal and Babagrahi, receiver of pure devotion thought, and Bhakta Rakhyakari, protector of the dignity of devotees for ages together. He cannot sit peacefully in the Ratnasinhasan when his Bhakta is tortured and unable to meet Him. There are many incidents recorded in history, Puranas and Daryata Bhakti. One such incident is that of Bhakta Monohar Das, who was living in village Sahapur, on the bank of the sacred river Rishikulya in Orissa. The period, according to history, is during the rule of King Udyot Keshari, towards the last part of the 10th century A.D. in Orissa.
This devotee, Sadhu Manohar Das, started his journey from distant village Sahapur to Srikhetra Puri on foot covering a long distance and reached Srikhetra Puri on the Amabasya day of Magha month. For days together, he walked on the road to reach Puri. Over the course of his long journey, Manohar Das on his way found a tank in the road side and found beautiful hundred-petalled red lotuses flowering and floating on the water of the tank. It came to the mind of devotee Manohar Das out of devotional sentiment that some flowers can be collected for offering to the Supreme Lord at Puri. Accordingly, forgetting the distance and time factor to reach Puri, he collected some fresh lotus flowers and packed those in his Gamuchha (Red towel) by binding through knot. He reached Puri Dhama and halted at Badachhata Matha, just adjacent to the Sri Mandir boundary wall of the eastern side in the right side of 'Purba Dwar'. Throughout the painful and long journey, his mind and thought were ever filled with joy that he was going to offer lotus flowers to Lord Jagannath. No other thought disturbed him. He proceeded and reached inside the temple. The Sevakas asked what he has knotted in his Gamuchha. He opened the knot and showed the lotus flowers. But alas! Those lotus flowers were no more fresh. They had already dried, some having rotted with their colour changed to pale and black.
The Sevakas beat him with cane sticks for bringing rotten flowers and due to severe injury and mental shock, Manohar Das fell on the ground unconscious. The people of Badachhata Matha brought him back and put him to rest in an unconscious stage in the Matha. In the dream, Gajapati, Maharaja of Puri could see the Lord telling him to go to Manohar Das, to take the lotus flowers from him and offer to Him and allow devotee Manohar Das to enter the temple to share His sevas and darshan. The Gajapati, called the Rajaguru, namely Bhavadeva, and told the contents of his dream. The Rajaguru took Manohar Das and the Lotus packed Gamuchha to the Sri Mandir. In front of the Vigrahas he opened the knot, asked the Sevakas to offer the Lotus by taking from the Gamuchha of Manohar Das. And Lo! the lotuses, though they were previously dry and black in colour, got a fresh lease on life, became fresh, red and purple coloured, and emanated divine and sweet fragrance. Being put on the Vigraha the Lord showed His smiling face with appearance as if blessing all.
To remember such exchange of love between the Supreme Lord and the devotee, and to inspire other devotees, each year Padmabesha is made on the fixed day. Badachhata Matha offers Khiri seva to the Lords on this day in Srimandir. That Khiri Prasad is distributed next day to the devotees.
Till Swami Rasikananda's arrival, the Cars of the Holy Triad could not move to reach Sri Gundicha Temple at Puri Dham.
Lord Jagannath of Puri Dham always understands the devotion of His devotees. He waited for the arrival of Muslim devotee Salabeg and Bhakta Balia Balaram Das to move in His car from Lion Gate of Sri Mandir to go to Sri Gundicha temple. Another such incident of His waiting for His devotee, Swami Rasikananda in his Car during the annual Car Festival at Puri is worth mentioning.
Rasikananda was born in the year 1590 A.D. at Rohininagar, situated on the bank of river Subarnarekha, which is now in Balasore District of Orissa. The boy's name was Rasika Murari. His passion for the Lord was found in his childhood when he was uttering the name of Lord Krishna constantly. Like his father, he was uttering the name of Lord Krishna while sitting on a sacred place called Ghantasila, being in meditation of the calm Form of Lord Krishna. At that time, the great devotee Sri Shyamananda Thakur was studying the devotional scriptures at Vrindaban, after getting initiation from the Vaisnava Guru, Sri Jiva Goswami. One day, while Sri Shyamananda was sitting absorbed in meditation in a lonely garden, Bhagavan Sri Madan Gopal Himself appeared before him and said "Syamananda, immediately proceed to Utkal where Bhakta Rasika Murari, who is very dear to me, is meditating and chanting My Name constantly. Initiate him in the Mantra of Sri Krishna and preach my love and devotion widely".
But Sri Syamananda, though he came to his senses at once by this incident, could not at the outset believe the command of the Lord. So in the next few moments, Sri Gopal appeared before Sri Jiva Goswami and ordered him to tell Syamananda to immediately proceed to Utkal and initiate devotee Rasika Murari in Sri Krishna Mantra and preach the art of love and devotion. Sri Shyamananda Goswami reached Utkal in the year 1608 A.D., initiated Rasikananda (the name of Rasika Murari after initiation) and stayed at Utkal, now in Orissa and devoted the remaining period of his life in preaching love and devotion of Sri Krishna. The Matha where he stayed is now at Kanpur, nearly 4 km from Rasgovindpur and at about 46 km. from Baripada, the District headquarters of Mayurbhanj district in Orissa State. There the wooden sandals he used to put on, his winter wrapper like Kantha, and his Samadhi are there. In the Year 1630 A.D., Syamananada Swami breathed his last.
Rasikananda Swami was living in a Matha at Gopiballavpur on the bank of the river Subarnarekha, which was on the northern border of the Ex-State of Mayurbhanj, (at present in Nayabasan Tehsil of West Midnapur District of West Bengal) and at a distance of 47 km on road from Baripada via Jamsola. The Matha is in a very dilapidated condition due to lack of maintenance and preservation.
Once, while Sri Rasikananda Swami was living as a guest of king Baidyanath Bhanj of Banapur, the Muslim Subedar Ahmed Baig who was kept in charge of Orissa, became much irritated with the devotion of Sri Krishna, preached by Rasikananda, which was widely acceptable to the common mass. Subedar Baig became furious and asked Swami Rasikananda to pacify a ferocious and rogue wild elephant by his power of devotion to Lord Krishna. This is the test of his devotion. If he fails, he will be punished severely. Rasikananda fearlessly approached the rogue elephnat and whispered the name and mantra of Lord Sri Krishna in both the ears of the elephant. Instantly, the nature of the elephant was changed and he became, peaceful, obedient and in token of respect for Saint Sri Rasikananda, the elephant prostrated at his feet. On seeing this miraculous power of the Sri Krishna mantra which Rasikand preached, Ahmed Baig became stunned and he himself started glorifying the merit and greatness of Sri Rasikananda Swami.
Thereafter, Rasikananda returned to Gopiballavpur. Once an intense desire to see the Lord Jagannath of Puri came to his mind. He started to proceed on foot to Puri and on the way he was to visit sacred places at Jajpur and other places of pilgrimages located on the bank of the river Baitarani. There was delay, as a result of which he could not reach Puri Dhama in time. On the day of Gundicha, the day of the Car Festival, the car started moving from Lion's Gate towards Sri Gundicha temple in Badadanda. Knowing this, Sri Rasikananda Swami prayed from the core of his heart saying "Oh Lord, kindly favour me by staying in the car till my arrival, to enable me to have your darshan in the car during Car Festival. Kindly wait for my arrival. "
Mahaprabhu Lord Jagannath is Bhabagrahi and Bhaktabatsal and Bhaktabandhu. He waited for his sincere devotee in the Nandighosa Ratha and none of the three Rathas, including His own, moved an inch forward. The Thakur Maharaja was perplexed at this. Even horses and elephants in large number, being yoked to pull the three Rathas, failed to drag it an inch forward. All efforts failed. The Gajpati king prayed and took shelter of Lord Sri Jagannath to favour him to solve the situation. In his dream, Lord Jagannath told the king - "My devotee Rasikananda is hurriedly rushing to see me on the car during the Car Festival. He is approaching Puri and is now at Tulasichoura, located very near, please wait for his arrival. After his arrival and seeing me in the car, the cars will move of their own accord in the usual pulling." In fact, the dream came true when the king received Rasikananda Swami and on his touching the cars with his hands, the cars ran on the road being dragged by the devotees and reached Sri Gundicha Temple smoothly. The record testifies the event to have taken place in the year 1640 A.D.
On request of the king, Rasikananda stayed with Sri Vigraha Batakrushna in "Kunja Matha", located on the side of Sri Mandir. In fact, that Matha was first founded by Swami Rasikananda.
Rasikananda left Puri for Remuna, as Khirchora Gopinath at Remuna ordered the Gajapati king in his dream to send him back to render His worship. There at Remuna, Rasikananda stayed and rendered Seva Puja of Lord Khirachora Gopinath till his last days. To this day, the Samadhi Shrine of Rasikananda is within the premises of the temple and at a distance, the residence of Rasikananda is found at Remuna.
It was Narasingh Deb, the Gajapati King, who brought Madan Gopal's deity from Chitrakut, and that Madan Gopal remained at Remuna, who later on in the year 1436 A.D., after stealing Khira Bhoga for saint Madhabendra Puri, came to be known as Khirachora. The legend says that Lord Sri Rama has carved this stone Deity of Madan Gopal at Chitrakut by arrows during his stay, and had shown it to Sita. In 1258 A.D. the temple for Madan Gopal was built at Remuna and for the arrangement of Seva Puja, landed property was donated by the king. In Chitrakut, Lord Brahma was worshipping Madan Gopal. Madhabendra Puri is one of the devotees whose Matha is still there, very near to Khirachora Gopinath temple, Remuna, near Balasore in Orissa. This incident testifies to the fact that the Lord is even the fulfiller of the sincere thought of devotees.
Santh Tulsi Das, the Sri Ramabhakta could see his Lord Sri Rama in the Raghunath Besha and Padma Besha of Lord Jagannath.
Lord Jagannath of Sri Jagannath Dham, Puri is the Param Brahma and ever friendly to the devotees. The Lord has shown His appearance to devotees in the forms they conceived in their minds and wanted to see Him in. Lord Jagannath satisfied Santh Tulsi Das, the author of the great Ramacharit Manas, by showing him His Raghunath Besha, which is enlisted as one of several Beshas.
Realising the fact that Lord Sri Jagannath is himself Param Brahma in appearance, Santh Tulsi Das in his advanced age, proceeded on foot from Kashi Pith to Sriksetra Puri, the Jagannath Dham alone to see his Lord Sri Rama Chandra, armed with bow and arrows in Lord Sri Jagannath. This pious desire inspired him to travel, covering a long distance with hardship. On the way in between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, in a place named Tulsi Talwa locally known as Tulasi Sarovar (Tulsi tank), he took rest in the night.
Next day, he resumed his journey on foot early in the morning and reached Puri. On his arrival at Puri, he hastened to enter the temple, by assending the Baisi Pahacha (22 number of steps) and stood in front of the idol of Lord Jagannath Bije in Ratna Sinhasan (on golden throne). From a little distance, he could see the Param Brahma Lord Jagannath with round black eyes, the Sri Vigrahra (sacred idol) without hands and feet and ears, seated and being worshipped. He could not see Param Brahma, according to his conception in the form of Sri Rama Chandra armed with bow and arrows. Being disappointed he left Puri, without taking any food or drink. Bhabagrahi (knower of the thoughts of devotee) Sri Jagannath could not tolerate such anxiety of Tulsi Das, who was walking on foot. He crossed Atharnala (a road bridge over eighteen nalas) and rapidly proceeded from Puri to Kashi via Batamangala. On the command of Lord Jagannath, Bhakta Hanuman, sat on the road bridge over Atharanala and obstructed Tulsi Das from proceeding to Kashi. Tulsi Das paid no heed to the indication of Hunuman and proceeded ahead on the road to Kashi.
On the way, in a village called Malatipatapur, Tulsi Das halted in a Tulasi Chouwara (elevated platform having sacred Tulasi tree in a pot) at night even in the midst of hunger and thirst. Tulsi Das, out of fatigue and frustration, not seeing Sri Ramachandra in Param Brahma Sri Jagannath, fell asleep. While closing his eyes he saw in his dream, goddess Mahalaxmi, telling Lord Jagannath that no devotee returns from Puri without taking Mahaprasad in the form of sacred cooked rice (avada) and curry, but devotee Tulsi Das has left Puri without taking any food and drink. She requested Lord Jagannath to proceed Himself in disguise of a small boy taking the sacred rice and curry, which is called Mahaprasad, and offer him to partake. Santh Tulasi Das, when asked by the boy to take the Mahaprasad, told him that he would not take the sacred rice and curry without seeing Sri Ramachandra in Lord Sri Jagannath, who is hailed as Param Brahma. The boy asked him to open his Ramacharit Manas manuscript, which Tulsi Das had with him, written on palm leaves and bound in red cloth, and asked him to refer to Doha 117 - from the 5th Chowpahi to 8th Chowpahi, which Tulsi Das himself had written, and to read the Balakanda.
Binu Pada Chalai Sunai Binukana,
Kara Binu Karama Karai Bidhi Nana
Anana Rahita Sakala Rasabhogi
Binubani Bakata Jogi
Tana Binu Parasa Nayana Binu Dekha
Grahai Ghrana Binu Basa Ashesa
Asi Samabhati Alaukika Karana
Mahima Jasu Jai Nahin Barana.
He is that Param Brahma who walks without feet, hears without ears, does various works without hands, tastes all sorts of items and juices without mouth, touches all without skin, sees all without eyes, and smells all without nose. That Param Brahma is so extraordinarily mysterious, that it is unknown to gods even. Lord Jagannath is the very said Param Brahma which you have narrated in your above Dohas and poems. He is residing in Sri Mandir being bound and tied with the devotional thoughts of his devotees. The boy narrating this told Tulsi Das to return and look again, and he could see Him in the Form he desired and described in Rama Charit Manas. Tulasi Das, being emotionally charged and overwhelmed by the words of the boy, resumed his return journey to Puri, came running and reached Puri, ascended the Baishi Pahachas and prostrated before the Lord sitting in Ratna Sinhasan and in the process, Tulsi Das lost consciousness. Regaining his senses, he looked at Lord Jagannath with folded hands in standing position. He became surprised to see Sri Ramachandra with bow and arrows in hands in the Ratna Sinhasan, in place of Lord Jagannath. He begged excuse and prayed to the Lord to forgive him as he could not recognise Him and could not realise his own version written in Ramacharit Manas.
Spontaneoulsy, Santh Tulsi Das wept profusely and tears rolled down from his eyes and he confirmed his version by the inspiration of the Lord in the immortal poem, which came out from his mouth.
Johi Rama Sohi Jagaddisha,
Dina Hine Ananta Parbata Shesha
Lord Jagannath is Rama, and Rama is Lord Jagannath. He is the protector of the poor, down-trodden and neglected, like the mountain is being protected by Sheshanaga, (Ananta) upholding the same by placing the earth over it.
Tulsi Das became satisfied and his journey to see Lord Ramachandra in Puri in Param Brahma Jagannath was fulfilled completely. He returned to Kasipith from Puri Dham on foot, meditating over the event.
The Besha of Lord Jagannath in the shape of Raghunath is called Raghunath Besha. Sri Raghunath Besha is very expensive, lasting for a period of seven days and lakhs of devotees throng to Puri and get Darshan of Sri Raghunath Besh in Ratna Sinhasan of Lord Jagannath.