Jan 04, 2014 CANADA (SUN) Adaptation of an article by Jayanti Mishra.
The sacred place of Sri Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, is known by various names: Puri, Nilachala, Purusottama, Sreekshetra, Sankhakshetra, Sankhanavi Mandal, Abikarpatana, etc. In ancient times, Lord Jagannath was worshipped as Purusottama. So in different Puranas the greatness of Lord Jagannath and His holy city of Purusottama Kshetra are described beautifully.
According to Padma Purana, the Purusottama Kshetra is situated on the north shore of the sea and south of the river Mahanadi. In Brahma Purana it is described that the length and breadth of this Kshetra is ten jojana (nearly 80 miles) and five jojana (nearly 40 miles) respectively.
If we intend to trace the time of the Purusottama Kshetra we will have to go through the Pujaripali inscription of Gopal Dev (last part of 11th Century), in which we find the name of this sacred Kshetra. Besides this, our attention is drawn to the hints of the eastern sea and the Purusottama Kshetra in the inscription of Nagapur, 1104 A.D.
Prior to these two inscriptions we also get some information on this Kshetra in the drama of Anargharaghab of Murari Mishra. As per Skanda Purana we come to know that the sacred image of Lord Jagannath has been made of the log of wood floating on the ocean. We can also find this type of interpretation in the Atharva Veda and Rg Veda. But this idea is not so clear by which we can put the time of Lord Purusottama as the time of Rg Veda.
On the whole we may interpret the time of Purusottama Kshetra as not earlier than the Puranic Age. In different Puranas we find detailed descriptions of this sacred Kshetra. In Matsya Purana we find the name of Purusottama twice: in the description of Bimalapitha and in different sacred Hindu Tirthas. In this Purana we also find a description of the Maurya kings and their successors, thus we can interpret the time of this Purana to be not earlier than the Maurya period.
According to Pergitar Saheb, the time of the Matsya Purana is the last part of 3rd Century A.D. According to Dr. Raghaban, the place of this Purana is nearly Narmada province. So from this interpretation we can assume that the famous publicity of Purusottama Kshetra has been spread over Narmada province, for which the author of Matsya Purana is able to give an information of this Purusottama Kshetra.
Also, Pergitar Saheb describes that in Vishnu Purana, there is information of "Uddradesha" and "Puri town" instead of "Andhra" and "Champa nagar" respectively. He also assumed the time of the Vishnu Purana is not earlier than the last part of the 4th Century A.D.
After thorough study of the Brahma Purana, Wilson described that the worship of Sri Krishna as Lord Jagannath has been found in 13th or 14th Century A.D. In the journal of Aryabartta there is an interpretation of the greatness of Sri Jagannath Kshetra in the book Tantra Jamal and Rudra Jamal. In the Uttartantra of Rudra Jamal when we find Bhairab and Bhairabi discussion, there is some information of Lord Jagannath. Not only in Rudra Jamal but also in Tantra Jamal it is stated that Purusottama is the heaven of the world. Though these two tantric texts are modern it is sure and authentic that it was written earlier than the Kurma Purana, because we find the references of these two Tantra texts in the Kurma Purana.
Scholars suggest that the time of Kurma Purana is 4th Century A.D. or much earlier than that. As per these descriptions of Purusottama and Lord Jagannath then we can say that there must be historical value in Tantric texts like Rudra Jamal and Tantra Jamal. But according to Manmohan Chakrabarti, the Skanda, Brahma and Shiva Puranas were written after the 10th Century A.D. Depending on this we cannot trace out the time of the sacred "Purusottama Kshetra".
So considering the subject matter and facts described in the above Puranas and Tantric texts, we can easily trace the time of the holy "Purusottama Kshetra" as being earlier than the 3rd Century A.D.
Jayanti Mishra, Berhampur, Ganjam, for Orissa Review.