The Jagannatha Religion in Mughal Orissa, Part 4


Jun 12, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial study of Oriyan religion from "Orissa Under the Mughals" by Dr. B.C. Ray, being the last of four parts.

It is not correct to say that in consequence of the spread of Islam and the development of Muslim institutions, necessarily dawned a period of stagnation for the growth of Hindu religious ideas. On the other hand, what actually happened in Orissa was that patronization of their respective protagonists, patronizers and religious experts or reformers. So far the Hindu institutions were concerned, they prospered under the case of the Raja of Khurda, and other individual religious minded persons. It is during this period that a good number of matha were established by Vaishnava gurus for the propagation of Vaishnavism. Vaishnavism continued to spread in various parts of Orissa, more particularly in the interiors.

The Raja of Khurda, being the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath and having principal part to be played in the festivals of Lord Jagannath was called by the Oriya as Thakur Raja, or the Raja having some of the spiritual power over others. Jagannath was not hampered and the installment of new gods in the compound of the temple was done in keeping with the aspiration and liking of the Hindu religions class. Besides, he was to perform his duties in the temple to the satisfaction of the Hindu and the Brahmins were to be patronized.

During the period of Muslim rule there were ten Rajas [1] who ruled over Khurda. Claiming to have inherited the royal position on the previous ancient kings of Orissa, they generally devoted their attention to make some additions to the Jagannath institution at Puri. Various types of koth bhoga (corporate offering) in this period were created and arranged for Lord Jagannath. The wheel of the temple of Jagannath which was broken was re-setup. [2] The statue of "the moon and sun" from the temple of Konarak, were taken and instituted in the compound of the Jagannath Temple. [3] The Jagamohan of the goddess Lakshmi near the Jagannath Temple was constructed [4] and the Jagamohan of Gopal Deva mandir was also built up. Also an additional mandap of Bimalai was constructed [5] and some other additions were made to the temples of existing gods or goddesses in the compound of Jagannath Temple. Gundicha Temple mukhasala was built. Again in the reign of Ramachandra Deva II, the Jagamohan to Gundicha Temple as well as bhog mandap were constructed. [6]

Besides, the temple of Jagannath was whitewashed several times by the supervision of the Raja of Khurda. [7]

Establishing Brahman villages was considered as a religious duty imposed on the Raja of Khurda. Hence, Brahmans were invited honoured and were given rent free lands and were settled in the villages. Such village where Brahmins were settled was called sasana. A very large number of sasanas were established by the different Rajas at different times and generally the sasanas were named according to the name of the Raja who established it. For example, Ramachandra Deva established Shri Ramachandrapur sasana and Vijaya Ramachandrapur sasana. Purusottam Deva established Birapurusottampur sasana, Shri Purusottampur sasana and Pratep Purusottampur sasana, Narsingh Deva set up Narasinghpur sasana. Balvadra Deva set up Balavadrapur sasana, and so on.

Also some sasanas were established by the efforts of some of the important officials of the Raja who wished to earn reputation for their religious generosity; for example Kahnai Bidyadhar, an officer under the Raja Narasingh Dev I established Kahnai Bidyadharput sasana. Another officer, Damodar Senaptai, set up Damodarpur sasana. [8] Similarly a third officer, Basu Samantaray, got reputation by setting up Basudevpur sasana and Biswanath by Biswanathpur sasana. Except when the image of Jagannath was removed from the temple to a place of safety, in the fear of desecration or normalcy prevailed, the daily worship of Jagannath was performed in usual way and food was offered to him more than once in a day and the people who took this bhog numbered to 20,000. It is stated in Ain-I-Akbari, "The three images are washed six times every day and freshly clothed. Fifty or sixty priests wearing the Brahminical thread stand to do them service and each time large dishes of food are brought out for the images so that 20,000 people partake the prasad. [9]

The car festival was celebrated in a great ceremonial style and the people with a view to removing their sin dragged the rope of the car on the street. Ain says "They constructed cars of sixteen wheels which in Hindi they call 'Rath' upon which the images are mounted; the believe that whosoever draws it is absolved from sin and is visited by no temporal distress. [10]

During this Moghul period land grants by charitable persons to the temples and Hindu religious institutions were not discontinued. From the study of revenue records it is evident that land grants were made profusely by the generous Hindus either for the maintenance of the temple or offering bhog to Lord Jagannath. [11] The institution thus was further enriched and the fame of the deity spread.

Many more other deities throughout Orissa enjoyed the privilege of land grants for maintenance for worship, for khairat and amrit-manohi. The Vaishnavite deities were given as such adoration as the Saivite deities. These grants helped the management of the institutions and catered more to the spiritual and religious needs of the Hindu community. [12] Also other deities throughout Orissa enjoyed the privilege of land grants either for khairat or amrit-manohi.

Not only deities, but also the maths were also given land grants for its maintenance; for example, in 1744 Ghanshyama Nasukroi Mohapatra granted 15 manas of land to Bilapade math through Guriba Bharati for the maintenance of sadabart.

As Muslims occasionally made land grants to Hindus, similarly some Hindus are found to have made land grants to the Muslims, for example Choudhury Sambhu Patnaik granted two bhatis of land in Samatara Sahi, Bakharabad to some Sham Mohammad and others for Madad-I-Mash in 1712.

Even though Islam spread from one part of Orissa to the other, still Vaishnavism's penetration to the interior of Orissa seems to have gone unchecked. The flourishment of a number of Vaishnava maths [13] and the establishment of many of them, of their branches at different parts of the province show that Vaishnavite philosophy was perhaps more attractive to the Hindus during this time. For example, it may be stated that Vaishnava saint Rashikananda went to the court at Rajgarh of Vidyanath, the Raja of Mayurbhanj and converted the whole of Bjahna-bhum into Vaishnavism. [14] This it may be stated that not only the Muslim saints preached their message to the people of their religion in the Mughal period, as it appears, Hindu saints spread their reputation as religious guide to the Hindu population.

Benupada gadi (a Vaishnavite math), Bolgarh gadi (a Vaishnavite math), and Sunapada gadi are only some of the examples to show that Hindu saints were as active as the Muslims to teach their preachings to the people of Orissa.

Thus it may be concluded that in Medieval Orissa, generally there were the currents of two religions, often moving simultaneously towards prosperity on the principle of coexistence. Nowhere this principle of reconciliation and simultaneous development of the two religions are better illustrated than in the province of Orissa. In the history of Orissa, there is no evidence to show that any communal conflict ever marred the understanding between the two sections of the people. The attack on the temple of Jagannath instigated by some individual fanatic Muslim generals may be treated as an exception rather than a general principle.


[1] They were (1) Ramachandra Deva, (2) Purusottan Deva, (3) Narasinha Deva, (4) Balabhadra Deva, (5) Mukunda Deva, (6) Divyashinha Deva, (7) Harekrishna Deva, (8) Gopinath Deva, (9) Ramachandra Deva II, and (10) Bira Kishore Deva.
[2] Madalapanji, p. 64
[3] Ibid, p. 68
[4] Ibid, p. 69
[5] Ibid, p. 72
[6] Mukunda Deva previously brought Muguni Khamba (a pillar of glossy stone) to construct the Jagamohan of Gundicha Mandir but he could not do the work. Ramachandra Deva II utilized it for that purpose. (Madalapanji, p. 77). Ibid, pp. 73, 77.
[7] Ibid, pp. 67, 68, 73
[8] Ibid, pp. 68
[9] Abul Fazl, Ain-i-Akbari, Vol. II, p. 140
[10] Ibid.
[11] Padmanav Patnaik granted 2 batis, 4 manas, 8 gunthas, and 8 biswas to Jagannath for bhog in the year 1700. It seems that the same person also granted 4 batis of land to Shri Jagannath through Fakir Mishra in pargana Bakharabad for the purpose of amrit-manohi in 1735. Prabhakar Harichandana Mohapatra granted 1 bati, 1 mana, 10 gunthas to Jagannath for amrit-manohi in 1749.
[12] A few instances in his respect may be given here. Choudhury Nilambar Das granted 12 gunthas and 8 bhiswas of land to Radhakant Thakur through Madhav Das for khairat in 1750-51. Choudhury Gokulananda Bhuyan Mahapatra granted 1 bati of land to Govind Jew through Adhikari Govinda Charan in the year 1736. The same deity was granted 5 batis, 8 manas and 12 gunthas of land through Nand Kishore Adhikari for its management. Narayan Ananda gave grant of 9 manas, 6 gunthas, 4 biswas of land in Sunakhandi Burada mauza to Mukteswar Mahadeva, through Ramananda Joshi for the worship of the deity in 1731. Ramachandra Patnaik granted 1 bati of land in paragana Ali to Raghunath Thakur through mahanta Krishna Chandra Das for the worship of deity. Other grants to be worth mentioned were: Gokulanand granted 5 manas, 7 gunthas and 7 biswas to Giridhari Thakur through Govinda Das for the worship of deity in 1749 and Raghunath Ray granted 5 manas, 6 gunthas and 6 biswas of land through Dharanidhar Patnaik in Bikbaru in pargana Jajpur for Brahmottar in 1723. Also Gopinath Direndra Mohapatra of madhupur granted 15 batis of land to mahanta Sital Das for Debottar in 1714-15.
[13] Maths are the nuclei of religious life for the people of Orissa, and maths with the guru or mahanta are centers of Hindu religion in the form of Vaishnavism or Saivism, from where emanated a philosophy, preaching and propaganda in regard to its own faith among the people of the country.
[14] Acharya, P., Vaishnava Charita, pp. 2-4; Banerjee, R.D., Vol. II, p. 37.

From "Orissan Under the Mughals: From Akbar to Alivardi, a fascinating Study of the Socio Economic and Cultural History from Orissa" by B.C. Ray, M.A. Ph.D (London), University Professor and Head, Post-Graduate Department of History, Berhampur University, Orissa; Calcutta, 1981.


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