Gadibrahma Worship in the Religious Tradition of Orissa
BY: DR. SAROJ KUMA PANDA
Oct 30, DELAND, PURI (SUN) Lord Jagannath is variously presented and interpreted in different texts in terms of Brahma, like Darubrahma, Sabdabrahma, Sunyabrahma, etc. One among these concepts is Gadibrahma - the clay made Stupa.
The worship of Gadibrahma is prevalent in 752 branches of undivided Puri, Cuttack and Ganjam districts of Orissa, with headquarters at Benupada near Delang in Puri district. Village Benupada has a Matha which is an important Vaishnava Shrine. The presiding Deities of this Matha are five clay-made Stupas decorated in garlands of flowers and clothes. Scholars identify these clay-made Stupas with five elements of Vedic Philosophy, i.e., earth, water, fire, sky and air. Others connect them with Buddhist religion in view of the fact that the areas surrounding Benupada were once strongholds of Buddhism.
Benupada Matha was founded around 250 years ago on an area of 5 acres and 25 decimals by Siddhapurusa Bai Das. Bai Das created miracles by disappearing all the Mahaprasadas from Anand Bazar of Srimandir, for which the then Gajapati of Puri, Birakishore Dev, imprisoned him. But later, getting instructions (Swapnadesha) from Lord Jagannath, he released him. Since then the pot containing Srimahaprasad was declared as Baihandi.
Bai Das was succeeded by Krushna Das, and then by Arta Das. It is due to the initiative of Arta Das that the Gadibrahma concept was spread far and wide and worship of Gadibrahma started in different parts of Orissa. In fact, he established 752 branch Gadies and behind this, there was direct blessings of Lord Jagannath for him. It is said that once, during Rathayatra days, he visited Puri to see the Navajauvana Vesha of the Lord. In the sanctum of Srimandir he came across two Godly men, one white in colour and another black. Both of them advised Arta to spread the worship of Gadibrahma, and Arta did accordingly. Madhav Das and Niladri Das, who succeeded Arta Das along with the previous two Siddhapurusas, were considered incarnation of Panchupandava'.
Bai Das has written a number of poems which depict the state of affairs in the contemporary society, with reference to illiteracy and its consequences and the need of education for women. Likewise, Arta Das has written many devotional songs dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The benefits of cow rearing, Malika (future talks), Dandadhua songs, commentaries on body and soul, along with short poems like Chaupadi and Chautisha are significant contributions of Arta Das to Oriya Literature.
Benupada Matha has 75 Acres (30.35 hectares) of landed property. The main source of income of this Matha is derived from local munificence and cultivation of its own land. A major portion of the income is spent for charitable distribution, free food service and worship of Deities installed in the Matha.
Most of the fairs and festivals of Srimandir are duplicated in Benupada Matha. On the day of Amla Navami in November, a big fair is held and many thousands are fed. Many devotees bring giftS of food such as rice, vegetable, milk products, etc. for the Matha.
A mahanta usually remains in charge of the management of the Matha. They come from villages round about, and succession is by nomination of the existing Mahanta. If disputed, two pieces of paper containing the names of the two claimants are kept on the head of the Deity and whichever drops first is selected. The Mahanta never leaves the Matha, but his assistants go round the neighbouring areas spreading their religious cult.
The symbols of Artatran Gadi are badi (stick), topi (cap), and kanthi (necklace). The Mahantas adorn these. During Rathayatra time, one can see the saints of Benupada Matha dance on the Grand Road in front of the chariots wearing these caps on their heads, with flutes in their hands.
Nowadays in Puri town alone, we find the worship of Gadibrahma at four places: (i) Hati Gurudeva Matha of Baseli Sahi, (ii) Khurunthi Matha of Markandeswar Sahi, (iii) Jhaditota, and (iv) Kumbharapada club house.
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2. R.P. Mohapatra, Archaeology in Orissa, Vol.- I, New Delhi, 1986, Pg. - 45
3. Jagannath Pattanaik - Itihasa Prusthare Pipili (Oriya), Bhubaneswar, 1993, Pg.- 155
4. Prajatantra Saptahiki, Cuttack, 1998, (15 - 21, November), Pg. - 13-15.
5. Utkal Prasanga, Bhubaneswar, 1984 (Ratha Yatra Special), Pg. - 66-68.
6. Utkal Sahitya, Vol. - XII, 1910.
7. Jagabandhu Singh - Prachina Utkal, Vol. - I, Bhubaneswar, 1982, Pg. - 167- 171.
8. Nilamani Senapati, Op. cit.
9. Siddheswar Mohapatra, Jay Jagannath, Puri, 2002, Pg. - 11.