Lord Sri Venkateswara of Seven Hills and
Lord Sri Jagannath of Blue Hill

BY: SUN STAFF


Nov 29, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — Adapted from the article by Professor A.V.P.R. Rao of Chennai, India, from Orissa Review.

It is essential to point out that both presiding deities - Lord Sri Venkateswara of the Seven Hills at Thirupati (Andhra Pradesh) and Lord Sri Jagannath at Puri (Orissa) - represent the same omnipotent and omnipresent Almighty who is,

    Purnamadah Purna Midam Purnat Purnam Udacyate Purnasya Purnam Adaya Purnam Evavasiyate.

    "The invisible is the infinite, the visible too is the infinite. Form the infinite, the visible universe of infinite extension has come out. The Infinite remains the same, even though the infinite universe has come out of it."

And

    Tad ejati tan naijate tad dure tadivantike, Tad anterasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyasya tahyatah.

    "It moves and it moves not. It is far away and it is very near. It is within all this and it is also outside all this."

It is the Upanishadic version of Almighty. He is changeless Chaitanya Shakti from which ever changing universe has come into existence. Almost every Hindu, at least in one of his innumerable births and rebirths, realizes and seeks salvation. This is ultimate Jnanam. In fact, Upanishads mention the Almighty as Jnana Purusha or Jnana Shakti. There is no second to this ultimate truth.

One of the important aspects of Jagannath Culture is identifying Jagannath as incarnation of God with all characteristics of human being. Thus He is Purushotham.

The original idols were installed at Puri by the king, Indradyumna. According to the instructions of Lord Jagannath Himself in a dream, the king had sent one by the name of Vidyapati to the forests where the tribal head by name, Viswabasu, was worshipping Neelamadhab in a secret place. (The entire story is not described due to lack of space).

The shape and placement of the Deities on a platform, known as "Ratna Simhasana" attracts Upanishadic interpretation of Ishwara. Lord Sri Jagannath is with his elder brother, Sri Balabhadra at his right and in between them is placed their sister, Sri Subhadra. Sri Subhadra has no hands at all, but one hand of each brother appears to be her own. Jagannath and Balabhadra have two hands each which are blunt without palm. None of the three Deities has legs, but rests on the base of the wooden body.

Lord Sri Jagannath is not with his consort, Lakshmi, but with his sister, Subhadra. Again placement of the three idols is such that if a devotee stands at the centre from a distance, he will see full view of Subhadra and half view of Jagannath and Balabhadra.

The structure of the Deities of Subhadra, its placement, and her sister relationship with Jagannath suggest that Subhadra is also considered to represent Maya. Maya, according to Upanishads, makes her presence with Ishwara at the same time. Thus Ishwara and Maya coexist and they are inseparable. But Maya has an end while Ishwara is infinite and hence He is anadianantam. Maya exists due to avidya, or the ignorance of the jivatma. Maya disappears or vanishes if once jnanam is drawn on the jiva. The fact that Subhadra has no hands and is a small idol in comparison to other two may also be seen to suggest that she has no independent existence, just like Maya.

Krishnavatara appears at the end of Dwapara Yuga. Even at that time, people have no complete faith on God. There is a story, regarding Sakshi Gopal temple near Puri. Two Brahmin friends, in their pilgrimage to Vrindavan, made a vow before Sri Krishna, that if they would be blessed with a daughter and a son separately to each, their offspring would get married. After having been blessed so, the Brahmin of the boy had not kept his word. So the father of the girl had gone to Sri Krishna at Vrindavan with a request to come with him to the village as a witness. Sri Krishna had agreed to follow him but with a condition that the Brahmin should not look back. The Brahmin, while walking, was hearing the sounds of anklets of Sri Krishna. When the Brahmin could not hear the sound after some time of his journey, he got suspicious and lost faith in the words of Sri Krishna and hence he looked back to verify whether Sri Krishna was following him. As the Brahmin lost his faith, Sri Krishna, who was in fact following him, stopped following and turned to a black stone Deity, now known as ‘Sakshi Gopal.'

In Kali Yuga, the faith in God is further deteriorated. Who is waiting for God until justice is done to him? The growth of terrorism and Naxalism is an example. How many murders are taking place every moment as a result of revenge? Lord Sri Jagannath and his brother have no legs as you do not believe that they would come to your rescue, but to those devotees who have faith in Him. He is Chaitanya Shakti or pure conscious. lsavasa Upanishad says,

    Anejad ekam manaso javiyo N' ainad deva apnuvan purvam arsat Tad dhavato' nyam atayeti …..

    "Though He is unmoved and undivided, He is faster than the mind and reaches before the mind arrives. So He is beyond the grasp of mind. Mightier Devatas, including Devendra cannot get Him."

The idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara of Tirumala is prepared from black stone in traditional human form with Bhudevi and Sridevi. His consort in Kaliyuga Avatara, Sri Padmavati Devi is not with him at Tirumala, but She is down the hills at Alamelu Mangapuram, near Tirupati. It is said that people in Bhuloka were suffering by the bad influence of Kali, as a consequence of which injustice and falsehood ruled the world. Bhrugu Maharshi went to Vishnu Loka to request Lord Sri Vishnu to incarnate in this world to save dharma from the clutches of Kali. Lord Vishnu at that time had happy moments with his consort Lakshmi, and did not notice the presence of Bhrugu Rishi. The Rishi got so much annoyed with Vishnu that he had kicked Him on the chest, saying that He, being the saviour and sustainer of the whole jagat, was merely spending time, while people in Bhuloka were suffering from the bad influence of Kali. Lord Vishnu, instead of getting offended and annoyed with the Rishi for having kicked him, prayed for pardon and enquired whether his tender feet got hurt. Thus Lord Vishnu promised to take incarnation in the name of Sri R.Venkateswara at Seven Hills Tirupati — Tirumala.

Again coming to Puri Jagannath, there are two unique celebrations, viz., Nabakalebara utsav and Ratha Yatra, the car festival. When two Ashada months come in a calendar year, old moola vigrahas (old idols) are replaced by newly made wooden idols (made from neem tree). After transferring powers (shakti) from the old ones to new ones by rituals, the old Deity forms are buried in the burial ground, outside the temple premises.

The annual car festival and preceding rituals are very unique to Jagannath Temple. Every year on "Jestha Purnima (full moon day in the month of Jestha) the three gods are given water bath intensely, and as a result the Deities are declared ill. The temple is then closed to the general public until dwitiya day of Ashada month. During these days, the Deities are offered only pepper and other chera moolicas (roots of medicinal plants) but not regular anna bhoga (offerings of cooked rice). On the dwitiya day of Ashada month, the newly painted original Deities are taken out of the sanctum sanctorum for the car festival by a special ritual, known as Pahundiyatra.

Nowhere in any Vaishnava temple, including Sri Venkateswara Temple of Seven Hills, are original Deities (moola vigrahas) taken out of the sanctum sanctorum for the car festival. First Sudarshan Chakra in the form of a pillar is taken out and kept in the chariot of Subhadra. Then Sri Subhadra, being in small size and also to give respect to the female identity, she is carried by hand and placed in Her chariot, Darpadalana. Sri Balabhadra and then Sri Jagannath are taken out. It is a very pleasant and emotional scene when the Deities are brought to the chariots amidst the sounds of conches and metallic discs, while Pandas (temple priests) dance ecstatically.

The Deities are tied with thick ropes, held by some Pandas in front while some hold at the back. When the idols are dragged forward, they swing forward on their bases, simultaneously the Pandas at the back pull the ropes so that the idols slide forward without being toppled. This is known as Pahundi Yatra. What a wonderful sight it is! The Gods move forward while swinging back and forth as if they are nodding their heads in tune with the mood of devotees.

After the Lords take their seats in their respective chariots in the car festival of Lord Sri Jagannath, a unique function, called Chhera Pahanra takes place. The Raja of Puri (even now), who is deemed to be the first citizen of Utkal, considers himself as the first servant of Lord Sri Jagannath. Therefore he sweeps the three chariots one by one with a golden broomstick while sanctified water is sprinkled amidst the Vedic chants.

This act of the king signifies that he is only a means (Nimithamatra) of serving the people in the name of God. It is a suggestion to all who are at the helm of affairs in legislature, executive and judiciary wings of our governments to execute their work properly and perfectly in the name of God.

The chariots of Sri Balabhadra, Sri Subhadra and lastly Sri Jagannath are drawn by devotees to their birth place, (Gundicha Mandir) where they stay nine days and come back to their original temple in a return car festival.

In the temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara at Seven Hills there are no parallel rituals. The moola vigrahas are never taken out of the sanctum sanctorum in a car festival. Only utsav vigrahas are taken out to a single chariot, which is not built every year. Venkateswara, in the name of Malayappa, enjoys the chariot riding. The idols return on the same day. In Brahmotsavam, each day Sri Malayappa rides on a specific vahanam, like Garuda vahanam, Adisesha vahanam, etc. There is also no Chherapanhanra by the head of the state, as in Puri. There is also no change of moola vigrahas as in Nabakalebera Utsav in Puri Jagannath Temple.

Further, no devotee is allowed to touch Lord Venkateswara in or out of any South Indian Vaishnava temples. But the practice of allowing any devotee to go into the sanctum sanctorum and touch the moola vigrahas at Jagannath Temple in particular timings is prevailing.

In the car festival also people are allowed to touch the original idols. This seems to be a very odd practice, especially to those who are acquainted with the orthodoxy of Ayappa temple at Sabarimalai in Kerala State. Even women are not allowed to enter the temple to have darshan of Sri Ayyappa.

But everlasting reality is that there is nothing in this universe in which the Almighty is not present. According to lsavasya Upanishad,

    Om, Isavasyam idam servam yatkin ca jagatyam jagat

    "Whatever there is changeful in this ephemeral world — all must be enveloped by lshwara."



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