The Importance of Mukti Mandapa in Jagannath Culture


Puri Dham
Pata-chitra Temple Painting

Dec 17, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — Adapted from the article by Prabhat Kumar Nanda of Bhubaneswar.

In ancient times, famous kings of different countries around the world were depending on the advice of scholars in different fields of knowledge when needed in state administration. Accordingly famous temples of India have specific committees of scholars to disseminate opinions on temple administration and during crisis of religious thoughts. Such body of scholars is known as the Mukti Mandapa Sabha at the Jagannath Temple in Puri Dham.

It is revealed from the history of Jagannath Temple that at the time of consecration of the temple, priests of different clans (gotra) were invited from different parts of India to participate in yagna, or specific religious rites before commissioning of the temple. Brahmin scholars from different parts of India participated and organized the yagna. After commissioning of the temple, King Indradhyumna requested Brahmin scholars to stay at Puri for organizing the day-to-day rites of the temple. Some of them agreed to it, and the King made arrangements for their stay and livelihood at his cost. Brahmins with deep knowledge in Veda, Vedanta and other religious scripts were considered as members of Mukti Mandapa Sabha.

King Indradyumna greets Lord Jagannatha
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Literally, the meaning of Mukti Mandapa Sabha is a committee of scholars who pave the way to moksha with religious counseling on getting free from the eternal problems in human life. 'Mandapa' is a platform and 'sabha' means a committee or a board of persons.

Mukti Mandapa is present in front of the Adi Nrusingha Temple and by the Southern side of the main Jagannatha Temple. The platform made of black granite stones is of five feet high. The area of the platform is nine hundred sq. ft. and it is square in shape. The platform is open, having a roof that is supported by twelve pillars around the circumference, with four pillars in the middle portion. The height of each pillar is eight feet and the roof of the platform is thirteen feet high from the ground level of the temple. Idols of different Gods and Goddesses are situated around the platform, including Sri Krsna, Lord Nrsimha, Lord Brahma, Durga and Ganesh. There are also a number of artistic carvings on the pillars.

The year of construction of Mukti Mandapa Sabha is still under debate. Most scholars opine that Mukti Mandapa was constructed at the time of the commissioning of Jagannath Temple. The first temple constructed at Puri was Nrusingha temple, and Mukti Mandapa Sabha is situated just in front of Nrushinga Temple. Temple records reveal that the construction of Mukti Mandapa Sabha took place during the reign of Shree Rama Chandra Deb. It is described that King Mansingh honoured Shree Rama Chandra Deb in front of the temple of Goddess Bimala and declared him as the King of Odisha. Queen Goudaranee, the wife of King Mansingh constructed the Mukti Mandapa in the temple. If such data of Madala Panji is correct, then the period of construction of Mukti Mandapa would fall in the 16th Century. It is undisputed that Mukti Mandapa Sabha, i.e., the existence of the Brahmin scholars committee was present from the period of commissioning of the temple. It may be a fact that queen Goudaranee renovated the old platform and constructed the new platform as seen in the temple today.

The other name of Mukti Mandapa is Brahmasana, and scholars who have been permitted to take their seats on Mukti Mandapa are considered to be representatives of Brahma. Specific Brahmin scholars have been permitted to take their seats on Mukti Mandapa. The Government of Odisha published a book, the Record of Rites, for better management of the temple. It is mentioned there that elderly Brahmin scholars of only twenty-three specific Brahmin villages of Puri are eligible to take seats on Mukti Mandapa.

All disputes among different groups of priests and other groups of people engaged in temple services are solved by the scholars of Mukti Mandapa Sabha. In most cases Gajapati Maharaja, the King of Puri refers critical matters to Mukti Mandapa Sabha for their opinion before final decision is made by him. Not only Gajapati Maharaja or temple sevakas, but also common people seek the advices of Mukti Mandapa Sabha on disputes of religious and social nature. The yearly religious almanac, popularly known as Panji, published by different publishers, are submitted to Mukti Mandapa Sabha for their approval to authenticate specific dates of different religious rites. The committee of nine scholars, who are selected by other scholars of Mukti Mandapa Sabha, are considered to be the apex committee who may take immediate decision during any conflict in the religious field and in the administration of Jagannath Temple. During Naba Kalebara, the ritual consecration of the new Deities, all rites pertaining to it are managed by Mukti Mandapa Sabha.

Just as the granite platform, Mukti Mandapa, is given all respects by devotees visiting the Holy Dham, so the Mukti Mandapa Sabha is revered as the highest scholastic body of the state of Odisha. This Vaisnava brahminical body has the highest respect of the people of Odisha.

Source: Orissa Review


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