Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What does Lord Jagannath want?


The current controversies around the renowned Temple of the Lord at Puri are painful. The latest involves the keys to the jewel vault. 

The Lord has a long history. Historians describe how possibly a blue stone emerald was worshipped in ancient times at the spot by the Jains or Jina's. It was visited by many historical figures including the Pandavas. The then King of Odisha had given his daughter in marriage to Duryadhan and had fought against Krishna's army in Kurukshetra. However it was Krishna and Lakshmi that came to be worshipped in a Temple which was then on the beach. Subsequently a Temple was built further inland where the images continued to be worshipped. Later Balaram was added and Lakshmi became Subhadra, the sister of the Lord. 

The Temple was for a long time in the control of Buddhists and the Ratha Yatra symbolised the annual display of Buddha's relics. Kalapahad, a devout Hindu army leader who converted to Islam, carried out many a raid to destroy the religious structures of Odisha strangely because the Priests did not allow him to reconvert to Hinduism. On one such occasion the stone images were taken to a distant place and buried to evade harm. Over 250 years people forgot where it was hidden. Sankaracharya discovered the images through his powers and reinstated images created of Neem wood as a reflection of the tribal who had hidden Nila Madhava (relics of Sri Krishna) in a Neem tree within their realm. He also established the current form of worship based upon the highest Vedantic wisdom. 

Thus we see the entire religious history of India - Jainism Buddhism Saivism Tribal lore and Vedanta - intertwined in the worship. Saivism because Shiva is the ruling Lord of Odisha and was restablished after Buddhism degenerated into the most vile form of Hinayana Tantra. 

Lord Jagannath has been central to an extremely rich religious culture in Odisha. He remained a mute witness to all the changes that happened according to the changing mores of the Land. Today this culture stands neglected and is reflected in a crumbling society which has forgotten its rich past and is ensnared in the pursuit of money and its associated pleasures. The Temple has become a trap for devotees as they are mistreated by a group who think they have ownership over and absolute rights to the worship. 

The Lord remains a mute witness wanting nothing but perhaps pained at the developments. He has witnessed the zenith and is now witnessing the nadir. One of his hallowed devotees Achyutananda had predicted all of these 500 years ago. In a prophecy he had warned, "When the climate will play havoc disappointing the farmers, when wild animals will enter villages and towns, when Lord Jagannath will be the centre of controversies and will face infamy, know that the end of civilization is near." I know that the Sankaracharya of Puri has had a vision of that end and has warned his intimate devotees. 

Therefore my brethren, all those who adore the Lord prepare for what is to come. Like the Lord remains a witness to everything you too witness the coming destruction without fear. The inevitable always happens. Pain always follows the intense seeking after pleasure. Disassociate yourselves and study Vedanta to try and adopt the witness mode of the Self. That is what the Lord requires of us now. The survivors, as we already know will relocate him to Chhatia and we will all continue to witness His Leela in the next civilization that will unfold.

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