Thursday, November 3, 2016

887. In the abode of the Lord of Universe....!

It was a long wait in my life to have the darshan of Jagannatha, Balabadra and Subadra. He decided to permit me have His darshan on the Naraka Chaturdashi day this year. 

By the time we reached the temple it was evening and there was enormous crowd. It was the first darshan for me of the Lord of Universe. The temple doors had been open and the crowds had already gathered. Although near the sanctum, I felt like there is no one intruding in the silent communion that I was having with the triad deities mounted on the pedestal.  The crowds jostled and shoved but I had my eyes only for the larger than life deities of Jagannatha and Balabhadra flanking Subadra. The wooden deities carved out of logs of Neem tree stood there, dressed in white and red hues. 

There is an air of mysticism surrounding the temples. I was there for just a few minutes but felt like an eternity. It is not just the religious zeal alone that lures me to temples. The architecture, the history, the legends, the traditions and the quintessential nativeness of the sacred shrines fascinate me. It was indeed extraordinary experience to learn about the legend surrounding this 11th century massive temple while going around the sanctum.  

This temple which is spread over 4 lakh sq feet was built by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva of Ganga Dynasty who was contemporary to King Vishnuvardhana of Hoysala Dynasty. Just as Vishnuvardhana was influenced by Srimad Ramanuja to build Pancha Narayana kshetras, Ananataverman too was influenced by the great Acharya and built this massive temple. After all, these deities are believed to be chiselled by none other than Maha Vishnu himself. 

The legend says that Maha Vishnu in the guise of a carpenter had laid a condition that no one should open the door until he completes the task, but the impatient queen opened it, only to find the deities ready without their hands. The Lord vanished and the deities are worshipped without hands till date.

There are several legends around the temple each one makes one have goosebumps while listening. The most interesting one was about the kitchen which is the largest and biggest in the world measuring 150X100 feet. The "Maha Prasad" is prepared with deep devotion here and the spiritual impact of which can be felt while relishing it. The unique feature is that the food is prepared in earthen pots place over a special earthen oven. Seven earthen pots are place one over the other and amazingly the pot on the top gets cooked first. Water for preparing the dishes is drawn from the two wells, Yamuna and Ganges in the temple premises. 600 cooks work daily in the kitchen to boil 24 quintal of rice and make chappan bhog (56 food items). Maha Lakshmi personally supervises the kitchen. We were glad that He let us be a few among the lakhs of His devotees who relish the Maha Prasad. We got the Maha Prasad from Anada Bazaar at the northern gate near Tapasvi Hanuman temple. This Maha Prasad consolidates the human bond and satisfies sacrament at the same time. 

Another enthralling event to happen daily at this temple is the “Dwaja Parivartan” (Flag Changing).  Standing at an imposing height of about 214 ft atop an elevated platform of stone measuring about 10 feet is the Neel Chakra. It is made of Aasta dhatu (alloy of eight metals) giving it a blue tinge hence it is called Neel Chakra. The circumference of the wheel is about 36 ft and it weighs 2 tons. 

Changing of flags on the top is adventurous and is considered as a pious event. This is done every day at sunset. Two persons belonging to a particular family climb the 214 feet shikar without the help of any rope or climbing equipments. They climb with their back to the wall of the shikar swiftly hearing the echoing chant of Jai Jagannath. This exclusive privilege to hoist the flag was given by the king who built the temple 800 years ago and this ritual is followed even today.  

With all those rituals I saw and the legends that still rumbling in my ears I sit here in the seat of silence, imbibing the spiritual experience I had there. I can only say that my body, mind and soul were completely drenched with fulfilment after the journey to the abode of the Lord of Universe....Jai Jagannath, Jai Jagannath, Jai Jagannath.

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