The Jagannath Culture

Jagannath emerged during the rule of the reign of Gangas. Lord Jagannath is considered to be the incarnation of the supreme Lord Vishnu and worshipped as the foremost deity among gods of Hindu pantheon represented in Oriya Hindu theology. Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped by the Sabaras, the tribal group found mostly in south Orissa. The non-Brahmin priests called Daitas worship Lord Jagannath shoulder to shoulder with the Brahmin priests. They are considered to be the descendants of the Sabaras. During the car festival the deities wear the typical Sabara costume. So the present Jagannath cult is the result of an age-long metamorphosis from a tribal tradition to a Hindu tradition. Lord Jagannath is considered to be Bhairava, the great Tantric deity as well as an avatar of Lord Buddha. He is also called `a great Jina` like `Jina` of the Jainas. In Jagannath cult there is also found a synthesis of Ramanandi Vaishnavism of South India with Gaudia Vaishnavism of Chaitanya. The most popular Bhajans in praise of Lord Jagannath have been written by Salabega, the son of a Muslim `Subedar`. The Jagannath Temple is a synthesis of various forms of worship like Brahminic worship, Vaishnavite worship, Shaivite worship, Shakta worship and Ganapatya worship. Thus, Lord Jagannath represents the grand synthesis of many major religions of India. For ages this synthesis is reflected in the culture of Orissa.