61 Centuries after centuries have elapsed in the wheel of time. Yet, all through these years, the Cult of Lord Jagannath has remained mysterious to one and all shrouded in a perplexing enigma. The researchers have not been able to trace a definite time to which the origin of the cult of Lord Jagannath could be genuinly alluded. Hence it is tangle free to conclude that the religion of Lord Jagannath is pretty old in its import and it is purveyed to the world as a universal religion. It is inclusive of all sects and all creeds of the world. The Lord is described as the Supreme Truth of all the truths of the world. With utmost reverence, He is adored as the Lord of all Lords. He is worshhipped in the Grand Temple Puri as Param Brahma and Yuga Purusha of the universe. The Srimandir has thus all along served as a light-house to multitudes of devotees in the midst of their myriad afflictions and adversities in the usual flow of time.
The philosophy of the Lord’s religion is thus intense in form and most profound in depth. It upholds the truth that the Lord is both omnipresent and omniscient and He has always been our undying strength in life. It is most revealing to note here that we have two sources of factual information about the evolution of Jagannath Cult in Utkaldesh. The first is related to Puranic descriptions. They are embodied in scriptures like Skanda Purana, Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Niladri Mahodaya and the treatises like Madala Panji in the order of mainstream of references. In the Puranas, we also get references to several socioreligious circumstances leading to gradual evolution of the religions of Lord Jagannath. Furthermore, the Puranas have also elaborate references to the contributions of many spiritual masters and rulers who had applied their mind and moral wherewithal to establish the edifice of this universal religion. The second source of information has emanated from a chain of historical substantiations. The facts recorded in this connnection are authentic references based on data-based affirmations. But the fact is that we have only clear historical facts from the period of 12th century A.D. for this purpose. Hence, to appreciate the origin of Jagannath religion, we are required to refer to both Puranic elucidations and historical facts in so far as they are available to us for a composite appreciation in this regard.
According to Puranic legends as elucidated in Skanda Purana, the cult of the Lord is closely associated with the name of Maharaja Indradyumna. The great king had glorified Jagannath religion as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He had discovered the Lord through his messenger in the form of ‘Neelamadhaba’ at ‘Neelakandara’ i.e. Puri by the side of the sea. Maharaja Indradyumna was a pious ruler of his time. He was regarded as an impeccable dispensor of justice to his subjects. The king was an ardent upholder of Sanatana Dharma as the spiritual head of the 5th generation of Lord Place of Maharaja Indradyumna in the Cult of Lord Jagannath Brahma, the Creator of the universe. In all possible ways his kingdom on earth was considered akin to Amaravati of Lord Indra, the Lord of the Devas in heaven.
Maharaja Indradyumna performed all types of Jagyans in his kingdom for the welfare and prosperity of his subjects and well being of all other creatures of the Lord. He was the ruler of the kingdom known as Malava. The famous Awanti Nagar was the capital of his kingdom. The king was widely adored as a Rajarshi of his time. In the Bana-Parva of the Mahabharat there are also references to Maharaja Indradyumna. As described here, once the Pandavas were discussing with Markandeya Muni, a great hermit of his time. He had been living an extraordinary long life since Satyayug. The Pandavas were discussing with him about various spiritual problems. Incidentally, Yudhisthir one day asked Markandeya Muni if any person had descended on earth prior to his divine appearance. While answering his query, the Muni said that Maharaja Indradyumna had first appeared on earth and in that way he was older than him in actual dispensation.
In Niladri Mahodaya, Indradyumna has been described as a pious ruler belonging to the 5th generation of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the universe. Kapila Samhita also gives a similar description in this regard. In Padma Purana, there are references to Neelagiri of Purusottam Kshetra but Maharaja Indradyumna’s name has not found place in this scripture. In Brahma Purana, we find descriptions about Maharaja Indradyumna and his achievments in the matter of proliferation of Jagannath Dharma. In a nut shell, we may say that whatever conclusion one may have after reading the various Puranic descriptions, at least one thing is clear and well-accepted in the logical legendary affirmation that in the days of yore, there was a highly adored spiritual icon in the name of Indradyumna who had ruled a prosperous kingdom with its captial at Awanti Nagar. He was both a strong and pious ruler. He was profoundly wedded to worship of lord Vishnu and at the instance of a divine prophesy from heaven, he had upheld the cause of Jagannath Dharma and established a temple for lord Jagannath at Puri in Utkaldesh.
There is an ensuing story in continuation of the aforesaid Puranic legend. One day, while Maharaja Indradyumna was holding his royal court, he, incidentally wanted to know from his courtiers that included scholars, spiritual persons, learned intellectuals and Brahmin Pundits whether anyone among them had known where on earth Lord Vishnu was being worshipped as Jagannath, the Lord of the universe and giving ‘darshan’ to His devotees. A pretty old man, with matted hair, his face glowing with divine resplendence, got up in the royal court and replied with pleasing serenity that the king could find this sacred place near the southern sea in Udra Desh known as Purusottam Srikshetra. The king was both pleased and astonished to get the answer so quickly. There were whispers in the Royal Court and the king, for a while, was lost in oblivion. Taking advantage of this unusal situation that prevailed in the royal court, the old person disappeared from the meeting place and when the king looked hither and thither to locate the old man, he was no longer to be seen there. All present in the royal court at last concluded that the old man was a divine messenger of the lord and all that happened in the royal court was the wish of the Providence. And, therefore, the king might act upon the statement of the oldman in his mission to locate Srikshetra where Lord Vishnu was stated to be worshipped as Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. With the advice of his courtiers, the king now chalked out a royal programme. He was assisted by his Minister in this noble work. The Orissa Review July – 2010 63 Minister suggested to the king that his brother, Bidyapati could be deputed to locate the place of Shrikshetra in Udra Desh by the side of the southern sea. All details on this score were accordingly finalised. And Bidyapati at last set out in the divine mission in the company of other officials of the kingdom. In the trail of his divine mission, he travelled through different places. He crossed rivers on the way. One day he reached Ekamra Kshetra near Purusottam Srikshetra. Ekamra Kshetra was a unique place. He found here a good settlement of devout Brahmins wellversed in scriptures. Again, it was a place where Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva were worshipped together. He also found nearby a big hamlet of tribal persons in the name of Shabar Depak. All of them were devotees of Lord Vishnu. Bidyapati stayed there for a day and collected information about the place of his divine mission. Thereafter he started for Purusottam Srikshetra. This is the Puranic information we get from Skanda Puran written by Maharshi Vyasa, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is said that Vyasa Maharshi was blessed with a divine talent to foresee the various occurrences of the past, present, and future, through his impeccable mind. So he had created the Puranas by virtue of his avowed power of self-realization. In the usual course of his divine mission Bidyapati reached Purusottam Srikshetra. He met one Biswabasu, the spiritual leader of the Sabar community. Bidyapati was pleased to learn from him that he was the person who was worshipping Sri Neelamadhab, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu at the top of Neelakandara at Purusottam Kshetra. All those were miraculous spiritual happenings. Bidyapati stayed at Purusottam Srikshetra till the purpose of his divine mission was accomplished. He also gave his identity to Biswabasu that he had come to Purusottam Srikshetra as the messenger of Maharaja Indradyumna to know the details of the sacred place with reference to the cult of the Lord. Bidyapati also told him that Maharaja Indradyumna would come to Purusottam Srikshetra after he received detailed information about the venue of the Lord. Biswabasu was now reminded of the fact that once he had heard a divine message from heaven that one day Maharaja Indradyumna would pay his visit to Purusottam Srikshetra to have a divine glimse of Lord Vishnu in Neelamadhab form. Now that event was soon going to frutify. Biswabasu was heavy at heart for the reason that his association with the lord was very soon going to end with the arrival of Maharaja Indradyumna at Purusottam Shrikshetra. He very well realized that the king’s arrival might also lead to the upcoming of an amazing metamorphosis in the spiritual order of the time. Biswabasu was reconciled to the forthcoming situation. Next-day morning, Bidyapati in the company of Biswabasu proceeded to the top of Neelagiri and had the Darshan of the Lord. Bidyapati’s purpose of journey was at last accomplished. Shorn of details, Bidyapati returned to Awanti and met Maharaja Indradyumna. He explained all details of his personal experiences to the king. The king was thrilled to learn from Bidyapati that Lord Bishnu was being worshipped as Neelamadhab at Purusottam Srikshetra. He also came to know from his Brahmin messenger that those who died at Purusottam Srikshetra had a straight journey to Vishnu Lok despite their misdeeds in life. Lord Yama, for that, had once complained to Lord Vishnu accordingly and sought for a solution of his problem. Lord Vishnu said to Yama that he should not have any ill-feeling for that eventuality because that was the spiritual benefit which everyone gained by worshipping Sri Neelamadhab at Purusottam Srikshetra. He consoled him saying that Neelamadhab in his “Indraneelamani” form was soon going to disappear from Neelagiri and he would not have that problem after the arrival 64 Orissa Review July – 2010 of Maharaja Indradyumna at Purusottam Srikshetra. It is said in Brahma Puran that when Maharaja Indradyumna reached Purusottam Srikshetra, Sri Neelamadhab was no longer in existence at Neelagiri. The deity as prophesised earlier, had disappeared with the arrival of the Maharaja at the sacred place. Thus we have references of Purusottam Kshetra in both Skanda Puran and Brahma Puran. As explained in both the Puranas, Maharaja Indradyumna had visited Purusottam Kshetra to have the divine glimpse of Lord Neelamadhab. But there are many points of differences between the two scriptures regarding other incidental happenings. But the fact that Maharaja Indradyumna had visited Purusottam Kshetra to glorify Jagannath Dhama is unanimously upheld in both the Puranas and we may accept this view as the main spiritual happening of the time in appreciation of the Puranic legends as stated above. ‘Niladri Mahodaya’, another spiritual scripture, is also eloquent on the visit of Maharaja Indradyumna to Purusottam Kshetra. However, this scripture adds one more speck of elucidation to the aforestated fact. It is stated in this connection that while Indradyumna was making preparations to set out to Purusottam Kshetra, Sage Narada appeared before him to accentuate his love for the Lord with a spirit of utmost faith and devotion. The king prayed to Narada to accompany him to Purusottam Kshetra. The Sage couldn’t deny his humble submission and at last both of them set out in their divine mission accompanied by the willing courtiers and ministers. On the way, the king was informed that Sri Neelamadhab, in His ‘Indraneelamani’ form had disappeared from ‘Neelagiri’. This gave a great shock to Maharaja Indradyumna but with the succor of exhortation received from sage Narad, the king was enlivened to his divine mission. At last, they reached Purusottam Kshetra. On arrival, the king had the divine glimpse of Sri Nrusingha, the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The king built a temple for Lord Nrusingha in the vicinity of the altar of Sri Neelamadhab. The deity of Nrusingha was installed at the new temple in the presence of sage Narada. The king also performed Aswamedha Jagnya one thousand times as the legends say. In midst of all those divine involvements, the king had a dream that he was to further make arrangements for the making of deities in perpetuation of the cult of Lord Jagannath during his rule. The deities, he further -envisioned, were to be made with “Shree Daru” that was floating in the sea near Bilweswar Mahadev at Purusottam Kshetra. The king carried out all the incidental actions, necessary for the purpose. According to Puranic legends, Maharaja Indradyumna, the king of Malava, had at first established a grand temple at Purusottam Kshetra and in the passage of time, the temple had gradually met its exinction. There is however no historical evidence about the reign of Maharaja Indradyumna as the ruler of Malava with his capital at Awanti. Dr. Benimadhab Padhi’s ‘Daru Devata’ is very pertinent for reference on this point. According to the views of many scholars on the score, the Indradyumna character that we come across in scriptures can’t, in fact, be related to any single person if this matter is to be critically evaluated in a systematic order. In Skanda Purana as stated above, Maharaja Indradyumna has been described as a great pious king and stated to be a spiritual icon of Satyayug. InKapila Samhita, we have descriptions about him and he was stated to be in the lineage of Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. As described in this scripture, he carried the 5th head of Lord Bramha. In Niladri Mahodaya, he is referred to as the king of Malava with his capital at Awanti and he belonged to Sun-Dynasty. He also belonged to the 5th generation of Lord Brahma. In Padma Orissa Review July – 2010 65 Purana, there is mention about Nilagiri but there is no mention about Maharaja Indrayumna. In Brahma Purana, there are descriptions about Maharaja Indradyumna but he is acclaimed as the king of Ujjain with his capital at Awanti. In the Oriya version of the Mahabharat, its author, Sudra Muni Sarala Das has described king Indradyumna in different ways at different places. In ‘Banaparba’, he has described king Indradyumna as the son of Galamadhab. In ‘Musaliparba’ he has described Indradyumna as the son of Madhu Kesari of Virata dynasty. It is described in this chapter that the king had constructed the grand temple at Purusottama Kshetra with utmost devotion to the Lord. The question now arises, what is the exact position of king Indradyumna as described in the scriptures ? According to the views of some scholars like Dr. Benimadhab Padhi, the Indrayumna character in the Jagannath cult is an institutional epithet. The name, in this sense, is virtually an ornamental symbol to portray the iconic virtues of an able, resourceful and outstanding ruler who, at any point of time in the ancient past, had lent contributions to the proliferation of Jagannath religion. The story of Indradyumna at Purusottam kshetra is thus a rich, colourful and fertile imagination of an author of scriptural evolution. However, the Indradyumna character as we come across in Skanda Purana is considered as an active promotor of Jagannath religion. From the point of view of historic references the grand temple that we see at Srikshetra Puri was built during the time of Raja Ananta Vurman Chodagangadev, the founder of Ganga Dynasty in Orissa in 12th century A.D. According to Sterling, Ananga Bhimadev-III had built the grand temple in 1196 A.D. According to some scholars, Chodagangadev had begun the construction of the grand temple but it was completed during the time of AnangabhimadevIII. In the opinion of Hunter, the construction of the temple was started in 1174 AD and completed in 1198 AD. According to Mahamahopadhyaya Sadasiba Kabyakantha, Chodagangadev had got the temple built up as we see it today. Prof. Kailash Chandra Das has said that it was Chodagangadev who had ordered the construction of temple and the deities were installed and consecrated on Ratnavedi in 1124- 25 A.D. In the opinion of Dr. Satyanarayan Rajguru, in the ancient times there was a temple on the side of the southern sea at Purusottam Srikshetra for the worship of the Lord of the universe. After ruination of this temple, the deities, worshipped there, were shifted to a new temple constructed during the time of king Jajati-II. This temple is the temple of Lord Nrusingha, we presently see within the premises of the grand temple at Puri. Afterwards Raja Chodagangadev had built the grand temple of the Lords near the Nrusingha Temple. During his life-time, as the construction of the temple could not be completed, it was completed during the time of his successor, Raja Anangabhima Dev-III and the deities had been installed here in a ritualistic order with grand pomp and ceremony. The divine consecration was celebrated in 1230 A.D. To a devotee of the Lord, what is important is the elegance and viability of his religion as it is purveyed to him in his day-to-day living. He does not bother about who had constructed the temple or how the temple was constructed over the period of time. To him, the details on this score are mere pieces of information. Yet it is no wrong to know the fundamental aspects of one’s religion. This article is an attempt to provide these fundamental facts to accentuate one’s belief in the cult of Jagannath.