I have been living in Odisha for 22 years and have been a witness to Great Rath Yatra. As the supreme court cancelled the Rath Yatra 2020, the Jagannath devotee in me is sad, but I also understand that it is important for the people, looking at the prevailing situation created by the pandemic which is also reflected in the Supreme Court’s decision. While taking the decision, the apex court also said, “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allow the Rath Yatra this year. Such gatherings can’t take place at the time of a pandemic”
Rath Yatra celebration takes place not just in Puri but also in every nook and corner of Odisha where even small children make tiny Raths and drag them around. Every locality in Odisha has a Jagannath Mandir and they carry out their own respective Rath Yatra.
Today, devotees around the globe are saddened by the news. But do we really know the significance of this temple and the story behind the incomplete idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Maa Shubhadra?
As the story goes, in Mahabharat, the queen Gandhari cursed Yaduvansh that they will fight amongst themselves and end up killing each other, and in the due course of time this actually happened. The grief stricken lord Krishna was sitting on a river bank when a hunter named Jara attacked him, thinking him to be a deer, and killed him.
Realising his mistake, Jara performed the last rite of Lord Krishna as per the Hindu traditions. His whole body turned into ashes except for his heart. Not knowing what to do with it, Jara threw the heart in the river. That heart is said to have reached Puri.
One night, the ruler of Puri, the King Indradyumna, saw a dream that he was walking down the beach of Puri and saw something inexplicable. He woke up from his dream and went to the beach where he found a log of wood.
When he came back to his palace, he met an 80 year old artisan, who was none other than lord Vishwakarma disguised as the artisan.
He asked the King that he wanted to make idols from that log of wood and also asked the king to provide him a chamber where he would stay and make the idols for 21 days, without food and water.
The king provided everything that artisan had asked for.
Two men guarded the door of the chamber so that the artisan was not disturbed. On 14th day, the guards informed the king that sound of hammer that used to come from the chamber had stopped. The worried queen forced the king to open the door, fearing that the artisan might have died without food and water.
Once the door was opened, the artisan got infuriated and he vanished, leaving the three idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Maa Subhadra incomplete.
The King, however, placed the statues in the temple.
It is sad that our History books don’t teach us much about Jagannath temple and how it survived wrath of Mughal rulers, multiple times.
In one such instance, Feroz shah Tuglaq Flung the idols in sea, but there are no accounts of what had happened. There are many more fascinating stories of Jagannath temple and I am hoping to write a few more articles about the temple.
Also, if you know anything about how Puri survived the attacks of Mughals, you can add it in the comments section.