The incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Lord Krishna and then as Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram as Lord Balabhadra, Goddess Yogamaya as Devi Subhadra, and the Chakra as Lord Sudarshan is the core of Jagannath culture. He is the Living God, living every moment of human emotions, intimacies, and every aspect of life. His rituals are at times so close to human activities and at times outdo the reasoning of human thought. He is the umbilical cord of life feeding faith and its sustenance as ‘Tad Ekam’- The only one.
कदाचित् कालिन्दी तट विपिन सङ्गीत तरलो
मुदाभीरी नारी वदन कमला स्वाद मधुपः
रमा शम्भु ब्रह्मामरपति गणेशार्चित पदो
जगन्नाथः स्वामी नयन पथ गामी भवतु मे ॥१॥
kadācit kālindī-taṭa-vipina-saṅgīta ta ralo
jagannāthaḥ svāmī nayana-patha-gāmī bhavatu me (1)
The above lines by Adi Shankaracharya convey – Sometimes in happiness Lord Jagannatha, with His flute, makes a shrill recital in the groves on the banks of river Yamuna. He is like a bumblebee who tastes the beautiful lotus-like faces of the cowherd damsels of Vraja, and His lotus feet are worshiped by great personalities such as Lakshmi, Siva, Brahma, Indra, and Ganesa.
May that Jagannatha Swami is the object of my vision.
Niladri Bije is the homecoming of the Holy Trinity after their sojourn at the Gundicha Gruha. Jagannath left the Srimandira for Gundicha on the second day of the bright fortnight in the month of Ashada. His homecoming and seating on the Ratna Singhasana in the sanctum sanctorum happen on the thirteenth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Ashada. Niladri Bije is also the concluding ritual that marks the closure of the annual Ratha Yatra festival.
After the Sandhya dhupa and the concluding evening rituals, the exit of the Gods from their respective Ratha’s is scheduled. The huge personal utility caskets that had accompanied the Gods to Gundicha are brought down from the chariots and transported into the temple by the Kothosuan sevaks. Thereafter the Deities are taken inside the Srimandira, through the Singhadwara one after another. The idols of Madana Mohana and Ramakrishna are first taken inside the temple by the Puspalaka Mahajana Sevak. Then follow Shri Sudarshana, Devi Subhadra, and Shri Balabhadra.
Shri Jagannath is the last one to enter the temple. Lord Jagannath descends from the Nandighosa and progresses towards the Singhadwara. While He moves, Goddess Lakshmi keeps an eye on Him, and just when He is ready to take a leap inside the temple through the Singhadwara, She orders the doors to be closed. On the orders of Goddess Lakshmi, the Singhadwara is shut on Lord Jagannatha and He is left outside the Srimandira.
Here the ritual of Rukmani Vivha needs mention to understand Goddess Lakshmi’s anger tantrums.
On Nirjala Ekadashi, the Rukmani Vivaha ritual is conducted in the Srimandira. The day is popularly known as Rukmini Haran Ekadashi. This ritual is conducted just before the Snana Purnima- the bathing festival of the Triad.
Legend has it that Rukmini, princess of Vidarbha, wanted to marry Krishna, but her brother Rukmi, a friend of Kansha, was against it, so Krishna arranged to elope with Rukmini and get married. The same scene is recreated in the Jagannath temple premises on Jyestha Shukla Ekadashi.
Rukmini is also believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. Madanmohan, the representative idol of Jagannath, abducts Rukmini from the Bimala temple when she is offering her prayers. Madanmohan elopes with her on a chariot. Shishupal who is also her suitor reaches with his army and chases the couple. A war follows and Krishna wins.
The episode ends with the marriage between Madanmohan representing Shri Jagannath and Devi Rukmini representing Goddess Lakshmi inside the temple on the Vivaha mandapa where the marriage knot is tied.
Post the marriage Jagannath goes for the bathing ritual on Snana Purnima and then falls sick and goes to the Anabasara. After revival from sickness, He leaves Rukmani behind and goes to Gundicha Yatra for a long outing. The marriage was yet to consummate and is the major reason for Goddess Lakshmi’s anger outburst. She is also seen expressing her anger on Hera Panchami at Gundicha when she breaks Jagannath’s chariot.
Rasagolla For Conciliation
After much pestering Goddess Lakshmi allows the Singhadwara to open for Jagannath’s entry on Niladri Bije. The entry of Shri Jagannath into the temple is slow as He moves inside swaying back and forth with short pauses. The swaying movement is possible due to the Kanchana mala tied around His waist. Legend has it that the Kanchana mala is the snake Kalia Nāga, which Krishna had killed in Vrindavan. It is believed that after being defeated and badly injured by Krishna, Kalia Nāga realized that He was fighting Lord Vishnu. He pleaded guilty for poisoning the water of Yamuna and requested to pardon him. Lord Krishna accepted Kalia Nāga’s apology and granted him the task to serve the Lord as Kalianjanagada or the Kanchana Mala- the rope, tied around Lord Jagannath’s waist during His pahandi movement.
After Lord Jagannath climbs up the flight of twenty-two stairs, the Bibhishana Bandapana ritual is conducted, and then He navigates through the Jagamohana and reaches the Jay-Bijaya Dwara. The Jay-Bijaya door will subsequently lead Him to the Ratna Singhasana. It is again at the Jay-Bijaya door, Goddess Lakshmi again shuts the door on Him. An interesting mock banter known as the ‘Bachanika’ between Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Jagannath begins at this point. Devi Lakshmi curses Him for leaving her behind at the temple for such a long time. This exchange of dialogues was earlier done by the Mahari sevikas representing Lakshmi’s side. After the Mahari service was abolished it is now done by the Mudusuli sevaks.
In response to Goddess Lakshmi’s ceaseless curses, the Daita sevayatas of Shri Jagannath place His modest call for allowing Him inside. Jagannath humbly requests
कबाट मुदघटा हे सिन्धु कन्यके
समर्पयमि सुविचित्र मम्बरविधम् ।
kabāṭa mudaghaṭā he sindhu kanyake
samarpayami suvicitra mambaravidham |
In the above lines, Jagannath calls upon Goddess Lakshmi and says open the door oh! Sindhu Kanya, I have to give you unique things.
The above request is made several times by Lord Jagannath. Finally, Goddess Lakshmi opens the door and allows the Lord inside. As per rituals in front of the Bhandara Ghara – the storeroom, Goddess Lakshmi and Shri Jagannath meet. The Gainthala, the marriage knot tied on the day of Rukmani Vivaha is then united by the servitors. According to the Srimandira Swattwalipi, on this occasion, Lord Jagannath offers new clothes and Rasagollas to cajole Goddess Lakshmi. The reconciliation of the Divine couple happens on a sweet note. This is called ‘Manabhanjana’, the pacification of Goddess Lakshmi by the offering of Rasagolla. Thus Niladri Bije is also celebrated as Rasagolla Dibasa.
After the Rasagolla offering ritual, Shri Jagannath proceeds to the Ratna Singhasana in the sanctum sanctorum. He then announces the preparation of Nilachala Abhada, a special food offering to be cooked under the supervision of Goddess Lakshmi, the next day for Him.
Thus concludes the annual Gundicha Ratha Yatra of Shri Jagannath and His siblings.
The incomplete structure of Jagannath validates the concept of the amorphous Divine. He is the pious consciousness dissolved in the fluidity of life’s elements creating Jagannath Consciousness. He is woven in the culture, tradition, and the daily lifestyle of his worshippers creating Jagannath Sanskruti. He is the only one Supreme, forever accessible as an anonymous certainty.
Let Jagannath Swamy be the purpose of my vision.
Note: This year the annual Jagannath Ratha Yatra was held on 23rd June 2020. Bahuda Yatra got over 1st July 2020. The concluding ritual of the Triad Niladri Bije is on 4th July 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rituals are being conducted, as per the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court of India, only at the Moola Peeta of Shri Jagannath at Puri Dham without the participation of devotees.
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