(Last Updated on : 01/06/2010)
Lord Jagannath is believed to be a deity form of Lord Krishna
. The term Jagannath is a Sanskrit language
term; a compound term where jagat means universe and nath means master. Sri Jagannath (Lord of the World) is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu
, the second in the Holy Hindu Trinity of Gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar). Amongst the Vaishnavas, Jagannath is considered to be the most merciful Lord in the world. The image of the God has no legs and only stumps of arms. Jagannath appears together with his brother Balarama
and sister Subhadra
. The later two images are also devoid of hands and feet. These three images are worshipped in all the Jagannath temples, situated mostly in the eastern part of India. The oldest and most famous Jagannath idol is in the Jagannath Temple of Puri
, in Orissa
, India where every year the famous Ratha Yatra festival
takes place. It is one of the four Holy `Dhamas` of India including temples at Rameshwaram, Dwaraka, and Badrinath.
Legends about Lord Jagannath
There are two traditional stories associated with the deity of Jagannath. In the first story Lord Krishna appeared before King Indradyumna
and ordered him to carve a deity from a log that he would find washed up on the seashore. A mysterious old Brahmin
carpenter appeared before him to make the idol of the deity. The carpenter insisted that nobody should disturb him during the making of the paragon of the deity. He enclosed himself within an isolated room in the palace and continued with the carpentry. The King waited anxiously outside the room and it took a very long time. Then a moment came when the king could hear no sound from the room. King Indradyumna was very impatient and apprehended the worst had happened inside the room. He opened the door with great anxiety and found the deity in half-finished condition, while the carpenter has vanished.
The mysterious carpenter was none other than Lord Vishwakarma
himself, who was the architect of the gods. The king was extremely agitated as the deity was without arms and legs. He was much repentant as he had disturbed the carving. King Indradyumna was only pacified when the divine sage Narada
appeared before him and explained that the form of the deity is the legitimate form of the supreme personality of God and after that Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra were worshipped with great veneration.
The second story is completely different though very interesting. The reason behind the appearance of Jagannath was Lord Krishna`s eavesdropping on the Gopis (Krishna`s female play mates), who were talking among themselves about how much they loved Krishna. The Gopis asked sister Subhadra to keep watch if Krishna was coming. But after a while Subhadra was engrossed in listening to the Gopi`s stories as she was overwhelmed by the Gopis` devotion and love. Thus Subhadra forgot her duty and became completely unaware of her surrounding. She did not notice Krishna and Balarama approaching. As the two brothers listened to the story their hairs stood on end, their arms and legs retracted, eyes became larger and larger and they smiled broadly with ecstasy. This is the reason why Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra appeared in that form.
Lord Jagannath Rathayatra
The Annual Ratha yatra
festival of the Lord Jagannath temple at Puri is the high point of all the festivals celebrated. Millions of devotees from every corner of the world gather round the temple during the Ratha Yatra festival of Sri Jagannath. As the legend goes, every year Lord Jagannath, accompanied by His brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra leaves the temple to visit his aunt. The three of them are pulled in huge stringed chariots (Rathas) and the king of Puri himself sweeps the roads with a golden broom for the Lord of the World to pass. The deities stay there for seven days and are taken back to the original temple with another procession. It is believed that observing the Ratha Yatra and pulling at the ropes of the chariot leads one to salvation from the cycle of birth and death.
The Lord of the world, Lord Jagannath, is thus a highly venerated form of Lord Vishnu.