Odisha – The Land of God! We belong to a nation which is known for its “unity in diversity”. With over 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism, 14.2% adheres to Islam, 2.3% adheres to Christianity, 1.7% adheres to Sikhism, and 0.7% adheres to Buddhism according to 2011 census. Such great diversity in one country and though we say that every city is tolerant of all the religions, deep inside we know that this is not the case everywhere. Even if people of different religions are living together, rarely they are aware, empathetic and respectful towards the minorities.
Odisha is one of those enlightened places that has understood the importance and beauty of every religion. For people of Odisha, its not just about practising rituals and cultures but also about being spiritually awakened.
Odia people reflects aspects of all major religions of India- Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, Saivism etc. Perhaps it has the highest concentration of the Hindus in it. The blend & harmony of the different forms of Brahminic worship- Vaishnavi, Shaivite, Shakta, Ganapatya are all to be found in the great and grand temple of Jagannath around whom resolves the entire cultural milieu of Odisha.
Although the major population of the state follows Hinduism yet its never been a dominating ruler over others instead Odisha is the second state in India after Bihar where Buddhism has flourished a lot. Jainism as well has created a great impact on the religious lifestyles of the Odia people. Khandagiri and Udaygiri are the best examples of Jain monuments that are most visited.
The biggest example of religious unity in Odisha is the census date on religious groups revealed in the year 2011 which showed that during last 50 years from 1961-2011, Hindu population growth was 129.52% while minorities like Muslims grew by 323.40%, Christians- 477.91%, Jains- 310.46%, Buddhists- 295.10% and Sikhs grew by 337.19% in the state.
“The religion data gathered and disseminated reflected the social composition and dynamic at a particular point of time”, said director of Census, Bishnupada Sethi, Odisha.
Therefore, people belonging to diverse religions and castes in Odisha live peacefully with a feeling of brotherhood among them.
JAGANNATH TEMPLE, PURI
A fact which is known by some is that there is always going to be that one place or spot in every city which will define the vibe of that entire area and the people residing there, take it as something which is a harbinger of all the beauty, a source of light that guides every individual of that place. In Odisha, that source of light is “Jagannath Temple”.
So, in order to know the heart of Odisha, one has to study Jagannath Temple. And just when you understand this place and the aura of it, you will automatically get acquainted with everything that you must need to know about the psychology and nature of Odia people as well.
History of Jagannath Temple- Legend
The legendary story behind the origin of Jagannath temple is that here the real image of Jagannath, who is a deity form of Vishnu, manifested near a banyan tree, near the seashore in the form of a Blue jewel was found, at the end of Treta Yuga. It was so charming and mystical that it could bless anyone with instant moksha and therefore God Yama/Dharma decided for it to be hidden in the earth.
In Dvapapraa Yuga, King Indradyumna of Malwa wanted to find that mystical image of Jagannath and for that, he performed harsh penance to obtain his goal. Due to his sincere devotion to find that image, Lord Vishnu instructed him to go to the seashore of Puri and to form an image from the trunk of a floating log found there.
After finding the log, King Indradyumna did a yajna from which Narsimha appeared and instructed that Narayana must be made as a fourfold expansion: –
- Paramatma as Vasudev
- Vyuha as Samkarshana
- Yogamaya as Subhadra
- Vibhava as Sudarsana
Hence, Vishwakarma appeared as an artisan and formed images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the tree.
When the radiant light was seen floating in the sea on a log of wood, Narada asked the king to make the three idols out of it and place them in a pavilion. Vishnu himself appeared in the guise of a carpenter to make the idols of the magnificent temple but with the condition that he has to be left in utter peace and silence until he is finished with his carpentry.
But just after two weeks, the Queen became very suspicious as she wasn’t hearing any noise of carpentry from the temple. Therefore, she decided to check inside and just when she did watch Vishnu working, he abandoned his work, leaving the idols unfinished. The idol was not having any hands. However, a divine voice told Indradyumana to place them in the temple. It is believed that though the idol is devoid of hands, it can still watch over the world and be its Supreme Lord.
The three deities placed in Jagannath came to be known as the symbols of Samyak Darshan, Samyak Jnana and Samyak Charita usually regarded as Triratha (of the Jain cult), an experience of which leads to Moksha (salvation). The deities are regarded as the Bhairava with Vimala (Shakti, feminine energy or the consort of Shiva) placed in the temple. Therefore, we find a combination of Saivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism of the Hindu religion along with Jainism and also Buddhism up to an extent, reverently held together in Shrikshetra in the cultural tradition of Jagannath.
Entry and Darshan
- Only Hindus are allowed to pay a visit to the Jagannath temple.
- Non-Hindu visitors may view the temple and precinct from the roof of the nearby Raghunandan Library to pay their respect to God Jagannath.
- This policy came into action because of some evidence of foreign invasions into the temple and surrounding area.
- Opening hours- 5:00 am-midnight
- During Parimanik Darshan or special darshan, devotees have to pay a small fee to go right up to the statues.
- During Sahana Mela or general appearance at 7-8:00 am, devotees are allowed to go right up to the deities without paying any fees.
Though one may say that it’s just about Hinduism and Hindu people who are going to feel blessed by the temple but no higher consciousness ever discriminates between people of different religion, caste or culture. The one who is encompassing, the one who is infinite and also a Shunya, cares not of the worldly restrictions. So, one will find its aura everywhere surrounding that mystical place. Odisha – The Land of God!