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How Lord Jagannatha Came to Simantadvipa
In Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahdtmya, Lord Jagannatha instructs Sri Ramanujacarya as follows:
"Everyone knows Krsna, the Lord of Goloka. That Krsna, whose vildsa-murti is Narayana, is the supreme Truth, and He resides in Vrndavana. That Krsna is fully manifest in the form of Gaurahari, and that Vrndavana is fully manifest in the form of Navadvipa-dhama, the topmost abode in the universe. By My mercy that dhdma has appeared within Bhu-mandala, yet it remains without the scent of maya. This is the verdict of the scripture. If you say that Navadvipa is part of the material world, then your devotion will dwindle day by day. I have placed this spiritual abode within the material world by My desire and inconceivable energy. Simply by reading scriptures one will not get the highest truth, for the highest truth surpasses all reasoning power. Only the devotees can understand by My mercy." To teach the yuga-dharma of nama-sankirtana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead assumed the form of a devotee immersed in love of God. He is known by the names of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Gaurariga, and Gaurahari."
Just a few kilometers away from the place where Lord Gaurahga appeared, situated on the top of a hill in Simantadvipa, is the village of Rajapur. Within that lovely rural area one can find the charming temple of Lord Jagannatha, which is now managed by ISKCON. Whoever visits Sri Navadvipa must take darsana of Lord
Jagannatha. It is stated in the sastras that Sri Ksetra, or Jagannatha Puri, is eternally manifest in this holy place and that all benefits one can attain by visiting Jagannatha Purl may be achieved by visiting the Sri Jagannatha Mandir in Rajapur.
Seventh Century History
Lord Jagannatha of Sri Simantadvipa is not different from the Master of Sri Nilacala Dhama (Jagannatha Purl) Himself. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has reestablished this truth with historical facts is his book Sri Navadvlpa-dhdma-mdhatmya, "the glories of Navadvipa-dhama." The following story is mentioned in that book:
Around the seventh century, one Yavana king named Raktabahu appeared in the region of Orissa. He was very sinful and irreligious and caused great devastation, destroying temples and terrorizing the hearts of the pious people in Orissa. When the devotees of Lord Jagannatha in Purl came to know about the mischievousness of Raktabahu, they became very much afraid. They immediately approached Lordjagannatha: "O worshipful Lord," the devotees prayed, "we are in great anxiety knowing that a miscreant named Raktabahu is breaking down all temples and destroying the Deities inside. He is now proceeding in this direction. He may come at any moment and attack Your temple. If that happens, then we will have to give up our lives, because we'll never be able to tolerate any action against You. Please, save us from this danger by making proper arrangements for the protection of Your divine form and the temple, O Almighty Lord!"
Being thus approached by his devotees, Lordjagannatha appeared in the dream of the head priest that night and spoke to him as follows: " My dear pujdrl, I am completely overwhelmed by perceiving the ardent love and devotion that you devotees have for Me. You all love Me more than your own self. Lhis is the symptom of a pure devotee. Actually nobody can harm My divine form or My temple. I certainly need not worry about that. Just by My powerful will I can keep all miscreants away from the place where I stay with My beloved devotees. But in order to bless My devotees and to reciprocate with them, many times I accept this kind of 'hardship' willingly. In this way My devotees' love and attachment for Me increases manifold. And since this is their desire, I establish their love for Me in a more prominent way. Tomorrow, therefore, please, remove the Deities of Myself, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi and set out for Bengal. You should take the path through the jungle so that you can easily escape Raktabahu, who is coming by the main road. Have no fear, I will always protect you!"
The Lord then disappeared from the dream and the pujarl woke up. He immediately broadcast the message, which stirred the devotees, and they all started to make the proper arrangements for the Lord's journey.
The traditional system of service to the Lord in Jagannatha Purl is that devotees from different sections of society are assigned to various services. For instance, Brahmanas are responsible for worship of the deities. Other devotees cook for the Lord's pleasure. Those devotees known as the Sabaras perform the service of carrying Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi when Their Lordships attend certain festivals like sndna-yatra, etc.
When the message reached the Sabaras that the Lord wanted to leave for Bengal, they immediately made all necessary arrangements for departure the next morning. They walked all day and just before dusk set in, they settled in a suitable place. There they collected fruits, flowers, and leaves from the jungle and worshipped Their Lordships. Finally they put Them to rest, and after honoring the Lord's mahd-prasddam they themselves took rest. The next morning, after the Deities had been worshipped, the Sabaras again started for their destination. In this way they spent eleven days, and on the twelfth they arrived in Simantadvipa, one of the nine islands of Navadvipa Dhama. That night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in the dream of the head Sahara and expressed His desire to settle in this very place, which was transcendental in all respects. At once, the Sahara devotees made all efforts for the proper arrangements to fulfill the Lord's desire to stay there permanently. The Sahara Vaisnavas went on serving the Lord for generations to come. Due to their pure love and devotion they all attained liberation and finally went back to Godhead, to Lord Jagannatha's eternal abode in the spiritual sky. Till today the Sahara's village is located near the Jagannatha temple and is known as Sabara-dariga, "the place of the Sabaras." Gradually, by the influence of time, the Deities and the temple disappeared from sight. The Lord, however, never left that place ...
Sixteenth Century History
At the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a devotee named Jagadisa Ganguli lived in a small village near the present-day Mayapur. Jagadisa was a highly elevated Vaisnava and even though he was very old, still every year he would make the 900km journey on foot to Jagannatha Purl on the Bay of Bengal. He would travel with other devotees from Bengal to meet their most dear Lord Caitanya, have darsana of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi, and participate in the ecstatic Rathayatra. After four months they would return to their homes in Bengal. One day Jagadisa's happiness was ruined. He was stricken with a serious disease that left him totally blind. When he realized that he could no longer see the divine forms of Lord Caitanya and the Jagannatha Deities, he became very depressed. Worse yet, his friends considered the annual pilgrimage to Purl too long and too dangerous for a blind man and they refused to take him along with them. Jagadisa remained in Navadvlpa in constant lamentation and despondency. Out of hopelessness he even considered committing suicide.
Then one night Lord Jagannatha appeared to Jagadisa in a dream. The next morning, the Lord told him, whenjagadisa went for his daily bath in the Gariga a log would touch his head and restore his vision. The Lord told Jagadisa that he should take that log and go to a nearby village where a devotee-carpenter lives. The Lord explained also that the carpenter would refuse the work because he was a leper and had deformed hands. Jagadisa would have to insist, and convince the carpenter to do this work. On completion of this job, the Lord assured, the carpenter's leprosy would immediately vanish.
Upon awakening, Jagadisa was amazed at his dream. He immediately left for his morning bath in the Gariga and became ecstatic when a log touched his head and restored his vision. He took the wood and went to a nearby village, where he searched and searched until he found a leper-carpenter. Jagadisa implored the leper to carve a deity of Lord Jagannatha from the wood, but the carpenter flatly refused. He showed Jagadisa his deformed fingers and asked him, "How is it possible for me to carve the divine form of the Lord with these hands?" But Jagadisa insisted. He explained to the leper that his leprosy would be cured once he finished the carving. Finally the leper agreed.
Jagadisa stayed with the leper as he was working and saw him suffering terribly. Blood and pus oozed from the stumps that were once his fingers and he wanted to quit the work. But Jagadisa encouraged him and enabled him to forget his agony long enough to finish the deity of Lord Jagannatha. The very moment he finished, his leprosy disappeared. Jagadisa took the deity to a site near the present Jagannatha temple and established His worship there. A few nights later, Jagadisa had another dream. This time Lord Jagannatha instructed him to take some nearby neem wood to the same carpenter and have him make deities of Subhadra and Balarama. Jagadisa did so and installed Them in the temple next to Lord Jagannatha.
Legend has it that after the demise of Jagadisa Ganguli, the Lord, being dissatisfied with the neglectful state of His worship, decided to end His manifest pastimes. Suddenly there was an outbreak of cholera. The inhabitants of the surrounding area assembled at the temple and prayed to Prabhu Jagannatha to have pity on them and save their lives. That night, Jagannatha came to the head priest in a dream and said, "One of the housewives of the Ganguli family, who is characterless, dared to dishonour me. For this offense everyone in the Ganguli family and the village will die if they do not leave the place." The next morning the villagers found the members of the Ganguli family dead and immediately deserted the entire area. Since there was no more worship at the temple, Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra. and Balarama were forgotten, and save for the flat roof over Their heads, the temple fell down around Them and was soon covered by the surrounding jungle.