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Laxmi Devi and Sriya Chandaluni
In Onssa people perform special worship to Laxmi Devi during the month of Margasira. Every Thursday during this month, ladies arrange elaborate puja to Laxmi Devi following dif¬ferent rules and rituals. On this day, Mother Laxmi leaves the tem¬ple with the permission of Jagannath to visit her devotees. Usually she visits anyone who is devoted to her, and who performs their puja according to her rules and regulations.
One day Laxmi Devi, in the disguise of an old brahimni, went to visit different houses on the auspicious Thursday. She found the ladies of one merchants house still sleeping, and so the home had not been cleaned. Laxmi Devi met the elderly lady of the house and explained to her how they should follow certain rules on this particular day to worship Laxmi. But the old lady did not care for the instructions of Lamxi Devi. In response, Laxmi Devi re¬moved her opulence from that home, and the family became very poor. They had to live by begging from house to house. Then Laxmi Devi went to a village where chandalas lived. She went to Sriya Chandalunis house. Sriya Chandaluni was ob¬serving the vrata on tliat day for worshiping Lamxi Devi. She had woken up very early and cleaned her entire house, decorating it nicely for the worship of Lamxi Devi. Seeing this, Laxmi Devi was very pleased and blessed Sriya Chandaluni with, more opulence, thus fulfilling all her desires. Laxmi Devi then returned to the tem¬ple. In the meantime, die Lords Jagannath and Balabhadra had also gone out for a morning walk. On Their way back They saw Laxmi Devi returning from one chandala's house. Upon seeing this, Baladeva became very upset and spoke to Jagannatii sharply.
"Your wife Laxmi Devi has been visiting die home of a chandala. They are contaminated people, and do not follow any rules. How can she enter our temple after visiting die home of a chandala? Our temple will be contaminated. You must give her up." Jagannath tried to pacify Balaram, saying that Laxmi Devi should be excused this time and told not to do this again. But Balaram was very adamant to enforce His judgment that she should not be al¬lowed in the temple. "If you allow Lamxi Devi in the temple, then You will have to give Me up. I will stay out of the temple." Since Jagannath is very obedient to His elder brother, He followed the order of Lord Balaram. He called for Laxmi Devi and informed her that she was no longer allowed to enter the temple by the order of Balaram. Laxmi Devi was very surprised to hear this kind of state¬ment from Jagannath. At die time of marriage, Jagannath had agreed to the father of Lamxi Devi that He will excuse ten offenses made by His wife. Moreover, her visit was not offensive since it was agreed that on each Thursday of the month of Margasira she can go out to visit the villages to bless her devotees. That day was exempted for her. Still she was punished unjusdy. This made Laxmi Devi very angry. She cursed Jagannatii that for the next twelve years He would not get enough food to satisfy Him, and tiiat He would only be able to eat food cooked and served by her. After cursing Lord Jagannath, Lamxi Devi left die temple, along with all her as¬sistants. As soon as she left the temple became bereft of all opulence. The storehouse was empty.
The next morning, Jagannath and Balaram were waiting for breakfast, but nothing came. It was getting later and later, but still nothing had been served. Balaram asked Jagannath, "What is hap¬pening with our breakfast? Why is it so late?" Jagannath replied, "No breakfast has been prepared because Lamxi Devi has left the temple, along with all her associates, so there is no one to cook." Then Balaram and Jagannath entered the kitchen to prepare some food. Due to their anger at the dismissal of their mistress from the temple, Lamxi's associates had broken all the ovens in the kitchen. Jagannath and Balaram then entered the storeroom to gather some ingredients for cooking, but they found the storeroom empty be¬cause Laxmi Devi had withdrawn all her opulence. By that time both the brothers were very hungry. Being deprived of Lamxi Devi and suffering from hunger, both of Them decided to go out for begging.
We should know that although the Lord possesses all opu¬lence and is the maintainer of everyone, He went out to beg like an ordinary beggar just to prove the greatness of His devotee through this particular pastime. Thus Lords Jagannath and Balaram, in the disguise of brahmanas, went to the city to beg from house to house. No one could recognize Them. Being deprived of Laxmi, They both looked very inauspicious, and so no one would give Them alms. No one treated them nicely, or even allowed Them on their doorstep. In the meantime, by the order of Laxmi Devi, the sun god had increased the heat of the sun. Both brothers had to walk on very hot sand with much difficulty. They were feeling very thirsty, and were happy to come to a pond where They could quench Their thirst. Suddenly, as soon as the brothers approached the pond, the water dried up. Finally they approached a tree, thinking to eat some tender leaves. But as soon as They approached the tree, immediately the leaves dried and shriveled. Both the brothers were extremely hungry. Usually They ate many times throughout the day, as re¬quested long ago by King Indradyumna. In fact, They ate so often that no sooner had They washed Their hands after eating, that it was time to eat again. Both brothers had been following this system and were habituated to eating constantly throughout the day. Yet now almost a whole day had passed, and still They had eaten nothing.
Soon the brothers reached a temple where there had recently been prasada distribution. Many people were returning to their homes with prasada. Jagannath and Balaram approached one of the ladies. Out of kindness she agreed to give Them some food. She had some puffed rice that she had offered to the deities, and she was happy to share it with the brothers. Just as she picked up the puffed rice to give to Jagannath and Balaram, a strong wind blew by the instruction of Lamxi Devi, and all the puffed rice blew away. Both the brothers again lost Their chance to get some food.Finally They asked some people where they could go to get some food. Someone directed them to a village of chandalas where one very charitable personality lived. Jagannath and Balaram went to that house and asked for some food. The householder was happy to feed them, but Balaram did not want to eat food cooked by a chandala. Rather, He wanted to cook the food Himself and eat. He asked the householder to provide some raw food materials and facilities for cooking. According to Balarama's request, all the facili¬ties for cooking were prepared. A new oven was made, and all the ingredients and clay pots to cook were provided. Balaram told Ja-gannatli to prepare food and went to take bath. In the meantime Jagannath tried to cook, but he could not even set fire to the wood, what to speak of cooking a meal.
After some time Balaram came back after taking His bath, expecting to find a meal ready. He had been thinking happily about sitting down to eat at last. Unfortunately on His arrival He came to realize that Jagannath was not able to cook, as He could not set fire to the wood. This made Balaram very upset. He chastised Ja¬gannath for His incapability and began to prepare the food Him¬self. But when Balaram tried to set fire to the wood, it would not burn, but simply created a lot of smoke. The whole house filled with smoke, making everyone's eyes burn. Tears rolled from their eyes and everyone was coughing. Then Jagannath and Balaram requested the house owner to bring some cooked food. The lady servants of the house served the brothers. As they ate, They agreed the food was very tasty—in fact, as tasty as it was in temple, when it was cooked by Laxmi Devi. At the end of the meal, some nice cake was served. Usually in the Ja¬gannath temple at the end of the meal Laxmi Devi served special cake to both the brothers. Jagannath and Balaram thought that Lamxi Devi must be residing in the house. The Lords were con¬vinced that Laxmi Devi herself cooked the tasty food. How else would someone know that They took special cake at the end of Their meal? Balaram, being the elder brother of Jagannath, could not speak to or face Laxmi Devi, since she is the wife of His younger brother. That is the custom of Orissa. Balaram requested Jagannath to go to Lamxi Devi and beg forgiveness from her and bring her to the temple by holding her hand. He told Jagannath to tell Lamxi Devi that she will never be denied to leave the temple to visit her devotees, and that she could go anywhere she liked as long as she always returned to the temple.
Being approached by Jagannath, Laxmi Devi was satisfied. She made Jagannath promise that there would be no distinction between low-caste and high-caste for honoring Jagannatli prasada. To this day, prasada in Jagannath temple is served to all, irrespec¬tive of caste and creed. Brahmanas and chandalas can eat prasada together from one plate.