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Title: Puri Temple

User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-10-25 18:23:00


The Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri

By Shrila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, 1871.

There is not a Hindu who has not heard the name of this temple. The old

and the young, the male and the female, the Rajah and the ryot, and the

weak and the stout, all visit this temple out of a religious curiosity. « Less: ""]More »[URL=""

 Three hundred and one miles south-west of the Vice-Regal palace at

Calcutta, stands this famous temple close to the seashore affording an

object for a telescopic observation to the new-comer an broad the ship

bound for Bengal.


It stands on a platform measuring 20 cubits in height from the level of

water. The platform itself is 375 cubits by 400 cubits made of huge

stone cemented with a mortar composed of lime and sand. The temple

itself is 92 cubits in height of a structure purely Indian. The

pilgrims sees its towering head from the distance of 7 miles where the

shrewd Panda takes a rupee from him by showing him the holy Chakra.

This temple was erected by Raja Ananga Bhimbdeb about 800 years ago in

place of another one, then in state of dilapidation. In old accounts we

find this temple styled Niladri or the blue hill. From this it appears

that the former temple which was probably raised by the emigrating

Rajah Indradiumna was a blue or dark coloured one. Otherwise we cannot

account for the name Nilachala unless we take it for granted that the

name was after the Nilgiri Hills, a small range which runs through this

Province from one end to the other.

The Utkalakhanda in the Puranas, the Niladri Mahodadhi, and the Matla

Panjee (an account regularly kept by the temple officers) declare that

Jagannath is a very ancient institution amongst the Hindus. Whatever

may be the value of the authorities quoted, we are inclined to believe

that Puri was considered sacred even at the time when the Puranas were

written, because we find in Wilson’s copy of the Vishnu Purana that

one Kandu Rishi resorted to a place called Purushottama for the purpose

of divine contemplation. At all events Rajah Indradiumna, to whom the

whole affair is generally ascribed, lived a long time before Rajah

Vikramaditya, the contemporary of Augustus Caesar of Rome. We are sure,

that Puri is not so old as Benares and Gaya, of which repeated mention

is made in all the Puranas and the Mahabharata, yet it is not a place

of recent origin created after the commencement of the Christian Era.

We cannot believe that the institution originated in pure stupidity of

the religious sentiment; for we cannot but observe a great deal of

wisdom in the man with whom the idea of Jagannath first originated. We

do not profess to belong to any of the sects of religion under the sun,

we believe the absolute Faith, founded upon instinctive love of God,

natural in all human souls. There are two great sects of religion all

over the world who fight with each other without any advantage

whatever. One of them holds that it is absolutely necessary to believe

that God is without any form whatever and believers in the form are

but, idolatrous. The other class maintains that God has out of kindness

shown His form to the pious in order to be worshipped by them. Both of

them are wrong, because both of them fight on a purely material point.

The most unsectarian view of the point is, that God is neither a form

nor a formless object but is purely spiritual. Matter alone can embrace

the idea of form; consequently all positive and negative assertions

with regard to it must naturally be material. Those who worship the

form and those who describe God as formless, are both idolatrous and

superstitious, and consequently can never form an idea of the spiritual

Deity. Sectarians of the same class are expected to hate each other,

but those, who have nothing in common with them, have no reason for

hatred. We therefore cannot, like the fanatics of the formless class

consider all idols as unsacred and hold the worship of a formless Deity

(identifying Him with something like space and eternity) to be the

natural worship of God. We go so far as to maintain that the worshipper

of the spiritual God in an idol is infinitely superior to a mere

believer in a formless existence who considers that formlessness is one

of the attributes of the Spirit. Spirit is not exactly the opposite of

matter, but it is certainly something different from it. it is

difficult indeed to decide what is the exact relation of the Spirit to

matter, space and time, and it is not given to us to know.

It would indeed be the height error to conceive that all the opposite

qualities of matter, space and time are in Spirit. Hence we must look

to some other attributes for Spirit. Love and wisdom are certainly

spiritual attributes which are not opposite qualities of matter. Man

must be wise and love God. This is the religion of the soul. All

debates about the essence of God (e.g. God is formless or with a form)

are but sectarian. Now we allow men to love God wisely, i.e.

spiritually while their eyes are on idol as well as while they

contemplating an Infinite thing like the space. When the soul worships,

the mind also finds an employment. The mind can never conceive of

anything that is not material.

It is therefore exceedingly difficult for man in his present state to

separate himself from idolatry. What man is obliged to do, is his lot

and hence we must put off the meaning of idolatry to some other

process. We therefore conclude that he that worship the idol as God

(whether the idol be formless or form) is idolatrous, but he that

worships the spirit in wise love (however near he may be to an idol of

form or of no form) is a worshipper of Sprit. But we go further to

tolerate all these classes if they be sincere. God accept the worship

of all those who worship their highest ideal, whether it is form,

formless or Spirit, and it is under some regular processes that the

idea of God becomes purer and purer in every soul and not by fits and

starts. That man has no heart for his brother and consequently for God

also, who sneer at the highest ideal of another behind him, is


A war against the idol worshippers either in words or action is not a

crusade but a fit of rash, loveless and ambitious fanaticism of a very

unphilanthropic character. We therefore, with all our due attempts at

the spiritual reformation of our erring brothers, tolerate all classes

of idolatry from the worshippers of formlessness to the worshippers of

man, or matter as God. We are opposed to the atheists alone who live

and enjoy for themselves. Those who are anxious for the blessing of God

are our brothers in faith, whatever error there may be in their ideas

and forms of worship. Love of God, however misdirected it may be, does

by force of its own natural strenth, rise higher and higher in the

scale of spiritual progress. Its want is the degradation of the soul

alone.those who do not love God have an opposite course from us and are

objects of pity with all classes of theists. God save them. We were led

to these remarks by a desire to show that we are candid examiners of

the institution of Jagannath without that hatred to the idolatrous (who

are not prepared to understand the philosophy of Purushottam Tattva)

which is perceivable in the short sighted and rash reformers of our


The system of Jagannath is viewed in two different ways. The

superstitious and the ignorant take it as a system of idolatry by

worshipping the idols in the temple as God Almighty appearing in the

shape of a carved wood for the salvation of the Urias. But the

Saragrahi Vaishnavas find the idols as emblems of some eternal truth

which has been explained in the Vedanta Sutras of Vyasa. Within the

temples in which are to be found the idols of Bimala, Shiva, Ganesha

and Surya, the big, towering temple of Jagannath stands in the middle

of the compound. Those who examined the system of Hindu Theology with a philosophic eye, are well aware that there are five different forms of

faith comprised therein.

The first form of faith is Shaktaism or the worship of nature as God.

The second is the worship of Surya or the sun which is identified with

heat; the only active element in lifeless matter. The third teaches one

to worship the Spirit in its most unsatisfactory form of development in

the lower animals. In this form, the elephant-man or Ganesha is the

object of worship. Man is the object of worship in fourth stage of

Hinduism. The soul, well developed as it is in the man, is worshipped

in Shiva in whom the human souls is said to be observed after

salvation. In the fifth stage alone, the Infinite God distinct from the

human soul, is perceived and worshipped. Here commences Vaishnavism. In

these five stage are shown the whole history of Hindu Theology, nay,

the whole history of Theology in general. All sorts of creeds that have

come to existence since the creation of man, are included in these five

stages. Name any system of faith that man has discovered and we will

find no difficulty in classing it with any one of the five, viz.

Materialism, Elementalism, Fetishism, Man worship and God worship.

This is summing up of all systems of faith philosophically and not

instructing people to believe in any one of them except the last. The

visitor of the temple of Jagannath will find a similar display of these

systems in their proper places. Consequently we find the temple of

Jagannath in the middle of the compound, and our remarks will now

relate to Jagannath exclusively. We have several times entered the

shrine of Jagannath, and, approaching the sandal bolts, have observed

in the middle room an elevated seat on which stand four different forms

viz. Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra and Sudarsan. According to the

Vedanta, God is without a second, but He has infinite energies and

attributes which are not fully known to man. But then man perceives

only three energies in God, because he has no other corresponding sides

to understand the other powers. From one of the energies proceeds

matter in all its different forms and properties and this energy is

styled Maya Shakti of God.

From the second energy proceeds all spiritual creation, in all its

relations and phases. This power is entitled the Jiva Shakti of God.

The third energy perceivable by man is the energy of Will, which is

called Cit Shakti. God moving in creation is what is meant by this

infinite energy. Jagannath is the emblem of God having no other form

than the eyes and the hands. They mean to show that God sees and knows

and creates. Balarama is the source of Jiva Shakti of God; Subhudra,

the Maya Shakti; and Sudarshana is the energy of Will. We cannot form

any ideas of these energies and hence it is worship of Jagannath the

depends upon the collection of these four forms on the same platform.

Here we see God analyzed in the shape of forms for the sake of those

who want to conceive of Him. It is the same thing to see Jagannath as

to study the Vedanta in all its Branches. The temple and its

institution appear to me to be a book for those who can read it, to the

foolish the institution is useless except as a means of reminding them

of the Deity who created the world.

There is one more thing in the temple which explains the philosophical

superiority of Jagannath over all other Hindu institutions. We mean the

Mahaprasad system. Rice dedicated to Jagannath is sold in the Bazaar to

all pilgrims. Brahmins and the Khettries, Vaishnavas and Shaktas, the

Sanyasis and the Grihastas, all accept it without any hesitation

whatever. Brahminical aristocrasy has no rule in the temple. This shows

that when people get wise, they need not obey the foolish dictates of

the Brahmins which are mainly intended for those who are unable to

chalk out ways for themselves. When man admits the superiority of Love

to God to all other systems of rule and ethics, he is not bound to work

according to the Shastras intended for lower order of men. The common

bonds of the inferior Dharma Shastras of Manu and Jagnyabalkya have no

influence on the free Vaishnavas who are God’s own soldiers in the

crusade against evil.

The system of Mahaprasad is not only emblematic of the superior life of

the Vaishnavas, but it is a part of the worship which ordinary theists

cannot fully understand. The ordinary men are very much inclined to

preserve the superiority of Reason over intuitive feelings of man

towards the God of Love. We must now proceed to show with healthy

arguments that our intuitive feelings want us to offer everything we

eat to the God of our heart. We must first examine the arguments of the

antagonist. The Rationalists holds that God is infinite and without

wants, and consequently it is foolish to offer eatables to such Being.

It is sacrilege to offer created things to the Creator and thereby

degrade the Divinity of God into humanity. These are reasonable

arguments indeed, and one who has heard them will certainly be inclined

to declare to others , “Down with the Mahaprasad.” These

conclusions ,however reasonable, are dry and destructive.

They tend to separate us from all connections with God in the form of

worship. When you say that the infinite want nothing , you forbid all

contemplation and prayer. The Infinite does not want your grateful

expressions or, in other words, flattery. Utter a word to the

Unconditioned and you are sure to degrade Him into a conditioned Being.

Hymns, prayers and sermons are all over! Shut your temple door and the

church gates , because our Rationalist has advised you to do so.

Believe a creating principle and you have done your duty! Oh! What a

shame! What a dreadful fall! Theists, be ware of these degrading

principles! Now the Rationalists appears in another shape and admits

prayers, sermons, psalms and church going, saying that these things are

wanted for the improvement of the soul, but Got does not want them at

all. We are glad that the Rationalists has come towards us and will

make further approaches in course of time. Yes, the progressive

Rationalists has admitted a very broad principle in Theology, viz.

whatever we do towards God is for our own benefit and not for the

benefit of God, who is not in want of any such thing. But the

Rationalists is a Rationalists still and will continue to be so, as

long as he will seek self-interest. We know for certain that religion

promises to give eternal felicity to man and it is impossible to

conceive of any religion which has not at its bottom self-interest.

This view however, smells of utilitarianism and can never claim to be


We must love God for God’s sake however unreasonable our action may

be. Our love must be without any object whatever that concerns

ourselves. This must be a natural emotion to the Deity as our Lover

without inference or experience. Salvation, dear as it is, should not

be the object of this love: what then about other shapes of felicity?

“Love of God” is its own reward. Salvation as a concomitant

consequence, must be a hard-maid of Love, but we must not look on it as

its main object. If Rationalist be prepared to believe this, he becomes

a Theist of the Vaishnava class; but the mere assuming of the name is

of no consequence. Though fully aware that the unconditioned has no

conditions whatever, yet our holy and sweet principle of love take a

quite different view of the matter. Reason says one thing but Love

prescribes its contrary.

Reason tell me that God has no sorrow, but Love sees God in tears for

those of His sons that are misled to evil. Reason tells me that the

strict laws of God reward and punish me in a cold manner, but Love

reveals that God slackens His laws to the repentant soul! Reason tells

me that with all his improvements, man will never touch the Absolute

God; but Love preaches that on the conversion of the soul into state of

spiritual womanhood, God, the unconditioned as He is, accepts an

eternal marriage with the conditioned soul of man! Reason tells me that

God is in infinite space and time, but Love describes that the

all-beautiful God is sitting before us like a respected relative and

enjoying all the pleasures of society. As a father in his amusements

with his young children, God is spreading all sorts of delicious food

all over the earth and expecting that His sons sould gather all the

scattered blessings and , without the exercise of reason in consequence

of a strong feeling of love, offer all the blessing to the Father whom

they love more than their lives.

The Father again, in reply to their kind feelings, gives back the

blessings to the children and tells them these kindlier words, “O! My

children! These blessings intended for you! Out of your natural love

you bring them to me for my enjoyment; but I have naturally no wants to

supply. But then I have accepted that part of your offering which

corresponds with me, viz. your unmixed love and disinterested

affections for which alone I am exceedingly anxious. Take back these

sweet things and enjoy them”. This process of disinterested love,

which dry reason can never brook, sanctifies the food we take, and

leaves us to harmless enjoyment for all the days of our natural life!

This is the system of sincere worship which theists of a higher class

alone can act upon. We cannot express the joy we often felt when we

took the holy Mahaprasad in the temple! The holiness we attach to it is

its sweetness and often pray that all men may enjoy it.

To the Saragrahi Vaishnava, the temple has such thrilling charms which

the ordinary Rationalist can never understand. We do not mean to say

that Reason is a foolish principle. On the contrary we do not find

better admirers of Reason than our humble selves. We hold that man’s

superiority amongst all created beings consist in man’s possessing

the noble gift of Reason. What we maintain in this, that independent of

this noble principle there is another higher gift in man which goes by

the name of Love. Reason helps Love to maintain its proper bounds in

the Spiritual world. Love often tends to degrade itself by exercising

its functions on objects other than God and converts itself into lust

for woman, wine, meat and gold. Here Reason advises her to rise higher

till she reaches her proper sphere above. Thus we find that the object

of Reason is to help Love and not to create it. Reason may be properly

styled as the servant of Love and must always be subject to her in all

her hopes, aspirations and holy works. The Rationalist on the contrary

considers Reason as all in all.

This is degradation of humanity. The progressive Rationalist, on the

other hand, believes in the principle of love, but attempts to make her

the maid-servant of Reason. This is another error. He makes spiritual

love sometimes a prisoner in the Jails of Reason. Love want to soar on

her spiritual wings to a realm where the Jailer

(Reason) cannot go and the latter is sure to tie up her wings for fear

lest she goes to an unworthy place. Love utters sounds of a spiritual

character peculiar to herself, but Reason, having no previous

experience of it, mistakes it for a disease and administers medicines

for her cure. Thus it is that the natural strength of the Queen of our

Soul is crippled by artificial administrations of the dry principle of

Reason and she rests in us as if a bird taken in a cage. Oh. What a

havoc doth Reason commit by abuse of his power. Oh. Shame to the

Rationalist. God, help the man.

Theists take care of those amongst you who mix with you only by

assuming the name of Theist but are in fact Rationalists of very dry

character. They are divisible into two classes viz. the designing and

the dupe. The designing Theist is he who is in fact a Rationalist but

by assuming the name of a Theist want to degrade the sincere by his bad

influence. He that calls himself a Theist in order to get rid of the

name of a Rationalist but still holds Love in subjection to Reason is a

dupe because he is unable to find out his own position. The sincere

theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the

sovereignty of Love over Reason and his comrades. We will now show that

others, who have allowed their Love to degrade without caring for the

proper instructions of Reason on the other hand, have gone down to a

gross idolatry and superstition. The Temple of Jagannath is under the

superintendence of the local Rajah of Puri whom the foolish men worship

as an incarnation of the Deity. Under his superintendence there are 36

classes of servants at the temple who are styled the Chhatrisha Niyoga.

There are six hundred families of Suars (Soopakars) or cooks in the


It is needless here to enumerate all these classes of servants. Several

Pandas, Pariharis, Pashupals and Suars send their servants to different

parts of India to collect pilgrims to the temple. These agents or

Gomasthas (as they are called) visit the gentleman of the places they

go to and give some sweetmeat Mahaprasad proposing that they are ready

to take pilgrims to Puri under their care. By this means, the agents

collect a large number of souls (amongst whom the greatest number are

woman of an advanced age) and march on with the sound of Haribol. We

must admit that the Pandas and their Gomasthas (generally of the

Kayestha class) take a great deal of trouble for the sake of their

pilgrims and sometimes advance money for their expenses on the road.

The Bengal Jattris generally visit Puri at the Snana Jattra and the

Ratha Jattra festivals but the upcountry men come to Puri at all times

in the year. When the pilgrims arrive at Puri the Panda, whose agent

brought them, visit them with some Mahaprasad near the Narendra Tank at

the approach of the town.

The pilgrims see Jagannath on the very day that they arrive and perform

the ceremony of Pancha Tirtha on the following day or the day after

that. By Pancha Tirtha is meant the business of bathing in the Tanks of

Markandeya and Indradyoomna and in the sea and, after performing Sradha

in those three places, seeing the emblems of Jagannath and Balarama in

the temple.

Interestingly Bhaktivinoda Thakura exposed the King of Puri in 1874

The Story of the King of Puri

In l874 eighty-thousand rupees from the Jagannatha Temple had been

misappropriated by the Raja of Puri for his own enjoyment. Thakura

Bhaktivinoda found out about this nonsense and forced the Raja to give

Lord Jagannatha bhoga prasada fifty-two times a day. Because of this

the Raja’s money was soon diminished to nothing and he was extremely

angry at this action that Bhaktivinoda took on him. He wanted to kill

the Thakura but he saw that it was not possible to kill him by ordinary

means. Intent on killing Bhaktivinoda somehow, the Raja then began to

perform of fire yajna  with fifty learned panditas. The yajna

was being performed in the inner compartments of his palace so that the

public did not find out about this attempt on the life of Bhaktivinoda

Thakura. Still, everyday information was coming to Bhaktivinoda about

the measures that the Raja was taking to kill him. After thirty days of

yajnas, when the last oblation of ghee was being poured on the fire,

Thakura Bhaktivinoda was to have died at that moment, but instead the

Raja’s dear and only son died within the palace when the last

oblation had been offered.