WHAT SRI JAGANNATH REALLY IS ?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Majority portion of this presentation was published earlier in these pages. But we feel, the way Sri Jagannath is being misappropriated by reactionaries in India and the way powerful electronic media is supporting this misappropriation by intoxicating people with all sorts of superstitious propaganda in an environment that has been vitiated so much with self-centrism that common people have neither the orientation nor the time to think beyond personal hearth and entertainment, unless truth is brought to records, it would be impossible for future generation to know how this unique deity was conceived and created in commensuration with the process of social development of the ancient Oriya race interlaced with agro-magic and refurbished with teachings of Buddha, the most revered son of Orissa soil.

With this in mind, we place this afresh to proceed further into social relevance of Sri Jagannath

HE IS BUDDHA

In the entire world, the Oriyas are the only people who have a National Deity: Sree Jagannatha.

Every Oriya belongs to Him and He belongs to every one born in an Oriya family. You will not find a single Oriya who is away from Him. He is the synonym of belief in God. He stands for toleration. He is the beloved of believers and the quest point of nullifidians. To every Oriya He is the final answer to every philosophical search, spiritual or social. In every Oriya family every birth is celebrated with invocation of Him and every death is held desirable if the final rituals are performed in the Swargadwara at Puri, His abode. The Gajapati Maharaja, who reigns over every Oriya heart as the traditional sovereign of Orissa notwithstanding the constitution of sovereign India and whose name and era constitute the first part of the horoscope of every new born Oriya child, heads the list of the servants of this Lord to whom his predecessors had dedicated their State in its entirety. No where such a land and its people have thus been dedicated to a particular Deity

This Deity of the Oriya Nation is Buddha himself. It could never have happened had Buddha not been the greatest leader of the soil of Orissa; had the entire race of the Oriyas not been his ardent follower and not taken refuge in him.

History has made a Himalayan mistake by projecting a place in the Himalayan belt as Buddhas birthplace Kapilavastu. But, in reality, born in Orissas Kapilavastu- the red soil area near Bhubaneswar, Buddha who was regarded as Bhubaneswar (Lord of Earth) himself, had gone from this soil to the heartland of Vedic activism in the Himalayan belt to fight spread of Brahmincal hegemony under patriarch autocracy and had stood firmly with the autonomous tribal democratic units there, which were still in existence. When on behalf of Ajatasattu, his Brahmin minister Vassakara met Buddha to dissuade him from supporting the Vajjians, he not only refused to be influenced, but also, in front of the minister declared that as long as the tribes retain their democratic system, they shall not decline. He suspected that emperor Ajatasattu might attack his followers who were providing philosophical support to the free tribes against the socio-economic design of Vedic imperialism. And therefore sent his close associate Ananda (in whose memory the Puri Temple has its Ananda bazaar) to call all his followers to the central Assembly Hall. As the Bhikkhus assembled, he went on giving guidelines on how to frustrate imperialistic assault through unity, fraternity, and collective wisdom. Revelation of this in Maha Parinibbana Sutta gives us an idea on why Buddha chose the Himalayan belt as his place of activities.

He had carried with him the Tosala outlook of Orissa, which he had philosophized, with the tenets of Samskhya the unique school of thought emanated, again from Orissa, his birthplace, in order to combat the Vedic philosophy that was propelling Brahminical hegemony and greedy autocracy over the soil. When Vedas were putting premium on heaven, he, therefore, was putting emphasis on earth. This is evident from the Bhumisparsha Mudra accepted as uniquely his own. He had built up his Sangha system in the pattern of Ganarajya in vogue in the then Orissa. And spread of Brahminical hegemony had stopped even in the Himalayan belt because of mass acceptance of his tenets. The principal source of those tenets was Orissa, known as Kalinga Ganarajya even up to the time of Ashok.

The Magadh emperors attack on Kalinga was because of this politico-philosophic rivalry. He had attacked Kalinga Gana Rajya not because of any physical attraction for Karubaki as is being propagated, but simply because the matriarch autonomy of this Ganarajya, probably under the leadership of Karubaki, having had its tenets from the ideals of Buddha, had been continuing as a threat to the patriarch imperialism Magadh was standing for. Legends have been floated to suppress this fact from the eyes of later generation. And, history has not tried to find out the truth.

Ashok, whose aim was to destroy Buddhism and who did his best to do that, has been wrongfully and deliberately projected as the man who spread Buddhism beyond the seas. We shall discuss this aspect later. But at the moment, this much can be said that the matriarch republic system of Orissa which was strengthened and spread by Buddha got so shattered during the reign of Ashok that thereafter it could not publicly surface for centuries until rise of Indrabhuti whose adherence to matriarchy gave birth to the Vajrayan school of Buddhism and transformation of Buddha to Lord of Universe, Lord Jagannath.

Indrabhuti, the king of Uddiyana, which later transformed into Orissas previous name Udisha, was founder of the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism. In Jnanasiddhi the scripture he gave to Vajrayana, Jagannatha was propitiated as Buddha. The work began with the following verse:

Pranipatya Jagannatham Sarvajinavararchitam
Sarva Buddhamayam siddhivyapinam Gaganopam
Sarvadam sarva satvevyah sarvajnam varavajrinam
Bhaktyaham sarva bhavena vaksye tat sadhanam param

(Chapter-1/verse-1&2)
(Lord Jagannatha who is Buddha in entirety, and who as all pervading siddhi is compared to the sky, is worshipped by all the highest Jinas; He is the giver of all, the omniscient of the essence of all and the best of all the Vajrayanists. After bowing low before Him with all my feelings and devotion, I now enunciate His great Sadhana. )

After demise of Buddha, his followers had come to believe that their Guru had transformed his physical visibility to an invisible reality. His worldly existence had changed to an existence in void. From physical presence he had transformed in to omnipresence. The Mahayan sect had gathered strength. But the new concept was too philosophic for the common man to comprehend and traces of decline of mass appeal of Buddhism became discernible. The advocates of Vedic society were busy in spreading idol worship and because Brahminical scriptures were abundant in assuring relief from suffering through worship of specific deities whose images were built up purposefully, the common man was getting more inclined to their worship, unmindful of the Buddhist tenets. Through idol worship the Vedic sect was strengthening patriarchy, the Vedic Gods being entirely male and patriarch. The matriarch pattern of tribal life of Orissa was threatened to the core and the agro-culture to which the Oriyas in general belong was heavily impaired. Orissa being the base and mainstay of Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism proper suffered a great setback as Brahminical influence kept Orissa engulfed. Seeking a ready remedy, Indrabhuti tried to salvage Buddhism by tactful use of idol worship. He tried to retransform the omnipresence of Buddha to a form of physical presence for better concentration of the followers by creating the image of Jagannath. He made Buddha the Supreme one amongst all the deities conceivable by coining the word Jagannath and made it clear that this new word stands for Buddha, the Guru. He then proceeded to provide the formulas for achieving Siddhi of His worship. In the process he built up an environment of worship of female deities in total contrast to spread of male deities by Vedic propagandists. He developed the tenets of Vajrayana in consonance with the original Buddhist identification of the female factor as the cause of creation as against the male factor speculated by Vedas.

He therefore contemplated the image of Jagannath in the form of a female.

HE IS EMBODIMENT OF THE FEMALE FACTOR

Come the Car festival of Sri Jagannath, Orissas agro-magic perception, refurbished with the omnipresent grace of Buddha, the greatest son of Orissa soil, manifests in its assertive best to tell the world that Mother factor is the principal factor of creation.

Look deeply at the body of Sri Jagannatha; you will need no proof to know that it belongs to a female.

Take the torso of a young woman, from shoulder to pelvis, wrap up the lower portion with cloth, keep the breasts uncovered and place it by the side of Sri Jagannatha, you can see the truth. The eyes of Sri Jagannatha and the breasts of the woman are strikingly similar. In the torso, the breasts are prominent, in Sri Jagannath, the round eyes.

You wont find any deity elsewhere having round eyes (chaka akhi). All the deities have eyes like that of human beings. But Sri Jagannatha is the only deity whose eyes are round. It is so unique that the deity is known in the name of Chaka akhi ! But why are they round?

Brahminical explanations are misleading.

Being the master of the universe, the deity has the sun as one eye and the moon as the other; and both of them being round to look at, they are so, they say.

But in reality they are symbolic of female breasts. When the pupil stands for the nipple, the iris for the areola and the rest for the spread of the breast.

In the female body, Vajrayan had found the universe in its creative best. And the female breast was observed as the symbol of growth and sustenance.

The breasts represent uninterrupted development of life inasmuch as they start to grow from mammary buds when the fetus is about five months old. The nipples with rudimentary milk ducts, present on both sides of the chest of the baby at birth begin to develop as she enters into puberty and in its course they enlarge and the areolas swell. This is followed by an increase in glandular tissue and fat causing enlargement of the breasts. Eventually, the breasts become rounded, the areolas flattened. The female breast is regarded as a symbol of femininity, beauty and eroticism even though its primary function is nourishing a baby with milk. Just before and after childbirth the glands in the female breast produce a watery fluid called colostrum, which contains proteins and antibodies to protect the newborn baby against infection. Eventually, within about three days, a lactogenic hormone called prolactin, released from the anterior pituitary gland, replaces the colostrum with milk, with which the baby lives and grows. So, female breasts stand for, besides the urge to procreate, sustenance of creation.

Orissas ancient tribes did not know the modern scientific terms and their co-relations, but knew these qualities of the womans breasts. Therefore, in their perception, the power that gave the living being the urge for procreation and provided them with post-natal sustenance was the breasts of the creator of all creations. They called it Jagantatha (Jaganta+Tha). Jaganta was, to them, the supreme Mother Nature and Tha was her breast (Tha being abbreviated from Thana, which, in Sanskrit is Stana meaning breast in English)

In the deep woods as they were living, depending fully on forests for food, water and shelter, they were thinking that the Mother of all mothers- the Supreme Mother- was staying invisibly in the woods. She was providing them with their means of sustenance. She was protecting them from wild animals, and natural calamities. Because of her they were being saved from the carnivorous beasts like tigers or lions. Even today in Orissa, Bana Devi or Goddess of Forests is being worshipped. Remarkable is the fact that there is no Bana Deva or God of Forests. There is only Bana Devi. In their vocabulary that Supreme Mother was Jaganta who ruled over and beyond the forests. This Jagantas breasts were Jagantatha. The word Tha, as indicated above, was an abbreviation of the colloquial word Thana, which in chaste Oriya or Sanskrit is called Stana. Hence, Jagantatha means the breasts of the Supreme Mother. When the founder of Vajrayana sect of Buddhism, Indrabhuti tried to sanskritise the word Jagantatha he made it Jagannatha in his epoch making work Jnyanasiddhi. Therefore Sri Jagannatha image resembles the torso of a female body with both the breasts prominently displayed, described, though, by the proponents of patriarchy, as chaka akhi or round eyes of the Deity.

Brahminism has played all possible nasty tricks to convert Orissas unique matriarch conception into a patriarch figure. The historicity of Indrbhuti, who in his Jnynasiddhi first coined the word Jagannatha and in consonance with the tenets of Vajrayana that he conceived had caused the shape of this image emerge, has been converted into Indradyumna through concocted legends. Legend of his queen Gundicha has been added to convert the female torso into half built body of the Lord. All lies have been spread to make the post-Ganarajya (Ganarajya means the Matriarch Democratic units of indigenous Tribes) generation believe that this deity is Purusottama meaning the best amongst the males.

Notwithstanding all these and many more tricks in vogue, proponents of patriarchy have not been able to completely wipe out the matriarch practices of Sri Mandira. These are akin to the practices of an Oriya woman.

In traditional Oriya families, when a nubile girl gets her first menstruation, that gets trumpeted through blowing of conches and beating of drums followed by a ritual bath and stay in seclusion for number of days. When the girl completes her stay in seclusion, the Nava Jouvana ceremony takes place after her Sringar (cosmetic make-up) and the family declares that she is physically ready for a spouse. Then search for a groom starts. In tribal culture, the girl goes in search of her husband, mingles with the suitors and goes with him whosoever becomes able to Ghinch her, meaning, to surpass all others in dragging her away. These practices are very much in vogue in life of Jagannatha. Around Raja-Parva, the unique Oriya ceremony that is celebrated to grant rest to Mother Earth on her menstruation before her union with monsoon, on the last day of Jyestha that awakens on advent of Asadha, the month of rain, Jagannatha gets the ritual bath known as Snana to the blowing of conches, trumpets and beating of Jhanja and Mrudang and then goes to stay in seclusion in Anasara. After this the make-up ceremony known as Netrotchhava occurs followed by Nava Jouvana Darshana. And the next day, decorated with all sorts of female ornaments like Guna, Nakachana, Kanaphula etc Jagannatha, in a peculiar provocative style, belly dances into the fold of suitors maddening them into the action of ghinch (dragging).

Behind the world famous Car Festival of Orissa, this historicity and its social significance is getting juggernauted year after year taking us further farther from our unique cultural heritage.

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