(Continuing discussion on Sri Jagannatha)

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

As everywhere, tribal people of Orissa, marveled by agro-magic, were matriarch in outlook and were worshiping Mother Nature in whom they were seeing the factor of creation. To facilitate permanency of the object of worship they had developed the habit of worshiping wooden logs roughly designing the same in the pattern of woman’s torso. They were calling such a wooden torso as Jaganta.

To the simple tribal mind, child was being created in the womb of a mother and therefore, female torso was the source of creation of life. Therefore this Jaganta was representing the female torso that stood for giving birth. But birth was meaningless without life. The newborn was to live. And to live, the breasts of the mother provide the initial and basic source. Orissa’s tribes call the breasts as Thana, in short, Tha. Hence the tribal of Orissa gave prominence to the two breasts of a mother in the wooden torso of the female they were worshiping as Jaganta and started calling this Tha– painted torso as Jaganta-Tha. Doyen amongst the Chaurasi Siddhas, Sabaripa, author of the oldest Baudha Doha, was worshiping Jaganta-Tha in the village Chaurashi near Kakatapur, which belong to the Kurma Pataka Pur. Agents of Brahmanism who had conspired to wipe out the Buddha connection of Sri Jagannath have misprojected this Sabaripa as Sabar Biswabasu.

Jaganta-Tha was developed into Jagannath by Orissa’s Buddhist king Indrabhuti, founder of Vajrayana, who being a master social philosopher of his days, had been successful in superimposing Buddha, as the Guru and the protector of Oriya culture on Sabaripa’s Jaganta-Tha and then had begun his scripture Gnyana Siddhi with salutations to Jagannatha, the new form of Buddha, the Master.

So, it is Indrabhuti, who, in order to overcome the impact of the idol worshiping that was found more advantageous to Vedic imperialism than the theosophy of void relied to the Mahayana sect, tried to transform the omnipresence of Buddha to a form of physical presence for better concentration of the followers of Buddha by transforming Jaganta-Tha to Jagannatha.

By coining the word ‘Jagannatha’ he projected Buddha as the Supreme one amongst all the deities conceived and propitiated by anybody till then and made it clear that this new word stands for Buddha, the ‘Guru’ as is seen in Gnyana Siddhi. 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 idol of Jagannatha in the form of a female, in consonance with the concepts of Sabaripa.

Sabar tribes of Orissa to which Sabaripa perhaps belonged, known colloquially as Sauras, have a tradition since ancient days that helps us understand how agro-magic had shaped up the thinking process of our people and culminated in the cult of Jagannatha.

After mangoes in Orissa ripe suggesting that the rainy season is not far away, Sauras get ready to indulge in matriarch festivities. The mother earth would soon indulge in union with the clouds and be pregnant with the new crops. To them, their village deity embodies mother earth. She is Jaganta, she is also Jalia deriving this name from Jala (water, the clouds would bring). They erect a small chariot with four wheels representing four clouds (Chari Megha) and putting her along with Dharmagoja and Kitumg as her companion they drag the chariot to the village junction in a procession with members of both the genders dancing to drum beats. These deities are made of wooden logs and resemble female torsos with round eyes painted in their upper parts resembling breasts in female bodies. The personal belongings of the village deity are kept in a new basket made of Bamboo and are carried by a bearer along with the procession. She stays in her camp house for six days and then, in the same style and in the same sort of a procession returns to her permanent abode.

This tribal practice is discernible in the car festival of Sri Jagannatha.

Agents of Brahminism have misled the people by misappropriating both Sabaripa and Indrabhuti and projecting them in the labyrinth of legends as Sabara Biswabasu and Indradyumna respectively in order to show Jagannatha as an Arya deity. But, they have never succeeded in eliminating or suppressing its tribal origin. (To be continued)

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