Swargadwara Must First Be Freed From Biju Patnaik’s Posthumous Encroachment

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Posthumously Biju Patnaik has emerged a greater danger to Orissa than when he was alive. Not only almost all the welfare programs and mass concerned institutes are being named/renamed after him, but also public places are being arbitrarily used to erect his statues for keeping the political sky of Orissa shrouded under his shadow for the benefit of his son, who heads a government of sycophants in the State.

Even the greatest of burning grounds of Orissa -Swargadwara – to which Oriyas pour in with dead bodies of dear ones to cremate or with eagerness to stay at Puri towards the last part of life only to have the privilege of getting cremated here, which, they believe, would sure help them have salvation or with commitment to Oriya tradition of paying respect to this holy crematorium as and when they visit Sri Jagannath, has been spoilt with erection of his tomb on its chest for the same nefarious political purpose.

People of Orissa had refused him a fresh mandate, severely affected as they were by scams, scandals and corruption in every sphere of administration when he was the chief minister and so, he had to breathe his last divested of power. The people have now taken up a campaign to free the Swargadwar from his posthumous encroachment.

Even as the Swargadwara land scam has landed in the High Court where the State Government is trying to save its skin, a combine called Jagannatha Sena has started demanding demolition of the tomb, erected unlawfully on this socio-spiritual property of the people of Orissa since ancient days.

First protest against the wrong design

For me, this development is a matter of satisfaction; because I was the first to censure this unlawful erection in my animadversion on Biju Patnaik in these pages on 9 August 2006, which was, till now, the only protest against the wrong done to this famous soil for political and selfish purposes of Panaik’s family and factotums that have managed to occupy power in Orissa taking advantage of the provincial unit of the Congress party gone spoilt under shortsightedness of its so-called national high command.

Apprehension

But, there is apprehension that the litigation before the High Court may lead to legitimization of massive misappropriation of majority portion of this most cherished cremation ground of Orissa on the shore of Mahodadhi (wrongfully renamed Bay of Bengal by the British that had established their headquarters in Bengal after occupying the land).

It is so apprehended; because, the case is now coined over a mere one acre of land whereas according to available information, its expanse originally was more than 30 Acres. If this information escapes the attention the High Court and adjudication remains limited to the relief sought for, this splendid crematorium would stay shrunk for ever.

Originally serving the followers of Buddha, Swargadwara was by manipulation grabbed by a follower of Vedic exponent Shankaracharya, namely Shankara Madhusudan Tirthaswamy, through ‘marfatdari’ (caretaking), in 1889 as, by then, Buddhist Sanghas in Orissa had almost been obliterated. Yet, the land was retained under lordship of Sri Jagannatha as ‘Amrutamanohi’ property.

If the High Court does not look beyond the preferred litigation and keeps itself limited to the dispute over the one Acre, handed over deliberately and mischievously to Puri Municipality in 1985, the original Swargadwara cannot be retrieved from the trespassers that have grabbed the land by manipulative means. The transfer of this small amount of land to the Municipality in 1985 was certainly a shrewd attempt to whitewash the crime and burry below the carpet for ever the illegal occupation of 30 times more land of Swargadwar by the land-grabbers after the same was left under ‘marfatdari’ of Tirthaswamy named supra. This illegality need be quashed with retrospective effect. And, for this, “better late than never” should be the dictum to guide the judicial wisdom.

Judiciary, which is the last refuge of cheated people of Orissa, ought to appreciate that the mischief the Government is playing in this matter is devastative.

Official mischief

In the first official response to public protests against shrinking of Swargadwara, the State Revenue Secretary asserted that the Swargadwara was never in existence. When the general public vehemently protested against this notorious lie, administration amended its version to say that the place the people call Swargadwara, was created in 1985, by way of allotment of 900 decimals of land to the Puri Municipality for crematorium purpose and later, through addition of another 100 decimals thereto on acquisition from private sources, for the same purpose. Out of this 1000 decimals (one acre), the government says, some persons have taken lease from the Municipality of certain portions and thus there is no encroachment.

The details of this, veracity thereof and legality, one expects, would be looked into by the court.

But for us, it is now pertinent to see why Swargadwara needs be freed from Biju’s posthumous encroachment.

Swargadwara: Its history and uniqueness

Before that it is necessary to understand Swargadwar and its uniqueness and why for ages it has stayed so close to the hearts of the people of Orissa.

The uniqueness of Swargadwara is discernible in its geographical location on the sea shore of Puri.

The wind flowing from Mahodadhi (the sea) over Swargadwara almost always moves in the direction of the Jagannatha temple where flutters atop it the flag of Buddha called ‘Patitapavana Bana’. The flag is so named, because Purusottama Buddha, the best amongst the sons of the soil of Orissa (The Real Birthplace of Buddha by Chakradhar Mohapatra, Grantha Mandir, Cuttack) was revered as Patita Pavana (emancipator of the downtrodden).

People believe, life after death, transported from a pyre at Swargadwar by the wind from the sea (Mahodadhi) mingles with the fluttering of the Patitapavana Bana on the Nilachakra of the Jagannatha temple and gets lifted thereby up into the Gagana (sky), conceived as Buddha in Vajrayana.

The greatest amongst the sons of Orissa for all time to come (Purusottama, meaning the ‘best amongst men’), Gurudev Buddha was propitiated as “Sarvavyapinam Gaganopam” by Indrabhuti, the founder of Vajrayana, who then was also the leader of the tribal Udiyana known by the name of Udradesha/Udissa/Orissa, when he coined the epithet ‘Jagannatha‘ for Buddha (Sri Jaya Devanka Baisi Pahacha: Subhas Chandra Pattanayak: Bharata Bharati, Cuttack) .

Jnanasiddhi, the scripture he gave to Vajrayana begins with the following verse:

“Pranipatya Jagannatham Sarvajina-vararchitam,
Sarva Buddhamayam sarvavyapinam gaganopamam,
Sarvadam-sarvasatoyah sarvajna varavararjinam
Bhaktyaham sarva bhavena vaksye tat sadhanam param”.

So Gurudev Buddha is “Sarvavyapi Gagana (all pervading sky) and the Sarvavyapi Gagana is Sarva Buddhamaya (in its entirety full of Buddha) as per Jnanasiddhi where Buddha is propitiated as Jagannatha.

Therefore, here, consigned to fire, when on the pyre the dead person’s body melts into elements, life after death gets transported to the waves of Patitapavana Bana atop Jagannatha temple by the wind that blows over Swargadwara from the Mahodadhi (sea) and thereby gets still higher transformation into the high sky, Oriyas believed, life after death gets enlivened by reaching the beloved emancipator, Gurudev Buddha, who, as noted above, is the sky himself.

This was in essence Swargadwara’s uniqueness in ancient days when Jagannatha was the beloved Purusottama Buddha of Orissa, not Sri Krushna of Dwaraka or Vishnu of Vedic pantheon.

Swargadwara was the greatest renewer of people’s faith in Buddha and remembrancer of his omnipresence in the Sky notwithstanding his presence in the worshiped form of Sri Jagannatha in Purusottama Kshetra, Puri.

Evil design of Vedic chauvinists

Swargadwara is a victim of evil deign of Vedic chauvinists.

From the days of Asoka to mediaeval times, history of Orissa is a history of attack on this Buddhist land by the Vedic chauvinists coming from outside Orissa and transformation of Orissa from a Buddhist place to a Hindu region.

Rev. J. Long in his famous essay captioned ‘Notes and Queries Suggested by a Visit to Orissa in January 1859’ gives a description of how “in AD 311 a king’s daughter had concealed the sacred tooth relics of Buddha in her hair and sailed out to Ceylon, which was then becoming a place of refuge to the Buddhists from the Brahmins’ rage” (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1859, No.III, Vol.XXVIIII,pp.185-87). The Brahmins’ rage was so sharp that a sect of butchers was created by the name of Pasupat Saiva and a non-Oriya King of Ganga dynasty was rewarding the members of this sect with gold coins when any of the said sect was beheading a Buddhist monk.

In Iswara Das’s Chaitanya Bhagavat we find how the King Ananga Bhima Dev being assisted by the Vidic chauvinists had butchered 32 Buddhist monks. In the same epic of Iswara Das, description also of 84 Siddhacharyas going underground after annihilation of 668 Buddhist monks by a King of Keshari dynasty is available in chapter 148 whereas Ekamra Purana gives an account of how a top royal functionary famous as Yama (perhaps for his pleasure in killing others), who had founded the Yameswar temple, had gifted a well sculptured abode adjoining it to a Pasupatacharya known for cruel killing of the Buddhists.

Very recent salvage of as much as 18 tons of silver bricks from Ramanuja’s M.R. @ Emar Math of Puri has generated interest in finding out as to why this massive store of silver was kept hidden in the Math. Research shows that not only silver, but also massive quantity of gold was stockpiled in this Math which has no trace available now though no records are available on use thereof. As for example, on the basis of records researcher Dr. Surendra Kumar Mishra has indicated that in the 15th century (when Vedic chauvinist were most actively campaigning to convert Sri Jagannath from Purusottama Buddha to Krushna of Hindu religion), the patriarch king of Ahichhatra in the heartland of Vedic activism (modern Bareli of Uttara Pradesh) had donated 750 mounds (about 300 kilograms) of gold to Emar Math as well as gold of the same amount to the sixteen villages of caste supremacists and avowed antagonists of Buddhism, notoriously styled as Shasanas (literally meaning the sixteen seats of administration). It is now necessary to investigate into treasure troves kept secret in other Maths; but it cannot be denied, in view of events noted above, that Vedic chauvinists from outside Orissa were bribing Brahmins and Matts with massive silver and gold to destroy Buddhism in its land of origin.

And, under this design, all the Vedic chauvinists and proponents of Brahminism from Samkaracharya to Nimbarka and Ramanuja had camped at Puri and had succeeded in causing confusion in the minds of the gullible public.

The Vedic chauvinists being dedicated to empire building were determined to destroy everything Buddhist, because Buddhist order was the order of democracy, of Sangha against autocracy, of integration against segregation. Sri Jagannatha as Buddha was the only hurdle on their way in India.

This is why the Brahmins – the beneficiaries of Veda and the Royals – the political opponents of democracy, had become one in transforming Jagannatha from Buddha to Vishnu and Swargadwara from a crematorium addressed to Buddha to a burning ground linked to Vishnu.

Instance in epic

This mischief is discernible in the epic ‘Daru Brahma Gita’ of Jagannatha Das of early sixteenth century.

The legend espoused in this epic is about cremation of Srikrushna in Swargadwara of Puri where his body, not completely reduced to ashes, metamorphosed into the image of Jagannatha.

According to this narration, when Srikrishna was killed by Jara Savara, the Pandavas were his only living relations, who were entitled to cremate his body. Under advice of Sahadev, they brought the body to Swargadwara of Srikshetra Puri and put on a pyre prepared of sandalwood procured from Nilasundar forest. But fire could not consume his body except the hands and the feet; because he was to be worshiped as Buddha in the shape of a torso. Following a directive from the sky, they threw the unburnt torso of Krushna into the sea, where, while floating, it was seen by Savar Biswabasu. The Savara consecrated the torso under the banyan tree near Rohini Kunda.

This is the story of evolution of Srikrushna as Jagannatha according to Darubrahma Gita.

That, the story is a shrewd attempt to implant Srikrushna on Buddha, who in torso form, sculptured on matriarch component of Buddhism, was being worshiped as Jagannatha, needs no elaboration.

The story is clearly aimed at misleading the people to believe that the torso worshipped under Bouddha Tantra as Jagannatha, was so shaped, because Srikushna wanted to be worshiped as Buddha sans hands and feet.

The banyan tree where Buddha was meditating, which is famous in Orissa as Kalpabata, is also projected in this episode to make out authenticity for the account given by Das.

And to add strength to this concocted story, blatant lies like the Pandavas deciding to cremate Krushna of Dwaraka in Swargadwara of Puri and the fire failing to consume his body except hands and feet, and unknown voice from the sky directing the Pandavas to throw the unburnt torso into the sea, and the said unburnt torso retuning to the sea shore to be collected by the Savara for consecration under the banyan tree near Rohini Kunda were resorted to sans qualms. In the process of coining the misleading story, Das however forgot that Rohini Kunda was created after addition of Balabhadra and Subhadra to Sri Mandira system, not before that. So,the narration of the torso of Sri Krushna being brought to the banyan tree near Rohini Kunda by the Savara to be worshipped as Jagannatha cannot but be a false, frivolous and fabricated story.

Evidence on ancientness of Swargadwara

For the purpose of our present discussion, the above narration of Daru Brahma Gita is of no relevance, except that it says also of the ancientness of Swargadwar in existence before writing of this epic in early sixteenth century.

If this mention of Swargadwara as a crematorium in a sixteenth century epic fails to convince about its age, let us look at the Gazette of India on Puri District published on 15 August 1977. It records:

“The swargadwara, or the gateway to heaven, is in the sandy beach towards the south-western corner of the town. It is said to be the place where God at the invitation of King Indradyumna came down to consecrate His sacred images. A dip in the sea near it is believed to secure heavenly bliss. When men die, such a place would be the most acceptable for an easy transition to heaven, and hence it has been selected as the cremation or burning ghat for the dead. The beach near Swargadwara is always crowded in the morning and evening. It is largely frequented by bathers, specifically in the month of Kartika. On the full-moon of Kartika (October – November) thousands of people come here to bathe and the concourse is said to number at times from forty to fifty thousand persons”. (page 790)

So, ancientness of Swargadwara as a crematorium of national and celestial importance in the days of the epics, before Jagannatha was transformed from Buddha to Krushna, is also admitted in the modern historical records like the official Gazette of India in 1977.

Now the Issue

What happened to that Swargadwara, which was in existence till at least 1977, the year when Biju Patnaik emerged as a national leader using Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement to his advantage and became a central Minister with his party – the Janata Dal – grabbing power in Orissa?

The present government, led by his son, must answer this question, specifically as its claim puts the life of Swargadwara to allocation of 900 decimals of land for the purpose to the Municipality in 1985.

Land-grabbers were hand-in-glove with Biju Patnaik, then in power, to take to their possession the lucrative sea shore of Puri. And Biju was obliging them. It was so scandalous that eminent MLAs and MPs of his party had raised strong objections thereto, besides party forums , in the media and on the floor of the Assembly. Even a frontbencher colleague of Biju, Tathagat Satapathy having castigated the government on this score in his debates in the Assembly, had put his disapproval in a signed editorial of the well circulated Dharitri that he edits. This is on records.

Therefore it is now essential to officially or judicially locate the expanse of Swargadwara prior to grabbing of power by Biju in 1977, as its existence up to that particular year is admitted in the official gazette cited supra. It was, as put under Tirthaswamy’s marfatdari in 1889, at least of 30 acres.

The entire land is to be retrieved

The so-called allocation to the Puri Municipality in 1985 – when the Municipality was in the hands of Biju followers – was designed to keep beyond purview the illegal change of land records, if any, in favor of trespassers or palm-greasers that, through corruption, have taken away the Swargadwara land.

So, it would be proper for the Court – in consonance with its inherent powers pivoting judicial activism – to trace out the lost lands of Swargadwara by looking into pre-1985 history of this unique crematorium.

All the occupations on this land, prior to and after 1985, need be nullified as the marfatdar (caretaker) had no right to hand over to anyone even an iota of the land kept under his care and the political government in a secular system has no right and legitimacy to tamper with the most cherished crematorium, belonging by origin to Sri Jagannatha and to ancient culture of Orissa.

To make it possible, demolition of the Biju tomb that has shrunk even the existing Swargadwara is an unavoidable must. Unless, the national crematorium is freed from Biju’s posthumous encroachment, other encroachments cannot be legally removed.

It is a happy development that people under the banner of Jagannatha Sena have started a mass campaign for demolition of the Biju tomb. It was illegally erected, admittedly on Swargadwara land, when the land was leased out to Puri Municipality and the Municipality was in the grip of Biju sycophants.

Notwithstanding how this organization looks at Jagannatha, its endeavor to free Swargadwara from Biju’s posthumous encroachment certainly deserves all support.

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