Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Come the Car festival of Sri Jagannath, Orissa’s 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 won’t 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.
Orissa’s ancient tribes did not know the modern scientific terms and their co-relations, but knew these qualities of the woman’s 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 Jaganta’s 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 Orissa’s 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, 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 or pulling).
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.