Lord Jagannath


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Lord Jagannath is known as the embodiment of an irresistible force, because he is none other than Lord Krishna himself. He is considered amongst Vaishnavas to be a very merciful form of Krishna. Everything related to Lord Jagannath is Bada (any form of Greatness). He is one of the most revered Hindu gods Jagannath is adorned and worshipped as different Avatars on special occasions.

Jagannath (or Jagannatha) meaning “Lord of the Universe”, is a deity worshipped by Hindus, mainly in the Indian states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Manipur and Tripura and by Hindus in Bangladesh. Jagannath is worshipped as part of a triad on the “Ratnavedi” (jeweled platform) along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Jagannath is Black (inscrutability) in color, Lord Balabhadra is white (enlightment) in color, sister Subhadra is yellow (goodness) in color and lord Sudarshan is red in color, hence representing all the four races of world. In Sanskrit ‘Ja’ represents Jagannath, ‘Ga’ represents Balabhadra, ‘Nna’ represents Subhadra and ‘Tha’ represents Sudarshan. So Jagannath means the union of all four deities of the Jagannath Temple. His arms are parallel, hence willing to embrace the devotees from all over the world and his eyes are round without any eye lids, hence looking after the welfare of his devotees without any sleep.
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Various traditions recognize Lord Jagannath as different Avatars of Lord Vishnu, but he is most commonly identified as Lord Krishna, the 8th Avatar of Vishnu. The Puranas narrate that the Narsimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu had appeared from a wooden pillar and hence it is believed that Lord Jagannath is worshipped as a wooden idol or Daru Brahma with the Sri Narasimha hymn devoted to the Narasimha Avatar. Every year in the month of Bhadra, Jagannath is dressed and decorated in the form of the Vamana avatar of Vishnu. Lord Jagannath is also considered the epitome of Tantric worship. He is also identified as Budhha, said to be the ninth Avatar of Vishnu by Hindus.
The oldest and most famous Jagannath deity is in the city of Puri, in Odisha, India (the city is known to many as Jagannath Puri) where each year the famous Rath Yatra festival takes place. There are two interesting stories associated with this deity.

The first story of how lord Jagannath and the other two deities appeared dates back to thousands of years. It is said that 5000 years ago, Lord Krishna, with is elder brother Balarama and his younger sister Subhadra, once visited Kurukshetra in a chariot. Two thousand years later, King Indradyumna, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu started the temple of Jagannatha in Odisha at Puri, and he wanted to establish a picture of Krishna, Subhadra, and Balarama coming to Kuruksetra in the chariot during solar eclipse in the temple. He employed Visvakarma to carve them from wood, and made a bond with Visvakarma that the sculptor would do his work behind closed doors and the King should not disturb him. But the King, being very impatient to see, forcefully opened the door. Visvanatha stopped carving, but the king decided, “Never mind it is half finished. I shall install these deities in the temple.” Ever since then, the three deities Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra are being worshiped in India at Jagannatha Puri.

Second story for Lord Jagannath’s appearance is the story of how Krishna was eavesdropping on the gopis as they spoke amongst themselves of his pastimes, and how much they loved him. Sister Subhadra was instructed to keep a watch and ensure Krishna wasn’t nearby while the gopis spoke of Krishna. But after a while Subhadra was so overwhelmed by the gopis’ devotion and their stories that she became completely engrossed in listening. She didn’t see her brothers Krishna and Balarama approaching. As the brothers listened, their hairs stood on end, their arms retracted, their eyes grew larger and larger, and they smiled broadly in bliss. That is why Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra look like they do.

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