Jagannath, Lord of the Universe, with his siblings, Balabhadra and Subhadra, undertakes an annual yatra every Ashada Shukla Dwitiya from his abode, Sri Mandir to the Gundicha Temple, that symbolises his maternal home. He returns on Ashada Shukla Dashami. He gives darshan in all ten avatars.
The story of Vishnu’s incarnations conforms to the scientific theory of evolution. First as fish, then tortoise, third as boar, then Narasimha – half-animal and half-man. The dwarf incarnation and then the Parasurama avatar followed by Rama avatar, perfect in all respects. As Krishna avatar, the Supreme was splendid and magnificent. Some like to see the Buddha also as an avatar, detached from worldly pleasures.
The purpose of all of Vishnu’s avatars was to destroy adharma and establish dharma. In the Bhagwad Gita, seeing the reluctance of Arjuna to kill his kinsmen who were practising adharma, Krishna convinces Arjuna to do his duty by going to battle to re-establish dhar ma.
During his visit to his maternal home, Krishna conveys the message that he is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient. His darshan in the Sri Mandir is restricted only to Hindus – he is suffocated by this discrimination. He is the Lord of the Universe, not only of Hindus. Therefore he embarks on the annual ritual, the Ratha Yatra, popular across demographics, race, religion and caste. He gives darshan to everybody, irrespective of who they are, rich or poor, strong or weak, Hindu or non-Hindu.
As soon as Jagannath returns, he does not go home. He gives darshan in all his splendour outside his home. He is dressed in beautiful ornaments and clothes and is all smiles. When we are home, we are simple. But when we go out, we want to look good in our best outfits. Moreover, it is celebration time.
The journey home is always pleasant. We also feel happy going to our place of birth. So Jagannath is happy both on Ratha Yatra day and on the Return Yatra day. Since the Lord is happy, people are happy. In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says, “Whatever the great do, others follow that.”
Many things in our lives are cyclic. Where there is a beginning, there is an end; where there is creation, there is annihilation. The Lord, too, appears from nothing and also disappears into nothing. In between it is a journey that is recorded. For us it is a journey through innocence, learning, action, wisdom and detachment.
The Gita says that throughout our life journey the Supreme Power accompanies us as guide, philosopher, witness, controller and friend. We also try to reciprocate. We follow him in his journey from beginning to end. He enjoys our company, just as we enjoy his. He cheers us and we reciprocate by chanting his name. In order to understand Jagannath, one need not be highly learned. Just chanting his name with devotion is enough. Krishna says some people follow the path of devotion, some the path of action and some others, the path of knowledge, in order to understand him. But the path of devotion is said to be the best because it is bereft of ego that usually accompanies people of action and knowledge. Jai Jagannath!
The writer teaches Physics at Berhampur University