Lord Jagannath Tales: In Search of the Divine
To commemorate the Rath Yatra, Learning and Creativity presents 10 Tales of Lord Jagannath written by Ramendra Kumar.
Ramendra Kumar has been doing research on Jagannath Culture for more than a decade. What makes this book unique is that though these tales have been around for centuries in oral form, they have not found a place in any anthology for children in English. Besides, subtly interwoven in each of these stories is a value which is relevant even today. The anthology thus aims to enthrall as well as elevate by offering the children timeless tales with a contemporary sensibility.
Lord Jagannath Tales
King Indradyumna, was a wise and brave King who lived hundreds of years ago. He was a fervent devotee of Vishnu and spent much of his time in the worship of the Lord.
One night, when he was lost in his dreams, he had a strange vision. Lord Vishnu himself appeared before his ardent devotee and said, “Somewhere in the region of Kalinga, not far from Puri, lies an object which radiates my presence. The time has come to reveal this phenomenon to the entire world. I have chosen you to be the medium for this mission.”
With these words Lord Vishnu disappeared from the King’s dream. King Indradyumna woke up with an overwhelming feeling of joy, excitement and also apprehension. He was delighted that the Lord himself had blessed him and declared that he was the Chosen One. At the same time he was filled with a great deal of anxiety. The Lord had not given him any idea how and where he could find the divine object.
After pondering over the issue for quite some time he sent four of his courtiers in four different directions. The King had carefully chosen only those men who were prudent and had a good knowledge of religion and spirituality. The one who headed to the east was the young Vidyapati, the brightest of them all.
After travelling quite some distance, Vidyapati found he had lost his way in a forest. As he desperately looked for help he heard the sound of girls talking. He rushed ahead to find a group of young maidens coming his way. Apparently they had gone to take a bath in the nearby lake and were returning.
Seeing him the girls stopped in surprise and looked at him with suspicion.
“My name is Vidyapati and I am the emissary of King Indradyumna. I got lost in the forest and have been roaming around for God knows how long, seeking a way out,” he said.
The girl who was in the lead smiled and replied, “I am Lalita, the daughter of the Savara Chieftain, the brave and noble Visvavasu. These are my friends. Please come with us. I shall take you to my father who will take care of you.”
The beautiful and comely Lalita led Vidyapati to her abode and introduced him to the tribal chief. Visvavasu welcomed the guest with open arms and invited Vidyapati to enjoy the hospitality of the tribals for as long as he wanted. The young emissary gratefully accepted the invitation.
Visvavasu was a gracious host and Vidyapati started enjoying his stay. The chieftain was also a devotee of Lord Vishnu. He had rarely got an opportunity to discuss with anyone deeper aspects of spirituality and religion. In Vidyapati, Visvavasu found an ideal companion to confer and debate. In the meanwhile the tribal chief also noticed that his pretty daughter was showing a rather keen interest in the handsome guest.
After getting confirmation of Lalita’s feelings, Visvavasu sought his guest’s opinion. “My dear Vidyapati, over the last few days you have become almost like a family member. My entire tribe has come to love and respect you. Lalita, I have found, harbours feelings much stronger than affection for you and my old and experienced eyes tell me her sentiments too are reciprocated. I seek your consent for your union with my dearest daughter. What is your response?”
“Respected Sir, all I can say is I am humbled at your proposal. Marrying the enchanting and talented Lalita would make me truly happy. I wish to express my grateful thanks to you for considering me suitable enough for your gifted and charming daughter.”
Vidyapati and Lalita were married and the celebrations continued for many days and nights. Vidyapati settled down with his new bride in her home.
As days passed by Vidyapati was intrigued by a routine which his father-in-law seemed to observe every day – come rain, sun or shine. Visvavasu would leave home before sunrise with a handful of flowers and return home after an hour.
One day Vidyapati couldn’t resist asking Lalita, “Where does your father go every morning? I have been observing that he doesn’t miss a single day.”
Lalita tried to avoid answering but when he persisted she replied, “My father’s destination is a cave deep in the forest. Inside the cave is a divine object which is sacred to our family. My father goes to the cave every morning to pay obeisance to the object.”
Hearing his wife’s reply Vidyapati experienced a feeling of excitement and anticipation. ‘Was he nearing the end of his mission? Was the object inside the cave the divine presence he had been sent to find?’
“Lalita, can I too have the privilege of paying obeisance to the divine entity?”
“I’ll have to ask father because as per our family tradition only the eldest son is allowed to worship the object.”
“Please, do seek his permission. I am sure he will understand my desire to pay obeisance to your family deity.”
Lalita went and told her father Vidyapati’s earnest request. At first Visvavasu rejected the idea outright. “We can’t break an age old family tradition. Our ancestors will never forgive me.”
However, Lalita too wasn’t someone who would give up easily. She continued to persist and finally Visvavasu had to yield to the demands of his beloved child.
“Okay, you can take your husband to the cave but on one condition – he has to be led blindfold.”
The next day, before sunrise, Vidyapati and Lalita started on their journey. The blindfolded Vidyapati, without Lalita realizing it, started dropping mustard seeds along the path they were taking. Once the couple entered the cave Lalita removed the blindfold. Vidyapati was dazzled by a bluish golden light that seemed to be emanating from a stone casket. It had no clear form but its sheer beauty, grandeur and brilliance convinced Vidyapati that right in front of him was the very purpose of his mission. He had finally found the presence which Lord Indradyumna had been told about by none other than Lord Vishnu himself. Vidyapati was barely able to conceal his thrill and joy from his wife.
They returned in the same manner with Vidyapati blindfolded and guided by Lalita. After a few days Vidyapati told Lalita, “I have been away from home for a very long time. My parents would be worried. I shall go home, inform them about our marriage. I’ll then come back and take you so that together we can seek their blessings.
The very next day Vidyapati left before dawn. The mustard seeds he had strewn had sprouted and the plants helped him find his way to the cave. He entered the cave and lifted the sacred casket and hurried to Puri, to his King.
Vidyapati quickly recounted to the King the entire story right from losing his way in the forest to finding the divine object.
The wise King immediately realized that Vidyapati had brought the very entity Lord Vishnu had told him about. However, one question remained. How was this divine presence to be preserved?
That night once again Indradyumna had a dream. In the dream he was asked to go to the seashore where he would find a log floating. This divine form was to be placed in this log.
The next morning the King, along with Vidyapati and some of his men, rushed to the beach. Right in front of their eyes was an impressive looking log floating on the waves. The King’s joy knew no bounds. Finally he was nearing his mission. He immediately ordered his men to bring the log to the shore. The log was tied securely to the boat and the men tried to bring it ashore. But the log didn’t shift an inch. More number of men and boats were brought in but the result was the same. The entire day was spent in this pursuit but the log could not be moved. The poor King sat on the beach without eating a crumb, just waiting and waiting for his dream to be fulfilled. Finally after sunset as the King sat staring at the dark waters of the sea he had a vision. He saw Visvavasu sitting in front of an empty cave in state of shock, without food or sleep. Beside him, shedding tears of guilt and repentance was his daughter.
Next morning the King accompanied by Vidyapati rushed to meet Visvavasu. On reaching the Savara chief’s abode Indradyumna apologized to Visvavasu for the conduct of his emissary. He then told the Chief about how Lord Vishnu had appeared in his dream and given him directions.
“Oh! Savara chief you have been guarding the Lord with great devotion and dedication but now the time has come to share the divine presence with entire humanity. This is Lord’s will.”
The noble Visvavasu reconciled to the situation and came along with the King. The two went straight to the beach and together pulled the log. As the onlookers watched in amazement the log floated across the waters like a feather.
Indradyumna and Visvavasu embraced each other and there was huge cheering and celebration all around.
However, King Indradyumna realized that the mission had still not been achieved. No one knew what would be the exact shape of the deity. Kalinga had many gifted sculptors but they were all experts in carving images out of stone. They had no idea how to make images from wood.
The King waited patiently hoping that this question too would be resolved by his favourite Lord. After sometime an old man appeared before the King.
“Maharaj, I have come to know you are looking for a sculptor who can carve images from wood. Well, I can do that. But I have one condition.”
The King who was naturally delighted to at last meet someone who was ready to take up the challenge asked, “Please tell me.”
“I should be given an exclusive workshop to work all alone. No one should disturb or offer any suggestions or interfere in any manner whatsoever with my work. No one should enter the workshop till I complete my work and come out.”
King Indradyumna agreed immediately. He instinctively felt the old man had been sent by the Lord himself to complete the task.
A spacious hall was converted into a workshop. The sculptor was provided with all the tools and tackles. He immediately locked himself in and started his work.
The King, who had no doubt whatsoever that the sculptor would deliver the best results waited patiently. His queen Gundicha Devi however had her own misgivings.
Every day she would go and press her ear against the door. Only after hearing the sound of implements at work would she return to her chamber. Time went by. One day however she heard no sound. The entire day she kept moving from door to door and back again, but there was not even the faintest of sounds The next day too total silence was all she got to hear. Finally the queen lost her patience and forced the door of the workshop open. The old sculptor, who seemed shocked, looked at her for an instant and then disappeared.
He was none other than the divine architect Lord Visvakarma.
King Indradyumna reached the workshop and found that the image of the Lord looked incomplete. He was very much upset that he had failed his Lord. Just then he heard a divine voice, the voice of Lord Vishnu himself. “Oh king, you need not be saddened or distressed. You worship me in this form itself. My incomplete self represents the state of mankind – its incompleteness.”
The King was elated and so was queen Gundicha who had been cursing herself for her impatience.
The divine presence Vidyapati had brought was placed inside the Navipadma – the lotus-like navel of the deity. The deity was enshrined and the regular worship began – a worship which continues till this day.
— Learning&Creativity (@LearnNCreate) June 30, 2014
This story has been republished from the book Tales of Lord Jagannath by Ramendra Kumar. This book is available on Amazon.in and has been published by:
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