History

SRIKSHETRA AND SRI JAGANNATH IN ODIA

PURANIC LITERATURE

Dr. Gopal Krishna Srichandan

In the realm of Sanatan Hinduism Srikshetra Puri or Purostama in colloquial Odia is Tirtharaj among all Tirthas or Pithas established by Adi Sankaracharya. Sri Jagannath is the presiding deity of this Dhama. So He is the supreme among all presiding deities, gods and goddesses we come across all over India and also in the world at large.

In this context, we ind mention and description of Srikshetra and Sri Jagannath in almost all Puranas where the authors have found scope to invoke Lord Jagannath and His citadel – Srikshetra.

At the outset, I like to make it clear that I would con‘ine my discussion to the Puranic literature in Odia language, ancient and modern since all Puranas have been translated in Odia language by odia poets and authors. In addition to this translation of Sanskrit Puranas, some Puranas have been composed in Odia language by Odia authors.

In the opinion of Yaska – What happened in ancient time is Purana. In the opinion of Panini what appears to be current even if took place in ancient time is Puran, According to ‘Bayu Purana’ the episode that was alive and prevalent in ancient time is called Purana.

Veda Vyasa composed eighteen Puranas. They are : Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Shiva, Skanda, Agni, Brahmanda, Brahma Baibarta, Markandeya, Bhabishya, Brahma, Vishnu, Bhargaba, Garuda, Padma, Baraha, Narada and Bamana. Five elements or attributes are found in Puranas. They are : 1. Sarga (Sequence of creation), 2. Pratisarga (Delusion or time), 3. Vansa (Royal Dynasty), 4. Manwantara (Cardinal narration of di erent periods), 5. Dynastic Chronicle (Cardinal narration of original kings / monarchs).

 

All eighteen Sanskrit Puranas have been translated into Odia language. Besides, there are also many original odiya puranas. Adikavi Sarala Dasa is the irst among composers of Odia Puranas.

 

In Sanskrit there are two great epics (Maha Kavya) : Ramayana and Mahabharata written by Adikavi Maharshi Valmiki and Veda Vyasa respectively. These two come under the category of “Itihasa” (History).

 

Maharshi Vyasa Deva codi ied the four Vedas, composed eighteen Puranas, but still felt dissatis ied. On the advice of Devarshi Narada lastly wrote ‘Srimad Bhagabata Mahapuranam’ which is an encyclopedia on the Leelas of Srikrishna who is Incarnator of all incarnations as described in the Srimad Bhagabat. ‘Krushnastu Bhagaban Swayam’.

 

Lord Jagannath is also considered as Srikrishna. He is Avataree-Incarnator. Odia Vakta Kavi Dibakar Dasa has gone one step ahead and described that ‘Jagannath is sixteen kalaas (parts) and Srikrishna is one Kalaa (part). That means Srikrishna is one-sixteenth part of Lord Jagannath in spiritual potency. Dibakar Das says :

“Jagannath je shola kalaa tanhu kalae Nanda balaa

Kalaaku shola kalaa kari gope bihare Narhari”.

Jagannath is also ‘Purushottam’ and his Kshetra (place of dwelling / habitation) is also Purushottam or in colloquial odia Purostam. ‘Purushottama’ is a Vedic name. Jagannath is a Buddhist name. King Indrabhuti of ‘Samala’ which is identi ied with Sambalpur region of western Odisha is the composer of ‘Gyana Siddhi’, which is a Bajrayanee Buddhist scripture. It is described in ‘Gyana Siddhi’ : “Pranipatya Jagannatham sarba jina bararchitam”. Thus, Jagannath is Nath of Jagat i.e. lord of Universe – ‘Param Brahma’. The Supreme absolute truth – ‘Sat-Chit-Anand Sworup’.

Jagannath is also ‘National Deity’ of Odia Nation. The Emperor or Monarch of Udra Desha Odisha / Utkal. So it is quite obviously unavoidable that ‘Srikshetra’ and Sri Jagannath are apt to have reference in both Sanskrit and Odia Puranas composed in di erent times: ancient, mediaeval and modern.

Here we like to con‘ine our discussion to ‘Sri Jagannath and Srikshetra’ as narrated in the Odia Puranic texts.

As hinted in the preceding paragraph, Sarala Dasa is the irst among the composers of Odia Puranas. He is a contemporary of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva, founder of Solar (Surya) Dynasty in 1435 A.D. who extended his empire from Ganga to Godavari, even beyond that upto rivers Krishna and Cavery. Kapilendra founded a royal dynasty which reigned under three Gajapatis (Kapilendra, Purushottam and Prataprudra) committed to lourishing and upliftment of Odia language and literature along with Sanskrit in their empire. In fact Kapilendra was founder of an odia empire. Odia developed to attain the status of of icial language of the kingdom.

 

Sarala Dasa was a proliŽic poet. Puranas like Mahabharat, Bilanka Ramayan and Chandi Puran have been composed by him. Earlier, it has been mentioned that Vyasa’s Sanskrit Mahabharat is an ‘Itihas’. But Sarala’s Mahabharat is a Puran as written in a Puranic form though Vyasa’s Mahabharat is the source of inspiration and provides the skeletonal theme to Sarala Dasa to compose this massive and magni‰icent Puran which is a classic composition. He has added and inserted many legends, folklores, episodes, anecdotes and imaginary stories to make it so voluminous, so original and akin to his contemporary Odishan soil, fauna and lora, martial, political, social and cultural climate of the entire Gajapati empire.

 

Gajapati Kapilendra Deva declared him as the First Servitor or Servant of Lord Jagannath, the Lord Himself being the sole Supreme Proprietor and Emperor of the vast Gajapati empire. In this context, Sarala Dasa the irst major poet of Odia literature has given due place and reverence to Sri Jagannath and to his Kshetra in his Puranic and Poetic compositions.

 

In the eyes of Sarala Dasa Vishnu, Narayan, Madhav, Sri Ram, Sri Krishna, Buddha and Jagannath are one and the same fused in the ‘Daru Bigraha’ or ‘Daru Brahma’.

 

In his exquisite exposition of ‘Chandee Purana’ a Shakta treatise’ Sarala Dasa has devotionally recited on Lord Jagannath in lengthy verses.

 

In his original, innovative and fabricated composition of another shakta Purana – ‘Bilanka Ramayan’, Sarala Dasa has devotionally invoked Sri Jagannath. Wherever, Sarala Dasa has got scope invokes Lord Jagannath of Srikeshtra in di erent chapters of his Puranic works, even if his poetic texts belong to Shakta category.

 

 

Sarala Dasa belongs to 15th century A.D. and after him in 16th century A.D. appeared ive saintly (Vaishnab) Purana Composer-poets popularly known as Pancha Sakha – ive associates. They all wrote puranic literature. Matta Balaram Dasa was the irst and senior most among them. He has composed Oriya Ramayana which is known as Dandi or Jagamohan Ramayana. It is not exact translation of Balmiki Ramayana. Balaram Dasa has indulged in poetic liberty on the thematic frame work of Balmiki Ramayan. The poet’s originality has found expression in one and all phases of his work. Balaram Dasa has made Rama, Laxman, Sita to visit Srikshetra and Lord Jagannath during their entourage to ‘Udra Bhukhanda’ while in forest exile. Aaranyaka Kanda of his Odiya Ramayana contains this episode in details. In lanka Kanda he has also mentioned about Srikeshtra and Sri Jagannath.

 

Balaram Dasa’s another puranic composition in verse is Linga Puran based on Sanskrit Linga Purana. He has added a new episode about making of Neela Chakra (Blue-Wheel) utilizing the gem from the hood of a dead she-snake. This Neelachakra was installed by Vishwakrama on the tip of Jagannath Temple.

Balaram Dasa has composed a small poetic work named ‘Laxmi Puran’ which is very popular in almost all Odia Hindu families, whether residing in Odisha or outside, even in foreign countries. The theme of this small Purana is known all over Odisha which is aimed at eradicating caste di erence and untouchability from the society preaching supremacy of goddess Laxmi and giving equality, equal rights, power and dignity particularly to the women folk. It is a very revolutionary literary work on goddess Laxmi and Lord Jagannath. The stages of enactment are Srikshetra and Sri Mandir and actors and actresses are Balabhadra, Jagannath and Laxmi. The poet-critic Dr. Mayadhar Mansingh has classi ied this small purana as a small play (Natika).

 

Brahma Purana is another excellent Puranic literary work where in there is ample mention of Sri Jagannath of Srikshetra adjoining to sea (Jaladhi).

 

Another senior member of the great ive associates, Achyutananda has composed the “Harivansha Purana’ where in the assassination of Sri Krishna by Jara Savar, cremation of Lord’s mortal remains by Arjuna but half burnt dead body ultimately consigned to the ocean water which in form of a wood loated and moved by sea-current towards Sri Kshetra have been narrated. The sacred wood arrested itself at Banki Muhan (i.e. at the mouth of a river). The whole episode of carving out the Trinity from the sacred wood by the divine carpenter under the outhority and sanction of king Indradyumna, installation of incomplete Trinity – Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath, and goddess Subhadra on the Jewel Studded Lion Throne by the king have been described af luently by the author. The third associate of the group Jagannath Dasa has composed Odia Bhagabata which is not the letter to letter translation of Sanskrit Bhagabata. Jagannath Dasa amply used his poetic liberty in composition of the Mahapuran which is a unique and original one. This Mahapuran is solely Sri Krishna oriented but Jagannath Dasa has profusely and frequently used the word ‘Jagannath in lieu of Sri Krishna.

Thus, in Jagannath Dasa’s Odia Bhagabata Sri Krishna has been completely identi ied with Jagannath of Srikshetra.

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(The writer sent this article last year for publication.Unfortunately he expired in January 2019.He was the Secretary of Utkal Sammilani)

 

 

 

 

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