THE BUDDHIST INCARNATION

Jagannath has been acdepted as an incarnation of Buddha.There is no other deity in the Hindu pantheon except Jagannath who is treated as Buddha's incarnation. There are evidence of this in the writings of Ramai Pandit who lived during the regim of King Devapala of Bengal in the 9th century A.D. Sarala Das,one of the best ancient poets,says in the Sabha Parva of his Mahabharata that "Jagannath has appeared in the form of Buddha to redeem the people of the world." So the deity of the Savara tribe turned into a Buddhist deity in course of time.But He was also owned by the Hindus.The great Hindu preacher Sankaracharya of the 9th century wrote a stotra beginning with "Jagannath Swami".Sankaracharya treated Puri as one of the four important places of the Hindus and established the Gobardhan Matha. After Sankaracharya came another great preacher Sri Ramanuja.He visited Puri in the 12th century A.D. during the regim of Chodaganga Deva and had influenced the King with his own religious ideas.He attempted to introduce Vaishnava rituals in the worship of Jagannath and was partly successful.Vaishnavism was established in Odisha.The shrine of Laxmi was built during that period.Earlier,there was no custom of worshipping Laxmi in the temple.The emar Matha was established around this time.After Ramanuja came Madhvacharya to Puri. He was followed by many of his followers who came to Puri and Odisha and preached Vaishnavism.Thus,in the holy land of Jagannath,there was a blend of the Advaita philosophy of Sankara visistadvaita philosophy of Ramanuja and the Dvaita philosophy of Madhava. The chief proponent after them was Sri Chaitanya,who introduced the Radha-Krishna cult.Sri Chaitanya and his followers had rolled on the Bada Danda,the Grand Road of Puri.They smeared their bodies with the dust of the Grand Road during the Ratha Yatra. On being influnced by Chaitanya, King Prataparudra had lost himself in the devotional music of drums and cymbols,leaving behind his royal responsibilities.Odisha was flooded with the devout sweetness of Sri Chaitanya's cult.

Then came Nanak,the founder of the Sikh religion.His visit to Odisha has been commemorated at the Gurudwara of Kaliaboda.The Sikhs accepted Jagannath as their God.Hunter in this book,History of Odisha,mentions that the great sikh leader Ranjit Singh had presented the Kohinoor diamond to Jaganath.Unfortunately,this Kohinoor which should have enriched the treasures of Jagannath found its place on the crown of the Queen of England.

This is not the end of the story of religious integration.Kabir,Salabega and Haridas among the muslims have sung the glory of Jagannath.The Bhajans of Salabega are now among the most popular prayers addressed to Jagannath.Though they were their God.One of the Gajapati Kings of Odisha,Ramachandra Dev,had converted himself into a muslim.But to enable him to worship Jagannath,the deity of Patitapabana was installed at the entrance of the Lion's Gate of the Jagannath Temple.

Thus Jagannath has been worshipped through ages by the Savara tribes,the Buddhists,the Saivites,the Saktas,the Sikhs and the Muslims.All religions have converged into the concept of Jagannath.

Back to Home