After Vishnu saved the world from deluge in his Varaha incarnation, Brahma asked him of the means of salvation of all creatures. Vishnu said, "I am being worshipped as Nilamadhava on the Nilagiri (Blue Hill) in Purushottama Khetra, Puri. The highest form of salvation could be attained by beholding me there". This was a cause of apprehension to Yama, the God of death, as he could not discharge his duties properly. On Yama's request Vishnu assured him to disappear from the Nilagiri after some days.

The sacred Rohini Kunda was situated to the west of all bestowing Kalpavriksha. Nilamadhava was situated to the west of the Rohini Kunda. In Satya Yuga, King Indradyumna ruled in Avanti. He was anxious to see Lord Vishnu. A wandering sannyasi informed him that God Himself was being worshipped as Purushottama on the Nilagiri (Blue Hill) in Odra Desha (in ancient days Odisha was known as Odra desha or Utkala). Indradyumna sent Brahmin priest Vidyapati, the brother of his family priest, to Utkala as his emissary. Vidyapati came to Utkala and settled in a Savara village situated to the west of the Blue Hill. After being familiar with savara king (tribal chief) Viswavasu, the fowler, Vidyapati revealed to him the secrets of his mission and entreated him for a sight of Nilamadhava. He also told the fowler that his royal master would not touch food until his return. Out of compassion for the king, Viswavasu took Vidyapati through a narrow track and showed him the Shrine of Nilamadhava. After seeing Nilamadhava, Vidyapati returned to Avanti.

In the meanwhile, in order to fulfil His pledge given to Yama (the God of death) Lord Vishnu made the Shrine of Nilamadhava invisible under the sand. When Indradyumna accompanied by Narada set out with a vast army and reached the borders of the Kingdom of Utkala, its King informed him about the disappearance of Nilamadhava. Indradyumna was completely disheartened over the tragic disappearance of Nilamadhaba. At the same time, a divine prophecy was heard from the sky, "Worry not king Indradyumna, perform one-thousand horse sacrifice, then I will manifest as four wooden idols and you can see me with your physical eye". Hearing thus King Indradyumna relaxed and began preparations for horse-sacrificing ceremony. He visited Nilagiri and offered a Aswamedha Yagna (horse sacrifice) there.

On the closing day of the Aswamedha sacrifice, Nilamadhava appeared to Indradyumna in a vision and at his bathing time the attendants came and informed him that a Daru with four branches was floating on the sea. The King with due ceremony brought the Daru and placed it on the Mahavedi. While discussing with Narada about fashioning the log into an image, the king heard a voice from heaven saying, "God Himself will make His own image. The aged carpenter standing with his tools should be maintained about the construction of the image". Things were arranged accordingly and at the end of the allotted time Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan appeared on the Mahavedi. Being directed by a voice from heaven the king adorned the images with silken cloth and painted them with their respective colours. He also built a temple to install the images.

Indradyumna went to heaven to invite Brahma to consecrate the temple. On receiving the invitation, Lord Brahma was excited, and they immediately began their return journey to the planet of the Earth. By the time, they reached the earth, millions of years had passed. In the meanwhile, a king named Gala had taken possession of the temple and was worshipping an image of Madhava in it. At last Brahma came. When king Gala came to know of this, he became furious and immediately set off to stop king Indradyumna. When he reached Nilagiri (currently known as Puri) he was dumbstruck to see the activities going around and forgot his purpose. King Indradyumna met him and recounted all the past incidents about the disappearance of Nilamadhava, the performance of horse sacrifices, and the travel to the abode of Brahma. King Gala immediately surrendered himself to Indradyumna and requested to allocate some tasks to serve the divine purpose. Indradyumna and Gala were reconciled to each other and the image of Madhava was shifted to a smaller temple. Brahma consecrated the temple and the images. King Indradyumna handed over the charge of the temple to King Gala and proceeded to Brahmaloka (Adobe of Brahma) with Lord Bramha.

A slightly different version of the story is found in the Musali Parva of the Mahabharata written by the great 15th century Odia poet Sarala Das. According to him, Lord Krishna was killed by the arrow of a hunter named 'Jara'. Jara sees Lord Krishna's foot sticking out from behind a tree and, thinking it to be the ears of a deer, shoots an arrow and kills Lord Krishna. Arjuna consigned the body of Krishna to flames, but the flames could not burn Krishna's heart. Being directed by a voice from Heaven, Arjuna threw Krishna's heart into the sea tied to a log, and it floated on the shores of the sea. Jara, the hunter who had killed Lord Krishna, is reborn as a savara tribal man named as Viswavasu. He discovers a blue stone, which is Krishna's heart, and start worshiping this stone as Nilamadhava in the forest.

King Indradyumna came to know about this blue stone and wants it for himself. Indradyumna sends his Brahmin priest, Vidyapati, into the forest to discover this blue idol. Vidyapati met Viswavasu but the tribal man refuses to disclose the location. Vidyapati tried his best but could not locate the place. But at last, he managed to marry Viswavasu's daughter Lalita. Vidyapati requested his father-in-law to take him to the forest to see Nilamadhava. On his request, the tribal men blindfold Vidyapati and takes him into the deep forest. Vidyapati was very intelligent. During his journey to the forest, he secretly dropped black mustard seeds on the ground in the route. After few days yellow mustard flowers appear and traces the path back into the forest where the idol is hidden. Vidyapati rushes to King Indradyumna and tell him the story and the location of the blue idol. The king gathered up his forces and went to that spot, but the blue stone idol has vanished. The king was disheartened and made his mind that without having a darshan of the Deity he would not return. He observed fast unto death at Nilagiri. That night, lord appears in his dream and says "Build a large temple for me, go to the seashore and you will find a large log of wood (Daru) with markings of Shankha (conch), Chakra (wheel), Gada (mace) and Padma (lotus), the four Ayudhas of Lord Vishnu. Carve this log into four idols and install them in the temple".

Indradyumna sent his soilders to lift the Daru, but all his efforts failed. The lord appears in his dream again and says "Have my tribal devotees help your soldiers to lift the Daru, then only I will move". Indradyumna took the services of tribals, soldiers and brahmins, who jointly lifted the Daru and bought it near the temple. King Indradyumna ordered his finest sculptors to convert the log of wood (Daru) into the four idols. Every time they touch the log it breaks. Finally, the king heard a voice from heaven saying, "The Lord himself will construct His own image and will appear on Mahavedi after a fixed number of days, during which the door of the said room with Daru should be shut up". While the king was thinking, an old stranger (believed to be Lord Vishwakarma) appear and says that he will carve the four Deities if nobody disturbs him for 21 days. The king agreed to his condition. The old man takes the Daru into the temple and shuts the door. He started the construction of the Deities, and the sound is also heard outside. After 15 days, there is no sound coming from inside the temple. The king and queen, being impatient and doubtful, opened the door of the room and found that the images remained unfinished, and the old man had disappeared. In the meantime, a heavenly voice declared, "Oh king! Dress these four Deities with silken garments and establish the images on Mahavedi". Accordingly, King Indradyumna dressed and placed the Deities on the Mahavedi and worshipped them.

After installation of images, Lord Jagannath was very much pleased on the king and offered him boons. Indradyumna sought four boons from the Lord.

  • The first was that descendants of Viswavasu would decorate and do their services especially during Navakalebara, Anavasara and Car Festival. Today these servitors are called as 'Daitapati'.
  • The second was the children of Lalita and their descendants to be designated as Suar or the cooks. Today these priests are called as 'Suar' and 'Mahasuar'.
  • The third was the descendants of Vidyapati would be priests of Lord Jagannath. Today these priests are called as 'Patimohapatra'.
  • On being asked as to what boon he wanted for himself, Indradyumna prayed for no servitors in his family, as they might claim with a sense of vanity that the temple was built by his ancestors. For this tremendous sacrifice of the king, Lord was very much pleased and granted the fourth boon.
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