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Edited by - Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj

VOL.XXVI JULY, 1928, 442 Chaitanya-Era No. 2.

The Temple of Jagannath at Puri

[By THAKUR BHAKTIVINODE on September 15, 1871.]

There is not a Hindu who has not heard the name of this temple. The old and the young, the male and the female, the Rajah and the ryot, and the weak and the stout, all visit this temple out of a religious curiosity. Three hundred and one miles South-West of the Vice-Regal palace at Calcutta, stands this famous temple close to the seashore affording an object for a telescopic observation to the new-comer on board the ship bound for Bengal! It stands on a platform measuring 20 cubits in height from the level of water. The platform itself is 375 cubits by 400 cubits made of huge stones cemented with a mortar composed of lime and sand. The temple itself is 92 cubits in height of a structure purely Indian. The pilgrim sees its towering head from the distance of 7 miles where the shrewed Panda takes a rupee from him by shewing him the holy Chakra. This temple was erected by Raja Ananga Bhimdeb about 800 years ago in place of another one, then in a state of delapidation. In old accounts we find this temple styled Niladri or the blue hill. From this it appears that the former temple which was probably raised by the emigrating Rajah Indradyumna was a blue or dark coloured one. Otherwise we cannot account for the name Nilachala unless we take it for granted that the name was after the Nilgiri Hills, a small range which runs through this Province from one end to the other. The Utkalakhanda in the Puranas, the Niladri Mahodadhi, and the Matla Panjee (an account regularly kept by the temple officers) declare that Jagannath is a very ancient institution amongst the Hindus. Whatever may be the value of the authorities quoted, we are inclined to believe that Puri was considered sacred even at the time when the Puranas were written, because we find in Wilson’s copy of the Vishnu Purana that one Kandu Rishi resorted to a place called Purushottama for the purpose of divine contemplation. At all events Rajah Indradyumna, to whom the whole affair is generally ascribed, lived a long time before Rajah Vikramaditya, the contemporary of Augustus Caesar of Rome. We are sure, that Puri is not so old as Benares and Gaya, of which repeated mention is made in all the Puranas and the Mahabharata, yet it is not a place of recent origin created after the commencement of the Christian Era. We cannot believe that the institution originated in pure stupidity of the religious sentiment; for we can not but observe a great deal of wisdom in the man with whom the idea of Jagannath first originated. We do not profess to belong to any of the sects of religion under the sun, because we believe the absolute Faith, founded upon instinctive love of God natural in all human souls. There are two great sects of religion all over the world who fight with each other without any advantage whatever. One of them holds that it is absolutely necessary to believe that God is without any form whatever and believers in the form are but idolatrous. The other class maintains that God has out of kindness shewn His form to the pious in order to be worshipped by them. Both of them are wrong, because both of them fight on a purely material point. The most unsectarian view on the point is, that God is neither a form nor a formless object but is purely spiritual. Matter alone can embrace the idea of form; consequently all positive and negative assertions with regard to it must naturally be material. Those who worship the form and those who describe God as formless, are both idolatrous and superstitious, and consequently can never form an idea of the spiritual Deity. Sectarians of the same class are expected to hate each other, but those, who have nothing in common with them, have no reason for hatred. We therefore can not like the fanatics of the formless class consider all idols as unsacred and hold the worship of a formless Deity (identifying Him with something like space and eternity) to be the natural worship of God. We go so far as to maintain that the worshipper of the spiritual God in an idol is infinitely superior to a mere believer in a formless existence who considers that formlessness is one of the attributes of the Spirit. Spirit is not exactly the opposite of matter, but it is certainly something different from it. It is difficult indeed to decide what is the exact relation of the Spirit to matter, space and time, and it is not given to us to know. It would indeed be the height of error to conceive that all the opposite qualities of matter, space and time are in Spirit. Hence we must look to some other attributes for Spirit. Love and wisdom are certainly spiritual attributes which are not opposite qualities of matter. Man must be wise and love God. This is the religion of the soul. All debates about the essence of God (e.g. God is formless or with a form) are but sectarian. Now we allow men to love God wisely i.e., spiritually while their eyes are on an idol as well as while they are contemplating an Infinite thing like the space. When the soul worships, the mind also finds an employment. The mind can never conceive of anything that is not material. It is therefore exceedingly difficult for man in his present state to separate himself from idolatory. What man is obliged to do, is his lot and hence we must put off the meaning of idolatory to some other process. We therefore conclude that he that worships the idol as God (whether the idol be formlessness or form) is idolatrous, but he that worships the spirit in wise love (however near he may be to an idol of form or of no-form) is a worshipper of the Spirit. But we go further to tolerate all these classes if they be sincere. God accepts the worship of all those who worship their highest ideal, whether it be form, formlessness or spirit, and it is under some regular processes that the idea of God becomes purer and purer in every soul and not by fits and starts. That man has no heart for his brother and consequently for God also, who sneers at the highest ideal of another behind him as idolatrous. A war against the idol worshippers either in words or action is not a crusade but a fit of rash, loveless and ambitious fanaticism of a very unphilanthropic character. We therefore, with all our due attempts at the spiritual reformation of our erring brothers, tolerate all classes of idolatory from the worshippers of formlessness to the worshippers of man, or matter as God. We are opposed to the atheists alone who live and enjoy for themselves. Those who are anxious for the blessings of God are our brothers in faith, whatever error there may be in their ideas and forms of worship. Love of God, however misdirected it may be, does by force of its own natural strength, rise higher and higher in the scale of spiritual progress. Its want is the degradation of the soul alone. Those who do not love God has an opposite course from us and are objects of pity with all classes of theists. God, save them!

We were lead to these remarks by a desire to shew that we are candid examiners of the institution of Jagannath without that hatred to the idolatrous (who are not prepared to understand the philosophy of Purushottam Tatwa) which is perceivable in the short sighted and rash reformers of our country. The system of Jagannath is viewed in two different ways. The superstitious and the ignorant take it a system of idolatory by worshipping the idols in the temple as God Almighty appearing in the shape of a carved wood for the salvation of the Urias. But the Saragrahi Vaishnavas find the idols as emblems of some eternal truth which has been explained in the Vedanta Sutras of Vyasa. Within the temple compound there are several smaller temples in which are to be found the idols of Bimala, Shiva, Ganesha and Surya. The big, towering temple of Jagannath stands in the middle of the compound. Those who have examined the system of Hindu Theology with a philosophic eye, are well aware that there are five different forms of faith comprised therein. The first form of faith is Shaktaism or the worship of nature as God. The second in the worship of Surya or the sun which is identified with heat; the only active element in lifeless matter. The third teaches one to worship the Spirit in its most unsatisfactory form of development in the lower animals. In this form, the elephant-man or Ganesha is the object of worship. Man is the object of worship in the fourth stage of Hinduism. The soul, well developed as it is in the man, is worshipped in Shiva in whom the human soul is said to be observed after salvation. In the fifth stage alone, the Infinite God distinct from the human soul, is perceived and worshipped. Here commences Vaishnavism. In these five stages are shewn the whole history of Hindu Theology, nay, the whole history of Theology in general. All sorts of creeds that have come to existence since the creation of man, are included in these five stages. Name any system of faith that man has discovered and we will find no difficulty in classing it with anyone of the five, viz. Materialism, Elementalism, Fetichism, Man worship and God worship.

This is summing up of all systems of faith philosophically and not instructing people to believe in any one of them except the last. The visitor of the temple of Jagannath will find a similar display of these systems in their proper places. Consequently we find the temple of Jagannath in the middle of the compound, and our remarks will now relate to Jagannath exclusively.

We have several times entered the shrine of Jagannath, and, approaching the sandal bolts, have observed in the middle room an elevated seat on which stand four different forms viz. Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra and Sudarsana. According to the Vedanta, God is one without a second but He has infinite energies and attributes which are not fully known to man. But then man perceives only three energies in God, because he has no other corresponding sides to understand the other powers. From one of the energies proceeds matter in all its different forms and properties and this energy is styled Maya Shakti of God. From the second energy, proceeds all spiritual creation, in all its relations and phases. This power is entitled the Jiva Shakti of God. The third energy perceivable by man is the energy of Will, which is called Chit Shakti. God moving in creation is what is meant by this infinite energy. Jagannath is the emblem of God having no other form than the eyes and the hands. They mean to shew that God sees and knows and creates. Balarama is sourse of Jiva Shakti of God; Shubhadra, the Maya Shakti, and Sudarsana is the energy of Will. We cannot form any idea of God separated that the from all ideas of these energies and hence it is worship of Jagannath depends upon the collection of these four forms on the same platform. Here we see God analyzed in the shape of forms for the sake of those who want to conceive of Him. It is the same thing to see Jagannath as to study the Vedanta in all its branches. The temple and its institution appear to me to be a book for those who can read it, to the foolish the institution is certainly useless except as a means of reminding the Deity who created the world.

There is one more thing in the temple which explains the philosophical superiority of Jagannath over all other Hindu institutions. We mean the Mahaprasad system. Rice dedicated to Jagannath is sold in Bazar to all pilgrims. Brahmins and Khettries, Vaishnavas and the Shaktas, the Sanyasis and the Grihastas all accept it without any hesitation whatever. Brahminical aristocracy has no rule in the temple. This shows that when people get wise, they need not obey the foolish dictates of the Brahmins which are mainly intended for those who are unable to chalk out ways for themselves. When man admits the superiority of love to God to all other systems of rule and ethics, he is not bound to work according to the Shastras intended for lower order of men. The common bonds of the inferior Dharma Shastras of Manu and Jagnyabalkya have no influence on the free Vaishnavas who are God’s own soldiers in the crusade against evil. The system of Mahaprasada is not only emblematic of the superior life of the Vaishnavas, but it is a part of worships which ordinary theists cannot fully understand. The ordinary men are too much inclined to preserve the superiority of the Reason over the intuitive feelings of man to the God of Love. We must now proceed to show with healthy arguments that our intuitive feelings want us to offer everything we eat to the God of our heart.

We must first examine the arguments of the antagonist. The Rationalist holds that God is infinite and without wants, and consequently it is foolish to offer eatables to such a Being. It is sacrilege to offer created things to the creator and thereby to degrade the Divinity of God into humanity. These are reasonable arguments indeed, and one who has heard them will be certainly inclined to declare to others “down with the Mahaprasada.” These conclusions, however reasonable, are dry and destructive. They tend to separate us from all connections with God in the form of worship. When you say, that the Infinite wants nothing, you forbid all contemplation and prayer. The Infinite does not want your grateful expressions or, in other words, flattery. Utter a word to the Unconditioned and you are sure to degrade Him into a conditioned Being. Hymns, prayers and sermons are all over! Shut the temple door and the church gates, because our Rationalist has advised you to do so! Believe a creating principle and you have done your duty! Oh! What a shame! What a dreadful fall! Theists, beware of these degrading principles!

Now the Rationalist appears in another shape and admits prayers, sermons, psalms and church goings, saying that these things are wanted for the improvement of the soul, but God does not want them at all. We are glad that the Rationalist has come towards us and will make further approaches in course of time. Yes, the progressive Rationalist has admitted a very broad principle in Theology i.e., whatever we do towards God is for our own benefit and not for the benefit of God, Who is not in want of any such thing. But the Rationalist is a Rationalist still and will continue to be so, as long as he will seek self-interest. We know for certain that Religion promises to give eternal felicity to man and it is impossible to conceive of any Religion which has not at its bottom self-interest. This view, however, smells of Utilitarianism and can never claim to be Theistic. We must love God for God’s sake however unreasonable our action may be. Our love must be without any object whatever that concerns ourselves. This love must be a natural emotion to the Deity as our Lover without inference or experience. Salvation, dear as it is, should not be the object of this love; what then about other shapes of felicity? “Love to God” is its own reward. Salvation as a concomitant consequence, must be a hand-maid of Love, but we must not look on it as its main object. If the Rationalist be prepared to believe this, he becomes a Theist of the Vaishnava class; but the mere assuming of the name is of no consequence. Though we are fully aware that the unconditioned has no conditions whatever, yet our holy and sweet principle of love takes a quite different view of the matter. Reason says one thing but love prescribes its contrary. Reason tells me that God has no sorrow, but the Love sees God in tears for those of His sons that are misled to evil. Reason tells me that the strict laws of God reward and punish me in a cold manner but Love reveals that God slackens His laws to the Repentant and loving Soul! Reason tells me that with all his improvements, man will never touch the absolute God; but Love preaches that on the conversion of the soul into a state of spiritual womanhood, God, unconditioned as He is, accepts an eternal marriage with the conditioned soul of man! Reason tells me that God is in Infinite space and time, but Love describes that the all beautiful God is sitting before us like a respected relative and enjoying all the pleasures of society. As a father in his amusements with his young children, God is spreading all sorts of delicious food all over the earth and expecting that His sons would gather them for their own benefit; but the loving children out of their holy and unmixed love, gather all the scattered blessings and, without the exercise of reason in consequence of a strong feeling of love, offer all the blessings to the father whom they love more than their lives. The Father again, in reply to their kind feelings, gives back the blessings to the children and tells them these kindlier words. “O! My children! These are blessings intended for thee! Out of your natural love you bring them to me for my enjoyment; but I have naturally no wants to supply. But then I have accepted that part of your offering which corresponds with me viz. your unmixed love and disinterested affections for which alone I am exceedingly anxious. Take back these sweet things and enjoy them!” This process of disinterested love, which dry reason can never brook, sanctifies the food we take, and leaves us to harmless enjoyment for all the days of our natural life! This is a system of sincere worship which Theists of a higher class alone can act upon. We can not express the joy we often felt when we took the holy Mahaprasada in the temple! The holiness we attach to it is its sweetness and often pray that all men may enjoy it.

To the Saragrahi Vaishnava, the temple has such thrilling charms which the ordinary Rationalist can never understand! We do not mean to say that Reason is a foolish principle. On the contrary we do not find better admirers of Reason than our humble selves. We hold that man’s superiority amongst all created beings consists in man’s possessing the noble gift of Reason. What we maintain is this, that independent of this noble principle there is another higher gift in man which goes by the name of Love. Reason helps Love to maintain its proper bounds in the Spiritual world. Love often tends to degrade itself by exercising its functions on objects other than God and converts itself into lust for woman, wine, meat and gold. Here Reason advises her to rise higher till she reaches her proper sphere above. Thus we find that the object of Reason is to help Love and not to create it. Reason may be properly styled as the servant of Love and must always be subject to her in all her hopes, aspirations and holy work. The Rationalist on the contrary considers Reason as all in all! This is a degradation of humanity! The progressive Rationalist, on the other hand, believes in the principle of love, but attempts to make her the maid-servant of Reason! This is another error! He makes spiritual love sometimes a prisoner in the Jails of Reason! Love wants to soar on her spiritual wings to a realm where the Jailor (Reason) cannot go and the latter is sure to tie up her wings for fear lest she goes to an unworthy place! Love utters sounds of a spiritual character peculiar to herself, but Reason, having no previous experience of it, mistakes it for a disease and administers medicines for her cure!! Thus it is that the natural strength of the Queen of our Soul is crippled by artificial administrations of the dry principle of Reason and she rests in us as if a bird taken in a cage! Oh! What a havoc doth Reason commit by abuse of his power! Oh! Shame to the Rationalist! God, help the man!! Theists take care of those amongst you who mix with you only by assuming the name of Theist but are in fact Rationalists of a very dry character. They are divisible into two classes viz. the designing and the dupe. The designing Theist is he who is in fact a Rationalist but by assuming the name of a Theist wants to degrade the sincere by his bad influence. He that calls himself a Theist is order to get rid of the name of a Rationalist but still holds Love in subjection to Reason is a dupe because he is unable to find out his own position. The sincere Theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of Love over Reason and his comrades. We will now show that others, who have allowed their Love to degrade without caring for the proper instructions of Reason on the other hand, have gone down to gross idolatory and superstition.

The temple of Jagannath is under the superintendence of the local Rajah of Puri whom the foolish men worship as an incarnation of the Deity. Under his superintendence there are 36 classes of servants attached to temple who are styled the Chhatrisha Niyoga. There are about 60 families of Pandas who make the Pujas. There are seven hundred families of Chheridars or orderlies of the temple. There are six hundred families of Suars (Soopakars) or cooks in the temple. It is needless here to enumerate all these classes of servants. Several Pandas, Pariharis, Pashupals and Suars send their servants to different parts of India to collect pilgrims to the temple. These agents or Gomasthas (as they are called) visit the gentlemen of the places they go to and give some sweetmeat Mahaprasad proposing that they are ready to take pilgrims to Puri under their care. By this means, the agents collect a large number of souls (amongst whom the greatest number are women of an advanced age) and march on with the sound of Haribol. We must admit that the Pandas and their Gomasthas (generally of the Kayestha class) take a great deal of trouble for the sake of their pilgrims and sometimes advance money for their expenses on the road. The Bengal Jattris generally visit Puri at the Snana Jattra and the Ratha Jattra festivals but the up-country men come to Puri at all times in the year. When the pilgrims arrive at Puri the Panda, whose agent brought them, visits them with some Mahaprasad near the Narendra Tank at the approach of the town. The pilgrims see Jagannath on the very day that they arrive and perform the ceremony of Pancha Tirtha on the following day or day after that. By Pancha Tirtha is meant the business of bathing in the Tanks of Markandeya and Indradyoomna and in the sea and, after performing Sradha in those three places, seeing the emblems of Jagannath and Balarama in the temple. The Panda all along keeps silent, but on the last day he is sure to take every thing that the pilgrim has and sometimes to take a bond for an amount according to the circumstances of the pilgrim. That day the Panda with all his usual gravity takes the pilgrim to an elevated roof in the northern part of the temple called Koila Baikoontha and there utters his Mahabakya and Shufala in order to persuade the pilgrim to pay whatever he or she has with him or her. Thus the pilgrim returns to his native place without anything but a patara of sweetmeat Mahaprasada and a few slips of Jagannath’s likeness in rude paintings!

In fact the temple servants, one, and all, are not a bit better than Brahminical priests who deal with the next world as a means of gain. They are rude in the extreme and quite ignorant of Hindu Theology. They never attempt to teach or learn, but often rove in quest of money. Most of them are fond of drinking a liquor prepared from Bhang and hence they have (nearly all of them) a swelling of their legs sometimes coming up to the stage of the disease called elephantisis. With all their gains, the temple-servants can never store wealth, because they are very careless. Besides the temple they generally keep a place called an Akhra where they meet together for the purpose of drinking Bhang and seeing the dance of young boys clad in the dress of females! We will try to give you an account of all the Akhras in Puri in my next paper, and as this paper has become much longer than we at first intended, we take leave of you for the present.

The Self-less Workers of the Sri Gaudiya Math of Calcutta.


Well it has been said that “we live in deeds, not years, in thoughts, not breaths.” But as length of years is no proper test of the length of life, so the mere numerical strength of deeds or the varied possession of thoughts does not constitute true life. Deeds and thoughts, to be worth the names, should be such as would benefit the world at large and leave their marks “on the sands of time.” It therefore follows that our so-called, vaunted good deeds, however high-sounding and far-reaching they may be, are little better than “laboured nothings,” unless they break the bounds of the narrow circle of personality and selfishness and extend to all communities, irrespective of caste, creed and colour. Unfortunately, however, in this age of hard and practical living, only a few of us can afford to be serviceable to mankind in general, on any large and extensive scale. Most of us complain of the insufficiency of either means or time or energy or of the three together. Of these three essentials, even when we have enough and to spare, we often want the “one thing needful”—the will. Does then every man in this selfish world care only for number one, his own sweet self? Is it then, a wholly selfish world we live in? Does the iron age reign supreme in our midst, so that for men, to have any spark of piety left in them is an impossibility? No, we believe otherwise.

To the seeing eye and hearing ear, there still appear to be men who make it their business to work silently and unobtrusively for the good of their fellow-creatures, “from morn to noon” and “from noon to dewy eve.” Their golden deeds are the outcome of no selfish or sordid motives. They care neither for “the bubble reputation,” nor the gratitude of the world they so earnestly serve. Yet none watches the doings of these humble and unostentatious workers but the all seeing Lord Sree-Krishna who carefully records even our “little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love” and rewards each of us according to his desert. People take no notice of these men, nor have they any possible means of knowing and remembering their worth.

It has been very truly observed that virtue, like vice acts through contagion, by witnessing and even hearing of virtuous deeds, we cannot fail to be virtuously disposed. Every true benefactor of mankind should, therefore, hold it to be his bounden duty to record and, if possible, to proclaim to the world all the good things that are performed before his eyes or within his hearing, always bearing in mind that “good, the more communicated, the more abundant grows.” It is thus that we can serve our Lord Sree Krishna and when the time approaches for going to our long home, we may leave this earth with the sweet consolation that we have not lived in vain.

The above remarks mainly refer to the selfless workers of the Sree Gaudiya Math of Calcutta. We have been watching their laudable doings for sometime and feel it to be our imperative duty to proclaim their good deeds to the world at large. Having torn themselves away from the bosoms of their families, bidding adieu to all worldly prospects and prosperities, leaving aside all cares for pelf, position and power, these self-less workers have enthusiastically dedicated themselves to the feet of the Lord Sree Krishna. Knowing full well that the serving of God is the serving of humanity they have whole-heartedly devoted themselves to the highest good of their fellow men and under the wise and tactful guidance of their great spiritual Guide are preaching the doctrines of true and pure divine love in every creek and corner of Bengal or for the matter of that, in every important centre of the whole Indian Peninsula.

It is not for us to attempt to gauge the success of their manifold doings or to form even a correct estimate of the value of their numerous noble performances. It is, however, a pity that none of our Calcutta papers has so far been fully alive to the importance of publishing their virtuous deeds and lives with a yiew to the ultimate good of mankind. On the other hand, we notice, with deep regret, that some of the dailies and weeklies write or publish scurrilous articles trying to misconstrue or wilfully belittle the unselfish doings of the venerable spiritual head of the aforesaid Math. Human spite can indeed go no farther.

If those who are the professed leaders of thought and the trusted teachers of the public, I mean the Editors of Newspapers and Periodicals, are oblivious of their ordinary duties or are wilfully ignorant of the most glaring truths,—truths as clear as noon-day, then Newspapers and Periodicals cannot indeed serve any useful purpose in this world. To vent one’s spleen in season and out of season, to feed fat the grudge that one bears, without any cause whatever, towards another, and to shamelessly fight and quarrel like the sorry pariah dogs are by no means the true functions of Newspapers and Magazines, the Editors and conductors where of are the professed and recognised teachers of the public. Without enlarging more upon this point, I beg leave to conclude this article by reminding those connected with Newspapers and Periodicals of the wise counsel which Cardinal Wosley is represented by the greatest English poet to have administered to Cromwell:

“Love thyself last: Cherish those hearts that hate thee,
Corruption wins not more than honesty,
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just and fear not.
Let all the ends thou aims’t at, be thy country’s,
Thy God’s and truth’s.”