Monday, 23 October 2017

The Temple of Lord Jagannatha at Puri

Temple of Sri Jagannath at Night - The closest I could get
So, I am still at Jagannath Puri (mentally and in spirit) and writing about my trip to this amazing place. The historic Jagannath temple (Shrimandir) at Puri was built in the year 1078 and some of the incredible facts about the temple that I read are,
 1. The flag atop the temple has been observed to flap in the opposite direction of the breeze.

Apart from this, the flags are changed every day by the temple Pujaris. This itself is an amazing thing, to watch someone climbing some 215 feet with bare hands, carrying heaps of flags. It happens during the evening time, I think some time around 5:30PM. There are two or three pujaris or the staff appointed by the temple (I presume someone that belongs to the family of temple Priests) climbing the different domes to change the flags. And, once the flags are changed, they comeback with the old ones and the flags will be sold. I bought one flag to keep as a special memory of the temple.
2.It is said that, Irrespective of where you stand in Puri, it seems to you that the Sudarshana Chakra on top of the temple is always facing you. I haven't tried this myself.
3. Usually in coastal areas during the day-time, the breeze blows from the sea towards the land and during evening hours it blows from the land towards the sea. But in the case of Puri it is the reverse.
04. No birds fly above the Jagannath temple in Puri. (Actually, don’t remember seeing any birds in the temple complex).
Aerial View of  Sri Jagannath Puri Temple
Temple of Sri Jagannath at Night
05. The shadow of the main dome of Jagannath temple is not visible, whatever be the time of day. Maybe an architectural feat or the Lord’s desire?
06. The food cooked inside the temple everyday will not go waste.
Sri Jagannath replica elsewhere at Puri

07. After entering the temple from Singha dwara’s entrance, after the first step you cannot hear any sound produced by the ocean. But, when you exit it can be clearly heard. This can be noticed clearly during evening. There is no scientific explanation for this. Legend has it that Subhadra Mayi, the sister of the two Lords wished peace and serenity within the temple abode and hence it was made to come about that way.
On the main Road Opp to Temple of Sri Jagannath 

To move around in Jagannath Puri temple complex which consists of number of mini temples and other significant places, you need the help of a local person, a priest that works or authorised by the temple. The pujaris or priests are called as Panda and this visit we sought the help of a young Panda called "Purushottam Panda with an interesting background. He is in his early thirty’s and did his education, study of Yajur Veda from Maharshi Mahesh yogi School. He studied Vedas from a young age and finally moved to Puri and took up this profession since last few years.
Temple of Sri Jagannath at Night
Purushottam Panda was very helpful in every step, not only from taking us inside the temple, but also talking to Auto Rickshaw drivers for our visits to nearby places, booking train tickets. And, he knows everyone in Puri and ins and out of the place and temple. Also, I noticed that when we went with him to the Jagannath temple, no other Pandas come to us to ask for a donation or something like that. Otherwise, I heard some stories like one of my friend went to a smaller temple within Jagannath temple complex and was demanded dakshina or donation. My friend refused to donate anything saying that he doesn’t have any money. Before, he could realise what was happening, the panda angrily applied a strong camphor to his eyes, saying why did you come without any donation. It took few minutes for my friend to get back to normal, with his eyes burning. Luckily I did not go through any such experience.
And, of course Mobiles and cameras are strictly prohibited in the temple. I could manage to take pictures of temple only from outside. Inside the temple, Apart from Lord Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra there is more to see like, Bimala Devi temple, Narasimhadev temple and few more temples. First time, it took us around 1 hour to go around the temple. (Apart from queue and darshan in the main temple).
And, also one more amazing thing was visit to the Kitchen of Jagannath, the Lord of the universe (That took us about 30 mins). There are lots of unique things about the Kitchen and how the cooking for the Lord is done. Firstly, only the native or indigenous vegetables are used in cooking which means, no Tomato’s, Potato’s etc. And, there are no machines or automation. Everything is done manually or by hand and people. Right from drawing water from a well, peeling coconuts, cutting vegetables etc. No gas or electricity stoves. Only, wood and coal. Also, all the preparations are cooked in Mud Pots. Each mix pot is prepared at one time, like Rice, vegetables etc. and they are stacked one on top of each other. Up to 7 Pots are stacked and the way the top ones gets cooked is by heat conduction and heat transfer in the form of steam between the pots. Interestingly, the bottom one doesn’t get burnt or that is the expertise of the cooks. Of course, we are not allowed to go inside the Kitchen but, we went around the huge Kitchen and saw the Bhoga - preparation being cooked. I was told, the number of stoves is around 150 and all staff for kitchen duties with around 600 cooks and 400 assistants per day. Each day, the Lord is offered 80 to 100 different items, six times a day starting from the morning. The details as below,
Gopal Vallabh Bhog (Breakfast at 8.30 am)
Sakala Dhupa (Morning meal at 10.00 am)
Bhoga Mandapa Bhoga (Supplementary to breakfast at 11.00 am)
Madhyanna Dhupa (Midday meal at 12.30 to 1.00 pm)
Sandhya Dhupa (Evening meal at 7.00 to 8.00 pm)
Bada Singhara Bhoga (Late night Meal at 11.00 pm).
I saw the Offering being carried in Pots by two people. Multiple pots are hung on to a stick, by a rope or a cloth which is carried by two people. Once, the food is offered to the Lord and then to Vimala Devi.The food called as Mahaprasad is then, distributed and sold in the market called as Anand Bazar which is attached to the temple complex.
Purushottam Panda

Again, because of Purushottam Panda, we had wonderful darshan of the Lord and also a nice feast of prasadam which tasted excellent. This time, we stayed in a Hotel close to the temple, basically on the same road and a ten minutes’ walk, mainly because we had to walk in the traffic of people, Autos, Rickshaws, Street sellers shop that is spread on the road and on footpath. We had a nice darshan (holy view) of the Lord Jagannath 4 times at different times of the day with the only dissatisfaction that, compared to our last visit few years ago, we could not go to the Lord as near. Apparently, couple of rocks slipped and fell from the roof of the main dome and was under repair and that was the reason for not allowing anyone to enter close to the sanctum sanctorum.
Jagannath means, the Lord of the universe and the world famous Ratha Yatra or carrying the Lord ships, Sri Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Subhdra Mata is an annual event, which draws millions of people from all over India and the world. Ratha Yatra is the day, when anyone and everyone from the world can have a darshan of the Lord and celebrated during the summer months.
*Darshan - means a view of someone Holy, sacred or revered like the Deities of the Lord or a Holy person.
P.S:- For some reason, I am not able to find the photo that I took with Purushottam Pandaji. I will try to find and post it ASAP.
30/10/2017: As promised, I am attaching the Photo of Purushottam Panda that I took.I still have his contact details and if anyone visiting Puri and need some assistance, let me know and I can share his details.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Happy Diwali and The Five Days of Deepavali

Happy Diwali, one of my friends at work greeted me this morning. Happy Diwali to you too, it is Diwali today?  I asked him, thinking of my past memories of Diwali in India. No, actually today is Dhan Teras, tomorrow is Chota Diwali and day after i,e 19th Oct  is the actual Diwali day" my friend replied.
So how many days, Diwali is celebrated and what is the significance of each day? I tried to recollect my thought and after quick surfing of the net, came up with the following.
Diwali or Deepawali, means a row of lamps. The custom of decorating the houses with row of lamps, candles or electric bulbs these days originated from the times of yore. The people of Ayodhya welcomed Lord Rama Chandra back to the kingdom by decorating their houses with lamps. It’s a time of celebration, joy, marks victory of good over evil like, Lord Rama killing Ravana.
But, this is only one day. What about the rest of the four days? Read on...
Diwali Lamps

Diwali Crackers

The First Day of Diwali: -
Called as Dhan Teras or Dhanvantari Tryodasi, this is the day when Lord Dhanvantari an avatar of Lord Vishnu appeared from churning of the Ocean, carrying a pot of Amruta or the celestial Elixir of life and Ayurvedic medicine for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. At sunset, Hindus bathe and offer oil lamps along with sanctified food to Yamaraja, the Lord of Death, and pray for protection from untimely death.

The Second Day of Diwali:-
Also, called as the Chota Diwali or Naraka Chaturdasi. On this day Lord Krishna along with his queen Satyabhama fought and killed the demon Narakasura, liberating the 16,000 princesses the demon held as captive.

The Third Day - the Actual Diwali day:-
Commonly known as the Hindu New Year, especially for the business man, merchants etc. New, Accounts and ledger books are marked with sacred symbol of AUM or Swastika with turmeric, placed alongside the photos of Ganesh and Lakshmi Devi and worshipped. Basically, new Account books are started on this day. The goddess Lakshmi is worshipped to receive blessings of wealth, prosperity. This also the day in Treta Yuga Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, having successfully rescued Sita and killing the demon Ravana asura.

The Fourth Day of Diwali:-
This is the day when Govardhana Puja is celebrated in Vrindavan, Mathura, by Vaishnava’s all around India and world. Govardhana Puja is worship of the great mountain Goverdhana, a harvest festival which was started around five thousand years ago by Lord Krishna. 
It is also called Vishwakarma Day, when workman, tradies worship their instruments, arms and machinery.Hmm. can’t remember but, I think this was the day my grandfather used to take out his revolver (which was licensed of course) and worship it, fire one bullet in the air and put is back somewhere hidden safe.

The Fifth Day of Diwali:-
Diwali Cracker
Called as Bhratri Dooj is a day dedicated to sisters. Just like Raksha Bandhan,a brother's day, this is a sister's day. It is mentioned in the puranas that after twelve years, Yamaraja the Lord of Death, visited His sister river Yamuna Devi on this day. He gave Yamuna a boon that whoever visits her on this day shall be liberated from all sins; they will achieve moksha, liberation. From then on, brothers visit their sisters on this day to inquire about their welfare, and many faithful bathe in the holy waters of the Yamuna River. Thus, this day is known for the sister's praying for their brother's safety, success and well-being.
This day marks the end of the five days of Diwali celebrations.

OK, all that I can remember about Diwali in India, when I was a kid is burning the fire crackers, sparklers, rockets etc. Some temporary shops would be setup a week or ten day before the festival. Myself with friends would visit these shops every day, buying some stuff with our pocket money until the Big day, when accompanied by my father would visit the shop and make the big sale that includes all the varieties of toy crackers, sparklers, rockets, flower pots to be burnt on the Diwali day as a part of celebration.
I know, its a waste of money, not safe for environment, pets etc, but compared to what is being done today, it was still on a low scale and not so much hype and also, not so costly.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Orissa Surrounds, Pearls and Diamonds at the Beach

Sand Art at Bhubaneshwar Airport
As we started to walk out of the Bhubaneshwar Airport, we saw an impressive Welcome sand art / Sculpture. As we boarded the taxi to our destination – Jagannath Puri, I took some random snaps of the country side which is quite interesting, green with crops of rice and coconut trees. Once, we are there our primary mode of transport was an Auto – Rickshaw. The kids enjoyed the ride and no need to have the seat belts, enjoying the fresh air blowing into the Auto. We travelled to few nearby places like Sakshi Gopal, Alarnath and an amazing, wonderful beach by Auto-Rickshaw.

Who kept this road divider here?

Agriculture at Puri Outskirts

Puri Outski

Puri Outskirts - On our way to Alarnath

Sharing the Road

Pearls at the Puri Beac

Precious Stones

Diamonds are for Real @  Puri Beach

Sunset at  at Puri Beach
DiwaliSale-Rupees 728x90

Had an interesting shopping encounter at the beach. I had one person came up to me offering to sell me some of the pure and rare pearls. He even showed me some tests to show that they are genuine. Took a lighter and started burning the pearls with the fire. ‘Look Sir, they are real and pure, otherwise if they are plastic, they would easily be burnt’- said the enigmatic Pearl Seller. How much are they, I asked. He said something like, 100 rupees each. I know that he is trying to cheat us but, I was curious to ask him, what else he got. Anything else you have? I asked him. And, this time he took out from a Box, some shining white stones. ‘These are real diamonds which in the shops are normally sold for few thousands of rupees. I am going to sell them only for 1000 rupees each (something like that, I can’t remember the exact price he quoted)’ he said. Again, he gave a demonstration of their worth by putting them in a cloth. Keeping them on a 2-rupee coin and hitting it with a stone. And, he opened the cloth. Lo behold, the Diamonds are intact and the poor 2-rupee coin had holes in it.
Suddenly, I remembered the words of Srila Prabhupad to a reporter.
"Yes. Of course, to search out a guru is very nice, but if you want a cheap guru, or if you want to be cheated, then you will find many cheating gurus. But if you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru. Because people want everything very cheaply, they are cheated. We ask our students to refrain from illicit sex, meat eating, gambling, and intoxication. People think that this is all very difficult—a botheration. But if someone else says, “You may do whatever nonsense you like, simply take my mantra,” then people will like him. The point is that people want to be cheated, and therefore cheaters come. No one wants to undergo any austerity. Human life is meant for austerity, but no one is prepared to undergo austerity. Consequently, cheaters come and say, “No austerity. Whatever you like, you do. Simply pay me and I’ll give you some mantra and you’ll become God in six months.” 

All this is going on. If you want to be cheated like this, the cheaters will come".
Suppose, you go to an iron shop and ask for Gold, he will give you a lump of iron and says, this is Gold. And, the person gets cheated. Firstly, you need to be sincere, ready to undergo the austerities required for spirituality, learn and get the knowledge about what is real and fake etc.
Anyway, if this person is genuine and having all the original Pearls and Diamonds, why would he be selling them like peanuts in a beach, going to person to person.
Anyway, our business transaction got disturbed by my two kids who are excitedly shouting, “Camel, Camel”. I thanked the future millionaire for his courtesy and showing all his wealth and moved on to take the kids to the Camel ride. I then confirmed the same with my Auto Driver that, all those are fake, hard plastic and Glass pieces. By the way, the beach was beautiful, stayed for a while and had great fun.Running parallel by the Marine Drive, beach at Puri is an interesting place to be. I was told that, we can visit a fishing village along the coast and also a row of food stalls, Hotels etc.
Words of Caution, “Don’t get cheated in life”.
P.S: My visit to India in Jan 2017.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Sri Jagannath Puri Yatra – House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Getting down from the Auto-Rickshaw, I tried refreshing my memory and tried to remember the place I visited about five years ago. I followed the directions of the Auto driver to go to the house of Sarvamauma Bhattachary, the greatest Advitist Philosopher who had the famous discussion about the impersonalist philosophy with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Five hundred years ago, he was the greatest scholar and the head priest of King Prataparudra kingdom.
House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Wall Paintings - House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Wall Paintings - House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Place Where Lord Chaitanya was seated - House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Temple - House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

Temple Door - Temple - House of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya

History tells that, when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Jagannath Puri temple for the first time and while taking darshan of Lord Jagannatha, evoked deep ecstatic symptoms and he fell into a trance. Lord Chaitanya fell down in the temple and the temple guards could not comprehend the highest feelings of love and devotion he was experiencing and considering this to be show of some sort, wanted to throw him out of the temple.  
Sarvabauma Bhattachary who was present there, immediately took noticed of the effulgent, golden complexioned young sanyasi. Because, he was well versed with the scriptures and noted that the ecstatic, uncommon symptoms displayed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are not ordinary. He made all the checks like, feeling the life symptoms, pulse etc. and could see that all the life symptoms like, breathing, heart beat are suspended and could only see a slight movement of cotton placed near the nostrils of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, ordered the temple guards to carry the young sanyasi to his home through an underground tunnel from the temple to his home.
After, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu regained his consciousness and after exchange of pleasantries, Sarvabhauma Bhattachary started explaining the Vedanta philosophy continuously for seven days. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, listened without asking any question or saying single word. Finally, frustrated Sarvabhauma asked Chaitanya, if he is able to comprehend what he is speaking. What followed was a wonderful discourse and explanation of Vedanta sutra by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu where he showed the fallacy and convoluted interpretations of Vedanta sutras by Sarvabhauma. Chaitanya explained that the Vedanta sutras originally given by Veda Vyasa are themselves very clear and showed how they are being misinterpreted.
Finally, he spoke the famous Atmarama a verse from Srimad Bhagavatham,
atmaramas ca munayo
nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim
ittham-bhuta-guno harih
"Those who are self-satisfied and unattracted by external material desires are also attracted to the loving service of Sri Krsna, whose qualities are transcendental and whose activities are wonderful. Hari, the Personality of Godhead, is called Krishna because He has such transcendentally attractive features"
While, Sarvabhauma explained this verse in 9 different ways, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explained the verse in 18 different ways.
Finally, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed him the four-handed form and then appeared in the form of Krishna.
Coming back to my visit, I proceeded towards the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. The front portion of the house is demolished and grounded. Apparently, they are rebuilding it. We went inside paid our respects to the deities in the small temple. Few, steps away was the place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was sitting at that time and the entrance to the underground tunnel. I remained there for few moments reminiscing the amazing pastime of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And, took some pictures of the place with old paintings on the wall, which remain as a testimony to the history.

P.S: This was during my visit last to India and Jagannath Puri, which was in Jan 2017. Sorry, for posting this late. There will be few more coming up. Stay tuned.