History

Shri Jagannath
Lord of the Universe


Jagannath literally means "Lord of the Universe" and is a deity worshipped in regional traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism in India and Bangladesh. Jagannath is considered a form of Vishnu. He is a part of a triad along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. To some Vaishnava Hindus, Jagannath is an abstract representation of Krishna; to some Shaiva and Shakta Hindus, he is a symmetry-filled tantric representation of Bhairava; to some Buddhists, he is symbolism for Buddha in the Buddha-Sangha-Dhamma triad; to some Jains, his name and his festive rituals are derived from Jeenanath of Jainism tradition.

The icon of Jagannath is a carved and decorated wooden stump with large round eyes and a symmetric face, and the icon has a conspicuous absence of hands or legs. The worship procedures, sacraments and rituals associated with Jagannath are syncretic, and include rites that are uncommon in Hinduism. The origin and evolution of Jagannath worship is unclear. Some scholars interpret hymn 10.155.3 of the Rigveda as a possible origin, but others disagree and state that it is a syncretic deity with tribal roots. His name does not appear in the traditional Dashavatara (ten avatars) of Vishnu, though in certain Odia literature, Jagannath has been treated as the Ninth avatar, as a substitute for or the equivalent of the Buddha.

Jagannath is considered a non-sectarian deity. He is significant regionally in the Indian states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. He is also significant to the Hindus of Bangladesh. The Jagannath Temple, Puri |Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha is particularly significant in Vaishnavism, and is regarded as one of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites in India. The Jagannath temple is massive, over 200 feet high in the Nagara Hindu temple style, and one of the best surviving specimens of post-Gupta Empire era Odisha art and architecture. It has been one of the major pilgrimage destination for Hindus since about 800 CE.

The annual festival called the Ratha yatra celebrated in June or July every year in eastern states of India is dedicated to Jagannath. His image along with the other two associated deities, is ceremoniously brought out of the sacrosanctum (Garbhagriha) of his chief temple in Puri (Oriya: Bada Deula). They are placed in a chariot, which is then pulled by numerous volunteers, thus transported to the Gundicha Temple (located at a distance of nearly 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)). They stay there for a few days, and are thereafter returned to the main temple. Coinciding with the Ratha Yatra festival at Puri, similar processions are organized at Jagannath temples throughout the world. This festive public procession of Jagannath in Puri, where the heavy carriage becomes a "massive inexorable force, an unstoppable public campaign that crushes whatever is in its path" is the source of the word Juggernaut.