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Jagannath Puri

Jagannath Puri

A restless king, an impatient queen and mysterious statue are behind the great temple of Krishna, the Jagannatha or ‘Lord of the Universe’, at Purushottamkshetra or Puri. It was once part of a kingdom ruled by the great King Indradyumna, who, having obtained every earthly success, desired to create something that would make him immortal.

"I shall build a temple," the king thought, "but whom do I build it for?" A dream supplied the answer. Indradyumna dreamt of an exquisite statue of Jagannatha, which sat hidden from the world in its cave shrine on a hill called Nilachala. But he had no way of knowing where to find Nilachala or indeed the Nilamadhava (the blue Madhava or Krishna) image. So his trusted forces were sent out into the countryside on this mission. One young soldier named Vidyapati discovered, by trickery, the whereabouts of the cave and stole the idol, which belonged to a hermit named Viswavasu, for his king.

However, the devotee of Nilamadhava fell into utter despair when he discovered his god missing. Krishna, seeing his plight, returned to the cave as the image, much to Indradyumna's chagrin. Still, the ruler's piety too was rewarded when Krishna called out to him from the heavens reassuring him that he would be given his own idol. "But do you have a temple to house the Lord in?" asked Krishna. "First build a shrine, then will your god come to you."

The royal architects spent many years in the construction of the Jagannatha temple. When it was complete, Krishna reappeared before the king and told him to pick up from the sea a log that be would find floating upon it. Neither Indradyumna nor anyone else could lift the strange log, so the devoted Viswavasu was summoned. Such was the strength of his devotion that he picked it up as if it were a feather.

Now Indradyumna had to have an image carved on this sacred piece of wood. All the artisans of the kingdom were unwilling to take on such a mighty task. Finally, an old man came to the king agreeing to carve a statue of Jagannatha, his brother Balaram and sister, Subhadra, on the condition that he had complete privacy and three weeks' time to do his work in. No one would be allowed to see the images in the meantime.

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