India is full of places of pilgrimages. Each state and each district can boast of thousands of places of pilgrimage, each associated with a puranic legend or some form of divinity. After all, according to Hindu belief, even though the ultimate reality is only one, it manifests in 3.3 bn different divine forms.
But, the four main places of pilgrimages, known as char dham, are located in the four corners of the country. Badrinath in North, Puri in East, Rameswaram in South and Dwaraka in West. These four divine abodes were established by Adi Shankaracharya who is credited with reviving the Hindu religion and culture that was in a dying state due to the influence of Budhism.
Some say Lord Vishnu takes morning ablution in Badrinath, breakfast in Dwaraka, lunch in Puri, and retires to Rameswaram for rest. Some versions start with Vishnu taking morning ablution at Rameswaram. There seems to be some confusion among the pundits as to the association of the places with lord Vishnu’s daily rituals. However, there is no confusion with regard to one thing which is with regard to the fact He comes to Puri for his lunch.
Why not? Anyone, who has tasted the Mahaprasad which is cooked in one fo the biggest kitchens of the world using age old recipes and techniques, will vouchsafe for this.
There also seems to be a lot of misconception and ignorance about the strange looking deities and the strange rituals associated with them. Of course, for any information these days, the internet opens the flood gates. Out of thousands of videos available on youtube, I found the three following videos very interesting and informative.
The central theme of every documentary is different. While the first one gives an overall idea about Lord Jagannath Dham and other prominent places of pilgrimage and tourism in Odisha, the other two are associated with different aspects of the grand annual spectacle known as Rath Yatra and the event of Nabakalebara .
- Yatra Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath Dham Darshan with prominent temples of Odisha. This documentary gives an overall idea about Jaganath Dham, temples and legend associated with the History of the idols, and other tourist attractions in the Golden Triangle which consists of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. The stunning visuals are accompanied by the mesmerising narration by Sami Narang of Doordarshan fame.
2. The Legend of Jagannath. Originally aired on the National Geographic at the time of Navakalebara in 2015, actor Rajiv Khandelwal takes the viewer on a journey through the preparation for the grand car festival , sprinkling it with glimpses into the history of the temple and the deities from time to time. The documentary is also available on Netfilx with better video quality.
3. God’s own people | Jagannath Yatra. This too was produced during the time of Navakalebara in 2015. However, it focuses on the aspect of the selection of the trees with specific divine manifestations. The wood from these four neem trees were used to carve out new idols of the four deities – Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan.
There are two parallel narratives in this documentary. One is about how the descendants of the Tribal King Biswabasu now known as daitapatis go on an arduous journey to locate the trees and the detailed rituals associated with bringing the wood to the temple. The second one which provides emotional depth to the narrative is that of a simple woman of the village where the tree for the idol of Lord jagannath was located. Hailing from a remote village in Odisha, I had many nostalgic moments while watching it.
The documentary has been made by the famous director Nila Madhab Panda. (Remember I am Kalam, Kadvi Hawa …? ). Amitabh Bachan has lent his voice for narration – a grand actor for the documentary about a place where everything is grand.
Please watch the videos to go through an enlightening journey.