Icons on the Grand Throne


BY: SUN STAFF - 5.9 2023

By Prabhat Kumar Nanda for Odisha Review.

In public parlance it is generally known that, four idols i.e. Shree Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, Shree Jagannath and Shree Sudharsana are worshipped in the Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbha Gruha). Experts who have deep knowledge in the culture of Lord Jagannath have enunciated that seven idols are worshipped on the grand throne (Ratna Singhasana). They are named as Shree Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, Shree Jagannath, Shree Sudharsan, Shree Madhav, Devi Sreedevi, Devi Bhoodevi. They are named as Saptadha Bigraha.

Shree Nrusingha was the first deity commissioned in the Jagannath Temple. Such temple is now existing by southern side of the main temple and near Muktimandap Sabha. Later, the present main temple was constructed in 12th century. Other temples were constructed in different phases by various kings of Odisha. The analysis of the temple culture from historical point of view is very important for dissemination to the general public.

Jagannath temple is one of the most celebrated and renowned temples of the world. The initial temple where tribal king Biswabasu was praying Shree Neela Madhab and later the temple constructed by king Indradyumna are not available. Many facts on the location of above temples were considered mysterious as the religious scholars and historians have offered different views. However, it is believed that initial concept of Lord Jagannath was derived from the culture of Shree Neelamadhaba and later as per the desire of Lord Jagannath, Indradyumna constructed the main temple and commissioned four idols on grand throne.

Madala Panji, a chronicle maintained in the temple depicting the history of the Jagannath culture, confirms that tyrant Rakta Bahu invaded Utkal i.e. ancient name of Odisha and made an attempt to dishonor the idols of the Jagannath temple. Hence finding no other way, King of Utkal had to remove idols from grand temple and stationed in different areas of the state. For such purpose regular rites of the temple were affected for about 150 years. The king Yayati Keshari(I) repaired the old damaged temple and constructed the new temple of about 60 ft height (i.e. 38 hands length) Such concept was accepted by the famous historian, Satyanarayan Rajguru.

After the rule of King Yayati Keshari, another King named as Budhha Keshari repaired the temple. King Chodaganga Deb further constructed the main temple of Lord Jagannath and idols were commissioned in the year 1124-1125AD. All the scholars of Jagannath culture have accepted the above year as the commissioning of the grand temple at Puri. In copper plate inscription in Dasagoba (1198 AD.) written in Sanskrit, it was inscribed as, who was such able king to construct grand palace of Purusottam and it was only Gangeswara. As per the above text of inscription, a small temple was constructed by King Yayati Keshari and the construction of the present main temple was completed in the year 1125 by King Chodaganga Deb.

Dr. Satyanarayan Rajguru in his thesis "Inscription of the temple of Puri and origin of Shree Purusottama Jagannath" have narrated that, the initial temple named as Purusottam temple was constructed on the sea shore of Shree Kshetra. Such temple was damaged and collapsed due to ravages of climate and non-maintenance. King Yayati Keshari(II) constructed a new temple and transferred from old temple to the new temple. Such temple is existing as the temple of Lord Nrusingha. Dr. Rajguru also accepted the fact that the present grand temple was constructed by King Chodaganga Deb but he could not complete the construction of the total temple complex. Such were constructed in different phases from King Chodaganga Deb to Ananga Bhima Deb (III) and the regular rites were started from the year 1230 AD.

From another copper plate inscription of Nagari, it is revealed that, the construction of temples were made in different phases from King Chodaganga Deb to Ananga Bheema Deb(III). Scholars of Jagannath culture, i.e. Pandit Harihar Mohapatra and Rabi Rai have also agreed with the above data. The District Gazetteer of Puri recorded the data of the temple. The exact geographical location of the temple is Lat.19° 18' 17" and longitude 85° 51' 39". According to tradition, the temple was originally built by Yayati Keshari (Yayati-II of Somavamshi dynasty) on the right side of present shrine.

Another tradition attributes to the construction of temple to Ananga Bheema Deb, the grandson of Sri Anantvarman Chodaganga Deb. But the epigraphical records fully support that, it was Chodaganga Deb (1112- 1148 AD) who built the present temple (the shrine hall and porch). Apart from Puri District Gazetteer as was maintained by the British administrators, other inscriptions available near Nrusingha temple also reveals that, the chief architect named as Palla was engaged for the constructions of grand temple. The temple work was supervised by King Chodaganga Deb and his sons. The Architect Palla donated a lamp named Akhanda Deepa to the temple of Lord Nrusingha.

As per the version of renowned historians and architects of the world, the temple of Lord Jagannath is one of the best monuments of Kalinga style of architecture. Most of the temples of Odisha were constructed in the style Rekha Deula, Peedha Mukhashala i.e. Sanctum Sanctorum and the entrance to the temple. The temple of Lord Jagannath was constructed as per Rekhadeula architecture style as Pancha Ratha version. Out of different versions of architecture, as popularly known as Paga, two constructions of Anuraha, two constructions of Konaka and one in Raha style were associated depicting the style of construction as Pancharatha.

As far as the height of the temple is concerned, the temple of Lord Jagannath is the highest in Odisha. At present, the temple is 214' 8" high from the road level. Two long boundary walls were constructed segregating the main activities and other activities of temples. The temple occupies an area of 10.750 acres. Four main entrance doors as Singhadwara (east), Ashwadwara (south), Byaghradwara (west) and Hastidwara (north) are available for entry and exit of people.

Most of the ancient temples of Utkal were constructed in four segments style. The main segment where the idol of the God exists is known as Garbhagruha (Sanctum Sanctorum), the assembly place of devotees is known as Jagamohan, dancing hall as Nata Mandap and the place of displaying offerings (Food for the deities) is called as Bhoga Mandap. The king Ananga Bhimadeb (III) constructed the Garbhagruha and Jagamohana, whereas Nata mandap was constructed by King Purusottam deb (1461 -1495 AD) and the Bhoga Mandap was constructed by King Prataprudra Deb (1495-1532 AD). Most of the parts of the temple were constructed by sand stone (Boulamala and Kunda stone).

As per the general temple architecture, different phases of construction i.e. from Pista (bottom panel) to Kalasa and Ayudha (top portion) were decorated with idols of different Gods, Goddesses, celestial figures, human beings and animals. Erotic arts have also been carved on the walls of the temple. Three massive idols of Lord Tribikrama, Lord Nrusingha and Lord Baraha made of black granite stone were commissioned on the northern, western and southern parts of the temple. As per the scholars those are named as three side presiding deities in small temple to balance the stability of existing huge temple.

The height of Jagamohan is 120 ft, Natamandap and Bhogamandap are miniature in size i.e. 30ft and 50 ft respectively. As per the scholars, the height of Natamandap was kept low for the clear visibility of the stone architecture of the main temple by devotees. The top of the temple is commissioned with Neela Chakra of 12 ft hight. It was constructed by 18 types of metals and the weight of such huge wheel is 150 Kgs. About twenty number of flags of red and yellow colour are being hoisted daily on Neela Chakara with the support of bamboo, fostering the excellent view of the temple. To a layman, only three prominent idols, made of Neem wood named as Shree Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, Shree Jagannath are visible on the grand throne (Ratna Singhasana). The idol of Shree Sudarshan is placed behind the idol of Lord Jagannath at a corner. Any devotee having very much interest can see Shree Sudharshan, the weapon of Lord Jagannath as placed behind the idol. Apart from the above four idols, three other idols named as Shree Madhab, Shree Devi and Bhoodevi are also present. Combining the above, there are seven idols present on the grand throne in Jagannath temple.

During Car festival the idols of Shree Balabhadra, Debi Subhadra, Lord Jagannath and Shree Sudharshan are taken out of the main temple for placing in different chariots. During such nine days, the idols of Shree Madhab, Shreedevi and Bhoodevi are offered with prayers on the grand throne. Even at the time of absence of Lord Jagannath from the main temple, His representative Shree Madhab along with Shreedevi and Bhoodevi are worshipped in the temple. Hence the Ratna Singhasana or grand throne is never without the presence of Lords. Concept of offering prayers to seven idols is associated with the offerings of the prayer to all Gods and Goddesses of different religious believers of India. All the segments of Hindu culture have been embodied in the images of seven idols.

Scholars of different faiths as Baisnaba, Shakta, Shaiba, Tantra etc. have been ceremonially participating in different rites of the temple. Scholars have yet to revive more ethical thoughts about above seven idols. It is experienced that the concept of Lord Jagannath is still a mystery and many aspects are left untold. Religious scholars and philosophers have rightly opined that, all the mystery belongs to Shree Purusottam i.e Lord Jagannath. Such are not fully known even to Gods and Goddesses. How can human beings with limited reasoning power can asses it ? In Sanskrit it is narrated as "Sarba Rahasya Purusottamasya, Debo Na Jananti Krutah Manushya".

Pahandi Bije of Lord Jagannath at Keonjhar
 Odisha Review