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How the Jagannath deity from Puri came to be installed in Shri Vrindavan

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Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra at the Vrindavan's Jagannath Ghat← Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra at the Vrindavan's Jagannath Ghat

Vrindavan, 2018.07.14

The deity at Jagannath Ghat was originally installed in Puri. Perhaps wanting to taste the sweetness of Vrindavan Dham, two hundred years ago, Lord Jagannath made arrangements so that a devotee called Haridasa brought Him to Vrindavan.

Haridasa lived in Vrindavan and spent his time on the banks of the Yamuna meditating on the Lord’s form as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. He wept day and night for Shri Jagannath’s darshan, and finally, Lord Jagannath appeared before him.

When Lord Jagannath appeared before Haridasa, Haridasa was so charmed by Shri Jagannath’s beauty that he could not stop looking at Him. But he could not look for long and soon became unconscious.

As soon as he regained consciousness, Haridasa fell at the feet of Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath said, “Haridasa. I am pleased with your devotion and I yearn for your loving service. You go to Jagannath Puri. This year, in the month of asadha, the image of Jagannath will be changed. You Bring the old image to Vrindavan to be installed here and served”. (The Jagannath deity in Puri is changed every 36 years).

In the introduction to the chapter on Haridasa in The Saints of Braj, OBL Kapoor explains that the Lord incarnates in physical form to allow to His devotees serve Him, which helps them become free from Maya (illusory energy). The Lord also longs for the loving service of the devotees and creates a relationship with them by pretending to be dependent.

After instructing Haridasa to bring Him to Vrindavan, Lord Jagannath disappeared. Haridasa was so aggrieved at His disappearance that he became unconscious again. On regaining consciousness, he remembered the Lord’s command and began to prepare for his journey to Puri.

There was no railway in those days. Haridasa went on foot with some of his disciples; crossing the jungles and rivers, all the while singing the glories of the Lord. When he reached Jagannath Puri, the town was alive with visitors from all over the country who had come to celebrate the festival of the changing of the Jagannath deity.

Haridasa went to the sevaiyat in the temple and asked for the old deity. The sevaiyat said, “I am not authorised to give the deity to anyone. You should approach the king”.

Haridasa went to the king. The king did pranam to Haridasa and asked how he could be of service. Haridasa told him about the command of Jagannath and asked for the old deity. The king was confused about what to do. He said, “Maharaja. Jagannath has commanded you but he has not given any such command to me. According to the long established tradition, every time the deity is changed, the old image is consigned to the sea.”

Haridas breathed a deep sigh and said, “So let that be. With the consignment of the old image of Jagannath, my body shall also be consigned to the sea.”

Haridas took a vow to undertake an indefinite fast. He sat on the sea shore, waiting for the time when he would drown himself in the sea with the image of Jagannath.

In the introduction to his wonderful book about the devotees of Braj, OBL Kapoor explains that, sometimes, great devotees act in ways that are difficult for us to understand. Knowing the will of the Lord, the great devotees act in accordance with His transcendental games.

That night, Jagannath appeared before the king in a dream and said, “My devotee came to you to ask for my image on My command. You did not do well by turning him away. He is now fasting on the sea shore. Go and apologize to him and send my old image with him to Vrindavan.”

The king was struck with fear. Immediately he woke up and went to the sea shore. He apologized to Haridas and promised to send the deity with him to Vrindavan.

After the installation of the new images, the king ordered that the old images of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra  be seated on a chariot and taken to Vrindavan with an army escort. He also gave Haridasa sufficient money and paraphernalia for the service of Lord Jagannath in Vrindavan.

The return journey took several months. Haridas and his disciples would stop and hold celebrations at places along the way. Finally, they reached Vrindavan.

Haridasa built a temple at the place on the banks of the Yamuna where he used to sit. The place came to be known as Jagannath Ghat. Jagannath Ghat is just past Keshi Ghat on the Parikrama Marg. The deities in the temple here are the original ones that Haridasa brought from Puri. The temple welcomes people of all nationalities.

Vrindavan’s Jagannath goes on Rath Yatra at the same time as the Jagannath in Puri.

Source: The Saints of Braj OBL Kapoor

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