History of Odisha

A Comprehensive Compendium of History, Culture, Lifestyle and Tourism of Odisha

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Impact of Islam on Odia language and literature

Muslim rule was confined to coastal districts. Odisha was far away from the Muslim Centers of North India. So although Muslims came to Odisha after establishment of their rule, their number was marginal. “Odisha was defeated but not conquered in the sense of Bengal or other parts of North India.” Yet it had its effects on the socio-cultural life of Odisha. There were attempts at establishing cordial Hindu-Muslim relation especially in the times from Akbar to Shahjahan.

Influence of Islam on socio-cultural life of Odisha

One Bhatta Mahapatra was a musician in Akbar’s court. Another Viswanatha Samantaraya pleased Mansingh, came to Mughal court and received rewards for his poetic talent. Odia language and literature was influenced by Perso-Arabic vocabulary. More than 2,000 words of Islamic languages entered into Odia literature. The Muslims turned their mind toward Odia and poets like Salabaig composed excellent devotional songs for Lord Jagannatha. The harmony and interaction between the Hindu and the Muslim communities resulted in some syncretic religious rituals like Satyapiri cult in 18th century. The Kadam Rasul of Cuttack, tombs of Baba Bukhari in Puri and Bhogakhia Pir of Balasore etc. got equal veneration from both the communities. The popular music show of Bhadrak called Mughal Tamasa were participated and enjoyed by people of both the communities. Not only that in dress, customs and manners they adopted each other’s style. Whereas the Hindus wore lungi, kurta, pijjama, took birani, halwa and Muslim delicacies and said Id-mubaraka to Muslims; the Muslim used dhoti, gamuchha, wrapper-cloth, took Hindu foods and visited Hindu neighbours during festivals. An atmosphere of love and affection came to prevail down the times.

Influence of Islam on Odia language and literature

A number of Islamic literatures took shape in Orissa. The original works of Arabic, Parsi, Turkish and even Urdu were translated into Oriya Language. Khwaja Mainuddin- Chisti (Sufi Saint) of Ajmer primarily encouraged the spread of Parsi language in India. During Muslim rule in Orissa Parsi language was spoken and official records maintained in Parsi. Poems of poet Abhimanyu Samant Singhar, Baldev Rath, Upendra Bhanja mark the influence of Parsi, Arabic and Urdu languages. Islam had direct impact on Fakir Mohan. He was named Fakir because his Grand mother symbolically sold him to a Muslim Fakir or Dervishes. In his childhood Fakir Mohan used to collect alms as a Fakir boy and from the begged he used to prepare Sirni and distributed to the poor in the name of Satyapir. 18th Century marks the growth of Satyapir sect. It was manifestation of Hindu-Muslim unity. This century also witnessed the rise of Pala. Kabi Karna was the founder of Pala literature. It had a series of 16 books one of which depicted the miracle of Satyapir. Pala is divided into two types viz. I. Baithaki Pala and II. Thia Pala.

Tamasa and Jatra

In the second quarter of the 18th Century poet Bansiballav Goswami wrote the Tamasa. He synthesized Islamic tenet with Oriya literature. The tradition of Jatra was very much prevalent in Orissa. Historians believed that, Jatra is the sound impact of Islamic literature over Orissa. Poet Salabeg and Uzir Bag wrote hundreds of Bhajana on Jagannath and Radhakrishna Cult in Oriya literature. Parsian poet Saikh Sahdis (1194-1282) Pand Nama was translated into Oriya by Abdul Majid Saheb of Balasore in Prabodha Bakya or Hitapodesh Mala edited and published in 1869. Madhusudan Roy has written a series of books on Muslim Prophet and Saints. Qawali and Ghazal are examples of the impact of Islam in Oriya literature and language. Countless words of Parsian, Arabic, Urdu and Turkish entered into Oriya Vocabulary and were assimilated in the spoken language of the common mass. Oriya poets used the work in their Kavya or poems. Orissan society reflected a sense of hospitality to the strangers which deserves merits. Culturally, Islam had its unique and remarkable contribution. It brought some new idea and some new problems, but left a legacy, that is successfully utilized by the succeeding generation for ever.

Last Line to Say

The Muslim rule it had its impact on the socio-cultural life of Odisha. Odia language and literature was influenced by Perso-Arabic vocabulary. More than 2,000 words of Islamic languages entered into Odia literature. The Muslims turned their mind toward Odia and poetslike Salabaig composed excellent devotional songs for Lord Jagannatha. The harmony and interaction between the Hindu and the Muslim communities resulted in some syncretic religious rituals like Satyapiri cult in 18th century. A number of Islamic literatures took shape in Orissa. The original works of Arabic, Parsi, Turkish and even Urdu were translated into Oriya Language. In this way, the there was great influence of Islamism on the Odia language and literature.

Architecture of Sun Temple at Konark

The Sun temple at Konarka, popularly known as ‘Black Pagoda’ was the fullest manifestation of the Kalinga style of architecture. Architecturally, it was 148pecimen in stone. This monumental temple was constructed by Narasimhadeva I or Langula Narasimhadeva in the 13th century A.D. The legend goes on that 1200 Odishan artists took 12 years for the construction of this gigantic structure. Situated at a distance of 35 kms to the north-west of Puri on the river bank of Chandrabhaga, the Sun temple has allured the attention of tourists from all over the world.

Konarka is popularly known as Arkakshetra connecting the worship of the Sun god. The temple consisted of the Vimana, Jagamohana and Natamandira. The Vimana is now lost due to the fall of stones from the top of the temple. The existing Jagamohana (Mukhasala), designed with a pyramidal roof, stands on a high platform. The 24 wheels, carved on the sides of that elevated platform upon which the Deul (sanctum) and Jagamohana (porch) stand, represent the 24 hours of a day. A group of 7 spirited horses sculptured on the sides of the staircase denote 7 days of a week. The wheels and horses together present the idea that the temple was designed in the form of a colossal Solar Chariot. The Jagamohana contained three doors each with attached steps. However, all these doors and steps have been blocked up and the interior filled up with sands. The Vimana and Jagamohana were planned in the Pancharatha style.

The Natamandira was planned as a detached building in front of the main temple. It had approachable flight of-steps on four sides. It is a lavishly carved pillared structure. All over the structure am depicted dance and musicai performance that consist of Pakhoaj (leader braces and wooden blocks for producing designed intonation), Dholak (barrel shaped double faced longish drum), Sahanai (large pipes giving sweet music), Karatalas (large metallic cymbals with strings), Vina (strined musical instrument), Vamsi (flute) etc. In front of the eastern flight of the Jagamohana stood a colossal chlorite pillar, known as Arunastambha. As stated earlier, it had been shifted from Konarka and installed in front of the temple of God Jagannath at Puri during the Maratha rule. The main temple, that contained the idol of Sun god, was 230 ft. high, the biggest in the “Whole India. However, it is ruined. The compound of the temple is 877 ft. x 540 ft. It is really a wonder, how such big stone slabs were carried on to the top for the construction of this temple. It is suggested by the archaeologists that after 149pecime the structure from the ground by sands, the big stones were placed over it.

The Sun temple of Konarka is remarkable for its variety of sculptures. Among them are the deities, musician-nymphs of the celestial sphere, secular sculptures, erotic figures, birds, beasts, acquatic animals, mythological figures, motifs reflected in figures, decorative bodies etc. Among the deities the most remarkable are the chlorite images of Surya in the three projected southern, western and northern niches of the Deul the rising sun, mid-day sun and setting sun respectively. The artists very rightly matched their talent with creation by depicting the rising sun with a smiling face, the midday sun with grave look and the setting sun with faded look.

The Navagraha sculpture of the temple is another piece of architectural creation. From the left to right the planets have been installed in this order as such the Ravi (Sun), Chandra (Moon). Mangala (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Sukra (Venus), Sani (Saturn), Rahu (the ascending node) and Ketu (the descending node). Now the Navagraha slab is kept inside separate temple. The worship of Siva (in the form of Linga), Purusottama (God Jagannath) and Mahisamardhini (Durga) is gleaned from the sculptural remains of the Sun temple of Konarka. Four such sculptures have been preserved in four different places viz. one at Sun temple of Konarka, one in Konarka museum, one at the National Museum (New Delhi and the last in the Bhogamandapa of the Jagannath temple at Puri. A noteworthy feature of the Sun temple of Konarka is the three outstanding animal figures which guarded the three starcases of the Jagamohana. Among these figures Gajasimhas (lion on elephant) find place in the east, elephants on the north and warhorses, on the south. These animal figures express the artistic skills of the Oriya sculptors.

The Sun temple at Konarka is a specimen of sculptures. Several sculptures like the decorated doors, royal chambers, the procession of king to receive the warriors, musicians playing on various musical instruments, meditation of saints, figures of elephants, horses, camels, snakes, divine and semidivine figures etc. bear ample testimony of the creative mind of the Oriya artists of that period. Very interesting is the depiction of a ziraffe eating grapes on the temple wall of Konarka. It was an African animal. It is not known how the Oriya artists came in contact with this animal. Be that as it may, it was definitely a noteworthy feature of the temple art at Konarka.

A notable feature of the architecture of the Sun temple of Konarka is the presence of erotic figures in the walls. Like the Khajuraho temple, the obscence sculptures of Konarka, depict the sensual pleasures of human life. It is a clear indication that human life is equal to the life of beasts. The aim of such depiction was perhaps that a pilgrim who visits the temple should not be swayed by the mundane life but should control hissenses to get victory over it. A. K. Coomarswamy, a notable art historian remarked regarding these sculptures as such: “Love and desire are part of life. Life is a veil behind or within which is God. The outside of the temple is an image of this life, Samsara, and the carvings on it present everything that belongs to Samsara and perpetuate illusion, every bond and each desire of loveliness that binds men to the wheel of life and death.”

N. N. Bhattacharya comments on the erotic sculptures of the Sun temple of Konarka stating that it was the reflection of the abnormal sexual desires of the dominant class of the man whose magnificence was responsible for the construction of this temple. However, its importance has been rightly painted out by Robert Ebersole as such : “Even if one elects to dismiss the intrinsically superb sculptural qualities of the erotic figures, there still remains a tremendous number of morally acceptable example which attest to the fact that the temple of the Sun represents the culmination of medieval Hindu art and the supreme achievement of temple sculpture.”

Really, the Sun temple at Konarka is the finest specimen of the creative genius of the Oriya artists. The Kalinga style of art reached the pinnacle of perfection with the erection of the Sun temple at Konarka. From the point of elegance, balance and beauty this temple, the only temple in Eastern India which got distinction to be one of the seven wonders of the world. Besides these two great temples of national and international importance, the Ganga period also witnessed massive temple building activities. The temple of Ramesvara, the temple of Gangesvara at Bhubaneswar were built by Chodagangadeva. The temple of Chintamanisvara near Laxmisagara in Bhubaneswar was built by Lakshmi Devi, the wife of Chodagangadeva. The Anantavasudeva temple, located on the eastern bank of Vindusarovara was another important temple of that period which was built by Chandrikadevi, the daughter of Anangabhimadeva III. Another important temple of the Ganga period was Meghesvara temple of Bhubaneswar, constructed by Svapnesvaradeva, the brother-in-law of Rajaraja II and the Commander-in-chief of the Ganga army. Further, the Yamesvara temple, Mitresvara temple, Varunesvara temple, Bhaskaresvara temple, Chitresvara temple, Parvati temple (in the complex of the Lingaraj temple) all in Bhubaneswar belonged to this period. Among other temples, the Sobhanesvara Siva temple at Niali, the Dakshaprajapati Siva temple at Banapur, the Kshirachora Gopinath temple at Remuna in the Balasore district, the temple of Mukhalingam, Simhachalam, Narayanapuram, Tekkali etc. were also constructed during the glorious days of the Gangas.

Architecture of Jagannath Temple or Shree Mandira

Among all the temples built during the Ganga period, the Jagannath temple at Puri deserves commendation. As stated earlier, Chodagangadeva might not have started the construction of that temple. He probably, extended the work of the Jagannath temple after 1147 A.D. and failed to complete it during his life time as the Dasgoba inscription states that it was constructed in 1198 A.D. which is certainly after the death of Chodagangadeva. The construction of the temple was completed most probably by Anangabhimadeva III. Be that as it may, with the construction of the Jagannath temple, Puri became a great centre of religion and culture not only in Odisha but also outside of it. However, many later additions to this temple were made during the rule of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis in Odisha.

Structural Details

The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2), and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. This 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri.[25] Another wall known as kurma bedha surrounds the main temple.[26] It contains at least 120 temples and shrines. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India. The temple has four distinct sectional structures, namely –

1. Deula, Vimana or Garba griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the triad deities are lodged on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls). In Rekha Deula style;

2. Mukhashala (Frontal porch);

3. Nata mandir/Natamandapa, which is also known as the Jagamohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), and

4. Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall).

The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the ‘srichakra’ (an eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the “Nilachakra”, it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. Among the existing temples in Orissa, the temple of Shri Jagannath is the highest. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape. The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls, or mandapas, rise in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks


The imposing structure consists of the Vimana, Jagamohana, Natamandira and Bhogamandapa. The last two structures were, perhaps, constructed during the Suryavamsi Gajapati rule. The Vimana of the temple stands at a lofty height of 214 ft. and 8 inches an a square of 80 ft. The heavy plaster of the temple in the exterior prevented the scholars to know about the sculptural decoration of the outer walls. However, the recent removal of plasters from the outer walls of the temple by the Archaeological survey of India brought to light the decorative motif of the temple. The figures in the Vimana are the proofs of the developed art of Kalinga. Among those, the figures of Astadikpa/a, lion standing over crouching elephants, the figure of adult Krishna, the procession of horses and elephants, various sociao-cultural scene, erotic panels etc. The Vimana has been constructed in a Pancharatha plan.


The Jagamohana of the temple like that Vimana, follows a Pancharatha style. The roof of this structure is amply supported by several iron beams. Its outer surface contains some erotic scence. Its height is 120 ft. The Natamandira of the temple is pyramidal in form. It is a square room measuring 69 ft x 67 ft. inside and the outside measurement of it is a square of 80 ft.

Natamandira and Bhogamandapa

The Natamandira depicts the story of the Kanchi-Kaveri expedition which most probably found place there during the glorious reign of Gajapati Purusottamadeva. Like Natamandira, the Bhogamandapa is a pyramidal structure measuring 58 ft. x 56 ft. The sculptures in this structure depict mainly stories related with Sri Krishna’s life like his playing of flute when the cows listen to it with’ upraised heads, Krishna’s various poses, his play with the cowherd women in the boat, Dola yatra etc. The depiction of other deities of Brahmanical pantheon in the Bhogamandapa is quite interesting. The scene of indrasabha, (the court of Indra) Rajyavisekha (investitrue ceremoney) of Ramachandra, God Siva sitting on his bull etc, are depicted marvellously well.


The Nila Chakra (Blue Discus) is the discus mounted on the top shikhar of the Jagannath Temple. As per custom, everyday a different flag is waved on the Nila Chakra. The flag hoisted on the Nila Cakra is called the Patita Pavana (Purifier of the Fallen) and is equivalent to the image of the deities placed in the sanctum sanctorum.

The Nila Chakra is a disc with eight Navagunjaras carved on the outer circumference, with all facing towards the flagpost above. It is made of alloy of eight metals (Asta-dhatu) and is 3.5 Metres (11 feet and 8 inches) high with a circumference of about 11 metres (36 feet).[32] During the year 2010, the Nila Chakra was repaired and restored by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The Nila Chakra is distinct from the Sudarshana chakra which has been placed with the deities in the inner sanctorum.

Nila Chakra is the most revered iconic symbol in the Jagannath cult. The Nila Chakra is the only physical object whose markings are used as sacrament and considered sacred in Jagannath worship. It symbolizes protection by Shri Jagannath.

Outer-walls and Doorways

The entire Jagannath temple is surrounded by an outer wall known as the Meghanada Prachira. Historians point out that this wall did not form a part of the Original plan of the temple. It gave the temple the form of fort having four gate-ways. The gateways of the temple definitely added grandeur to the structure. The eastern gate is popularly known as Simhadvara. On either side of the entrance, the figure of big crouching lion with a crown on the head is found. Two rubust figures, Jaya and Vijaya are found on the pilasters of that door. This gate is famous among the pilgrims as Jaya Vijaya dvara. This gate is the main entrance to the temple. This gate contains the images of Patitapabana, Ganesha, Hanumana etc. In front of the gate is Aruna Stambha (the Surya pillar) which was brought from Konarka and installed there during the Maratha rule. The southern gate or Asvadvara comes next in order of importances. The gate is so named because two big horses (one black and another white) with their riders (Balabhadra and Jagannath respectively) are found on the pilaster of that door. This reminds the people regarding the legend of the Kanchi-Kaveri expedition of Purusottamadeva. The northern gate has two colossal elephants on either side. For that reason it is known as the Hastidvara. It comes next in importance to the Asvadvara. The last entrance gate to the temple of God Jagannath is known as the Vyaghradvara. It is due to the presence of two big tiger images there. Their presence gives a grandiose look to the gate. The religious significance of these four gates is well discerened. The Simhadvara represents Dharma (piety); the Asvadvara, Jnana (knowledge); the Hastidvara, Aisvarya (material prosperity) and lastly, the Vyaghradvara represents Vairagya (renounciation).


Immediately, after the entrance into the temple through Simhadvara, a pilgrim has to cross Baisipahacha (22 steps) which, as per the Hindu belief, represent twenty-two sins of human life. When one crosses these steps, he crosses all the sins and attains Punya (religious merit). The main shrines in this area are the gateway of Kurma bedha and Saraghara of the Suras. The Small shrines in this Baisipahachas area are Kasivisvanatha, Ganesa, Nrusimha and Ghantamundia Thakurani. At the top of the Baisipahacha, a double wall divides the area into two, the outer one and the inner. One can notice the shrines of Nrusimha, Barabhai Hanumana, Gopala, Rama and Budhima in the area stretching between the Asvadvara and the inner inclosure. Towards the western gate four important tirthas (places of pilgrimage) of India vizthe Vadrinarayana, Ramanatha, Krishanatha and Jagannath are found. If one visits these four shrines, he attains Punya.

Outer-enclosure after Hastidwara

The outer enclosure, after the Hastidvara is significant with the presence of the shrines of Sitala, Uttarayani, Hanumana, Somanatha, Dhavalesvara and Patalesvara. Four epigraphs of the famous Ganga monarch Anangabhimadeva III found in the Patalesvara temple describe the rituals of the Jagannath temple.


The Rosasala or the kitchen of Lord Jagannath is regarded as the greatest kitchen of the world. Here, rice and vegetables are cooked simultaneously by earthern pots kept over one another. The cooked rice and curry are offered to the God as Bhoga which becomes Mahaprasada after the offering is made.


Among the important shrines in the southern side the Astadhatu (made of eight metals) image of Nilamadhava in the shape of Lord Jagannath is important. The Kalpabata is another notable thing inside the temple complex where the women, desirous of son, bind threads in the branches of that great banyan tree.


The Muktimandapa (hall of salvation) is another sixteen pillared eleved rectangular building measuring 30 ft. x 38 ft. It was constructed by Gajapati Prataprudradeva. There the Brahmin Pandits, apt in sastric law assemble and give their expert guidance to people to get rid of sins. For centuries, this Mandapa has allured the attention of the people of Odisha and India as


Close to the Muktimandapa there is Rohini Kunda. It contains an image of a crow with four hands. The water of this Kunda is regarded as sacred by the pilgrims who sprinkle the same over their head.

Temples inside the Temple Complex

Among other small temples inside the Jagannath temple complex, the Vimala temple deserves commendation. From the iconographic point of view, its construction can be dated before the construction of the Jagannath temple. The sacrifice of the goat before goddess Vimala on the Dasahara festival clearly indicates the Sakta-tantric character of the temple. The shrines of Sakshigopala, Kanchi Ganesh, Panchasakti Nilamadhava and Bhadrakali. The temple of goddess Laxmi is another notable architectural splendour inside the temple complex of Lord Jagannath. The scene of elephants pouring water over the head of that goddess makes the pilgrim spell-bound for its artistic excellence. The temple of Navagraha including the Sun god is another shrine inside the temple complex. It indicates the Saura cult had gained momentum during the glorious days of the Gangas as is evident also from the Sun temple at Konarka.


The Anandabazar is another notable site inside the temple complex. Here, the Mahaprasada of the Lord is sold. At that place, male and female irrespective of caste and creed take the prasada together. Besides, Anandabazara , the Koili Vaikuntha, Nilachala Upabana (garden) and a museum (recently opened) etc. are other noticeable features of the temple of Lord Jagannath.

Sri Chaitanya faith in Odisha

The coming of Sri Chaitanya to Odisha opened a new chapter in the religious history of Odisha. The Vaishanavite religion which was already in existence had a deep impact in the mind of the people of Odisha. The spell of his teaching and Sankirtan influenced so much that the people of Odisha lost their military skill. His Sankirtan had spread to every nook and corner of Odisha. Sri Chaitanya faith in Odisha has a deep impact on the life and culture of the people of this land which can be discussed bellow.

Early life of Sri Chaitanya

Sri Chaitanya (1486-1533 A.D.), who was known as Visvambhara before renouncing family life hailed from Navadvipa of Bengal He was born in a Brahmin family in 1486 A.D. which had migrated from Jaipur to Navadvipa. As a boy, Visvambhara was handsome, prodigious and naughty. He was also known as Gouranga for his fair complexion. Early in the life he became a great Sanskrit scholar and established a tol for imparting education. He lost his father at the age of eighteen. Soon after his father’s death, he married a girl, named Lakshmidevi. Lakshmidevi died of snake bite within a short time after the marriage. Thereafter Visvambhara took a second wife, named Vishnupriya. After the second marriage, he went to Gaya to offer pinda to his ancestors. His Sanyasa and involvement in Bhakti cult At this stage he was initiated into the cult of Bhakti by a Vaishnava saint, named Isvara Purl. The religious atmosphere of the Vishnu temple of Gaya, where Viswambhara offered pinda threw him into trance. He turned a great devotee of Vishnu or Lord Krishna. On his return from Gaya, he gave up his scholastic profession, and started living the life of religious devotion and service. He organized Sankirtans and attracted large number of people. In 1509 A.D., at the age of twenty four, he left home, and taking the vow of Sanyasa from Keshav Bharati and the name, Sri Krishna Chaitanya, he proceeded to Puri with some of his associates.

Impact of Sri Chaitany faith in Odisha

In Odisha Sri Chaitanya roused a great deal of religious devotion and enthusiasm. His Sankirtan parties attracted a large number of people at Puri. On his arrival at Purl, he had a religious discussion with the great Vedantic scholar, Vasudeva Sarbabhauma, who enjoyed the patronage of the Gajapati Prataparudra. Defeated in the discussion and impressed by the religious personality of Sri Chaitanya Sarbabhauma embraced Vaishnavism. From Puri, Sri Chaitanya proceeded to south, and in June 1509 A.D., met Roy Ramananda, the governor of Rajamahendri. They had an interesting religious dialogue which is narrated in the Chaitanya Charitamrita of Kaviraj Krishna Das. Both appreciated each other’s religious inclination. After the interview with Sri Chaitanya, Ramananda who was already an old man resigned from the royal duty with a view to spending his time with the former at Puri. The Chaitanya Charitamrita tells us that Sri Chaitanya refused to grant interview to Prataparudra, the Gajapati of Odisha on the ground that he wanted to keep aloof from the worldly power and wealth. But at the instruction of Sarbabhaurna, one day the Gajapati stole into the assembly of devotees in Kasi Mishra’s house where Sri Chaitanya was staying. As Sri Chaitanya fell into trance on hearing Sankirtana. Prataparudra touched his feet. On coming to senses, Sri Chaitanya remarked, “Woe to me, I have touched one, given to worldly power and wealth”. This remarked moved the Gajapati,to tears. Impressed by the true devotion of the Gajapati, Sri Chaitanya embraced him with love.

Jagannatha as identical with Krishna

Sri Chaitanya considered Jagannath as identical with Krishna of Kurukshetra. He also popularised Krishna whom he regarded as “the complete manifestation of personal godhead in his perfect form”. The Chaitanya faith heightened the importance of Radha, the consort of Krishna. For many devotees Sri Chaitanya was considered as the living embodiment of Jagannath. He was also regarded as the dual incarnation of Radha and Krishna. By personal demonstration, Sri Chaitanya emphasised the importance of devotion. His faith roused religious devotion among all sections of society, undermined the rigours of caste distinctions and reinforced the Vaishnavism of Odisha. Sri Chaitanya died at Puri before the image of Jagannath on 29th June 1533 A,D. He spent six years of his Sanyasa in pilgrimage, and the remaining eighteen years of Sanyasa at Puri in the company of his devout followers. Here it is necessary to mention the relation of the Panchasakha and Odishan Vaishnavas with Sri Chaitanya. Vaishnavism was already popular in Odisha before the coming of Sri Chaitanya to Puri. Sri Chaitanya had high regards for the Odishan Vaishnava saints like Raya Ramananda with whom he had a dialogue on Radha-Krishna cult, and Jagannath Das and Balaram Das of Panchasakha group.

Panchasakha and Sri Chaitanya

All the Panchasakha poets were the contemporaries of Sri Chaitanya and were initiated by him. Nevertheless the Panchasakha, instead of blindly following Chaitanya faith maintained their distinctiveness by sticking to the concept of void and identifying the same with Lord Krishna. Some scholars are of opinion that the Panchasakha outwardly professed the Chaitanya cult yet in their heart of hearts they were but sincere religion of the Mahayana school.” According to Chittaranjan Das the Panchasakha were at once Buddhists, Vaishnavas and Tantriks. As a religious movement the Panchasakha emphasised the concept of void inner purity, mantra, tantra and yoga, instead of being guided by formalities. As social reformers, the Panchasakha sought to pull down “the hegemony of the social bigots” and raise up “the lower strata of society with the means of cultural innovations”, they took disciples from all the castes and associated themselves with several lower castes of society and tried for their uplift.

Last Line to Say

Sri Chaitanya and Vaishnvaism had a long march in the religious and cultural history of Odisha. During the Ganga period, it flourished receiving royal patronage. During the Gajapati period, it reached the pinnacle of glory. The coming of Sri Chaitanya and his Sankirtan made Vaishanavaism more popular in all over Odisha. Sri Chaitanya popularized Radha-Krishna cult through Kirtan in the nook and corner of Odisha.

Credit: Inputs from History of Odisha From 1435 to 1803 by Dr Manas Kumar Das

Pancha Sakhas of Medieval Odisha

The famous five Saints or five Friends of medieval Odisha were collectively known as Pancha Sakhas. They were Balarama Das, Jagannatha Das, Achyutananda Das, Yasobanta Das and Sisu Ananta Das. They started their own Sampradaya, preaching Bhakti for Radha and Krishna in Odisha before the arrival of Chaitanya, following a tradition that had been established by Jayadeva‟s Gita Govinda. Such was the popularity of Gita Govinda that, king Purushottama Deva wrote his own imitation, called Abhinava Gita Govinda, hoping to establish it as the new devotional success of his times. Many other Oriya poets such as Dinakrishna, Abhimanyu, Bhakta Charan, Baladeva and Gopala Krishna etc. composed poems about Krishna‟s romantic storieswhich is famous as Valis. The Pancha Sakha have played a great role in the religious and socio-cultural history of Odisha. Towards the 16th century five poets emerged Balaram Das, Jagannath Das, Achyutananda Das, Ananta Das and Jasobanta Das. Although their dates of activity span one hundred years, they are collectively known as “Panchasakhas”, since they adhered to the same school of thought, i.e. Utkaliya Vaishnavism.

1. Balarama Das

He was born between 1472 or 1482 in Erabanga village at Gop (near Konarak). His father was Somanatha Mahapatra and his mother was Mahamaya Devi. Some say that he wasborn in the village of Chandrapur, where he also met Chaitanya. Balarama Das became a minister of king Prataparudra Dev, but after meeting Chaitanya he left the Government service and utilized his previous knowledge of Kundalini yoga, vaidhi bhakti in the mood of Ramanuja Acharya, and jnana to propagate the chanting of the Holy Name. He is sometimes called Matta Balarama, because of his disregard for social conventions in favor of ecstatic Bhakti. He used to participate to the discussions on Vedanta in the Mukti Mandapa in the Jagannatha temple (inspite of the resentment of the Brahmins), and it is said that anyone who touched his head would become instantly able to explain the philosophy of Vedanta. One day a beggar (who was dumb and deaf) approached him, touching his head, and he was not only cured and became able to speak, but he also started to discuss philosophy immediately. This beggar then became Balarama‟s foremost disciple with the name of Hari Das.

The mula mantra chanted and taught by Balarama Das was the Krishna mantra. His residence in Puri is called Gandharva Matha. Balarama Das wrote the famous Jagamohana or Dandi Ramayana, as well as a number of other works entitled Gita Abakasa, Bhava samudra, Gupta Gita, Vedanta Sara, Mriguni Stuti, Saptanga yogasara tika, Vedanta sara or Brahma tika, Baula gai gita, Kamala locana chotisa, Kanta koili, Bedha parikrama, Brahma gita, Brahmanda bhugola, Vajra kavaca, Jnana chudamani, Virat gita, Ganesh vibhuti, Amarakosha Gita, Lakshmi Purana (which is very popular in Odisha).

In his Bata Abakasa he writes hat Lord Jagannatha is served by 64 yoginis. In his Virata Gita, he describes the nirakara form of Krishna as Sunya. However, his idea of Sunya is quite particular, as it includes form and relationships. He was also a social worker and reformer, and an expert astrologer as well. He disappeared in 1540.

2. Achyutananda Das

He was born in Tilakana near Nemala, Cuttack, in 1485; his father was Dinabandhu Khuntia and his mother‟s name was Padmavati. His grandfather Gopinath Mohanty had served in the army of the Gajapati King. As a child, he was named Agani. When he grew older, he had a mystic dream where the Lord taught him the Gita, the Upanishads and the Tantra. Immediately he went to pilgrimage and on the way he met Chaitanya and it is said he received Harinaminitiation from Him. Some other people say that he went to meet Chaitanya together with his father; he was then 18 years old.

At the time of Achyutananda‟s initiation, Chaitanya asked Sanatana Gosvami to take care of him and coach him in spiritual knowledge. Achyutananda married the daughter of Raghurana Champati Rai and stayed in Dhauligram. He had 12 main disciples, of whom the most prominent was Ramachandra Das. The King gave him some land in Banki Mohana. The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Radha mantra. Achyutananda is mostly famous for the book of prophecies called Achyutananda Malika, composed of 13 chapters, describing the future destruction of the town of Puri after Jagannatha has moved out, and the appearance of Kalki avatara who will annihilate all the evildoers starting from Odisha. A few summary studies have been published in Oriya language Achyutananda also translated into Oriya and commented Harivamsa, Tattva bodhini, Sunya samhita, Jyoti samhita, Gopala Ujjvala, Baranasi Gita, Anakara Brahma Samhita, Abhayada Kavacha, Astagujari, Sarana panjara stotra, Vipra chalaka, Mana mahima.

He wrote a book about the preaching mission of the Pancha sakhas (five friends) and organized a travelling party of Rahasankirtana, for which he also wrote several bhajan songs. It is said that once he was attacked by some envious Brahmins and he manifested his laghima yoga siddhi by becoming extremely light and floating away in the air. Achyutananda‟s teachings present a fusion of Saguna and Nirguna worship, uniting the doctrines of Dvaita and Advaita, and knowledge from Upanishads and Kundalini yoga. He left his body on Jyestha sukla Ekadasi.

3. Atibadi Jagannatha Das

He was born in Kapilesvarapur or Kapilesvar grama (one of the 16 traditional Sasana villages) at 14 kms from Puri towards Brahmagiri, on the day of Radhastami of 1487 (some say in 1490). Because he was born on Radhastami, he is considered to have a close relationship with Srimati Radhika. His mother was Padmavati Devi and his father was Bhagavan Das, from the Kaushiki Gotra. He used to recite the Bhagavata Purana in Lord‟s Jagannatha temple, and his explanations were so attractive that king Prataparudra gave him the title of “Purana Panda”. As son of the Purana Panda, Jagannatha Das used to sit by his father and learn the Bhagavata. One day, while visiting the temple, Chaitanya noticed the 18 years old boy sitting near the Bata Ganesha Deity in Sri Mandira, reciting the Brahma stuti from Gopa lila (10th Canto), and honored him by offering him a cloth and the title of Atibadi (“very great”).Jagannatha Das also used to go to recite the Bhagavatam in the houses of people and made no discrimination on the basis of bodily identification, befriending men and women in the same way. A famous incident regarded such confidential exchanges with Medha and Sumedha, two ladies endowed with great spiritual power and who were said to be going in the night to visit Jagannatha in the temple by their mystic powers after it was closed. Some envious men complained to king Prataparudra accusing Jagannatha Das of immoral behavior (illicit relationships with women) and the King called him for questioning. Jagannatha Das replied that for him there was no difference between men and women; he said that in fact when he was associating with ladies, he actually regarded himself as a woman, too.

The King did not believe him but when Jagannatha Das was put in jail he actually manifested himself in the form of a woman and the guards, impressed, called the King to witness such an extraordinary feat. King Prataparudra realized he had committed an offense to a great devotee, so not only he released him/her from prison, but he also asked that s/he gave initiation to his chief Queen into Bhakti yoga. The Queen invited Jagannatha Das within the royal palace, where he could open his own Matha, called Bada Odiya Matha.

It is said that by the order of Narada Muni, Jagannatha Das translated Srimad Bhagavatam into Oriya. This work gave him the reputation of the best spiritual teacher in Odisha in his times, and is still extremely popular even today, being worshiped and recited in all households. In fact in Odisha this text is considered on the same level of Tulasi Das‟ Rama charita manasa.

Jagannatha Das wrote also Gupta Bhagavat, Tula vina, Sola chapadi, Chari chapadi, Tola bena, Daru brahma gita, Diksa samyad, Artha koili, Muguni stuti, Annamaya kundali, Goloka sarodhara, Bhakti chandrika, Kali malika, Indra malika, Niladri vilasa, Nitya gupta chintamani, Sri Krishna bhakti kalpa lata and other books. The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Rama mantra. He established two Mathas in Puri, the Bada Odiya Matha and the Satalahari Matha. His main disciple was Baliga Das. Jagannatha Das passed away on Sukla Magha saptami (the day of Chandrabhaga Mela in Konarak) in 1557, and his Samadhi Mandira is on the beach.

His main disciples were Uddhava, Ramachandra, Gopinatha, Hari Das, Nandani Acharya, Vamani Mahapatra, Srimati Gaura, Gopala Das, Akhandala Mekapa, Janardana Pati, Krishna Das, Vanamali Das, Govardhana Das, Kanai Khuntia, Jagannatha Das and Madhusudana Das.

4. Yasobanta Das

He was born in 1482 near Aranga Nandi village, district of Cuttack, in a kshatriya family. His father was Balabhadra Mala, his mother was Rekha Devi. He married Anjana Devi, the sister of king Raghunath Champatti of Aranga. Later on, he took sannyasa and traveled to many holy places in India, he attained mystic powers and was able to change his form at will. The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Shyama mantra.

He wrote Govinda chandra, Shiva sarodaya, Sasti mala, Prema bhakti, Brahma gita, Atma pariche gita, a Malika and several bhajans. The Govinda chandra became very famous in Assam, Bengal and north India; it is basically related with traditional dance and teaching of dance, connected with the Vaishnava tradition. His best disciple was Lohi Das. It is said that also the famous saint Salabega was his disciple. He left his body on Margasira sukla Sasti.

5. Sisu Ananta Das

He was born in Balipatna village, near Bhubaneswara, in 1488. His father‟s name was Kapila, and his mother‟s Gaura Devi. In a dream he received from Surya Narayana in Konarak the order to go and meet Chaitanya, so he approached the party and took diksha initiation from Nityananda Prabhu. Sisu Ananta Das resided in Khandagiri, in what is today called Gadi Tapovana Ashram; through his Sadhana he attained mystic powers, and he was able to change his form at will. Usually he would take the form of a little child, hence his name as Sisu. In this form, he became the adopted son of the wife of king Prataparudra, who nursed him. He personally found a Patita pavana (Jagannatha) murti in the Matha in Balia patana. His main disciples were Barang Das, Hamsa Das, and Sisu Das. He wrote the Bhakti mukti daya gita, one of the oldest and most important popular scriptures of Odisha, and other texts like Sisu Deva gita, Artha tarani, Udebhakara, Tirabhakana, a Malika and several bhajan songs. In Udaya bhagavata he describes Lord Jagannatha as the combined form of Radha and Krishna. However, due to general lack of interest, these books are not properly valued at present.

Credit: Inputs from History of Odisha From 1435 to 1803 by Dr Manas Kumar Das

Mahima Dharma: History and Teachings

The 19th century Renaissance in India had greatly influenced Odisha. On the other hand, Odisha’s Renaissance was different because it bloomed from a very rural set up being uninfluenced by any western education. In thought and expression, it emerged in its own unique way in the form of Mahima Dharma. Through simple doctrines it projected many complicated theories. It raised voice against Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and other Brahmanical religious faiths. Mahima Dharma appeared in the early part of 19th century A.D. as a religion in the Hindu reform movement. The founder of this dharma was Mahima Gosain. By the efforts of Bhima Bhoi, the blind poet, it was spread in the nook and corner of Odisha. Gradually, by the efforts of the monks of this dharma it found its way to Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Founder of Mahima Dharma

Mahima Dharma was founded by Mahima Swami or Mahima Gosain. He reached Puri around 1826 from where he started Mahimabada. He slept on sand and so people called him ‘Dhulia Gosain’. He carried discussion on Non-Dualism with the Pandits of Mukti Mandapa inside the Jagannath temple and opposed the idol-worship. He lived at Udaygiri, Khandagiri, Dhauli and at last reached Kapilas in the Dhenkanal district. He wore the bark of Kumbhi tree. Bhagirathi Mahindra Bahadur, the king of Dhenkanal sent milk for him early in the morning.

Mahima Gosain made Govinda Das as his first disciple and gradually many disciples including the great Biswanath Baba were created. Bhima Bhoi of Rairakhol become his disciple.Through his great literary creation like Stuti Chintamani, Brahmanirupana Gita, Nirveda Sadhana, Chautisa Madhuchakra, Adyanta Gita, Astakabihari Gita etc., he popularised the Mahima Cult. From 1862 to 1867 Mahima Dharma spread like wild fire in the nook and corner of Odisha. Mahima Gosain breathed his last in 1867. The disciples of Mahima Gosain became famous as Mahima monks Alekha sanyasi.

Bhima Bhoi and Mahima Dharma

The great saint Bhima Bhoi played a key role for the spread of Mahima Dharma. He was born in 1855 at Rairakhol in Kondh family. His father was Dhaneswar Bhoi and mother was Gauri. Bhima Bhoi was born-blind. However, historians differ from each other on this question. By coming in contact with Mahima Gosain, Bhima got insight or direct knowledge and was indoctrinated by him. After being an Abadhut it is not known whether Bhima Bhoi stayed in Rairakhol or came to Joranda. Still then, it is sure that he spent a long time in Joranda and tried to popularize Mahima Cult. He composed many songs which were liked by the people and they were automatically attracted towards the Mahima Cult. Of course, the rival sects spoke ill of Bhima and tried to prevent the spread of Mahima Cult. Bhima was determined to spread the Mahima cult. His immortal creations included ‘Stuti Chintamani’, ‘Shrutinisedha Gita’, ‘Brahmaniruoana Gita’, Adyantagita’, ‘Chautisa Madhuchakra’, ‘Nirveda Sadhana’ etc. He died in 1895 at Khariapali village in Sonepur. Actually his efforts popularised the Manima Cult in the nook and comer of Odisha.

Doctrines of Mahima Dharma

The doctrines of Mahima Dharma are given bellow:

1. Doctrine of Monotheism

Believing in one god was the principle of Mahima Gosain. He preached his doctrine in Odia language. His idea found expression through the writings of Bhima Bhoi, who expressed it very lucidly and placidly. The teachings of Mahima Gosain bore no influence of other religion. In its own way the Mahima cult spread its fragrance everywhere and allured the attention of the people of Odisha and outside.

2. Principle of Non-Dualism

The Mahima cult urges for pure Non-Dualism. According to it, God is one and next to none. He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is the supreme soul and the cause of the creation of the world. He is also without form (Nirakara), unexpressable (Avyakta), without body(Adeha), without name (Anama), without any feeling (Nirvikara) and supreme God (Paramesvara). He is present starting from the insect to the man. Equality is his motto and casts equal eye on everybody. Teacher or Guru occupies a pivotal position in the teachings of Mahima Gosain. A teacher or Guru can show the path of Salvation. Without him practice of dharma is meaningless. He can show path to a disciple and guide him for attaining Salvation. Bhima Bhoi has mentioned that without the grace of Mahima Gosain, he would not have realised the God. Thus, Guru occupies high place among the Avadhuta monks.

3. Theory of Creation of the universe

About the „Theory of Creation’ Mahima Gosain has given his own view. By the mixing of atom, Purusa and Prakriti, this world is not created. It has been created by the Alekha Prabhu. He is pure and without any vice. He is the root of all creations and causes. Hence, he should be worshipped as the creator of the universe.

4. Rejection of image worship

Mahima Dharma was against idol worship. Like Buddhism and Jainism, Mahima dharma raised voice against the superstitions of Brahmanism. He prescribed only one course of worship to the Alekha. He denied the worship different idols and rejected it. So, only formless Brahma is to be worshipped. Without him, if one worships any idol, he resorts to falsehood.

5. Opposition to caste system

This Dharma was against the caste system in the society and raised voice against the caste system in Odisha. It never distinguished between men and women, higher caste and lower caste, rich and poor and so on. The wise men never differentiate among caste, creed and sex. On the other hand, they try to maintain harmony and peace among the people. So, Mahima Dharma never put any constraint for the worship of God. Only through devotion God can be attained by everybody. Everyone is competent to worship God and attain him.

6. Vasudhaivakutumbakam

Mahima Dharma believed in the principle of Vasudhaivakutumbakam. The Mahima doctrine conceived the whole universe as a single family and desires the welfare of all. Happiness for all and peace to all is the motto of Mahima dharma. Even, the life of one may be tinged with sorrows and sufferings but he should pray for the happiness of others. There lies the true humanity. This gospel found its fullest expression in the words of Bhima Bhoi as “Let my life go to hell but the world may be rescued.” Principle of satsanga or common meal for all Another notable feature of Mahima Dharma was ‘Common meal for all’ or Satsanga Gosthi. This was started by Mahima Swami himself who started it at Kashipur in Dhenkanal to show that “all souls are equal, because they worship the one Brahman.” The food for all was prepared by the household devotees under the open sky and it was taken together by all.

Rule of Bisuddhaadvaita Brahumavada

It was essentially a Bhakti Cult whose philosophy is Visuddha-advaita Brahmaveda. It was close affinity with Advaita Vada of Samkaracharya which advocates exclusively Jnana as the only means to salvation. Thus, it is clear that there is no antagonism between Jnana and Bhakti in Mamma Dharma. Bhakti in Mahima Dharma means the attraction of the pure mind towards the ultimate truth- the Parama Brahma. Bhakti is to be guided by Jnana. Otherwise it is likely to miss true its true object. Mahima Dharma says that lover God is pure and the lover wants to unite with God.

Importance on ethical codes for the householders

The Mahima Dharma has always given importance on the values of life. In order to get rid of these entire falsehood one should keep divine qualities in himself. It emphasized that one should cultivate qualities like love, compassion, tranquility etc. in one’s mind which will bring fullness of heart. The Mahima Cult prescribed certain ethical codes for the householders. It preached about the entertainment of guests as per the best Doctrines for householder‟s capacity of a householder. One should leave meat and harmful goods. A householder should be simple and should leave anger, arrogance, pride and good moral character. Mahima dharma laid emphasis on Brahma darshana, Trividha Sarana and other religious performances for householders.

Last Line to Say

Mahima Dharma had stimulated the social and religious life of the people of Odisha in 19th century. This Mahima Dharmawas quite simple. The common men were attracted towards it because it was free from the ritualistic practices of the Brahmins. Though it arose in Odisha in 19th Century Renaissance but it was never influenced by the latter. In its doctrine it was quite different from other religious sects, uninfluenced and unbiased by the prevailing currents of time. The Mahima Dharma spontaneously in the nook and corner of Odisha and outside .

Credit: Inputs from History of Odisha From 1803 to 1948 by Dr Manas Kumar Das

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