Odisha was significantly influenced by India’s nineteenth-century Renaissance. On the other hand, Odisha’s Renaissance was unique in that it grew out of a very rural environment that was uninfluenced by western education. It manifested in its own unique way in the form of Mahima Dharma in thought and expression. It projected numerous complicated theories via simple doctrines. It advocated for the abolition of Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and other Brahmanical religious sects. Mahima Dharma first appeared in the early nineteenth century. in the Hindu reform movement as a religion. Mahima Gosain founded this dharma. It was spread throughout Odisha thanks to the efforts of Bhima Bhoi, the blind poet. Gradually, it spread to Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh through the efforts of the monks of this dharma.
Mahima Dharma’s founder
Mahima Swami or Mahima Gosain founded Mahima Dharma. He arrived in Puri around 1826 and established Mahimabada from there. Because he slept on sand, he was dubbed ‘Dhulia Gosain’. He discussed Non-Dualism with the Pandits of Mukti Mandapa inside the Jagannath temple and expressed his opposition to idol worship. He was a resident of Udaygiri, Khandagiri, and Dhauli before settling in Kapilas in the Dhenkanal district. He was dressed in the bark of the Kumbhi tree. The king of Dhenkanal, Bhagirathi Mahindra Bahadur, sent milk for him early in the morning.
Mahima Gosain initiated Govinda Das as his first disciple, and many others followed, including the great Biswanath Baba. Bhima Bhoi of Rairakhol became his disciple. He popularised the Mahima Cult through his great literary works such as Stuti Chintamani, Brahmanirupana Gita, Nirveda Sadhana, Chautisa Madhuchakra, Adyanta Gita, and Astakabihari Gita. Between 1862 and 1867, Mahima Dharma spread like wildfire throughout Odisha. Mahima Gosain died in 1867. Mahima Gosain’s disciples became known as Mahima monks Alekha sanyasi.
Mahima Dharma and Bhima Bhoi
Bhima Bhoi, the great saint, was instrumental in the spread of Mahima Dharma. He was born in 1855 in Rairakhol as a member of the Kondh family. Dhaneswar Bhoi was his father, and Gauri was his mother. Bhima Bhoi was blind from birth. However, historians disagree on this point. Bhima gained insight or direct knowledge and was indoctrinated by Mahima Gosain after coming into contact with him. It is unknown whether Bhima Bhoi stayed in Rairakhol or came to Joranda after becoming an Abadhut. Even so, it is certain that he spent considerable time in Joranda and attempted to popularise the Mahima Cult. He composed numerous songs that were well-liked by the public, which drew them automatically to the Mahima Cult. Naturally, rival sects spoke ill of Bhima and attempted to stop the spread of the Mahima Cult. Bhima was hell-bent on propagating the Mahima cult. Among his immortal works are the ‘Stuti Chintamani’, the ‘Shrutinisedha Gita’, the ‘Brahmaniruoana Gita’, the ‘Adyantagita’, the ‘Chautisa Madhuchakra’, and the ‘Nirveda Sadhana’. He died in 1895 in Sonepur’s Khariapali village. Indeed, his efforts helped popularise the Manima Cult throughout Odisha.
Mahima Dharma Doctrines
The following are the Mahima Dharma doctrines:
Mahima Gosain’s guiding principle was to believe in a single god. He delivered his sermons in Odia. His concept found expression in Bhima Bhoi’s writings, which he expressed very lucidly and placidly. Mahima Gosain’s teachings were not influenced by any other religion. The Mahima cult, in its own unique way, spread its fragrance throughout the state and drew the attention of the people of Odisha and beyond.
The Mahima cult advocates for unadulterated Non-Dualism. According to it, God is singular and unparalleled. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He is the supreme soul and the source of the world’s creation. He is also formless (Nirakara), inexpressible (Avyakta), without a body (Adeha), without a name (Anama), and emotionless (Nirvikara), as well as supreme God (Paramesvara). From the insect to the man, he is present. His motto is equality, and he keeps an even keel over everyone. Teacher or Guru plays a critical role in Mahima Gosain’s teachings. A teacher or Guru can point you in the direction of Salvation. Without him, dharma practise is meaningless. He can point a disciple in the right direction and guide him toward salvation. Bhima Bhoi has stated that he would not have realised God without the grace of Mahima Gosain. Thus, Guru holds a prominent position among the Avadhuta monks.
The Universe’s Creation Theory
Mahima Gosain has expressed his own opinion on the ‘Theory of Creation.’ This world is not created through the interaction of atoms, Purusa, and Prakriti. It was founded by Alekha Prabhu. He is sinless and without vice. He is the originator of all things and causes. As such, he should be worshipped as the universe’s creator.
Rejection of idolatry
Mahima Dharma was a staunch opponent of idol worship. As with Buddhism and Jainism, Mahima dharma spoke out against Brahmanism’s superstitions. To the Alekha, he prescribed only one mode of worship. He denied and rejected the worship of various idols. Thus, only formless Brahma is deserving of worship. Without him, anyone who worships an idol resorts to deception.
Contrary to the caste system
This Dharma was opposed to the caste system in society and spoke out against it in Odisha. It made no distinctions between men and women, upper and lower castes, wealthy and impoverished, and so forth. The wise men make no distinctions between caste, creed, or sex. On the other hand, they strive to maintain social harmony and peace. Thus, Mahima Dharma never imposed any restrictions on God worship. God can be attained by anyone only through devotion. Every person is capable of worshipping and attaining God.
Mahima Dharma adhered to the Vasudhaivakutumbakam principle. The Mahima doctrine views the entire universe as a single family and wishes for the well-being of all. Mahima dharma’s motto is “happiness for all and peace for all.” Even if a person’s life is marred by sorrows and sufferings, he should pray for the happiness of others. That is where true humanity resides. This gospel was summed up best by Bhima Bhoi’s words, “Let my life go to hell so that the world may be rescued.”184.108.40.206. Satsanga Gosthi, or the principle of common meal for all, was another distinguishing feature of Mahima Dharma. This was initiated by Mahima Swami at Kashipur in Dhenkanal to demonstrate that “all souls are equal because they worship the one Brahman.” Food for all was prepared under the open sky by household devotees and shared by all.
Rule of Bisuddhaadvaita Brahmavada
It was primarily a Bhakti Cult adhering to the Visuddha-advaita Brahmaveda philosophy. It shared a strong affinity with Samkaracharya’s Advaita Vada, which advocates exclusively for Jnana as the only path to salvation. Thus, it is clear that there is no conflict in Mamma Dharma between Jnana and Bhakti. In Mahima Dharma, Bhakti refers to the pure mind’s attraction to the ultimate truth, Parama Brahma. Jnana is to direct Bhakti. Otherwise, it is very likely to miss the true nature of its object. According to Mahima Dharma, the lover God is pure, and the lover desires union with God.
The significance of ethical codes for householders
The Mahima Dharma has always placed a premium on life values. To overcome this entire falsehood, one must possess divine qualities. It emphasised the importance of cultivating qualities such as love, compassion, and tranquillity in one’s mind in order to achieve fullness of heart. For householders, the Mahima Cult prescribed certain ethical codes. It preached about entertaining guests in accordance with the best Doctrines for a householder’s capacity. One should abstain from meat and other potentially harmful substances. A householder should be uncomplicated and free of anger, arrogance, pride, and moral integrity. Mahima dharma placed a premium on Brahma darshana, Trividha Sarana, and other householder-oriented religious performances.
The Final Line to Say
In the nineteenth century, Mahima Dharma stimulated the social and religious life of the people of Odisha. This Mahima Dharma was quite straightforward. The common men gravitated toward it because it was devoid of the Brahmins’ ritualistic practises. Though it originated in Odisha during the nineteenth century Renaissance, it was never influenced by it. It was quite distinct from other religious sects in terms of doctrine, remaining unaffected and unbiased by the prevailing currents of time. Mahima Dharma emerged spontaneously in every nook and cranny of Odisha and beyond.