Over the years, thousands of personal experiences of pilgrims confirm that Lord Jagannath reciprocates with devotees who come to Puri with a desire to please the Lord.
The first immediate experience is one feels loved by Jagannath.
Amidst the millions, as one stands to offer prayers, one feels tiny and yet loved. The spiritual energy created by millions praying at the same time overwhelms even the die-hard atheist. At the same time, the sheer size of the crowd reveals to us our own insignificant position. It’s the best chance to feel small, and yet receive love.
We spend years to acquire possessions and success; fame and riches; all with the hope we’d become big and important. Then maybe people would love us. The painful truth however is, people don’t love you for your wealth; they may envy you or feel threatened by your position. Ironically, when we come in front of the Lord, as we allow our ego to drown in the ocean of devout pilgrims, nudging and pushing each other for a glimpse of the carts, we feel blessed. Although the ego is crushed, the experience is spiritual. One feels it’s a beautiful symphony; it’s deeply fulfilling to the heart. It’s when one practically realizes that humility brings contentment!
Devout pilgrims have seen extraordinary and mystical events surrounding Lord Jagannath and His temple.
During the massive cyclones that hit the state of Orissa in 1999-2000, the weather bureau had warned people to vacate their homes immediately. Eye witnesses recalled an astonishing sight atop the Jagannath temple. As fierce winds arrived at Puri, the huge chakra (disc), which graces the pinnacle of the temple dome, began to glow effulgently, and rotate at a dazzling speed. Then suddenly, the cyclone was pushed away.
Locals strongly believe that mysterious denizens from higher planetary systems arrive to Puri for the darshan (offer greetings) of Jagannath. In the year 1810, when the head priest, Pattajosi Mahapatra, left for his house after the night duties at Jagannath temple, he saw a fifteen foot tall figure walk ahead of him. During those days there was no electricity, and in the midnight darkness, the priest kept pace with the long steps of the stranger. As the being neared the ocean, Mahapatra felt he’d lose him; the stranger would likely disappear into the sea. Frantically, the priest called out, “Please stop and reveal to me who are you.” To his amazement, the person stopped, came closer. He was effulgent; his face glowed like a bright sun, even in the darkness. In a gentle voice, he disclosed his identity, “I am Vibhishana, the loyal servant of Lord Rama, known to all as the younger brother of Ravana. I reside in the upper planets unknown to earthly beings. And I visit the temple here every night to participate in the last ritual of the day, and take darshan of my beloved Lord. Ordinary people can’t see me, but you are surely dear to our Lord. Hence you caught me sneaking out of this most sacred abode of Lord Jagannath.”
Pattajosi Mahapatra, still dazed by the encounter, somehow gathered himself, and humbly petitioned, “I know you are from the outer space, and I don’t doubt you at all. But I am keen to tell my folks I met you. Please give me some souvenir.”
Vibhishana smiled, and pulled out the golden armlet he wore, and gave it to the priest. Then he vanished from his vision. Mahapatra fell down trying to hold the ornament. He then literally dragged it to his home; after all it was the size of a wheel of a bullock cart! It could never have been used by a human being! Even today, more than two hundred years later, the ornament is worshipped in the family of the descendants of Pattajosi Mahapatra. It could be seen and verified.
To be continued….