Devotee: I want to know about the background of all the Deities here at Dandabhanga.
Sacinandan Das: Yes. I will tell their histories one by one. Say let us start from the small Deities of Their Supreme Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana. Actually, you know. As per the tradition of Sri Jagannath Puri, either in 12 or in 24 or 8 years when there will be 2 months of asadha falling together (twin months, malamasa as they are popularly known) then at that time the year will specially comprise of 13 months instead of 12 months. During that auspicious year, the “New Incarnation Day” of Lord Jagannath is commonly celebrated.
That is traditionally called as Navakalevaram. That is the day when the wooden form of Lord Jagannath is changed. At that time, a certain category of priests used to move well ahead of the time of the Ratha Yatra Day, to the temple of Goddess Durga known as Mangala located about say 60 km away from Sri Jagannath Puri temple.
There they sleep and at the time of sleeping, Goddess Mangala Devi personally appears in their dream and directs them to travel towards a particular direction and distance in order to get that tree, the wood of which are used for the making of the Deities of Their Supreme Lordships…
Finally when the described tree (which is a pretty old neem tree) is located, the trunk and the branch from the said huge neem tree, which carried the natural signs of a shankha (conch), chakra (disc), gada (club) and padma (lotus flower) over it, would be cut. Actually, according to the ritual there are many other signs also, for example there should not be any bird’s nest over it, there should be an ant hill underneath the stalk of the tree and so on. Therefore, in that way after confirming everything, as per the ritual, that particular huge branch and trunk of the tree are cut in the midst of an ecstatic harinama sankirtana and Jagannath Jai Dhwani (glorification of Lord Jagannath).
After that, a huge yagna (fire sacrifice) is also conducted, and then the wooden logs are brought in a massive procession along with an ecstatic harinama sankirtana. In that way, the huge Deities of Their Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana are carved, from the wood and placed inside the temple.
Devotee: Are the Deities carved from the branch or from the stem of the tree?
Sacinandan Das: Mostly from the branch. Only sometimes, it is cut from the stem. …Then later a blind folded priest is sent alone inside to remove the naavi brahma (the navel portion of the Supreme Lord Krishna) from the old Deity of Lord Jagannath and place it in the new one. Then, afterwards the old Deities are sent to the burial ground and buried. As per the tradition, a lot of care is taken to see that nobody uses the remaining parts of the wood. But still some of the traditionally engaged sevaks (servants), who were engaged, sometimes in order to patronize their so-called clients, would save some of the wood for themselves without any authorization. Among them was one such sevak, who saved some wood for himself and carved the small Deities of Their supreme Lordships, Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana.
It so happened that ever since those Deities were carved, this particular sevak continued getting directions from Them saying that what he had done was wrong and rather he should immediately present Them to some asrama within Sri Jagannath Puri Dham. Hence forth, he kept on hunting for a suitable asrama to which They could be presented. He had been to many asramas but was not satisfied. In that way, on his search, he finally came across our asrama.
At that time, our asrama was in a very beginning stage. But still for some reason, he got very deeply touched with our asrama. He then found my address and came there in a taxi very early in the morning that was around 5:00 a.m. There he presented the small Deities of Their Supreme Lordships to this unworthy servant. I was very much surprised. Of course, I was also very glad because Lord Jagannath had Himself come. Still I was surprised for quite a long time because I did not know who these people were. They were total strangers to me by then.
However, after that they explained the whole story to me. I was happy and I decided to give some money to them for the traveling expenditure. But, they denied it. They said, “We have not come for any business. Their Supreme Lordships had personally desired to come to your asrama. That is why we brought Them to you.” And then they left. These small Deities of Their Supreme Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana, which are now being worshipped at the asrama, are from those same remaining parts of wood, which were used to carve the Deities of Lord Jagannath at Sri Jagannath Puri during the navakalevara period.
In the beginning, before shifting Them to the first temple, your mother (Suchitra Mataji) used to worship them in our house. At that time, she used to say that whenever she had acute pain on her bone, she would touch the feet of Lord Jagannath with faith, and after touching His feet, she would rub her palm on that part of the body where she felt the pain and thus surprisingly the pain would immediately disappear. She used to tell this to me many times. Okay, that is the story of the small Deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subadhra Maa.
Now, next to Them, you will find Giriraj. Actually, Giriraj had also come in a very surprising way. Once when your mother, myself and your two younger brothers (Mohan Murali and Madan Gopal), had been to Vrindavan, there at Radhakunda Madan Gopal had discovered this Giriraj sila.
After getting it he became very much excited, but you know? There is a belief which says that no one should keep Giriraj without having the instruction of a sad guru, and if at all Giriraj Himself comes out of Vrindavan Dham then one has to give that much amount of gold to a Vrajavasi (inhabitant of Vrindavan Dham). That was the belief.
Nevertheless, Madan Gopal got it without knowing what it actually was and with faith, he used to daily offer his obeisances and worship it. But also at that same time coincidently, while we were taking a holy dip in the sacred Radhakunda, we surprisingly found another Giriraj. This Giriraj looked very beautiful. In that way, we decided to bring it with us. But till then we did not know about the other Giriraj, which was received by Madan Gopal. We came to know it only after we reached there. Hence, we were able to get two Girirajs simultaneously at the same time. The one that was received my Madan Gopal is presently worshipped by your mother in our house, and the other one that was received by us is presently worshipped at Dandabhanga.
One fine day, after some time had passed worshipping Giriraj, I got news from the devotees that tears were rolling, from His eyes, since many days. There was Tulasi placed as the symbolic eyes of Giriraj but still this was happening. I did not know the reason what it could be. I was very much scared. I then went and asked many sadhus including Babaji Maharaja.
At last, a sadhu told me that only Giriraj would be able to answer my question. Surprisingly during that very night, I felt like as if someone from my within was directing and telling me that Giriraj had deeply wished to be with Their Supreme Lordships Sri Radha Gopinath.
In that way, after I got these intense feelings from my within, just a few days later, Atmaram Prabhu called and told me that one of the life members of ISKCON had come there to present the Deities of Sri Radha Gopinath which were at least 400 years old. He told that the man was not in a position to take care of them and desired that the devotees take care of Them. For this reason, I was proposed by Atmaram Prabhu to take these Deities to Dandabhanga. That is how the Deities of Radha Gopinath came.
Then next, you come to the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. These Deities were brought by Atmaram Prabhu and were later installed by Babaji Maharaja. Then later on the devotees had the privilege of bringing Their Lordships Sri Narasingha Dev and Sri Ladu Gopal.
Now lets come to the Deities of the new temple. Here in the new temple we have the wonderful huge Deities of Their Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana being worshipped. The story behind Them is very astounding. Actually, Kusha (a devotee of the asrama) would many times come to me and narrate that he had seen Their Supreme Lordships Sri Jagannath and Baladev walking together with Gurudev and Srila Prabhupada in the courtyard of the asrama. Many times, he also said that he used to see Lord Jagannath and Baladev standing with Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev sitting below them.
Like this, I kept on hearing so many different things from him. Therefore, one day I finally decided to ask Babaji Maharaja about this matter. But, when I asked him, he said that he did not know. I asked again and this time I requested him to please enquire from his most worshippable Sri Sri Radhavinod Bihari because he was very close to Them. When I asked, this time he said, “Alright. I will ask Them and let you know later.” So I waited and later when I asked him he said, “Yes. I had asked Them. They say that Sri Jagannath, Baladev and Subadhra would want to come in a live size form. That is Their desire.” After hearing this, I said, “Alright.” Then after putting our dandavat pranam to Srila Gurudev and Srila Prabhupada, we immediately began to search for the required log of wood.
We needed a log of wood to carve the Deities of Their Supreme Lordships. In the search, our devotees came across a huge and very ancient neem tree at a remote place that was not accessible by any transportation means other than a country made boat on the river. However, the boat could take them only up to a particular distance and after that, they would have to walk in order to get to that village. They were surprised to see that the villagers used to worship this neem tree. They used to conduct its morning and evening aratis everyday. Especially most of the villagers would gather over there for sandhya arati (evening arati). Our devotees inquired from the old people and found out that a great devotee of the unlimited Supreme Absolute Lord Jagannath had planted this tree 520 years ago.
That great devotee’s name was Bhakta Srila Balarama Das. He used to worship this tree daily by putting hengu (a herbal powder) on its bottom and gave a prediction that Their Supreme Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana would manifest from this tree as soon as it becomes full fledged. This was the background of the tree. In that way, we organized some funds and paid 10,000 rupees to the villagers. Prahlad was our carver and he agreed to carve the Deities for a nominal cost. At the same time, we gave a condition to him that he should carve the Deities within our asrama premises. He agreed to it. So accordingly, we shifted the whole tree to his place and then he found out the four logs of wood that were needed to carve the four Deities of Their Lordships. Later Jagadish Pandit prabhu and I had gone to bring those four logs to our asrama.
We decided to go in a Tata Estate car (that was presented to our Srila Gurudev by the disciples, inclusive of Sripad Jagadish Pandit Prabhu, during one of his vyasa pujas). But, surprisingly while we were just about to start, a side of the car fell into a ditch near our residence. It was torrentially raining that day. Seeing this, Jagadish prabhu sharply reacted in saying, “Oh, what happened? How can we lift the car from the ditch without the help of a crane?” Yet, when both of us loudly chanted Jaya Jagannath and tried to lift the car by our hands, to our greatest astonishment, the car was lifted and placed on the road very easily. Here, we got the first indication that the inconceivable mercy of the Supreme Lord Jagannath, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev were working. Then we went and bought lot of flowers and new clothes for the logs. In this way when we reached the site, we were surprised to see that though it was raining torrentially but still there were many crowds engaged in sankirtana. We also noticed that they were all very scared to go near the logs. We did not know the reason why?
They said that the reason was because they had seen one huge King cobra coming and wrapping the log meant for Lord Jagannath and it was also raising its hood. And after seeing this cobra the village chief decided to offer a plate of milk, but the cobra did not accept it. That was why they were all scared and did sankirtana from a distance. On the contrary, after hearing this, this offender immediately rushed into the place (with a bucket of Ganga water to bathe the sacred logs) where the logs were kept and said, “Jaya Jagannath!” and went close but when reached there, the cobra surprisingly disappeared. At that time we could all smell some indescribable divine fragrance.
Jagadish Pandit prabhu and I were both stunned by the fragrance. This smell was so divine that it could not be explained by worldly words. It was so divine that devotional feelings would immediately touch the soul and such a smell was far more superior in comparison with even thousand times the smell of sandalwood. Jagadish Prabhu had termed this smell as “intoxicating”. This was a very extraordinary experience for all of us present there. Anyway, after that we brought the logs to our asrama in the midst of an ecstatic harinama sankirtana and were placed in one of the present rooms of the brahmacaris. There lies the story of how the logs reached our asrama.
In this way, after a few months passed, once when I was staying in the asrama, after attending mangala arati, all of a sudden Keshav (Kusha) came rushing towards me and said that he had a dream. He said that in that dream, he saw Lord Baladev appear in front of him saying the following words (Lord Baladev was saying) “Is this the proper way to treat us? What do you think of us? Do you think that We are simply ordinary logs of wood? Do you know? My brother is the Supreme Absolute Lord of all the universes. He is Jagannath. Do not think of Him to be an ordinary log of wood. You people are simply coming, sweeping the room and going away. I know that you are doing it only formally and not with heart, but have you ever properly come and checked at least once. That is right now My brother Jagannath and all of Us are being badly eaten up by termites.”
At first, when I heard this, I became a bit annoyed because at that time I was being disturbed while chanting. I said, “Kusha, you don’t disturb me while I am chanting. You say whatever you want to say after my rounds are over.” However, after a while I thought “What if this could be true? All right. Let me check.” Actually, those logs were so heavy that even if 10 persons gathered together, they still could not move it. Anyhow, by great difficulty the workers and the devotees managed to get it moved and to our astonishment, we saw a big colony of termites eating the log of wood from the bottom. After this, I got convinced.
Then I went and narrated this incident to Babaji Maharaja. Babaji Maharaja said, “Their Lordships now desire to come in Their life size form.” After this, Babaji Maharaja himself performed a separate yagna (fire sacrifice) in which, we all were present. When the yagna was performed, we noticed that, at a certain point, he became very ecstatic. This is something that I cannot express. I mean to say that we could see from his face itself how joyous he was, spiritually speaking. He then came to me and said, “Sacinandan prabhu, my life has attained the most supreme success and you are the luckiest one.” I asked, “Why do you say so Maharaja?” He then said, “Sacinandan prabhu, the Supreme Lord Jagannath as He has manifested Himself in the Sri Jagannath Mandir at Puri, in the same magnitude has manifested Himself in this land.
This is the second Puri and no other temple in the world can be brought in comparison with this temple. Therefore, Sacinandan prabhu! Please arrange to see that saligrama silas are kept in all the Deities (i.e.) in Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana.” That is why after hearing this we made all the arrangements. We got the Deities carved and made separate chambers inside it for placing the saligrams. We did not place any saligram sila so far but we are sure going to place them in the near future. This is the story of the huge Deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subadhra. Now let us come to the next Deity. The next one is the Deity of Dvadash Bhuja Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
The Deity of “Dvadasa Bhuja Gauranga Mahaprabhu”. This is the most munificent and exceptional 12-armed form of Lord Caitanya. It is said that if anyone worships this 12-armed form of the Lord, then he/she will surely be bound to get Krishna Prema. It so happened that one day Babaji Maharaja came and spoke to us saying that he had received an order from Mahaprabhu. We were astonished. He then requested and continued saying that Mahaprabhu would desire to come in His 12-armed form as Dvadash Bhuja Gauranga. As soon as we heard this, we made arrangements in view of seeing that the Deity was carved as per his design in accordance with sastra.
Therefore, after completing everything, we fixed the installation date for the Deity of Dvadash Bhuja Gauranga Mahaprabhu. During that day, we made 36 different varieties of prasadam. Surprisingly thousands and thousands of devotees from all over the world came. We could not imagine it. It was a great surprise. We did not invite many devotees other than the devotees from Bhubanesvara who ranged up to around 150 to 200. However, by some way the devotees from Puri came to know about our program and came in many hundreds. More than that, all the devotees who had come had expressed that never in their lifetime did they come across such wonderful prasadam nor would they even dream to get such prasadam anytime in the future because the divine fragrance coming from that prasadam was something extraordinary.
Devotee: This 12-armed form of Sriman Mahaprabhu, can you tell me in which scripture is it mentioned in?
Sacinandan Das: Well, you can find it in Sri Caitanya Mangala. Here it mentions about how Mahaprabhu is showing His 12-armed form (first 2-armed then 4-armed then 6-armed likewise to 12-armed) to Lord Nityananda Prabhu. In addition to this, in Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s prayers, (i.e.) Ashtotthara Sata Nama, all these different ayudhas (weapons) belonging to the 12 arms of Mahaprabhu are also mentioned. Srila Babaji Maharaja has got all these proofs from the sastras and it is also said that one who worships this 12-armed form of Mahaprabhu; for sure, he will get Krishna-prema. For this, there is sastric support.
Next, we have Lord Madhav Dev. He was carved at the same time when Their Supreme Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subadhra Maa and Sudarsana were carved. That is because we follow the tradition of the Sri Jagannath Mandir at Puri. There we also find Madhav Dev along with Laksmi and Sarasvati. Therefore, in our temple also we can find Their Supreme Mothers Laksmi and Sarasvati (made up of brass), up on the alter.
Then at last, we finally come to the lingam of Lord Sivaji. Here also we have a wonderful story. Actually, by divine arrangement, Lord Sivaji had himself arrived to our asrama. One day, I had called Vijay over here at Bhubanesvara for some work. Vijay arrived here and finished his work. Then while returning to Dandabhanga, he got himself boarded on a bus. Surprisingly in that same bus, one police officer was coming from Cuttack. They were sitting next to each other. In that way while Vijay was talking to this police officer, he came to know about a very interesting incident. The police officer said that he was a devotee of Lord Sivaji and had a great desire in his heart of hearts to build a temple for Lord Sivaji at his native place i.e. Nayagadh (a district of Orissa, which was also his place of work). He said that because his police headquarters was located at Cuttack, therefore in the same day he had gone to the police headquarters there during morning hours in context with some of his official business, but after he finished his official business, he took out his uniform and in a civil dress had been to the temple of Gadgaddiya Mahadev in order to take a holy dip in the sacred river of Mahanadi.
Devotee: Where is that Gadgaddiya Mahadev?
Sacinandan Das: That is located at Cuttack. It is the place where Lord Caitanya had his holy dip as per the description of sastra and where Lord Sivaji is now being worshipped. That is Gadgaddiya Ghat. Therefore, Vijay then explained to me that when this police officer went to have a dip, he heard a very strange conversation. That was between the priest of that temple and a woman. He saw that the woman was engaged in requesting the priest to receive a Siva lingam that she had brought. The priest had asked the history of that Siva lingam and she explained to him the entire story. She said that a year back she had a desire to carry the holy water (during the month of Shravana) and march along with the Bol Bum devotees either to Bhubanesvara Sri Lingaraj or to Puri Sri Lokanath in order to bathe Lord Sivaji. Under this mood and feelings when she arrived at Sri Gadgaddiya Mahadev and while having a holy dip, she strangely discovered a Siva lingam on the water. Even though it was heavy but still it was floating.
Devotee: It was floating?
Sacinandan Das: Yes. …Vijay continued to say that, in this way, she received it and was surprised. She thought that if the purpose were solved (because of having found Lord Sivaji in the form of his lingam), then why would it be necessary to travel once again to such a far distance. For this reason she stopped her march and then took the lingam to her house, but later Lord Sivaji appeared to her in her dream and said, “I am not meant to remain over here. You should have kept me in the right place. Why are you keeping me over here against my wish.”
Initially she did not respond nor did her husband. Then gradually some serious problems occurred in her house. That was because they did not care for the words of Lord Sivaji even when he indicated very politely to them. Due to the problem, they became very scared and serious. Therefore she told that this was the reason why came to him (priest). She requested that since she had first received it from the waters here near this temple, it would be proper that he should take this Siva lingam and place it in this very temple. But after hearing all of this, the priest became reluctant to receive it. He said that troubles might arise to him also because he did not know where Lord Sivaji desired to go.
Therefore, he advised her to leave it in the river Mahanadi again from where she had first found it. Then the police officer, after hearing this strange conversation, came out of the water and requested the priest to give him the lingam if he had no objection. The priest and the woman had no objection. And hence, in this way the officer took the lingam with him and was still carrying it.
However, when Vijay requested him to come, visit the asrama (since the police officer was on his way to get the darsana of Lord Jagannath at Puri and since the asrama was also located on the way just about 9 km short of Puri), and present this Siva lingam, the officer flatly refused. He said that he was never intending to do such a thing but rather had plans to take it to Nayagadh and build a Siva temple for it over there. But still he expressed his desire to talk to the managerial head of our asrama after some time and received the same from Vijay. So, after an hour or so, he called me by phone.
He first introduced himself to me and said, “prabhu, I am feeling some transformation and some spiritual sensation from within my heart. I think that Lord Sivaji would like to stay at your asrama but I feel that it may be my speculation. Anyhow, I am still very much grateful to talk to you. Please allow me to think for sometime. I will meditate on Lord Sivaji for sometime and see what Lord Sivaji inspires to me from within, accordingly I will decide.” I said, “fine.” And after about one and a half hours, he gave me a call and this time he said, “prabhu! I would like to see you in person immediately.” But, I was hesitant because at that time I had some busy prescheduled program. I said that it is not possible right now but we will surely meet at some other time later. Then he again said, “No. Please listen to me. Actually, Lord Sivaji clearly instructed me that he would like to stay at your sacred asrama (Dandabhanga).” And then he came and presented the lingam to our asrama. This is the story of how Lord Sivaji had wonderfully come here by himself.
Then you know, we also have the live size Deity forms of our most worshippable Srila Gurudev. One of which is made out of brass and the other one, which is made out of marble. Another small Deity of our Srila Gurudev, which is made out of brass, is also being worshipped in the Jagannath Mandir. Here again there is a wonderful story of how the Deity of Srila Gurudev was made in Bhubanesvara.
It was all about how Gurudev himself had appeared in the dream of this statue maker who had failed so many times, just like the others, in trying to get His Divine Grace’s face right, even though he was a well renowned statue maker having an international reputation in making excellent replicas. And also how he finally became very emotional and finally succeeded in making the Deity of Srila Gurudev. It is all a wonderful story. The same sculpturer (who was around his 80s) had made all the Deities of Srila Gurudev in our temple. Then we had also brought Srila Prabhupada’s small Deity from Vrindavan.
We have a great desire to give a befitting tribute and honor to the Divine Lotus Feet of our revered great Srila Prabhupada, by establishing a Bhaktivedanta Library comprising of Srila Prabhupada’s books and all Vedic literatures especially based upon bhakti-yoga. Therefore, for that we have a nice live size Deity of Srila Prabhupada made up of brass which looks very good and we also have another live size Deity of Srila Prabhupada made of marble which will be placed right in front of the alter of the new temple of Radha Gopinath (which will be built in future). Hence, that’s all about the Deities of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.