Weekly Story: The Juggernaut

Weekly Story

A Nineteenth Century Englishman observes an ancient philosophy.



According to the Hindoos, the love-inspiring Krishna was one day shot with an arrow from the bow of a hunter, who left the lovely form of the deity, whom the Gopias had so franticly adored, to rot under the tree where it fell.



In Hindoo mythology the re-animated form of Krishna.


ACCORDING to the Hindoos, the love-inspiring Krishna was one day shot with an arrow from the bow of a hunter, who left the lovely form of the deity, whom the Gopias had so franticly adored, to rot under the tree where it fell. After some time, his bones were collected by some pious persons, and made the means of enriching the priests of the Hindoos. Being placed in a box, they remained till Vishnu, on being applied to by a religious monarch, Indra Dhoomna, commanded him to make an image of Juggernat’h, and place the bones in it.


The king would willingly have done as he was desired, but, unfortunately, possessed not the skill for such an undertaking: so he made bold to ask Vishnu who should make it? Vishnu told him to apply to Viswakarma, the architect of the gods. He did so, and Viswakarma set about forming the image of Juggernat’h, but declared, if any person disturbed him in his labours, he would leave his work unfinished. All would have gone on well, had not the king shown a reprehensible impatience to those divine injunctions which he had solemnly pledged himself to observe. After fifteen days he went to see what progress the holy architect had made; which so enraged him, that he desisted from his labours, and left the intended god without either arms or legs.

In spite, however, of this perplexing event, the work of Viswakarma has become celebrated throughout Hindostan; and pilgrims, from the remotest corners of India, flock, at the time of the festivals of Juggernat’h, to pay their adoration at his monstrous and unhallowed shrine. Between two and three thousand persons are computed to lose their lives annually on their pilgrimage to Juggernat’h. The temples of this deity being the resort of all the sects of the Hindoos, it is calculated that not less than two hundred thousand worshippers visit the celebrated pagoda in Orissa yearly, from which the Brahmuns draw an immense revenue.

All the land within twenty miles round the pagoda is considered holy; but the most sacred spot is an area of about six hundred and fifty feet square, which contains fifty temples. The most conspicuous of these is a lofty tower, about one hundred and eighty-four feet in height, and about twenty-eight feet square inside, called the Bur Dewali, in which the idol, and his brother, and sister Subhadra, are lodged. Adjoining are two pyramidical buildings. In one, about forty feet square, the idol is worshipped; and, in the other, the food prepared for the pilgrims is distributed. These buildings were erected in A.D. 1198.

The walls are covered with statues, many of which are in highly indecent postures. The grand entrance is on the eastern side; and close to the outer wall stands an elegant stone column, thirty-five feet in height, the shaft of which is formed of a single block of basalt, presenting sixteen sides. The pedestal is richly ornamented. The column is surrounded by a finely sculptured statue of Hanuman, the monkey-chief of the Ramayana.

The establishment of priests, and others belonging to the temple, has been stated to consist of three thousand nine hundred families, for whom the daily provision is enormous. The holy food is presented to the idol three times a day. This meal lasts about an hour, during which time the dancing girls belonging to the temple exhibit their professional skill in an adjoining building.

Twelve festivals are celebrated during the year, the principal of which is the Rat’h Jattra (SEE RAT’H JATTRA).

Juggernat’h is styled the Lord of the World. His temples, which are also numerous in Bengal, are of a pyramidical form. During the intervals of worship they are shut up. The image of this god is made of a block of wood, and has a frightful visage, with a distended mouth. His arms, which, as he was formed without any, have been given to him by the priests, are of gold. He is gorgeously dressed, as are also the other two idols which accompany him. In a compartment in the temple of Rama, he is represented in company with Bala Rama and Subhadra, without arms or legs.

The town of Juggernat’h is situated on the coast of the province of Orissa, in Lat. 19 deg. 49 min. N., Long. 85 deg. 54 min. E. It is named, and usually called, Pooree, and is inhabited chiefly by Brahmuns, and others connected with the pagoda.

On the sea shore, eighteen miles to the northward of Juggernat’h, are the remains of an ancient temple of the sun, called, in English charts—the black pagoda. The greater part of the temple is in ruins, having been thrown down, apparently, by lightning or earthquake; but, from what remains, it appears to have been one of the most singular edifices ever constructed in India. Part of the tower, 120 feet high, is still standing, and the antechamber, or jungmohun, about 100 feet high. They are built of immense blocks of stone and massive beams of iron, some of which are nearly a foot square, and from twelve to eighteen feet long. This temple, which has been long deserted, was built by a rajah of Orissa, in 1241.


The throne and car of Juggarnat’h.


ON the occasion of the festival of Juggarnath he is accompanied by his brother, Bala Bama, and his sister Subhadra, and is conveyed to a place about a mile from the temple at Pooree. This throne, on which he is seated, is fixed on a stupendous car, sixty feet in height; the enormous weight of which, as it passes slowly along, deeply furrows the ground over which it rolls. Immense cables are attached to it, by which it is drawn along by thousands of men, women, and even infants; as it is considered an act of acceptable devotion to assist in urging forward this horrible machine, on which, round the throne of the idol, are upwards of a hundred priests and their attendants. As the ponderous car rolls on, some of the devotees and worshippers of the idol throw themselves under the wheels, and are crushed to death; and numbers lose their lives by the pressure of the crowd.

—J.H. Stocqueler, The Oriental Interpreter (1848).

Courtesy of Democratic Thinker.

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