By Prema Vilas Krishna Dasa : Lord Jagannatha of Sri Simantadvipa is not different from the master of Sri Nilacala Dhama, Jagannatha Puri Himself. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has re-established this truth with historical facts in his book Sri Navadvipa-dhama-Mahatmya, “The Glories of Navadvipa Dhama”. The following story is mentioned in that book:
Around 7th century, one Yavana king named Raktabahu appeared in the region of Orissa. He was very sinful and irreligious and caused great devastation, destroying temples and terrorizing the hearts of the pious people in Orissa. When the devtees of Lord Jagannatha in Puri came to know about the mischievousness of Raktabahu, they became very much afraid. They immediately approached Lord Jagannatha: “O worshipful Lord,” the devotees prayed, “we are in great anxiety knowing that a miscreant named Raktabahu is breaking down all temples and destroying the Deities inside. He is now proceeding in this direction. He may come at any moment and attack Your temple. If that happens, then we will have to give u our lives, because we’ll never be able to tolerate any action against You. Please, save us from this danger by making proper arrangements for the protection of Your divine form and the temple, O Almighty Lord!”
Being thus approached by His devotees, Lord Jagannatha appeared in the dream of the head priest that night and spoke to him as follows: “My dear pujari, I am completely overwhelmed by perceiving the ardent love and devotion that you devotees have for Me. You all love Me more than your own self. This is the symptom of a pure devotee. Actually nobody can harm My divine form or My temple. I certainly need not worry about that. Just by My powerful will I can keep all miscreants away from the place where I stay with My beloved devotees. But in order to bless My devotees and to reciprocate with them, many times I accept this kind of ‘hardship’ willingly. In this way My devotees’ love and attachment for Me increases manifold. And since this is their desire, I establish their love for Me in a more prominent way. Tomorrow, therefore, please, remove the Deities of Myself, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi and set out for Bengal. You should take the path through the jungle so that you can easily escape Rathabahu, who is coming by the main road. Have no fear, I will always protect you!”
The Lord then disappeared from the dream and the pujari woke up. He immediately broadcast the message, which stirred the devotees, and they all started to make the proper arrangements for the Lord’s journey.
The traditional system of service to the Lord in Jagannatha Puri is that devotees from different sections of society are assigned to various services. For instance, Brahmans are responsible for worship of the Deities. Other devotees cook for the Lord’s pleasure. Those devotees known as the Sabaras perform the service of carrying Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Devi when Their Lordships attend certain festivals like snana-yatra, etc.
When the message reached the Sabaras that the Lord wanted to leave for Bengal, they immediately made all necessary arrangements for departure the next morning. They walked all day and just before dusk set in, they settled in a suitable place. There they collected fruits, flowers and leaves from the jungle and worshipped Their Lordships. Finally they put Them to rest, and after honouring the Lord’s maha-prasadam they themselves took rest. The next morning, after the Deities had been worshipped, the Sabaras again started for their destination. In this way they spent eleven days, and on the 12th day they arrived in Simantadvipa, one of the nine islands of Navadvipa Dhama.
That night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in the dream of the head Sabara and expressed His desire to settle in this very place, which was transcendental in all respects. At once, the Sabara devotees made all efforts for the proper arrangements to fulfil the Lord’s desire to stay there permanently.
The Sabara Vaishnavas went on serving Lord Jagannatha here for generations to come. Due to their pure devotion and love, they went back to Godhead, to Lord Jagannatha’s eternal abode in the spiritual sky. Till today the Sabara village, Sabara Danga, is located nearby. Lord Jagannatha however never left Navadvipa-Mayapur Dham, but instead re-appeared around five hundred years ago through another special pastime, as described below.
“JAGANNATHA SVAMI RE-APPEARS”
At the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a devotee named Jagadisha Ganguli lived in a small village near the present-day Mayapur. Jagadisha was a highly elevated Vaishnava and even though he was very old, still every year he would make the 900km journey on foot to Jagannatha Puri on the Bay of Bengal. He would travel with other devotees from Bengal to meet their most dear Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, have darshana of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi, and participate in the ecstatic Rathayatra. After four months they would return to their homes in Bengal.
One day Jagadisha’s happiness was ruined. He was stricken with a serious disease that left him totally blind. When he realized that he could no longer see the divine forms of Lord Caitanya and the Jagannatha Deities, he became very depressed. Worse yet, his friends considered the annual pilgrimage to Puri too long and too dangerous for a blind man and they refused to take him along with them. Jagadisha remained in Navadvipa in constant lamentation and despondency. Out of hopelessness he even considered committing suicide.
Then one night Lord Jagannatha appeared to Jagadisha in a dream. The next morning, the Lord told him, when Jagadisha went for his daily bath in the Ganga a log would touch his head and restore his vision. The Lord told Jagadisha that he should take that log and go to a nearby village where a devotee-carpenter lives. The Lord explained also that the carpenter would refuse the work because he was a leper and had deformed hands. Jagadisha would have to insist, and convince the carpenter to do this work. On completion of this job, the Lord assured, the carpenter’s leprosy would immediately vanish.
Upon awakening, Jagadisha was amazed at his dream. He immediately left for his morning bath in the Ganga and became ecstatic when a log touched his head and restored his vision. He took the wood and went to a nearby village, where he searched and searched until he found a leper-carpenter. Jagadisha implored the leper to carve a deity of Lord Jagannatha from the wood, but the carpenter flatly refused. He showed Jagadisha his deformed fingers and asked him, “How is it possible for me to carve the divine form of the Lord with these hands?” But Jagadisha insisted. He explained to the leper that his leprosy would be cured once he finished the carving. Finally the leper agreed.
Jagadisha stayed with the leper as he was working and saw him suffering terribly. Blood and pus oozed from the stumps that were once his fingers and he wanted to quit the work. But Jagadisha encouraged him and enabled him to forget his agony long enough to finish the deity of Lord Jagannatha. The very moment he finished, his leprosy disappeared.
Jagadisha took the deity to a site near the present Jagannatha temple and established His worship there.
A few nights later, Jagadisha had another dream. This time Lord Jagannatha instructed him to take some nearby neem wood to the same carpenter and have him make deities of Subhadra and Balarama. Jagadisha did so and installed Them in the temple next to Lord Jagannatha.
Legend has it that after the demise of Jagadisha Ganguli, the Lord, being dissatisfied with the neglectful state of His worship, decided to end His manifest pastimes. Suddenly there was an outbreak of cholera. The inhabitants of the surrounding area assembled at the temple and prayed to Prabhu Jagannatha to have pity on them and save their lives. That night, Jagannatha came to the head priest in a dream and said, “One of the housewives of the Ganguli family, who is characterless, dared to dishonour me. For this offense everyone in the Ganguli family and the village will die if they do not leave the place.” The next morning the villagers found the members of the Ganguli family dead and immediately deserted the entire area.
Since there was no more worship at the temple, Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Balarama were forgotten, and save for the flat roof over Their heads, the temple fell down around Them and was soon covered by the surrounding jungle.
“JAGANNATHA CHOOSES ISKCON”
After Jagadish dasa left this world, the worship of these Deities was gradually neglected and Their temple fell into ruin. Then, around sixty years ago, a villager noticed a blue flower growing out of a huge termite hill. Coming closer to the hill, he became astonished upon hearing a voice saying, “Please help Me. Please get Me some water I am thirsty.” The villager quickly dug into the termite hill and discovered the beautiful deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. Even though Their forms were made of wood and They had been under a termite hill for so many years, Their divine forms were unharmed. After this, Their temple and worship were not maintained, diminishing year by year, until 1978 when Lord Jagannatha’s aged brahmana pujari requested ISKCON to take over the temple and worship of the Deities.