The Carnival and the Hangover

By Charudutta Panigrahi

I don’t think it is psychological, but the weather always gets highly humid during the Ratha Yatra period, the land gets wet and the people get sweaty. During the Nbakalebara Rath Yatra this time, the humidity level at Puri was 92%. But this did not at all deter the world’s biggest spiritual Carnival to commence for the next nine days at Puri. In the human sea of over two million, I couldn’t trace any signs of distress, dejection or discomfort. How can one think of oneself when the dazzling Carnival is on in full splendour?

Rath Yatra

The “juggernauts” (chariots) rolled on the Bada Danda (Grand Road), but like three tableaux with the names Taladhwhaj, Darpadalan and Nandighosh and the humanity is ecstatic. How can mere mortals hold Brahma, so close and reachable? How can the Supreme come so close to me? I can’t hold myself and unconsciously start dancing deliriously. There is joy all round; everyone is weeping. Do I deserve such benevolence of the Supreme? I’m always told that the Lord has to be feared, not befriended.

But here I see Him, with his siblings, coming to me and hugging me with those wide open, non-folding arms. If this is not the actualization of divinity then what is? There is no need of any intellectual proof nor is any logic needed. Only “witnessing” is present. What exists is the moment which has no past and has no future. Brahma is the moment, the point in existence without any bygones or forthcomings.

Carnival at Puri is without any contours – geographic, demographic or psychographic. No limitations, no generalizations. It is sheer spontaneity and sans any bridle.

No one is barred from joining the Carnival – the deluge of emotions which are personal and inward looking. There are splashes of colours, whirling all around and you are inside yourself, weeping in joy, lost in joy and naked in ecstasy. There is no societal norm to choke you. Because you are with The Supreme of the Universe – Jagannath.

There is no generalization. I am black and you are not, I am X religion and you are Y, I am a man and you are a woman, sound so small. Compartmentalization vanishes before Him. How can He discriminate? He is the Universe and He IS.

“A mystery is revealed to the universe

The Father above has proven His love

Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve

And so we are called the children of God”

He has no time to even wink, He doesn’t sleep. He is NilaMadhab. He is Purnabrahma – the absolute being, which contains everything of the whole creation that exists. Beyond whom there is no superior truth. LA ILLAHA ILL ALLAH is the fundamental essence of the way of the Sufis. There is no god but God.

This is the seed. Out of this seed has grown the Bodhi Tree of Sufism. This proclamation contains the ultimate: God is and only God is. This is Him.

This statement makes Jagannath synonymous with existence. He is the very is-ness of all that is. He is not separate from His creation. That is why He has designed the Carnival. He is with everyone, meeting, rejoicing, travelling, tugging and chugging and going through the mundane life. This is governance – the Lord of the Universe reaches out to the subjects.

He is Nature. The pratimas (the figures of Lord Jagannath and His siblings) are made of wood or earth or soil and not of any metal. The wood is Neem Daru Brahma which is Dev-Brikhya or the divine tree. This is mentioned by Barahamihira in “Bruhat Samhita”. His figure comes from Nature and goes back to Nature and in this cycle, we have so many leelas or plays. He plays with everyone, including His wife, Laxmi. He goes out vacationing with His siblings and not his wife, meets people, and meets His aunt. The temple and everything around the temple dynamics is natural. There is hardly any artificiality about the priests or the way the proceedings are made.

The entire Nabakalebara or the event of shaping of the new body of the Lord starts from a dream that the priests would get about specific geography and tree to be selected for the body. Even in 2015, in this millennium’s first Nabakalebara, we resort to dreams. This is the strength of faith. This is the trust in simplicity and the power of simplicity. Tribals are the originals of this Universe and they know no cosmetic life. They are Nature and so is the Lord who is from their clan.

The priests in Puri consider Jagannath as their friend, philosopher, guide, elder brother and family elder, not as an esoteric, aloof Ruler. This is the singularity in self: Dwaita. He is in everyone and so everyone is in Him.

He is the Commune and Puri is a place of Maths. These are religious establishments set up by different sects/believers and are located around the shrine of Lord Jagannath. The Mathas were originally founded with the purpose of providing accommodation to pilgrims from the Math specific areas of India, for feeding travelers, ascetics and more importantly establishing an order of faith which converges into the larger ocean of Jagannath/Viashnavite stream.

Jagannath loves people around Him, celebration around him and prosperity around Him. Among the 4 Dhams, it is said Krishna loved eating in Puri Dham. He ruled from Dwaraka, bathed in Rameswaram and meditated in Badrinath. In Puri, Jagannath comes from Tribals, Lords over the Universe, perennially embraces humanity, lives with His siblings, lives Spartan lifestyle close to His community where He is a friend and not the “Lord at a distance” and triggers the penultimate Tantra.

When I am with the Lord there is nothing to control. The mind is automatically dropped. I go into uncontrol, go into chaos. There is no chicanery, no ego, no one-upmanship, no achievement, and no shrewdness. I leave my wiseness behind. But there is a big fight within the mind. I think I am so capable and how can I abandon my ego? I have been fed only one thing by my society and myself and that is my ego. And the mind will say, “Jump in and keep control; otherwise you will be lost in the abyss of it.” But with my Lord, I don’t listen to the mind, and I prefer to get lost. This for me is Tantra simplified for the day-to-day life. That is what happened in the Carnival. Millions left “themselves” utterly and without any technique they encountered a timeless experience. There was no two in it: oneness. This is what I referred to as “Dwaita” earlier in this write-up. A consciousness was there, a lucid passive consciousness was there, I knew what was happening because I was fully aware.

But I was not there; awareness was there. This for me is the tantric touch which the Lord wishes. I saw the rhythm, the Gotipua dance in front of the Lord, the Mahari style dance, the accompaniment of dancers, beats of mridanga and mardala, sankirtan by the devotees and amidst chanting of mantras, all in complete submission. Submission with gratitude and without strategy.Wanton journey at the mercy of those big eyes, those pranks with pahandi, those plays with anasara (His falling ill) and His stopping on the way to Mausima Mandir (His aunt’s mandir) to eat rice cake, poda pitha, before going to His aunt’s place. So human, naughty, plucky and prankster. Where would one witness such a journey, a carnival of colours, emotions, music, and drama with a living Lord, trudging along with you and banking on you to pull His chariot? He is in love with His devotee.

I belong to the land of the Lord of the Universe and how can I be small, petty, insecure and inhuman. It is human to be political, but am I so foolish that I don’t even spare Him.

Am I actually intelligent, which I assume I am?


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1 Comment
  1. BiswaBDas says

    Charudutta has captured the moment so vividly. Very much like a poet who melts into a divine and serene presence of The Creator of Universe. So enchanting that I felt like reading a poetry and never wanted to come out.
    Brilliant Charu…
    Congratulations !!

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