In Skanada Purana it is mentioned that the first deity of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi was installed by King Indradumya. Indradumya was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Once in a dream he saw the deity of Nila Madhava and he immediately fell in love with the beautiful form of sapphire colour deity: Nila means blue and Madhava is one of Krishna’s names.
Messengers sent to search the deity of Nila Madhava
Next morning, he sent his messengers in different direction to search the deity. All returned unsuccessful except Vidyapti, a brahmana.
Vidyapati had wandered to several places and had finally come to a place inhabited by Sabaras, pig farmers. There he found shelter in the house of Visvasu, a sabara. He later married his daughter, Lalita.
Vidyapati sees Nila Madhav at Nilachal
While staying, Vidyapati observed a peculiar behavior of Visvasu. Every night he would leave the house and return next day noon. His arrival would inundate the house with the fragrance of camphor and sandalwood. Vidyapati would ask Lalita about it but her father had warned her not to disclose it to anyone. Her husband’s repeated plea melted her heart and she revealed the secret.
Her father was furious but subsequently relented to take Vidyapati to Nilachal where he worshiped, Nila Madhava. However, he put a condition that Vidyapati will have to travel blindfold.
Their journey began and, on the way, Vidyapati carefully dropped mustard seeds, which he had carried with him, to mark the way. When they reached the destination, Visvasu opened the blindfold and Vidyapati seeing the beautiful form of Nila Madhava started dancing in joy.
Nila Madhava wants to be served by King Indradumya
Visvasu happily began worshipping the Lord but his joy turned into sorrow when the Lord said, “You have served me with great love but now I want to accept the service of my dear devotee King Indradumya.”
Visvasu was heartbroken. How could he live without his Lord? He considered Vidypati the culprit, so he locked him in his house but Vidyapti with the help of his wife escaped.
Indradumya comes to meet the Lord
When King Indradumya heard about the Lord from Vidyapti, he immediately left with his entourage to Nilachal to meet the Lord. The mustard seeds was now small mustard plants and they followed that path to reach the destination.
But the deity of Nila Madhava was not there. The king was brokenhearted, he thought Visvasu has stolen the deity. His soldiers surrounded the village and arrested Visvasu. Then a voice came from the sky, “O King! Release Visvasu! He is innocent. I would now not be present as Nila Madhava but will appear in a wooden form as Daru – brahman. Construct a temple for me and install the wooden form of mine.”
Giant wood with divine marks appears in the ocean
The Lord also informed that he would come floating on the ocean in his wooden form. On the shore, the king saw a giant wood piece having mark of conch, disc, club and lotus (sankh, chakra, gada, padma).
Many men tried to lift the wood but failed, even the elephants were not able to move the wood even by an inch. The king was disappointed but in the night in a dream the Lord expressed his desire that Visvasu be engaged in his service.
Next day the king brought Visvasu and put him on one side of the Daru brahman and on the other side was Vidyapati, the brahmana.
A golden chariot was placed in front of the wood. Now the Daru brahman was easily lifted and placed on the golden chariot.
Carving the first deity of Lord Jagannath
Now to carve the deity from the wood, Indradyumna invited many sculptors but their chisels would break as soon as they tried to touch the wood. Finally, it is said that the Supreme Lord himself came disguised as a sculptor.
He put a condition that he would work all alone in a room for 21 days and no one should disturb him. But after 14 days as sound stopped coming from the room, the king became anxious and opened the door. The artist was not there but there was the beautiful form of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi. But the deities did not have hands and feet and they looked incomplete.
The king thought he made a great mistake by opening the door. The Lord again appeared in his dream and said, “I reside in Nilachal in this form as Lord Jagannath along with my brother and sister. Although I have no material hands and feet, but I accept all the offering from my devotees through my transcendental senses.”
In Svetasvatara Upanisad (3.19), it is mentioned, “Without legs and hands, He moves and accepts. Without eyes He sees, and without ears He hears. He knows all that is knowable, but no one knows Him. They call Him the original Supreme Person.”
Descendants of Vidyapati and Visvasu still serve the Lord
The king was overjoyed, he made elaborate preparations to worship the three deities. He made sure that Visvasu and his descendants would continue serving the Lord and they would be called dayitas.
The descendants of Vidyapati born from his brahmana wife would perform the deity worship. The descendants of Vidyapati born from his Sabara wife, Lalita, would cook food for the Lord.
This tradition continues in the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri.