There are innumerable pastimes associated with Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra festival. One of the most famous pastimes is when Lord Jagannath’s chariot stopped for Salabega,a Muslim devotee. This pastime took place around 400 years ago in 17th century.
But who was Salabega? Why did Lord Jagannath’s chariot stop for him? Why he was not there during Rath Yatra?
The chariot did not move even by an inch
Millions of people from far of places had come to welcome Lord Jagannath. Meditating on the Supreme Lord’s wonderful qualities they were pulling the ropes of the majestic chariot on which Lord Jagannath was seated. Brother Baladeva and little sister Subhadra were also on their respective chariots.
But suddenly Lord Jagannath’s chariot had stopped. Thousands of people were trying their best to pull the ropes of the chariot. But the chariot did not move even by an inch. The Lord was not willing to move ahead. No one could understand what has happened. What could be the reason? Everyone wondered. Just few moments back Jagannath’s chariot was swiftly dancing through the streets.
But now the Lord was not in a mood to budge. Is He upset? Why would He be upset? The broad smile on His face was conveying that He isn’t unhappy. But His big eyes were anxiously looking for someone today, so he stood still. Who was that fortunate soul for whom Jagannath was waiting?
Meanwhile Salabega was running towards Puri with a hope to see the Lord.
Who was Salabega?
Salabega was Muslim by birth and was the son of a Mughal subedar. Once he got severely ill but got miraculously cured when he started chanting Jagannath’s names. He thus became a devotee of Lord Jagannath. Once with a desire to see Lord Jagannth, he went to the Jagannath temple. But he was not allowed to enter the temple because he was a non-Hindu. Salabega immediately left for Vrindavan to perform his devotion. While in Vrindavan, he came to know about the Rath Yatra festival and with a desire to see Lord Jagannath he left for Puri.
Salabega falls sick on his way to Puri
But on the way, he fell sick. He thought that he would not be able to reach Puri in time and will not be able to see the Lord. He felt helpless and desperately prayed to Lord Jagannath to wait for him until he reaches Puri – satasa pacasha kosha cali na parai/moha jivajaen nandighose thiva rahi. “It is very difficult to walk the 750 kosas (distance between Vrindavan and Puri) to see You. Please remain on Nandighosha (Jagannath’s chariot) until then.”
Jagannath‘s chariot stopped for Salabega
And today Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, to fulfill the wish of his dear devotee was waiting for him anxiously. Salabega reached and saw the beautiful Lord, with tears in his eyes he offered prayers. Lord was happy, Salabega was satisfied and now when the devotees pulled the ropes Jagannath’s chariot started rolling again.
How does the chariot move?
The chariot does not move by the efforts of the devotees. It moves because of the love of the devotees. The Lord gives all of us an opportunity to pull his chariot. When he sees devotion in our hearts then he allows himself to be pulled by us and the chariot begins to move.
Countless such pastimes are associated with Rath Yatra festival. The festival is unique and massive. It is one of the most important festivals of India. The history of Rath Yatra festival is too old to be dated.
Lord Jagannath is the Lord of the universe. He is the Lord of all – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jews, rich, poor, black, white, brown, men, women, young and old.
He is Supreme Father of all the living entities. He loves us all. He is an ocean of mercy.
On the Rath Yatra day, he comes out of his temple to shower his mercy upon all his children. For him, everyone of us are dear to him. The Lord waited for Salabega, the Supremely Merciful Lord is waiting for us too. With His open arms, He is welcoming us. Let us let go all our worldly attachments and embrace the Lord in our hearts.
To celebrate Salabega’s devotion, every year the chariot of Jaganntah stops briefly near his samadhi.