Do you know Lord Jagannath also gets sick? He needs medication, proper rest and lots of care when he is not well. And when he is sick, he is quarantined for fourteen days. Sounds familiar. During this corona pandemic we often hear the word quarantine. Any patient suffering from the virus is asked to remain in quarantine for 14 days. Similarly, Lord is also put in isolation for 14 days during his illness. Similarly, Lord is also put in isolation for 14 days during his illness. Except his personal servants no one else is allowed inside the room of the Lord. He is given special food mixed with herbs and medicines. But the moot question is why Lord Jagannath gets sick?
Lord Jagannath’s Snana Yatra
Month of May – June is too hot, especially in India. The heat is unbearable. So, during this period Lord Jagannath wants to take bath with cold water. He also does not want to remain in the inner sanctum of the Jagannath Puri temple. He wants fresh air and wants to relax under the sky.
Devotees are always eager to fulfill the desire of the Lord. So, they decide to bring the Lord in the temple courtyard and make arrangement to bathe him with cold water. Now anything done to please the Lord becomes a festival. Thousands of devotees congregate to participate in the bathing festival. The festival is celebrated as snana yatra. Shower festival is celebrated on the Purnima or full moon day of Vedic month of Jyeshtha. This year, 2021, Snana Yatra is being celebrated on 24th June 2021, Thursday.
With the beating of the drums, chanting of the mantras and blowing of the conch Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi travels in a procession from inside the temple to the Snana Mandap (bathing platform). The procession is called Pahandi. The bathing platform is high enough so that devotees can see the festival even from outside the temple.
Lord Jagannath is bathed from the water of suna kua(golden well)
Within the temple premise is golden well from where water is fetched to bathe the Lord. Devotees go in a procession to collect water from the ‘suna kua’ (golden well). They make sure their mouths are covered with clothes so that the water is not contaminated. Water is collected in 108 pots. Priests sanctify the water with turmeric(haldi), whole rice (java), sandal(chandan), flowers and perfumes.
After then the Lord is bathed with the purified water. Devotees sing, blow conc shells and recite sacred Vedic mantras.
In the sky under the sun, the Lord enjoys the holy bath.
With pots of pots of water, fetched from the golden well, the Lord enjoys the royal bath.
It is said that one’s sins are washed away when one sees the Lord taking the sacred bath.
Lord Jagannath’s ‘Hati Besha’ or Gajavesha
In the evening Lord adorns a special elephant form called ‘Hati Besha” or Gajavesha. He looks like Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva. This form of the Lord reminds that the Supreme Lord is the source of origin of all the demigods like Ganesha. All the demigods derive their power and positions as per the will of the Supreme Lord. If we worship Lord Jagannath who is none other than Lord Krishna with love, then the demigods become happy. In fact, the best way to please the demigods is to worship the Supreme Lord.
Lord Jagannath’s worship spreads all over the world
Thousands of devotees of Lord Jagannath spread all over the world come to Puri for the festival. But there are scores of devotees who are not able to come to Puri for the festival. Srila Prabhupada wanted to break this physical barrier. He wanted everyone to participate in Lord Jagannath’s festival. Jagannath is the Lord (nath) of the whole world (jagat). Everyone should get his mercy.
So, Prabhupada installed the deities of Jagannath as mentioned in the Vedic scriptures in almost all the temples of Iskcon all over the world. So today millions of devotees joyfully celebrate Lord Jagannath’s festival in different parts of the world. Many Iskcon devotees even have deities of Lord Jagannath at homes. Wherever the Lord resides that place becomes a dham. San Fransisco was the first city outside India where Srila Prabhupada installed the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi and called the city as New Jagannath Puri. Prabhupada wanted to drive down the point that wherever Lord Jagannath is worshipped with love and devotion that place is non different than Puri, the abode of the Lord Jagannath.
Lord Jagannath gets sick after bathing festival
During the snana yatra day, Lord Jagannath stands in the sun throughout the day and also takes bath with cold water. So, he gets sick. He catches fever. So, he is shifted to a sick room for treatment.
As he is sick, he is not given regular meals. Instead, he gets only fruits and water mixed with cheese and Dasamula (herbal) medicines. Other than his personal servants and Raj Vaidya (royal physician) no one can enter the sick room. He remains in quarantine for 14 days. This is called Anasara period.
Lord is now not on the altar. For 14 days devotees do not see the Lord. This is unbearable for them. Chaitanya Charitamrita explains that Lord Chaitanya would daily visit the temple to see Lord Jagannath. But during Anasara period, he would feel great separation from the Lord. Not able to see the Lord, he would cry again and again and would leave Jagannath Puri and go to Alalanatha.
Netrotsava festival of Lord Jagannath
As Lord Jagannath is bathed with 108 pitchers of water, his colors fade out. So, he gets a fresh coating of colour. Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi is also repainted. Proper medicines, healthy food and sufficient rest helps the Lord to regain his health.
On 15th day he completely recovers. He is ready to appear in front of his devotees. It is celebrated as Netrotsava festival.
Devotees throng to the temple for the festival. Two weeks of separation from the Lord makes them desperate to see the Lord. New paint gives the Lord a youthful look, he has a broad smile on his face. His lotus like eyes captivates the heart of the devotees.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu along with his followers would spend hours seeing Lord Jagannath on Netrotsava day.
Netrotsava festival is followed by the Rath Yatra festival which is famous all over the world.
Rath Yatra Festival
Three huge chariots stand in front of the gate of Jagannath Puri temple. The Lord is brought from inside the temple and placed on the chariot. Millions come to the temple town to participate in the chariot festival.
And those devotees who are not able to come to Puri today are also able to participate in this wonderful festival. Iskcon temples today organize Rath Yatra in different cities of the world.
Because of the visionary leadership of Srila Prabhupada today millions of people across the world get to celebrate the chariot festivals.
Lord Jagannath gets sick to increase our longing for him
Lord Jagannath is the Supreme Lord. He is none other than Lord Krishna. His transcendental sickness is to enhance the love of his devotees. He gets sick to increase our longing for him. Lord has feelings and emotions, and he loves to reciprocate his feelings and emotions with us.
For example, in Vrindavan Lord Krishna gets hungry and if mother Yashoda fails to address his needs quickly then Krishna becomes angry. Lord does not need food, but he needs attention and love of his mother.
Similarly, Lord Jagannath does not fall sick. He cannot get sick. But he gets sick because he loves to enjoy personal care like you and me. He does not want to be only on the altar and bless us. But he wants us to love and reciprocate with him like we do with our family members.
When we start giving personal care and attention to the Lord, we develop love for him. He becomes the most important part of our life. In serving him, we experience lots of joy and eventually attain complete perfection.