Lord Krishna is also called Lord Jagannath. They both are non-different. When Krishna developed mahabhava i.e transcendental emotions, he took the form of Lord Jagannath. So, Krishna and Lord Jagannath are same.
Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Baladeva and sister Subhadra Devi look so different. Lord Jagannath has big eyes, large lips and a smiling face. His hands are extended as if he is about to embrace someone and has no visible legs. In fact, no other deity has such a unique form. Even Baladeva’s and Subhadra’s forms are similar to that of Jagannath.
But why Lord Jagannath’s form is so different? And why Krishna came to be known as Lord Jagannath. There is a beautiful story behind Lord Jagannath’s unique form. The story goes back to the time when Lord Krishna was residing in Dwarka.
Krishna lived in Dwarka with 16,108 wives
Lord Krishna had left Vrindavan long back with a promise to the brajvasis, the residents of Vrindavan, that he will return soon. But several years had passed to that promise and he did not return to Vrindavan.
In Dwarka he lived in a royal palace. He was the de facto king of Dwarka.
He had married 16,108 beautiful women. For all his 16,108 wives there were separate palaces. And Krishna had expanded himself into 16,108 forms and used to be simultaneously present with all his wives.
This can be possible only with Krishna and not with lesser mortals like us. You and I cannot expand into multiple forms and be simultaneously present with different people at the same time. No one has ever succeeded in doing so.
So, we should never try to imitate the pastimes of Krishna. Krishna took great care of all the queens. Each queen had their own palace. They had beautiful dress to wear, there were attendants to take care of them. And Krishna was always there for them. The queens of Dwarka were extremely happy at their great fortune. They also did their best to please Krishna.
Dwarka queens were eager to hear Krishna’s Vrindavan lilas(pastimes)
The queens were completely satisfied but still one thought would always puzzle them. They would often see that Krishna was always absorbed in the pastimes of Vrindavan. He would always remember mother Yashoda, father Nanda, gopas (coweherd boys), gopis (cowherd girls) and the cows. Most importantly Krishna would again and again take the name of Radha even in sleep.
“What so special happened in Vrindavan that Krishna remains completed immersed in his childhood pastimes?” the queens would often wonder.
They were eager to know Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes. The queens wanted to know the truth. In Dwarka Rohini, Baladeva’s mother, was the only one who had the privilege to witness Krishna’s Vrindavan lilas(pastimes).
So, one day the queens approached mother Rohini. They requested Rohini to tell them about Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan. But Rohini was hesitant. “I can tell you everything in detail. I can tell you about Yashoda, Nanda, gopas, gopis and about Radha. But if Krishna hears this and Balaram hears this, they will leave Dwarka and immediately go to Vrindavan.”
No one wanted Krishna to leave Vrindavan. But still everyone wanted to know what so special happened in Vrindavan.
Rohini narrates Krishna’s Vrindava lila to Dwarka Queens
Rohini finally agreed to tell the Vrindavan story. It was decided that Subhadra, Krishna’s younger sister, would stand at the door of the hall when Rohini will be narrating the story. Subhadra will immediately inform Rohini and the queens if Krishna and Balaram comes there. Rohini will immediately stop.
Rohini started narrating the Vrindavan pastimes while Subhadra guarded the door.
The pastimes were so wonderful that all the queens and Subhadra, the doorkeeper, got completely absorbed.
Rohini spoke about Krishna’s pastimes with mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaj, with cowherd boys and most importantly with Srimati Radharani and the gopis.
Krishna suddenly appears to hear his Vrindavan lila in Dwarka
Meanwhile Krishna and Balarama understood that there is something special going on in the palace. So, they immediately rushed towards that place.
Subhadra who was completely engrossed in hearing the pastimes did not notice the presence of Krishna and Balaram.
Both the brothers silently stood beside her – Krishna to her left & Baladeva to her right – and began listening.
The pastimes were so sweet and nectarean that Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra started developing transcendental emotions. Their eyes dilated, legs and hand shrunk in their bodies.
Why Krishna is called Lord Jagannath?
There is no difference between Krishna and Krishna’s body. So, when Krishna experienced deep emotions hearing his Vrindavan pastimes then those emotions were even exhibited externally i.e. in his transcendental body. This divine emotion is called mahabhava-prakasha.
Mahabhava means the “highest form of emotions” and prakash means “manifestation.”
Because of the spiritual ecstasy Krishna’s eyes became too big and hands and legs got absorbed in his body. This form of Krishna is called Jagannath.
So, Lord Krishna is called Lord Jagannath when Krishna manifests highest form of transcendental emotions.
Lord Jagannath’s unique form
When Krishna was exhibiting these emotions, Narada Muni arrived. He saw that unique form which was never seen before.
Upon seeing Narada Muni, all the three came to their normal form. But Narada Muni pleaded Lord Krishna that he should let others also see these extremely unique and rare forms.
Lord Krishna agreed and said that he along with brother and sister will appear as Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi in Jagannath Puri.
Lord Jagannath has big eyes, no apparent hands and legs
We see Lord Jagannath’s eyes are big and round. He has no visible legs. Also, Jagannath has no apparent hands, his hands have no fingers. All this happened because Lord Jagannath developed deep spiritual emotions.
To many this form of the Lord may appear incomplete, but this is not so. Lord Jagannath is complete. All the limbs of the Lord are perfect and complete and can perform any function.
Śrī Īśopaniṣad describes “the Personality of Godhead as perfect and complete, oṁ pūrṇam.”
For example, the Supreme Lord not just sees with his eyes, but he can also eat, speak and hear with his eyes. Similarly, the Lord can see, hear and speak with his hands or torso. Our limbs are limited. It can perform only that function for which it is designed. The eyes can only see, ear can only hear, nose can only smell and so on. This is why the Supreme Lord is called perfect and complete.
So, when we see the deity of Lord Jagannath then we should not think that he is incomplete. When King Indradyumna first saw the deity of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi, after being carved, he thought the deities are incomplete. He started lamenting. Then a celestial voice assured him that the deities are complete. The voice further said that Lord Krishna has decided to appear in this form as Lord Jagannath in Puri. King became happy upon hearing this.
So, the deity of Lord Jagannath we see is Lord Krishna exhibiting his supreme spiritual emotions.