Yes, it’s been the year of Jagannath, the year of Kamakshi Amman and Tara Ma, the year of the great lord Shiva himself. Call it a twist of fate that in the last few months I got tossed into Bhuvaneswar on work, or was it a pretext to a greater reality unseen by the rest of the mortal world.
Lord Shiva was my prime focus, and His sheer presence in my mind drove me to visit Lingaraja temple where I had the chance to walk into the Garbha Griha and learn more about Him. At the center of the chamber lies the shrine, a low Shiva linga, but with a difference. Lord Vishnu adorned in silver resides on Him. To my surprise I learned for the first time, this could well be the form of HariHara. Rich with experience I subsequently went to Puri Jagannath, where I came upon Kasi Vishwanath at the entrance. I also learned that the great Guru of Jagannath also resided within these temple walls and to my surprise he was the great Lord Shiva himself in the form of a linga.
But, there was something else that moved in the mystical world just about the same time, one that I could sense but couldn't quite place my finger on. Emotionally I was exhausted wondering about how I could channelize my high energy emotion of Love and Bhakti. That’s really when Lord Jagannath stepped in, presenting ever so many occasions to repeatedly come and visit Him. He was there to guide, to keep my faith intact and to grant me as many visits as I possibly wanted. And, if there is anything am capable of ... its spiritual greed, I wanted to meet Him, again and again and again, closer and closer each time.
In my first visit apprehension overtook my emotion of divine love, a fear that this beautiful world within my mind would be destroyed by a screaming uncouth panda demanding for dakshina. It’s a mortal fear I have like anyone of you, the only difference was that I was worried because I really wanted to meet the Lord and I was scared it would not work out at all. My focus stayed in place, but my heart didn’t know what to expect. It appears like Lord Jagannath felt my fears and put it to rest when he sent a panda (who I never met after that) to come and guide me into the sacred chamber with gentleness and respect, something that I never expected. I met the Lord close, up close, amazed that I could walk into a garbha griha... no rules, no noise, no demands.
I came out overwhelmed and went back home fulfilled only to learn later that there was a path of pradakshina I could have taken which I was not aware of. In my next visit, there was little chance of meeting that panda again but as I cursed my stars a friend of mine said she could arrange for another panda, the logistics of which I fixed through the course of the evening. It was a close call, to cover Konark and head towards Puri and find our way back to the airport at Bhuvneshwar, it was clock work and the Lord didn’t disappoint, for he let us walk into his shrine in the early hours of the morning. This time, I requested for the Pradakshina and I was allowed through with my friends. It was an experience to discover more about Lord Jagannath every step of the way, to learn about the temple, to learn about the way of life that surrounds these walls.
I came out overwhelmed again, breaking down into my emotions partially as I thanked my friend endlessly for helping us through this. This time I saved the panda’s number and informed him I would be back in January to offer my manuscript, my work of art to the Great Lord Jagannath. Come January, I trooped back to Puri, as promised with my heart all set in anticipation wondering whether I would be granted my Jayadeva moment. It was unbelievable to say the least, where Lord Jagannath orchestrated my entry and exit ensuring I didn’t go back with disappointment. Whether it was day or night, whether it was a normal darshan or Shankranthi, whether there was few people or millions who thronged the temple, He made sure I visited him and had a darshan of him up close. When the Lord wishes, we can get the opportunity to bypass a wall of human beings to get a glimpse of him in a packed audience. I came back blessed with his victory flag that flies up high on the finial of the temple.
Intoxicated and overwhelmed, emotionally saturated I returned yet again to visit him this time, with just one thought in my head. I may not be able to come so often, and hence I asked the Lord "why don't you come back with me, come with me, reside in my heart, be a part of my being." I do not know what came over me, but the mind was ready and the heart ached and I asked the panda to source a saligrama this time, knowing fully well I was signing up for the ultimate state of orthodox living, and I was prepared to go for it. It was all for my Lord Jagannath.
I went back this time, repeatedly calling up my panda to be reassured that I would get what I had requested for. I had no idea on how it was going to happen but I was ready for NO as an answer anytime... in the mortal world, being a woman, NO comes more often than a YES in the spiritual world. We reached the temple doorway, and walked in silently into the peaceful courtyard. He told us to wait and look at the Lord while the pranapratishta was underway. He came back and handed me a saligrama, wrapped in grains and a red cloth which I safely put into a wooden box I had brought along. I stared at it and looked up questioningly...no shankha, no chakra? He smiled and said it’s the prana of Lord Jaganntha, within this saligrama sila, it’s a Banalinga. It is Lord Shiva himself.
I stared back into the shrine, I had come a full circle. Lord Shiva and Lord Jagannath had taught me a serious lesson, there was no difference between them for this was the pure form of Harihara. Where the sacred prana of Lord Jagannath resides within a saligrama whose nature is that of Shiva, as a Banalinga. There is no Vaishnavism, there is no Shaivism, there is no separation on such religious or spiritual Gods, this was their swarupam, the primordial nature of supreme energy, a small drop of which rested within my hands for me to take back home. Lord Jagannatha had answered my prayers, as he sent me back to my world of Shiva, but with His life force.
I realized in these months, in these many darshans of Lord Jagannath, that I had undergone a change, I had matured, spiritually evolved. I had lost every form of attachment to my earthly existence. I had found my divine family, I had reached the abode of my sacred home. I have found my sacred family. This year has been blessed, Kamakshi Amman made me meet her, Lord Jagannath gave me his soul locked in a Banalinga saligrama, Ma Tara awaits me in Tarapith and Lord Venkateshwara awaits me in Tirupati and I have stepped into the next stage of spiritual evolution. Experiencing the completeness of my life with my divine family.