The rite of the Hindu Puja is basically a very subtle and sublime spiritual phenomenon in which the worshipper, in the course of meditation, first dissolves his mundane body to create a divine body for himself, identical in nature with that of his Deity. Thereafter, visualizing the tejas of the Deity in his heart through concentrated mediation upon His/Her form, he transfers this divine effulgence into the image for the time being in order to achieve a subject-object relationship with the Deity, who is identical with the self, and starts communication with his God from the same elevated plane.
An analysis of the Puja ritual of a deity not only sheds light on the primeval concept and the character of that deity, but also reflects changes, which he or she has undergone from time to time. The study, consequently, brings to light the various streams of religious practices and philosophical thoughts which have gone into making of the phenomenon which is now, commonly known as the 'cult of Jagannatha' representing the Orissan form of theistic Visnuism.
Prof. Gaya Charan Tripathi, born at Agra in 1939 in a family of traditional Sanskrit scholars; studied at Agra, Moradabad, Pune, Varanasi, Freiburg; M.A. Sanskrit, Agra 1959; Ph.D. on Vedic deities, Agra 1962; German Academic Exchange Service Fellow to the University of Freiburg 1962-66; Dr. Phil. Freiburg, 1966; D. Litt. in Ancient Indian History, Allahabad 1986.
Taught at the Universities of Freilburg (twice), Aligarh, Udaipur; Principal, G.N. Jha Research Institute (Kendriya Sanskrit Vidya-pitha), Allahabad 1977-2001; Visiting Professor to the Universities of Heidelberg, Tubingen (twice), British Columbiaof Vancouver (twice), Berlin, Leipzig. Presently Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Head of its Kalakosha Division.
Publications: 20 books and 80 research articles in Hindi, Sanskrit, English and German. Fields of specialization: Vedic studies, Puranic literature, Agama, Sahitya, Manuscriptology.
In all humility I venture to place before the scholars of indology, a comprehensive description and analysis of the daily Puja ceremony as it takes place in the famous temple of Lord Jagannatha at Puri. The work is proposed to be a contribution to the study of Hindu Tirthas which is a fast growing field of Indology involving interdisciplinary approach. The Temple of Jagannath is one of those four 'Dhamas' which every Hindu aspires to visit at least once in his lifetime. It has a long, continuous and almost uninterrupted tradition of cult practice going back to the beginning of the present millennium, at least. Though related to the Temple of Jagannatha, the mode of worship described here has no specific or exclusive character. The nature of Hinduistic Puja is essentially the same whether it is performed for Visnu, Siva or Durga; whether at Puri, Shrirangam or Rameshwaram. The general framework of the Puja remains the same the difference arises only in the 'Basic Mantra', Dhyana and the Nyasas. The present description, therefore, is capable of giving a true picture of the temple worship as a whole, though of course, it has a particular reference to the mode of worship of Lord Jagannatha.
Study of Hinduistic Puja is a subject which has, strangely enough, not attracted the attention of Sanskrit scholars to the extent that it aptly deserves. The ritual of Vediv sacrifices has been studied in great detail by Hillebrandt, Caland and others (notebly by the authors of such encyclopedic works as Srautakosa published by the Vaidika Samsodhana Mandala of Pune) but not many considered it worthwhile to study the ritual of Puja in the temples, based mainly on the medieval Agama literature. There are only a few works which deal with it in a general manner without going into depth. The Ideologists have consequently failed to understand and comprehend that the ritual of Puja is a very subtle religious phenomenon taking place at a high spiritual plane and leading to a direct communication of the worshipper with his deity.
The worshipper in the course of meditation first dissolves his physical body one by one into the five basic elements out of which it has been formed; these elements thereupon into the Primordial Nature (Prakrti) and this again into the Highest Brahman. He recreates his body in meditation through the process of creation described in the Samkhya philosophy and purifies it with the control of breath (pranayama). It is thereupon charged with the various divine faculties pertaining to the deity with the help of Nyasa and thus 'deified' or transformed into a being which is similar in character to the Deity (devo bhutva devam yajet). Meditating upon the significance of the Basic Mantra, he visualizes the effulgence(tejas) of the Deity in his heart, takes this Divine effulgence through Susumna channel up to the thousand-petalled lotus in his head, thereupon bring it down through his nostrils and receives it upon a bunch of flowers held in his hands. By gently placing these flowers on the head of the image, the devotee requests the Deity to enter into the heart of the image through its Brahmarandhra and to take seat there on a Yantra, which he has previously drawn abstractly. He thereupon proceeds to worship Him as an equal, from the same spiritual plane as that of the Deity. He offers Him the sixteen Upacaras, remaining at the Same time fully conscious of the fact that it is not only futile but also rather aburd to offer water, sandal-paste, incense, etc., to the Deity who has an abstract character, who is omnipresent and omnipotent. This however, seems to him the simplest and the most natural way of expressing his deep sense of devotion, love and respect towards his Deity. After the offerings are over, he takes back the effulgence of the Deity to his heart and partakes of the prasada ('favour') of the Deity.
The Puja is thus nothing but the worship of Atman as Parmatman. The Deity is not invoked from outside. He/She is visualised in the heart of the worshipper and then transferred temporarily into the image so that a subject-object relationship can be established between the worshipper and the worshipped. It is thus not the Deity but, in fact, the Atman who is worshipped as a particular deity in the image present before the worshipper. The effulgence of the Deity present in the image is the same effulgence which is present in the heart of the worshipper. The simile used is that of a lamp kindled with the help of another lamp. And though the effulgence of the Deity comes out of the heat, yet it simultaneously remains present in the heart of the devotee as well according to the famous maxim of the Upanishads:
Some christian missionaries, oblivious of the subtle spiritual content of the Puja, have outrightly decried the Hinduistic worship as 'idolatry' and even a few Hindu religious reformers of the 19th century, did not try to examine the true essence of Hinduistic Puja by means of the Agamic texts and blindly shared the opinion of the missionaries in their reformative zeal. This has done harm not only to Hindu religious beliefs but also to the studies of Hindu religious practices. I hope that the present study helps a little in drawing the attention and the interest of the scholars towards this rich field of Indological study and research and in setting the things in right perfective.
Scholars of comparative religious studies shall immediately discern that the Hinduistic temple service contains many an element which is common to the religious practice of other religions. In 1963, I witnessed the ceremony of a morning service in a village Catholic Church in Italy. I still vividly remember how the priest offered flowers, lights and incense, etc. to the image of Mary and the Child, later sprinkled the holy 'Arghy' water on those who were present and placed the holy euharist as prasada in their mouths, symbolizing a communion with Christ. The practice of offering fragrance (gandha), flowers (puspa), incense (dhupa), lamps (dipa) and food (naiveda ) is certainly not limited to Hinduistic Puja only. It is found all over the world, in modern as well as in ancient cultures and seems to have a very long history in the religious ritual of mankind. It is for the scholars to investigate how and where these practices might have originated and how they slowly travelled to other regions and religions. Of special interest are also the articles like bell (ghanta) and rosary (japamala), etc. which now have cross-cultural occurrence and use.
The present study is based on a number of palm-leaf manuscripts which I personally collected during my stay in Orissa in 1970-72 and 1973. I also procured copies of some of the manuscript from the various State libraries of the previous rulers as well as from the Orissa State Musem, Bhubaneswar. Since there are scores of Jagannatha Temples scattered all over Orissa and everywhere the Puja ceremony is performed, or ought to be performed, in the same manner as it is done in the main Temple of Jagannatha at Puri, a number of manuscripts are available in Orissa which describe the ritual of Puja in a more or less uniform manner. The necessity to study these old manuscripts on the mode of worship of Jagannath arose because I wanted to record the ritual presently performed in the Jagannatha Temple and to corroborate it with its ancient tradition. It was however not easy because one is not allowed to be present in the sanctum sanctorum when the Puja takes place and even if one were allowed to do so, one would certainly not understand the different Mantras and formulae uttered indistinctly (if at all correctly) by the priests. I also noticed to my dismay that a fairly large number of the Arcakas (Pujapandas) either did not know the details of the various rites of the Puja properly, or were not willing to share them with me. This deterioration in the ritualistic knowledge of the Arcakas, has come about, I was told, due to the fact that the practice of a systematic training in ritual which the Arcakas used to undergo in the Covardhana-pitha of Sankaracarya at Puri, was discontinued sometime in the 19th century. I have, therefore, preferred to go to the original sources and to reconstruct the ritual of Puja on the basis of ancient authoritative texts. What the present work, therefore, contains, is the Puja of Jagannatha in its ideal form, i.e. in the form it ought to be carried out and in which it was most certainly carried out earlier. It is obvious that for a critical study of the ritual we have to deal with its pristine and the real form and should not take into account its modern aberrations, if any. To give the reader an idea of the nature of such old manuscript-sources as have been utilised in this work, I have reproduced the text of the Gopalarcanapaddhati of Vasudeva in a slightly edited and properly arranged form as Appendix IV in the end. It is one of the most compact and most coherent text on the daily Puja of this great Temple.
The use of the pronouns 'She' and 'Her' for Krsna-Iagannatha used quite often in this work might perplex the reader and requires some explanation. This has been done not only in deference to the grammatical gender of the Sanskrit term Devata (Nomen abstractum, Femininum) and the English term deity (derived from Latin deitds, also of feminine gender), but has a deeper significance too. According to Indian religious tradition it is not the god (devah) who is an object of worship, but his 'godness' (deva-ta). We do not venerate a god per se or as a 'divine person' but pay reverence simply and solely to this 'divineness', to his divine potency (sakti) or to his divine nature (cf. also the exposition of the daivi sampat in the Bhagavadgita, XVI. 1-3) ignoring other features of his personality. In other words we do not worship Indra or Visnu as such but the Indra- ta or the Visnu-ta, i.e. Indraness or Visnuness inherent in them. This is the reason why also the Pujapaddhatis refer to the worship able image created in the heart of the worshipper by meditation upon the Mulamantra- and subsequently transferred into the icon-uniformly and consistently in feminine gender (e.g. devatam avahya ... tasyah svarupam upakalpkya ... Tasyah haste japam samarpya, etc.) though this venerable figure is obviously that of Krsna-Jagannatha. This tradition of referring to the worshipable divine figure in feminine gender has a long history and goes back to the Vedic times where the Anukramanis giving details of the Rsis and Chandas of the Sukta refer to the god extolled in that hymn as devata and never as devah.
The alternate occurrence of Sanskrit words, somewhere in italics and somewhere in roman with first letter in capital, could initially baffle the reader and may not appear to be very consistent. The principle followed is to give the Sanskrit word at its first appearance (or reappearance) in italics and to repeat it in roman subsequently whereas those words which are commonly known to the scholars of Indic studies and hence have become quasi a part of English language, are also printed as such. However incoherence in this matter is not ruled out and I crave the indulgence of the reader for the inconsistencies.
In this academic venture I have to gratefully acknowledge the kind help and assistance of late Pandit Krsna Candra Rajaguru, the 'Pariccha' (parisaka) of the Temple who was also a Professor of Vedanta and Dharmasastra at the Sanskrit College of Puri. The job of the Pariccha is to supervise the rituals of the Temple and to see that they are carried out properly according to the injunctions of the Sastras under the observance of ancient traditions and conventions. As an 'insider' and an outstanding Sanskrit scholar, therefore, he has been a great source of authentic information regarding the doubtful and obscure issues pertaining to the ritual. I pay my sincere homage to his pious soul.
The present study was conducted within the framework of Orissa Research Project sponsored by the German Research Council, Bonn, in 1970-75. It was a multidisciplinary research programme devoted to Tirtha studies, in which scholars from Heidelberg, Freiburg, Tubingen, Udaipur and Bhubaneswar participated. I was associated with this project as its Chief Indologist (and later Resident- or Field Director) responsible chiefly for studying the Cult practices of the Temple and the literature connected with the Cult. Some of the articles written by members of the Project have come out in the form of an anthology under the title Cult of Jagannatha and the Regional Tradition of Orissa, edited by myself, Dr. (Miss) A. Eschmann and Dr. H. Kulke (Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1978, reprint, Delhi 1986). The present study is one of the six monographs prepared independently. Incidentally, a follow-up Orissa Research Programme of much greater magnitude has now also been sanctioned by the said Council a few years ago (1999) and is currently running under the able co- ordination of Prof. H. Kulke of the University of Kiel.
I record here my deep feeling of indebtedness to the authorities of the German- Research Council as well as South Asian Institute of the Heidelberg under whose patronage and help this work has been produced. Thanks are also due to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, especially to its previous Member Secretary, Dr. N.R. Shetty who accepted it for publication and the present Member Secretary, Prof. I.N. Choudhury under whose able supervision it is being published. In fact, the book was accepted in April 2000 while I was serving at Allahabad, but my stay abroad, especially at the universities of Berlin and Leipzig as a Visiting Professor, delayed its publication. It is a strange coincidence that it is now being published after I joined the IGNCA, from the same Division which I happen to head.
I also express my deep gratitude to Prof. G.C. Pande, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Allahabad and Prof. U.N. Rai, Head of the Dept. of Ancient Indian History and Culture, both of whom have enriched this work with their valuable suggestions and have constantly been prevailing upon me to get the work published as soon as possible.
Further, it is a sincere pleasure to record here my deep appreciation for the kind help and cooperation of my long-time friend, Prof. Hermann Kulke of Kiel who readily and promptly supplied a number of photographs to choose from for this book out of his personal collection; so also to Prof. G.N. Dash and Prof. B.K. Swain who have rendered their valuable help in procuring other photographs from Orissa. Grateful thanks are also due to my predecessor Pt. Satkari Mukhopadhyaya as well as to the present colleagues, Dr. N.D. Sharma and especially Dr. V.S. Shukla, who not only took a keen and personal interest in getting the work included in the publication programme of the IGNCA but also undertook a journey to Orissa to collect some visual material for it. My previous colleague Km. Tapati Pal who untiringly typed the manuscript of this work thrice (!) as well as the present colleagues, S.S. Dogra, Renu, Ritu, Daya, Rama and Seema who have rendered valuable help in typing various supplementary material to this work also deserve my sincere thanks. Shri Vikash Pandey has prepared the line drawings of the Mudras appearing at the end of the text with his computer for which he receives my blessings. My life- companion Suman who patiently endured not a few inconvenient deprivations to see the book completed and published, also deserves a special and affectionate acknowledgement.
I also sincerely thank Shri Vikas Arya of the Aryan Books International and their learned and careful copy editor Sutapa Majumdar, both of whom have taken great pains to bring out this intricate work in the best possible form.
Let me in the end dedicate this work at the feet of that Almighty under whose inspiration it was taken up and with whose help it has been accomplished.
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