Five hundred years ago, at the time of Lord Chaitanya, there lived a very wonderful devotee named Jagadish Ganguli. His residence was in a small village near Mayapur. Although he was advanced in age, every year he would go on the 900 kilometer journey to Jagannath Puri on foot to associate with his master Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, take darshan of his beloved Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Devi, and participate in the all-auspicious Ratha-yatra festival.
One day, less than a month before his scheduled departure for Puri, Jagadish’s plans were foiled. He was stricken with a terrible disease that left him completely blind. Because he was optimistic by nature, this did not dampen his desire to make the yearly padayatra to Puri. He would no longer be able to see the divine, all-merciful forms of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Jagannatha, that was for sure. But still he could relish the sound of sweet kirtana and discourses given by exalted Vaishnavas.
His friends and associates, however, were not so keen on him traveling. They considered the annual pilgrimage too long and dangerous for a blind man and refused to take him with them. Jagadish was heartbroken. His existence in this world became a cause for his constant lamentation and despondency. Somehow he passed his days, calling out for the all-merciful Jagannatha to be merciful to him.
Then, one night, Lord Jagannatha appeared to his devotee in a dream. The Lord told him that on the following day when he went for his daily bath in the Ganges, a log would touch his head and restore his vision. The Lord instructed Jagadish to take that log to a nearby village and request a certain devotee carpenter there to carve a Deity of Lord Jagannatha. The Lord also explained that at first the carpenter would refuse to do the work because he was a leper and his hands were very deformed. It was Jagadisha’s task to convince him to do the service. The Lord assured him that when the carpenter had completed the Deity his leprosy would be cured.
At the break of dawn Jagadish woke from his dream and marveled at it. Eagerly he readied himself for his daily bath. He paid his obeisances to Mother Ganga and then entered her sacred waters. Lord Jagannatha’s words were quickly proven true. A log touched his head and promptly restored his vision. Enlivened by the Lord’s shower of mercy, he took the log and quickly proceeded towards the nearby village. After many hours, an exhausted Jagadish found the leper carpenter, who flatly refused to carve the Deity.
He showed his deformed fingers and asked his expectant customer, “How is it possible for me to carve the divine form of the Lord with these hands?” An intense exchange followed, each devotee speaking his mind. Finally the leper agreed to carve Lord Jagannatha.
Jagadish lived with the devotee leper carpenter while he was carving his Lord. He saw him suffering terribly. Blood and pus oozed from the stumps that were once his fingers and his face was distorted by pain. He wanted to stop this torturous work. Somehow or other Jagadish managed to convince him to continue and constantly spoke to him the pastimes of his beloved Lord Jagannatha to distract his mind from the pain. Finally the Deity was completed and to his amazement, the devotee leper was cured of his leprosy.
In great pomp and celebration, Lord Jagannatha was carried to the site of the present temple and His worship was established there.
A few nights later Jagadish had another dream. This time Lord Jagannatha instructed him to take some nearby neem wood and request the same carpenter to make the deities of Lady Subhadra and Lord Baladeva. The devotee carpenter was delighted to offer his service and very soon Their Lordships were installed with great love and attention by their trusted devotee.
But then, one day Jagadish left this mortal world. His beloved deities were neglected. Indeed, Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra Devi and Lord Balarama were completely forgotten and over time their Temple deteriorated and collapsed around Them.
Some centuries later, a local villager noticed a unique, beautiful blue flower growing on top of a termite hill. Curious, he ventured closer and was amazed to hear a voice calling, “Please, please give Me some water”. Quickly he began digging, eager to search out the owner of the voice that instructed and intrigued him. To his utter surprise he unearthed the beautiful transcendental trio: Lord Jagannatha, Lady Subhadra and Lord Baladeva! He was further astonished to see that although the deities had been residing in the middle of a termite hill, Their wood was miraculously unharmed. This event happened about sixty years ago. Once again a temple was constructed and elaborate worship established.
In 1978 the aging pujari of their lordships, his health failing, began to worry. He was fearful that history would repeat itself, and could not bear the thought of his beloved Lords being neglected and inconvenienced again. He decided to offer their property to ISKCON. On the Gaura-purnima day of 1978 the most auspicious transaction took place and a beautiful new temple has since been constructed for Their Lordships’ pleasure.
The holy dhama of Sri Kshetra or Jagannatha Puri is eternally manifest in this holy place and that all the benefits one can attain by visiting Jagannatha Puri may be achieved visiting the Jagannatha Mandir at Simantadvipa in Sri Navadvipa-mandala. One of these many benefits is the opportunity to partake of Lord Jagannatha’s famous maha-prasadam. Lord Jagannatha’s mercy—in its most delicious form—is waiting for your visit and surely you will be blessed once you visit their lordships.
Pastimes of Lord Jagannatha in Rajapur (Simantadwipa)
For reasons mysterious to most, the Lord appears and disappears according to His own sweet will. Indeed He himself states that one who understands the mystery of His appearance and activities does not take birth again in the material world. Legend has it that after the demise of Jagadish Ganguli, the Lord being dissatisfied with the standards of His worship, which was almost totally neglected, decided to close His manifest pastimes. Appearing through a dream He said a typhoid epidemic was imminent and that everyone should leave the village, which they did, save for the temple priest and his family, who all became infected and died. For long time the temple was forgotten until about 60 years ago, when the Lord who once again desired to be worshiped called for Jaimini Ghosh.
Jaimini Ghosh was only 15 years old at that time and he recalled:
One evening I was passing along the nearby road on my way to Nabadwip [town] when a bamboo tree crashed across the path. Feeling an uncanny presence, I suspected it the work of some ghosts and I knew that if I stepped over the tree, something would happen to me. Gripped by fear I crouched to the ground and in that terrified condition I lost consciousness.
He awoke to an assuring voice saying, “It’s alright. Now you may proceed. There is no more danger.” Opening his eyes he found himself to be just outside the temple.
Jaimini asked, “Why did You did that to me?”
“I didn’t,” replied the unembodied voice, “I saved you. I am your friend.”
Suspiciously Jaimini replied, “If You saved me, if You are really my friend and want to help me, then help me get to my uncle’s house at Nabadwip [town].”
As if he was being carried, young Jaimini effortlessly sped down the jungle path, then along the main road, then across Ganga (without a boat) and arrived safely at his uncle’s house.
Shortly after that, the same voice spoke to him, revealing Himself to be Lord Jagannatha and told Jaimini to begin his worship by offering milk, Ganga water and fruit. With the permission of Phatik Chandra Chatterjee, the owner of the temple, Jaimini began to worship Them. He recalled:
The Deities were almost half-buried by an anthil, but day by day as I worshipped Them, They gradually rose up and became more and more visible.
Jaimini begged money from the local villagers, repaired the temple and built a boundary fence but after that no one was willing to give him any more. So he appealed to Lord Jagannatha and explained his plight. That night two huge branches of a nearby tree fell. He sold that wood and the money provided for the seva for a few months.
When it was all finished, he again approached Lord Jagannatha and said, “Oh Lord, I cannot maintain You anymore. You will have to maintain Yourself.”
From that day onwards, he would find just enough money to pay for the day’s puja inside the temple, beside the altar.
One day, Jaimini fell asleep outside the temple and when he awoke, to his surprise, he found himself at Jagannatha Puri. This was during the Ratha-yatra festival and so he enjoyed the festival for some days.
Then, he became anxious for his parents who would be terribly worried about him, not knowing knowing his whereabouts. He decided to return but he didn’t have any money for his fare. He approached some pandas at Jagannatha Puri and explained his situation. “If Lord Jagannatha brought you here, then go before Him and ask Him to take you back.” So he did that and the next morning he woke up to find himself back at Rajapur, Simantadvipa. (Jaimini Ghosh left this world a few years ago.)
Some brahmanas from a local village felt that they could offer Lord Jagannatha a better standard of worship and they wanted to worship Him in their village. Therefore one day they came and stole Lord Jagannatha.
While carrying the Lord across the fields they all suddenly felt the need to answer nature’s call, so they put Lord Jagannatha down and went to pass water. But upon returning they found that they could not lift Lord Jagannatha anymore, so they went and brought some more men to help them but try as they may, they just could not budge the Lord. Then they realized that He didn’t want to leave His village Rajapur at Simantadvipa, so they came back and sorrowfully told the priests, “Your Deity is out in the field and wants to come back”. Two of our pujaris came, picked Him up and carried Him back home