[ Naaham teesthaami vaikunthe, yoginaam hridaye na cha
Madbhaktaa yatra dhyaayanti tatra teesthaami naarada. ]
Meaning: – Neither have I stayed in the heaven nor even in the heart of saints. I reside in that place where my devotees pray / worship.
This is very true in case of Lord Jagannatha. Whenever his devotees have prayed them, he is always there with them. The Jagannatha culture is a unique unifying system that assimilated and incorporated in its fold the influences of divergent religious creeds and sects. Jagannatha is the fountain head of a consciousness, which cannot be confined within the limits of any traditional theological order. This consciousness is truly ineffable and despite decades of research and scholarly probing the origin and growth of Lord Jagannatha is an enigma even today.
Lord Jagannatha, the very source of existence for the Hindus in general and Odiyas in particular, is never a sectarian deity. Beginning as a tribal god, he has in course of time become a part of the Aryan culture and has been held in high veneration by the Buddhists, the Jains, the Saivites, the Saktas, the Vaishnavites, and the Ganapatyas and even by the Sikhs and the Muslims. Where else one can find a Hindu deity having a Muslim disciple- ‘Bhakta’ Salabega as one of His greatest devotees? People offer prayers by chanting Salabega’s devotional poetry. And those pilgrims who fail to enter into the Temple still remember another ‘Bhakta Dasia Bauri’ from one of the lowest castes.
Bhakta Salabega was born to a Muslim father and Brahmin mother. He wrote many prayers glorifying Lord Jagannatha that is the most heart touching. He was not allowed to enter the temple of Lord Jagannatha in Puri because he was a Muslim. However, this did not stop him thinking of Lord day & night. He eagerly waited for the Rathajatra when Lord Jagannatha will come out of the temple to meet his devotees to have a glimpse of him.
Vakta Salabega Samadhi Pitha
Once during Rathajatra, Salabega was out of town and could not reach in time to see the Lord on the chariot. He prayed to Lord Jagannatha to wait inside the chariot until he could come and that’s what Lord did. Actually Lord Jagannatha had also waited all year long for this moment too. How could he move without seeing his dear devotee Salabega?
Another such event occurred in Balasore, a city in Orissa. Salabega was coming from Delhi to Puri through Balasore and was staying near the temple of Shyamsundar. During evening prayers Salabega wanted to see the Lord inside but was not allowed to do so since he was a Muslim. One evening the priest found that the Lord was missing from his throne. The same night the king of Balasore had a dream that a great devotee of the Lord was waiting outside to have a darshan of Lord. He then made arrangement for a hole to be drilled in the wall so that Salabega could see the Lord. As soon as he stared at the throne of the deities, the deities reappeared.
Dasia Bauri, a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha was born in a village called Baligaon near Puri, Orissa and was of low caste. He spent most of his time writing
bhajans and other literature on Lord Jagannatha. He was a weaver by profession and his income was barely enough to have a hand to mouth life. Once when he was writing a bhajan, his wife accused him for not paying attention to basic household needs. She confessed that she had not eaten anything for the past five days as there was not enough food at home. Dasia had no clue about his wife’s starvation since she was serving food to him for all these days. He felt very guilty and asked his wife to remarry. His wife was very upset hearing this suggestion and asked Dasia if he had learnt this from Lord Jagannatha. At this time, the head of the village came to their house and gave some rice and money to Dasia to stitch a dress for him so that he could go to see Lord Jagannatha during Rathajatra. Dasia happily agreed and explained to his wife how the Lord appeared as head of the village and solved their problem.
Bandhu Mohanty belongs to Jajpur in Orissa, and was a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha. He was very poor and it was hard for him to take care of his wife and two sons. But he was always assuring his wife that he had a great friend who would take care of him. Once his wife insisted him to meet with his friend and ask for help. Bandhu Mohanty did not know what to do and took his family to Lord Jagannath’s temple. They arrived late in Puri. He told everyone to go to sleep since it was night and they would go in the morning to the friends’ place to ask for some help. Everyone slept except his wife. After a while someone came with plenty of food and left with them. When the wife explained to Bandhu Mohanty, he was thrilled and told her that it was no one but the Lord himself.