On the next stage of evolution of the deity of Puri : Jagannatha as Narasimha

Continuing from my previous post:A likely template for how puruShottama was historically worshipped(when He was the four-armed nIlamAdhava) can be found inserted in the Purushottama Mahatmya of the nArada purANa. The rite mainly centres on the deity of the aShTAkShari(8-syllabled) mantra of nArAyaNa,along with shrI,puShTi(as a~Ngas),vyUhas and avatAras invoked mostly in the kavacha and nyAsa and the worshipper considering himself as one with nArAyaNa,and then AvAhana,madhuparka,AchamanIya and other upAchAras until the sending off the deity with various paurANika mantras.


Now to the main part of this article:This article will now describe the evidences available from ritual and from other textual sources as to why the wooden deity of jagannAtha was originally narasiMha.

Ritual evidence

  1. In the navakalevara ceremony:The main deity to which the whole ceremony and pratiShThA is done to is nR^isiMha with profuse usage of the mighty anustubh in both its parts:pratiShThA and vanayAga.The vanayAga also features homas etc with not just the anustubh,but with the very long pAtAla nR^siMha(is this that famed sahasrAkShari of nR^isiMha)?,one of the longest AgAmika mantras I have seen. The mantras and nyAsas that specify the deity as jagannAtha,baladeva and subhadrA are added later and at the very end:Indicating their later characteristic in the ritual
  2. The original chalanti pratimA of jagannAtha is that post which is known as sudarshana these days. And it still performs this function on certain special occasions. There are two features that support the nR^isiMha identification.
    1. General iconology: sudarshana figures in general,on their reverse,have nR^isiMha inscribed(a specimen is linked herewith). Hence nR^isiMha could easily(and with the ambiguity of a post as a chalanti pratimA) be reinterpreted as sudarshana
    2. In the Puri temple, the chalanti pratimA of sudarshana Himself is nR^isiMha(implying a continuity with the identification of the earlier deity as nR^isiMha and by extension,the original wooden deity of jagannAtha).

Textual evidence

  1.  The puruShottama mAhAtmya of the skanda purANa notes that when brahmA consecrated the images with the mantrarAja,the wooden deities vanished and in their place appeared the furious narasiMha. brahmA then advises indradyumna to worship Him with the narasiMha anustubh. indradyumna then has a vision of yoga-narasiMha with lakShmI on His lap on 32-petalled lotus,with the serpent anantasesha(saMkarShaNa) forming the umbrella with His hoods.
  2. Older Odia sources in manuscript form by the deula-karanas of the Puri temple(one called the rAjabhoga is being referred to here) also corraborate a ritual practice of balabhadra being worshipped with the vAsudeva mantra(although presumably with the shaiva shrIkaNThAdi nyAsa,I’m not sure about this aspect),jagannAtha with the narasiMha anushtubh mantrarAja,and subhadrA with the bhuvaneshvarI ekAkSharI(single syllabled mantra). So this was the most likely practice before the second half of the 15th century in some circles(and presumably the ones who did the pUjA rituals of the Puri temple,if not the general public by that era),that jagannAtha was considered as narasiMha. By the time Gajapati Purushottamadeva(2nd half of 15th century) authored the gopAlArchanAvidhi,this manual treats jagannAtha as kR^iShNa gopijanavallabha,and no more as nR^isiMha.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s