Jaggernaut, or Jaggernaut Puri, or Puri

Jaggernaut, or Jaggernaut Puri, or Puri is the name of a town on the sea-coast of Orissa (85º 54' long., and 19° 45' lat.), celebrated as one of the chief places of pilgrimage of the Hindus in India. It contains a temple erected to Vishnu in A.D. 1198, in which stands an idol of this Indian deity, called Jaggernaut (commonly Juggernaut), a corruption of the Sanscrit Jagamnnaha, i.e. lord of the world. "The idol is a carved block of wood, with a frightful visage, painted black, with a distended mouth of a bloody color. On festival days the throne of the idol is placed upon a stupendous movable tower sixty feet high, resting on wheels, which indent the ground deeply as they turn slowly under the ponderous machine. Attached to it are six ropes of the length and size of a ship's cable, by which the people draw it along. The priests and attendants are stationed around the throne, on the car, and occasionally address the worshippers in libidinous songs and gestures. Both the walls of the temple and the sides of the car are covered with the most indecent emblems, in large and durable sculpture. Obscenity and blood are the characteristics of the idol's worship." The origin of this idolatrous worship (which gained its notoriety especially by the fanaticism which has induced, and still induces, thousands of Hindus to sacrifice their lives, in the hope of attaining eternal bliss, by throwing themselves under the wheels of the chariot bearing the idol) is as follows: "A king desirous of founding a city sent a learned Brahman to pitch upon a proper spot. The Brahman, after a long search, arrived upon the banks of the sea, and there saw a crow diving into the water, and, having washed its body, making obeisance to the sea. Understanding the language of the birds, he learned from the crow that if he remained there a short time he would comprehend the wonders of this land. The king, apprized of this occurrence, built on the spot where the crow had appeared a large city, and a place of worship. The rajah one night heard in a dream a voice saying, 'On a certain day cast thine eyes on the sea-shore, when there will arise out of the water a piece of wood fifty-two inches long, and one and a half cubits broad; this is the true form of the deity; take it up, and keep it hidden in thine house seven days; and in whatever shape it shall then appear, place it in the temple, and worship it.' It happened as the rajah had dreamed, and the image, called by him Jagganntatha, became the object of worship of all ranks of people, and performed many miracles." Another legend, however, relates that "the image arising from the water was an avatara, or incarnation of Vishnu; it was fashioned by Viswakarmam, the architect of the gods, into a fourfold idol, which represented the supreme deity, and the temple itself was erected over it, and inaugurated by the god Brahma and his divine court." This may have given rise to the supposition that the worship of Jaggernaut (as Max Muller [Chips, 1, 57] spells it) was originally in honor of Vishnu. See Newcomb, Cyclop. of Missions, p. 495: Sterling, Account of Orissa (see Index)

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