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Although Krishna is usually portrayed as a very handsome youth, as Jagannatha his image is repulsively ugly.
Various myths have grown up to explain this, including the following: a fowler called Basu found Jagannatha in the form of a blue-stone image at the foot of a banyan tree.
Another myth states that Krishna was killed by a hunter and his body left to rot under a tree. Some people found his remains and placed the bones in a box.
Then Vishnu directed king Indradymna to make an image of Jagannatha and to put the bones in it. Visyakarman, the architect of the gods, undertook to make the image on condition that he was undisturbed until it was finished, but after fifteen days the king could contain his curiosity no longer, so Visvakarman left the image in an unfinished state without arms or legs.
In response to the King’s plea to make the statue famous, Brahma gave it eyes and a ‘soul’ and also acted as high priest at its consecration. The image at Puri perpetuates this tradition by representing Jagannatha as a crudely carved block of wood, though in some temples arms and legs have been added by the priests.
Jagannath Temple at Puri, Orissa is the 12th century shrine of the Lord of the Universe rising to a height of 65 meters, its chronicle pinnacle overlooks the landscape for miles around. The wall treatment integrates architectural and sculptural elements. The chief festival of this temple is ‘Car Festival’ (Ratha Yatra).
Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe is one of the most revered and ancient of the deities of the Hindu Pantheon. The earliest references to Lord Jagannath are found in the Puranas and ancient literature though details of His origin and evolution are still shrouded in mystery.
Legendary sources suggest that Jagannath was originally worshipped by the tribals, the Sabaras. The most important evidence of this belief is the existence of a class of Sevakas called the Daitas who are considered to be of tribal lineage and who still play a major role in the various services to Lord Jagannath in the temple.
In course of time, the cult of Jagannath took an Aryanised form and various major faiths like Saivism, Saktism, Vaishnavism, Jainism and Buddhism were assimilated into the concept of Jagannath as an all – pervasive and all-inclusive philosophy, symbolising unity in diversity.
Some scholars think that the three main images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra represent the Jain Trinity of Samyak Jnana, Snyak Charitra, and Smyak Drusti. Many others say that the three images represent the Buddhist triad of Buddha, Dhtfrma and Sangha.
It is widely believed that the should of Jagannath, most secretly ensconced within the image of Lord Jagannath, is no other than the Tooth Relic of Lord Gautama Buddha. The philosophy of Tantra which in course of time became an integral part of Buddhism too has significantly influenced the rites and rituals of the Jagannath temple.