Today is Ekadashi, an auspicious fasting day observed by many people in Hinduism, Jainism, and in my case, Vaishnavism, the worship of Lord Visnu and His many forms. I felt today would be a good day to talk about how I came to worship a deity of Lord Jagannatha, which is a question I get asked a lot. Lord Jagannatha translates to "Lord of the Universe", who is a form of Krishna.
I will say it is a fun story, that I will tell in reverse chronology.
Lord Jagannatha, The Lord of the Universe
I was sitting on the floor of the Philadelphia temple making garlands when a woman from the congregation approached me. She asked me if I had any deities at home, I told her no, and she expressed wanting to give me one. My immediate response was no because I did not feel I was qualified or ready for this type of home worship. She asked me a couple more times and she told me a very sweet story. She told me she had a lot of deities and a friend came over one afternoon and said "As we get older, one should focus on a simple puja". She meditated on this, and one day while performing arati to her solo Jagannatha diety, she thought of me. At this time I was not initiated and I was not sure if this was okay. I went to one of my seniors about this and they stated to me that I could worship Him and the fact that she thought of me while worshiping Him, meant He wanted to come live with me. I was thrilled.
The day I "adopted" Jagannatha was beautiful. I came to her home and we all sat down and ate the Maha Prasadam offered to Lord Jagannatha that morning. When it was time to go, we wrapped Him up in winter clothes and placed Him in a basket for safe transport.
The day Jagannatha came to live with me, Feb 2018
Jagannatha is usually worshipped alongside His brother Balaram and sister, Subhadra, but this Jagannatha was alone. When Jaganatha is worshipped alone He is called Patita Pavana which translates to 'the deliverer of fallen souls. In Puri, at the Jagannatha Mandir, non-Hindus and foreigners are not allowed to enter the temple, but at the entrance of the temple, There is one solo Jagannatha Patita Pavana for everyone to see. I love this mood, this mood of how God is for everyone, the savior of the most fallen regardless of creed, caste, gender, and so on.
Patita Pavana, Jagannatha Mandir, Puri, Odisha, India
I asked her where Balaram and Subhadra went? She told me she never had Them, that Patita Pavana came to her like this. So, she was not His first home either!? I asked her where she got the diety then, and she told me that she was at a program at Govinda's one day and that Jagannatha was sitting on a shelf there. She stated to Haryasva Prabhu, "Prabhuji, this Jagannatha should be worshipped", and Haryasva stated to her, "You take Him home and worship Him", so she did.
So now, I am even more intrigued by the origin of my beloved Patita Pavana, so I go to visit Harysva Prabhu and asked him where he got the diety. In Philadelphelphia, there is a well-known Indian spice market, a lot of devotees shop there for bhoga, spices, and arati supplies. One day the owner called Harysva and said someone had dropped off boxes at the store and inside one of the boxes was one very large Balaram diety and one very tiny Jagannatha diety. The owner told Harysva he can't have deities in the store and begged him to come and take Them. So, no one knows where they originally came from, that is as far back as I can trace the steps, but it is such a fun story to tell. Patita Pavana is not carved wood either, He is clay, possibly made from a mold, and His paint job is very rough. Over the years I have thought to get Him repainted, but I am so scared to lose His face. I wonder who made Him, who loved Him before me, and who painted Him...
Radhanath Swami with Patita Pavana; Heart of Yoga Retreat
Haryasva still has the Large Balaram diety at Govinda's in Philadelphia, and Jagannatha is still with me. I do wonder who will worship Him after I am gone. Patita Pavana and I have gone through a lot together and traveled far and wide, once this world is a little safer to travel again, I can't wait to see where we will go next.