A Letter From Grandpa
By Niranjan Shah
My dear Nikita and Sanjna:
Hindu Society of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio celebrated 13th anniversary of the Devadham (temple) in Cincinnati during May 21, 22 and 23. The celebration included Shri Maha Mritunjaya Yagna on May 22, and a talk on “Traditions of Lord Jagannatha” by Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingh Deo of Jagan-natha Puri. The Mritunjaya Yagna was organized to bring good healthy long life, peace and prosperity to entire world. This is the spirit of all Vedic prayers. Vedic prayers are always for the entire world and not limited to followers of certain faiths.
The Mritunjaya Mantra is a call for enlightenment and for purifying the karmas of the soul at a deep level. It is also beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical health. The Mantra evokes Shiva within human beings and removes the fear of death, liberating one from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Maharaja of Puri Gajapati Dibyasingh Deo, who is the spiritual representative or Adya Sevak of the Lord Jagannath, was born in Shree Jagannath Dham, Puri, Orissa in the year 1953. In 1970, at the very tender age of 17, he inherited the Adya Sevak duty after his father’s demise. He is a law graduate of Delhi University and has a Master’s in Law degree from the Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. For a brief time he practiced law at the Supreme Court of India (1976-80), and has been serving Lord Jagannath as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jagannath Temple Managing Commit-tee. He is married to Maharani Leelavati Pattama-hadei. Gajapati Maharaja of Puri belongs to ancient Surya Vansh, or Surya dynasty and ruled the region known as Orissa, also known as, Utkala Desh, Bhagavat Desh, Purushottam Kshetra, and Jagannath Desh. King Kapileshwar’s Inscriptions (1893) in the temple of Lord Jagannath show that the king treated the Deity as the Supreme Lord of Odissa and himself as his representative. He used to bring to the notice of the Lord important facts relating to the administration of the kingdom. The Lord used to give in every case his verdict in dreams to the kings who sought for his judgment. This belief fortified the king’s position as the Lord’s representative and the whole administration was running under the orders of Lord Jagannath.
When the British occupied Orissa in 1803, the British Army was instructed by Lord Wellesely that on the occupation of Puri, all possible precaution should be taken to preserve the religious beliefs and the shrine without interfering in the activities of the priests. The control over the temple was transferred to Raja of Puri, Shri Birakishore Deva in 1863 and the government thereafter ceased to have any connection with the` management of the temple. According to Act of 1840, the duties of the Superintendent of the Temple was vested with the Raja of Puri. This title enabled the king to be the Sevaka Raja of the Jagannatha Temple. Since then, the Raja of Puri is the Thakura Raja and he is respected both by law and custom to be the Chief Sevaka of the Lord. After independence, the temple was managed by the Raja of Puri. Now it is managed by an Administrator under Shri Jagannatha Temple Act, 1952, but honor for the Raja of Puri as the Chief Sevaka is retained even now.
A 19th century Muslim devotee, Sala Beg, composed devotional songs for Lord Jagannath, which are being sung even today. There is an interesting legend about Sala Beg. He was held up due to an accident and could not attend annual Ratha-Yatra. Ratha of Jagannath Yatra did not move, until Sala Beg was brought to Puri on King’s horse. Another legend is about great Krishna devotee Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya Mahapravu came to Puri and had darshan and then completely merged with The Jagannath. No one was able to find the body of Lord Chaitanya Mahapravu.
— Grandpa’s blessing
Niranjan Shah, a civil engineer, who pioneered famous high-rise buildings in Baroda, is a broadcaster in India and the USA and a prolific writer. Under “A Letter from Grandpa.” he has been writing since 2002 on India’s historical, philosophical, and literary heritage. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org