By Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Gosvami Maharaj
The following is an excerpt from the book "Sri Chaitanya: His Life and Associates" by Mandala Media.
Deep in the jungles of West Bengal, on the road from Calcutta to Mayapur, lies the tiny village of Jasra. A hidden jewel lies there, in the form of this beautiful deity of Lord Jagannath, Who originally lived in the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa. Jasra is famous for the wonderful snan-yatra festival held there every year wherein thousands of villagers flock to the temple there, now in the care of the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. How the Lord of the Universe came to live in this tiny, out-of-the-way place is a wonderful story, narrated below by His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj as it appears in the book, Sri Chaitanya: His Life and Associates. Here, Srila Tirtha Maharaj gives us a delightfully colourful account of Lord Jagannath's journey to Jasra and His pastimes in the area, including the history of the temple.
Before taking sannyas, Mahaprabhu ordered Jagadish to go to Nilachala to preach Krishna bhakti and the religious practice of the age, Harinam sankirtan. The son of Nanda, Sri Krishna and the son of Jagannath Mishra, Sri Gaurasundar, are the same supreme divinity as Jagannath. When Jagadish arrived in Puri, he went for Lord Jagannath's darshan and melted with love when he saw Him. On his way back to Bengal, however, he felt extreme separation from Jagannath. Thousands and thousands of people go on pilgrimage to Puri every single day. All of them take darshan of Jagannath, but how many of them are overcome by feelings of separation when returning home? Perhaps once in a while some fortunate individual is able to feel such emotions. If one truly feels such pangs of separation, then this is a sign of Jagannath's mercy; if not, then one has not truly received the grace of the Lord.
Jagannath Deva saw Jagadish crying and mercifully appeared to him in a dream and told him to take His vigraha and serve it. Simultaneously, He appeared to the king of Orissa and ordered him that at the time of the nava-kalevara, when the wooden deity of Jagannath is renewed, the outgoing form should be given to Jagadish Pandit. As a result of this dream, the Maharaj considered it to be a great honor to give Jagadish Lord Jagannath's outgoing form, which is known as the samadhi-stha-vigraha.
Jagadish prayed to Jagannath, asking Him how he could possibly carry the deity's heavy body all the way back to Bengal. Jagannath answered that for his sake He would become as light as cork. Then Jagadish was to cover Him with a piece of new cloth and then carry Him suspended on the end of a staff. Jagannath further told him that he would have to make permanent arrangements to stay wherever He was set down on the ground. Jagadish enlisted the aid of two Brahmins and they took turns carrying Jagannath as far as the village of Jashora on the banks of the Ganges, near the town of Chakdaha. Jagadish left Jagannath with one of the Brahmins and went to take his bath in the Ganges and to perform oblations of Ganga water. While he was gone, the Brahmin found that Jagannath was suddenly becoming very heavy and that he was no longer able to hold Him up. When Jagadish came back from his bath, he saw Jagannath sitting on the ground and realized that the Lord wanted to stay in that very spot.
Chakdaha is a historical site and an ancient holy place. During the Puranic age, it was known as Rathavarma. Pradyumna killed the demon Sambara there during Krishna's incarnation at the end of the Dvapara age and thus it was known as Pradyumna-nagara. Prior to that, when Bhagiratha was bringing down the Ganga in order to save the Sagara dynasty, he buried the wheel of his chariot here. Thus the town was also given the name Chakradaha, which in time has been corrupted into Chakdaha. When the local people heard that the Jagannath deity from Puri had come to stay in Jashora, they flocked there in the thousands to seek His darshan. This is how Jagadish decided to remain in Jashora rather than return to to his home in Mayapur.
Being attracted by Jagadish Pandit and his wife's parental devotion, Nityananda Prabhu and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu both visited the Jagannath temple in Jashora on two different occasions. The two Prabhus held sankirtan and a feast both times. As the Lord was about to leave Jashora to go to Puri, Duhkhini began to cry from the imminent separation so intensely that the Lord agreed to remain behind in the form of the Gaura Gopal deity. In the course of the couple's householder life, they also had a son named Ramabhadra.
The Jashora temple after Jagadish Pandit
At first the deity was kept under a Bata tree near the Ganges, and later the king of Krishnagar, Krishna Chandra, had a temple built there for Him. When the temple became old and dilapidated, Umesh Chandra Majumdar's wife Mokshada Devi arranged for repairs to be made. The temple building has no spire, but has been constructed in the manner of an ordinary house. Along with Jagannath, it houses Sri Sri Radha Vallabha and Gaura Gopal. The staff that Jagadish Pandit used to carry the deity from Puri continues to be kept there. Devotees for the service of the Jagannath deity donated a large amount of land, but over the course of time, Jagadish Pandit's descendants sold it all off in order to keep the service of the deity alive. No Rathayatra festival is held here, though his Snana Yatra is celebrated with great pomp. On that occasion, the deity is carried from the temple to an altar built in a large field not far from the temple for the purpose of the bathing ritual. A mela or fair is also held in the field, attracting countless people. This Jashora Jagannath Snana Yatra fair is still very well known. There is also a 500 year-old dais (maïca) for Dola Yatra at the site that is used to swing Radha Vallabha on Phalguni purnima.
Siddha Bhagavan Das Babaji of Khalna stayed in Jashora for some time to do his bhajan. There is an annual festival celebrating Jagadish Pandit's disappearance day on the third day of the waxing moon (sukla trtiya) in the month of Paush (December-January). His appearance day is the twelfth day of the waxing moon (sukla dvadasi) in the same month.
Jagadish Pandit's temple is currently under the management of the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. How this came to pass was described in the Chaitanya Vani magazine (2.9) in the following way:
"The Supreme Lord is most affectionate to His devotees and is conquered by their love. How many different stratagems He engages in just to accept the service of His devotee! Though served in Goloka by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune, Govinda still seems to not have enough people to serve Him. It is as though He feels that the service is not being conducted as it should. How many tricks He plays in order to engage the devotee He wants in His service!
Just look at the ploy that Govardhan-dhari Gopal used to engage Madhavendra Puri. His previous pujari had buried Him in the jungle on top of Govardhan out of fear of Muslim marauders. Gopal waited there patiently until Puripada happened by. He said to him, "I have been waiting impatiently for you for many days, just wondering when Madhavendra will come to render Me service." The Lord plays His cosmic game and these are all different aspects of His pastime.
So now, the very same Jagannath and Gaura Gopal deities who were worshiped by Nityananda Prabhu's dear associate, Jagadish Pandit, have similarly displayed the wonderful pastime of voluntarily offering Themselves to the great devotee, Tridandi Swami Srimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, in order to accept his service."
Due to increasing monetary difficulties three of Jagadish Pandit's descendants, Vishvanath Goswami, Shambhunath Mukhopadhyaya and Mrityunjaya Mukhopadhyaya, had come to realize that they were no longer able to maintain the day-to-day service nor undertake the annual festivals of their ancestral deities. The condition of the temple buildings had also deteriorated and they were unable to make the necessary repairs. As a result, they decided to take the counsel of Sri Panchu Thakur of Jashora and Santosh Kumar Mallik of Ranaghat and eventually surrender the temple, without conditions, to my spiritual master, the founder and acharya of Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, Om 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaj. Guru Maharaj immediately spent a large sum of money on making the needed repairs and improvements to the temple, adding electric lighting and a new hostel building.
In the first year after taking over Jagannath's service, Guru Maharaj came to the annual festival and personally sat several thousand men and women in the neighboring field and fed them with maha prasad. I still feel goose bumps when I remember the ecstasy that flooded over Jashora on that day.