Essence Of Skanda Purana


Eight-folded approach to Venkateswara

As Lord Varaha liberated Bhu Devi from the depths of Rasatala from the clutches of the Demon Hiranyakashipu and Bhu Devi gained normalcy, Lord Brahma resumed the task of Creation again but wondered as to how humanity could be saved from the three major hindrances to life viz. ‘Adhibhoutika’or pertaining to the Physical body, ‘Adhidaivika’ related to occurences created by Almighty like earthquakes or famines and ‘Adhyatmika’ (Spiritual issues).

He prayed to Lord Narayana for guidance and the latter directed Brahma to visit Purushottama Kshetra on the Sea shore, where Lord Shyama Sundar settled in the form of wooden Idols along with His Brother Balabhadra and Sister Subhadra as also the Sudarshan Chakra and provided solace to humanity from ignorance, lack of direction and discontentment.  Brahma reached there as advised by Vishnu and while performing Tapasya got into such a deep and long trance that he was even negligent of the duty of Creation. For a while the Cycle of Life and Death got disturbed as there was no ingress and egress from the Universe. Yamadharma Raja approached Bhagavan Vishnu along whom Devi Lakshmi was seated too. Devi Lakshmi replied that if the reference being given by Yamaraja was to the current issue of the Cycle of Life being disturbed, then it was not posible for Vishnu to leave the Purushottama Kshetra. The Sins of human beings, animals and birds would continue to be burnt off at the Purushottama Kshetra, which was the only hallowed Region unaffected by the Great Deluge (‘Pralaya’); even Sage Markandeya who was blessed by ‘Paramatma’to achieve immortality for Seven Kalpas had to struggle through the rough waters, till he reached the Purushottama Kshetra where the Divine Tree ‘Akshay Vat’ was the lone survivor on top of which was Vishnu in a miniature form and advised Markandeya to swim somehow to reach that spot! It was ‘Kaal’ (Vishnu) as a child who rescued the Sage and the belly of Kaal was bottomless.Lakshmi Devi who was present too there witnessed all these happenings.Brahmarshi Markandeya who had the unique honour of receiving refuge from Vishnu was grateful to the Kshetra and materialised a Water reservoir with the help of Sudarshana Chakra, immortalised as ‘Markandeya Kund’. The Sage established a Markandeswra Linga, which was basically of the form of Narayana as also known as Yameswar where Yamaraja was controlled from Mrityu owing to the Sanctity of the Kshetra. Bathing in the Markandeya Kund and worship of Markandeswara Linga is stated to equal the fruit of Aswamedha Yagna.
Devi Lakshmi continued her explanation to Yamadharma Raja that the Purushottama Kshetra was of a conch shape whose North West was dominated by Shankara and the North East by Neelakantha and the Central Portion of a distance of a mile or so was of Narayana. Nearer the Shankara Tirtha is situated the Kapala Vimochana Linga and the third part of the conchshell was of Adya Shakti Vimala Devi. In the Nabhi Sthaan or the Central Region are situated the ‘Vat’ (Tree) and Bhagavan Purushottama.Thus the Three Portions of the Purushottama Kshetra are popular as Tirtha Raj. There is also a Rohini Kund, the waters of which relieve sins and constiteted the tail-end of the Pralayakal water! At the southern tip of the Conchshell is situated Narasimha whose darshan itself is an instant sin destroyer. There are ‘Antarvedi’ (underlying) Eight Shaktis which are stated to be providing security at the Purushottama Kshetra viz. Devi Mangala in the roots of the Vata Tree, Devi Vimala in the West, Devi Sarva Mangala in the rear lower portion of the Conchshell, on the northern side Devi Arthashini and Devi Lamba, Devi Kalarathri in the Southern side, Devi Marichika and Devi Chandarupa in the East. Also, Bhagavan Siva assumed Eight Linga Rupas viz. Kapalamochan, Kshetrapal, Yameswar, Markandey -eshwar, Eshana, Bileswar, Neelakantha, and Vateswar. If these Lingas are visioned, touched or worshipped, the devotees have access to Moksha Marga (The Road to Salvation) and if they die, their life-end is tied up with Bhagavan Siva directly without any intervention fromYama Raja.
Sage Jaimini told the Munis at Naimisharanya that King Indradyumna, an ardent devotee of Vishnu was keen in having a ‘darshan’ of the Idol of Neela Madhava at the Temple situated in the Nilachal Mountain’s cave, on the coastal side of East Bharatavarsha, in the Utkal Region. The King asked his Priest to ascertain the route and arrange for the trip. One of the Pilgrims who returned from the famed Temple in the foothills of Nilachal Mountain (who perhaps was Bhagavan Jagannatha Himself) described the route to the Royal Priest that the Temple was in Purushottama Kshetra near a holy pond known as Rohin adjacent to a place called Odhra and that there was a Temple of Vasudeva besides which there was a hermitage called ‘Shabardeep’ leading to the path of Jagannath Temple. The Royal Priest’s younger brother Vidyapati was approved by the King to make an initial trip so that the King would perform the ‘Yatra’ (expedition) subsequently.Vidyapati and party undertook a tedious and tiring journey to the Ekamvaran forests at the foothills of Mountain and at the Shabardeep hermitage met Vishvavasu. Both Vidyapati and Vishvavasu visited the Place after a steep ascent of the Mountain and finally reached the Rohin Pond and after a bath had Darshan of Neela Madhava. Vidyapati was overwhelmed by the thrilling experience of Jagannatha’s Darshan and prayed to Him to his heart’s content. Vidyapati was told by Shabar Vishvavasu that several Devas frequented the Temple and brought expensive gifts and garlands to the Lord; when Vidyapati returned back to King Indradyumna the former showed the flowers which  never withered as they were celestial! But Vishvavasu gave the disheartening news to Vidyapati that the latter would not be able to have a darshan of Neela Madhava, although something better might happen! Vidyapati was advised not to disclose this fact to the King on his return to the Kingdom as the King might be highly discouraged. Even as Vidyapati returned and was describing the rapturous darshan that he had of Neela Madhava, Sage Narada appeared and desired to accompany the King on his way to the Purushottama Kshetra. The King and his large entourage set for the journey and reached the banks of River Mahanadi for an overnight stay before proceeding to the Jagannatha Temple next morning. The King of Utkal informed the senior King Indradyumna that there was a very heavy sand storm and the Idol of Neela Madhava was underneath a huge heap of debris.Luckily Sage Narada was with Indradyumna and consoled the latter and assured him that Lord Jagannatha was extremely merciful and that something memorable would happen! Next morning the King’s full entourage crossed River Mahanadi, worshipped Lord Purushottama at ‘Eakaamrechhetra’ and further proceeded to Kotishwar Mahalaya to perform Puja to ‘Tribhuvaneswara’. The latter appeared before Sage Narada and instructed that  King Indradyumna should perform hundred ‘Yagyas’; that Lord Jagannatha would manifest Himself from under the debris; that a Vata Tree with four branches would have to be carved out by Viswakarma the Celestial Artist as Four Idols of Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra the sister of the former brothers and ‘Sudarshan Chakra’; that He (Tribhuneswara) along with Devi Durga would be present at the top entry of the conchshell shaped Purusha Kshetra; that Lord Brahma would install and consecrate the Holy Idols for the everlasting benefit of generations ahead and the dream and perseverance of King Indradyumna would become fruitful. Sage Narada assured that Lord Tribhuvaneswara’s instructions would be followed in full letter and spirit. From there the caravan moved to Nilakantha Mahadeva and worshipped Mahadeva and Durga. The King was anxious to reach the Place where Lord Jagannatha was under the sand; he prayed to Him as though he could visualise the Idol and there emerged a voice from the rubble assuring the King that he would soon have His appearance. Since the first task to be performed was to organise the hundred Yagnas as directed by Tribhuvaneswara, Narad was anxious to take up the construction of the Temple of Lord Nrisimha as that was the Place to complete the Yagnas. Sughat, the son of Viswakarma completed the construction of the Temple within five days, while Vishwakarma made the Idol of Nrisimha which was installed by Narada. Thereafter the task of carving wood for the four major Idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan Chakra was taken up and a Celestial voice came saying that the Idols would emerge on their own, that the oldest worker be sent inside the Main Gate which should be closed till the job was over, that the sound of drums be kept on continuously till the job was going on inside to cover up the sounds from there, that if somebody heard the sounds from inside he would be irrevocably deaf, and that somebody saw what was happening inside that person would be blind for ever. On the fifteenth day, a Celestial Voice emerged that all the Idols were manifested. Thereafter the heavenly voices kept on giving instructions about the colour schemes of the Idols ( Deep blue like clouds for Jagannatha, white for Balabhadra, red like rising Sun for Subhadra and deep red for Sudarshan), the ornament details and so on. As the Idols were getting ready with all finishing touches, Indradyumna was in trance and asked Jagannatha for nothing excepting salvation from the mortal life.Narada, the King and the entire entourage entered the Sanctum Sanctorium chanting ‘Dwadasaakshara Mantra’ (Om Namo Vasudevaya) in praise of the Lord Jagannatha, ‘Purusha Suktam’ addressed to Balabhadra, ‘Sri Suktam’for Subhadra and appropriate Vedic Mantras for Sudarshana Chakra. Narada visualised the various articles required for the Consecration Ceremony and were secured by the King. A Palace was built for Brahma and three Chariots were readied for the three Deities; the required number of horses-sixteen to Jagannatha, fourteen to Balabhadra and twelve to Subhadra-were readied too. The mast on top of the Chariot of Jagannatha was made with Garuda Vahan (The Lord’s Carrier), that of Balabhadra had a plough, and of Subhadra’s chariot was a Lotus. Indeed the King was so fortunate that the wherewithall for the Function was instantly procured by Sages and Devas! Finally, at the ‘Muhurat’time, Lord Brahma performed the Consecration on Suddha Visakha Ashtami on Thursday with Pushyami as the Nakshatra, as witnessed by Devas, Yakshas, Kinnaras and Maharshis! The famous nine day Ratha Yatra commenced on Suddha Ashadha Vidiya and returned from the banks of Bindu Tirtha on the eighth day.

Sage Jaimini explained that Lord Brahma clarified to Raja Indradyumna about a doubt as to why Jagannath assumed the Wooden Form of Idols.  The ‘Daru’ (Wooden) Idols represent ‘Duhkha vidarana’ or destroying of distress and bestowing of endless happiness; as Srihari is ‘Darumaya’ He therefore manifested in wooden form. At the time of ‘Srishti’ (Creation) following Pralaya, ‘Parabrahma’ (The Supreme Being) manifested in the Form of Vedas or the mix of ‘Sabda Brahma’ and ‘Artha Brahma’. Bhagavan Balabhadra is of Rig Ved Swarup, while Subhdra is of Yajur Veda Swarup. Nrisimha is of Sama Veda Swarup and Sudarshan is of Atharva Veda Swarup. If a composite view is taken, the Deities thus represented all the Veda Swarupas and Jagannatha is the sum total and likewise all these forms are Jagannatha Himself. The ‘Vata Vriksha’ on the Sea Bed at the time of Pralaya was thus the depiction of Bhagavan and the Wooden Idols made out of the Tree are His Symbols!
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