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Guru Nanak Dev Ji at the Jagannath temple

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What does the sangat think of this?



Orissa Review

July - 2003

In the mediaeval age, a socio-religious

movement gathered momentum in India. It was

called the "Bhakti-Cult" and its exponents had

the goal of uniting the human race through true

devotion to God. It rejected casteism,

pilgrimage etc. and emphasized on the oneness

of God. Guru Nanak (1469-1539 A.D.) started

it in Punjab and was on a mission to explain it

to all the countrymen. The other members of

the cult were Ramananda and Kavir in Uttar

Pradesh; Shri Chaitanya in Bengal; Namdev,

Tukaram and Ramdas in Maharastra.

As an exponent of this new cult, Nanak

travelled throughout India. While on his

mission, he reached Jagannath Puri.

Ballavacharya and Sri Chaitanya were also his

contemporaries at Puri. One evening, he

entered the temple reciting Lord's name. On

the very entrance to Nata Mandir, he was

suddenly charged with divine ecstasy. He

originally believed in the formless worship of

Lord. But the symbolic image of Lord

Jagannath was neither of any "Akar" nor it was

"Nirakar". Seeing this "Kimakar" (of which

form ?) image of the Lord, he was simply

astonished and was overwhelmed with deep

reverence for the Lord. He understood the

universalism of the Lord and believed in the

symbolic cult of Jagannath. He started the

'Namakirtan' of the Lord in his own way.

Basically, Nanak believed in the

formless worship of 'Nirakar' Bramha and his

motto was 'Ek Omkar Satnam'. It means that he

believed in 'Omkar' or 'Pranava Brahma' which

has no form and stressed on the 'Satnam' or

true Namakirtan of the Lord. So, in his

teachings, there is a blending of Vedic thoughts

with the idea of Namakirtan of personal God.

But, after seeing Jagannath for the first

time, he could not reject him on the ground that

he was incompatible with his philosophy. The

'essence of Vedas', as He is called, appeared

to Guru Nanak in the Pranava form and he could

only start the Namakirtan. Just at that time, the

Arati ceremony had started. All devotees stood

up and gazed at the Lord with great devotion.

But Nanak was so much charged with ecstasy

that he could not mark these reactions of the

people. With great pleasure, he was seated in

his previous posture and tears were rolling

down his eyes.

A section of the priests marked this

indifference of Nanak. They whispered to

themselves as to his credibility and devotion

to the Lord. When the Arati was over, they met

Nanak and asked him why he did not stand at

Arati time. They further opined that mere

rosaries and a garb don't make a monk. His

action amounted to disrespect for the Lord.

Guru Nanak and Lord


P.K. Nanda

62 July - 2003

Orissa Review

Guru Nanak had by that time understood

the real potentialities of Lord Jagannath. He

had seen the touch of universalism and Vedic

symbolism manifest in the wonderful image of

Lord Jagannath. So he replied to the priests :

"Dear brothers ! Does our Jagannath

only exist here and in this wooden image ? He

is dazzling in the aura of his own greatness

inside the entire creation." While uttering these

words, he became highly emotional and

looking at the Lord, he started to sing a few

stanzas from a Sikh composition. The meaning

of the stanza reveals that he had a broader view

of the Lord and he considered Jagannath as the

manifestation of the Divine Power. The English

translation of the stanza is as follows :

"Oh Jagannath, the Lord of the universe,

the entire sky is the plate of your Arati, the Sun

and Moon are two lamps, which are burning

there. The stars are the flame dazzling with

sparks, the Sandal wood fragrance caused due

to Malaya wind is your Dhupa, the wind

bearing its fragrance is flaming your fans. Oh

Lord of Light, the trees are offering flowers

for your Arati, oh Lord the liberator, this Arati

of yours is undescribable. The bells of this Arati

are only sounded through the Anahat Dhwani

(relentless sound)."

As Nanak was originally a preacher of

Bhakti cult, he universalised Jagannath after

realising his true potentialities. The Sadhus,

the priests and the general public were stunned

to hear such devotional songs of the Lord from

Guru Nanak. This instance points out Nanak's

analysis of Jagannath from a broader and

universal outlook. It further signifies that Nanak

had established Jagannath in the inner chamber

of his heart.

In this land of Jagannath, Nanak met

the Sankaracharya of Puri and discussed

various shastras with him. The 'Sri Chaitanya

Bhagabat' of Iswar Das also deals with Nanak's

meeting with Chaitanya at Puri and his

interactions with him. As Nanak and Chaitanya

had the common aim of integrating humanity

through Bhakti or Devotion, both of their

preaching had tremendous impact upon the

minds of the people of Orissa. During Nanak's

stay at Puri and Cuttack, Udatta and Ramananda

remained with him as friends and participated

in Nanak's Namakirtan throughout.

The book, entitled 'Prachina Utkala' of

late Jagabandhu Singh also mentions about

Nanak's entry to Jagannath temple. Accordingly,

when Nanak entered the temple, the

worshippers unknowingly drove him thinking

that he was a Muslim. Nanak, being humiliated,

went to the seashore and meditated on


This particular place is called 'Bauli

Matha' where the famous 'Dedhasura Bhai

Bohu' well is a monument of Nanak's miracles

at Puri. The previous error of the priests was

however regretted by the priests, when Lord

Jagannath addressed to the king Prataparudra

Deva in dream that he was listening to Nanak's

Bhajana at the 'Pitru Stambha' of the 'Swarga

Dwara'. The Lord further said that the worship

etc. should be stopped during morning and

evening to enable him to listen to Nanak's

Bhajans. After this dream, the king rushed to

Nanak and the priests apologised for their

misbehaviour. Nanak and the Sikh followers

entered the temple and prayed to the Lord. After

Darshan, Nanak came back and sat under a tree

near the temple. The place is called the 'Mangu

Matha'. At this place, Nanak preached his

philosophy to the people. He showed his palm

and there the Trimurti of Lord Jagannath,

Balabhadra and Subhadra were found drawn

on the surface. This incident occurred when


Orissa Review

July - 2003

the priests couldn't recognise Nanak and his

Sikh followers. The previous incident

described earlier had also occurred during his

short stay at Puri. After these incidents, no one

ever disallowed Nanak or any of his followers

to enter the temple. The tradition continues till

today and many Sikhs visit the temple for the

Darshan of the Lord. It is said that after twentyfour

days halt at Puri, Nanak started his return

journey alongwith his followers. The king bade

farewell to him with great devotion and

accompanied him to the Grand Trunk Road.

Though a member of 'Bhakti Cult', Nanak could

not see that degree of idolatry in the image and

worship of Jagannath as he had visualised it

elsewhere. He found that Jagannath was not an

idol of particular 'Akar' nor he was 'Nirakar'.

His 'Kimakar' swarup surprised him to such

an extent that tears rolled down his eyes. Thus,

the assimilating culture of Jagannath has also

accepted Nanak into its fold. This integrating

impact of the Jagannath cult has proved that it

can attract all towards the universalism of the

Lord, expressed symbolically through the forms

of Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra and

Sudarsana. It is no doubt an indispensable

factor for uniting the heterogeneous elements

of the multi-dimensional culture of India.

P.K. Nanda is working as Joint Secretary to Government

of Orissa in Home Department, Bhubaneswar.

Meghanada Prachira, Puri

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Orissa Review

July - 2003

Five hundred years ago, two great luminaries

appeared on the horizon of India, one on the

east and the other in the west. They were

Chaitanya and Nanak. Nanak was the founder

of the Sikh religion.

In 1506 Nanak visited seven countries

in India. He lived for 71 years and within his

life time he is believed to have spent 25 years

in travelling all over India from Himalaya to

the Cape Comorein. He also visited Macca and

Madina, Turkey and China. It has been

estimated that he had walked about 50,000

miles on his foot with wooden sandals. He also

converted Raja Seonath, the king of Cylon to

his own religion. Before proceeding towards

cylon he visited Orissa.

Tradition says that after walking a long

distance, he rested on the bank of river

Mahanadi at 'Kaliaboda'. Many people went

to Nanak to pay their homage. This made

Chaitanya Bharati envious who beat Nanak

with a twig of Sahada tree. But at the very sight

of Nanak the twig automatically dropped out

of his hand and he implored his mercy. Nanak

took the Sahada twig for brushing his teeth and

planted the same on the spot. In course of time

it grew into a beautiful tree which stood there

for years. This is a sacred place of the Sikhs.

As Nanak brushed his teeth here (danta) it is

called 'Danton Saheeb'. But this legend has no

historical basis. As regards the name

'Kaliaboda' it can be stated that one Kalia

Pandit took the care of the place and so it has

been named as 'Kaliaboda'. Again it can be

stated in different connection. Kaliabedi was

the father of Nanak and he was a Hindu. It was

therefore possible that in order to show respect

to the father of Nanak the place might have been

named as such. There is no evidence to

corroborate the above presumption. It is a

subject for future research. Kaliaboda,

nevertheless is an important place of

piligrimage for the Sikhs.

There is also clear evidence in

Bhadrak District that Nanak came to Orissa.

In Bhadrak there is a village called 'Sangat'

which means mass prayer of Sikhs and Langar

means community dining. In this village Nanak

stayed and held mass prayer. There is a

recorded plot here called 'Nanak Diha'. Most

probably Nanak stayed in this village and held

his mass prayer. It will be relevant to mention

here that in Sangat village poet Bansi Ballabh

Goswami was born in the 18th century and

composed poetry and drama in Oriya, Bengali,

Hindi and Persian. In some of his poems he

has given some indications regarding the

village Sangat, Nanak and Mahadev and Deity

of the village. In 1930, Raj Ballabh Mohanty

Visit of Guru Nanak to Puri

Gitarani Praharaj

108 July - 2003

Orissa Review

in his 'Bhadra Kali Janana' composed in Oriya

has referred to village 'Sangat' and 'Nanak'.

Besides that a few manuscripts

containing some verses from the famous Japji

of Guru Nanak were also discovered at Sangat

in Bhadrak.

Legend shows that Nanak arrived at

Puri with his disciple 'Mardana'.

Nanak reached Puri beach in the

evening near the present Swargadwar. He sat

down in meditation. Mardana was hungry but

as he was a Muslim he was not allowed to

enter into the Jagannath temple for the

Mahaprasad. So the disciple of Nanak blamed

Nanak for selecting such a place where they

had to face starvation. Suddenly at that time

somebody appeared and offered food and drink

carrying in utensils of gold. In the early hours

of morning however there was a commotionin

Jagannath temple that the gold utensils of the

Lord were missing. The news was given to

Raja. Nanak appeared to Raja in his dream

that night. So when Raja knew regarding the

occurence of theft, he gave a broad smile and

marched towards sea-beach in a procession to

welcome the saint. Raja found that the saint

was in meditation and the gold utensils were

lying close by. Then the king and his party gave

a hearty reception to the saint who had come

to Puri to pay his homage to the Lord Jagannath.

Nanak was invited to pay his visit to the temple

at the time of Arati in the evening.

During the day as water was required

he advised the disciples to dig a hole in the

sandy surface of sea-beach and to their surprise

sweet water came out.

A well was constructed around this

hole. Near that well a Gurudwar called Bauli

Saheb came into existence. This is now called

'Baulimath'. It is said that it was constructed

by Nanak. This is a very sacred place for the


One day while Raja and all other

devotees were assembled to pay homage to

Lord Jagannath, Nanak explained the real

meaning of God. He told the crowd that God

is present everywhere and does not belong to

any individual or community. By saying so he

showed both his palms on which Lord

Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra had


The Gurugrantha Sahib, the sacred

religious book of the Sikhs is one of the most

sacred books in the world. It consists of 5894

hymns out of which 976 hymns were composed

by Nanak. In 1604 it was compiled by the 5th

Guru Arjun Dev.

The great lyric poet Jayadev of Orissa

finds a place of eminence for his hymns in the

'Grantha Sahib' of Orissa. It is not known how

the Punjabi language was influenced by the

songs of Jayadev. I would like to quote in a

few lines of Nanak which are quoted in the

Journal of the University of Bombay,


Guna gaba Ravidasu Bhagatu

Jayadeva Trilochana Adi Gurugrantha Sahibji

From the bhajanas of Nanak it is clear

that he was highly impressed with the lyrical

songs of 'Jayadev'. At that time the songs of

Jayadev were regularly recited in the temple

of Lord Jagannath at Puri. It also appears that

Chaitanya and Guru Nanak both met at Puri

and spent some time there. Of course we do

not have any direct evidence from

contemporary literature to substantiate but we

find the following in Chaitanya Bhagbat of

Iswar Das written in Oriya in 17th Century.


Orissa Review

July - 2003

Srinibasaye Viswambhara

Kirtan madyare vihar

Nanak Saranga ye dui

Rupa Sanatana duibhai

Jagai Madhai ekatra

Kirtan Karanti Nritya

It means that Srinibasa and

Viswambhara were found in the Kirtan. Both

'Nanak' and 'Saranga' Rupa Sanatan brothers

and 'Jagai' 'Madhai' were also there in Kirtan.

Nanak's aim in life was to bring

religious and social harmony in India. He

based his principles of religion on one issue

that 'God' is one for all the religions of the

different nations, communities, castes and

creeds in the world. By this principle he tried

to bring unity and harmony among the different

religions. His creation of the Sikh community

imbibed with a strong sense of nationalism is

a great asset of India.

References :

1. Journal of the University of Bombay Vol.VI,


2. Saint Nanak - Aniruddha Dash, 1971,


3. Gopal Singh, Sri Gurugrantha Sahib Vol.I.

Gitarani Praharaj is the Curator, Archaeology of Orissa

State Museum, Bhubaneswar.

Lingaraj Temple Compound : Anantesvara temple; Baladev - Ekanamsa -

Krsna Trinity (Copy right: ASI)

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