Bharat Mata Puja is celebrated every year by villagers in the district of Kandhamal on Republic day. This year also it was celebrated with a religious fervour by the villagers. It was started by the inspiration of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, who, with his unceasing service motivated several million people! Taking cue from his teachings of fearlessness as preached by Swami Vivekananda and Shraddha as exemplified in the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a fragrant breeze of change has begun!
The message of the Sri Puri Jagannath, to quote Sri Balasaheb Deoras ji, has been, “If untouchability is not a sin, nothing else is. It must go lock stock and barrel!” This age-old concept has been reworked in the villages by the same means as shown originally by Lord Jagannath. Tradition tells, in Jagannath Puri, Sudarsan denotes the chaitanya, the strength, the pride, and everything strong and good of the society! Subhadra is bestowed with the duty of day-today living, amidst a busy society — to make life more meaningful and a celebration! Balabhadra has been the symbol of hard work in trade and cultural affairs. Jagannath glues all this together into a coherent one large living entity, just how Pt. Deen Dayal ji envisioned in his work on Integral Humanism!
Seeing it Blossom
The villagers, guileless as they are, they have immense devotion and bonding for their lord Shri Jagannath. It is a living breathing God to them who tills the land with them and dances with them every night! Each village is typically a small cluster of 60-100 houses in the lap of Mother Nature. Their day starts early before sunrise and folds with the setting sun. They are dependent on farming. Modern education has just begun to touch them. A journey to their Lord’s home at Puri is an unimaginably expensive, nay, forbidden task to them! What Swamiji did was to bring the Lord to them, make them believe again in their own divinity. It would melt any petrified heart to see the love with which they acknowledge the message of their deity and rise up to the challenge. Few carpenters have taken the task of carving the image of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan. Yet other women artist paint it in most attractive colours. And some other women artist dress them up to their heart’s delight. Finally, it arrives in a village where the villages would all have already prepared a permanent abode for Them. It is cleaned and decorated as a loving devotional ritual. Today the entire village would have fasted! Young girls would have dressed in their favourite bright yellow Sari and the elderly drummer and kirtaniya would have polished their manjeera, it will glitter like pure gold! All as a token of love to their new companion! One boy takes Sudarshan on his head, one elderly man takes Balaram, One takes Jagannath and one girl takes Subhadra. They will carry it under the guidance of the Mausi of the village to each home! Yes, the lord will visit and accept the affection of each villager at their own home! And the rest? They tail their deity singing their traditional kirtans, swinging and dancing in divine fervour, the sun shining on them like an old man beaming at his frolicking grandchild. One person from the house comes out, washes the feet of those who carry the Lord and give offerings to the Lord. It takes an effort to hold back tears and emotions as the welcome them to their humble home! This goes on till evening, the entire village fasting together and singing in unison. At evening when they all have personally welcomed Him to their village. They sit in His home and discuss! They discuss that there is no discrimination from now on as the Lord has come to all home! “Jagannath ka bhaat, Jag falaaye haath“! There has been a long marathon of preparatory meeting which culminates into this one. “Mausi” agrees to guide the villagers in her capacity going by her experience of life, always in the light of her Lord. “Sudarshan” agrees to keep the youth interested in physical activity and games every day without miss! And what does the Lord want? What can the villagers offer to Him? While they are saddened at this thought, “Jagannath” redeems them by saying Lord only wants affection, make sure to come to him with the offering of a Tulsi leaf after their games and that will more than suffice! “Balaram” agrees to keep abreast with modernity and aid the village in making the most out of it. “Jagannath” vows to treat the entire family as one and keep them together. “Subhadra” takes charge of the “Kirtan” mandali and learns and trains new Bhajans to her playmates. All of them plan to assemble regularly. They also plan to invite neighbouring village the next time. They also plan to go to nearby village, all together, taking loving Jagannath to every home there! Now they all break their day long fast by cooking and eating together! Then starts another round of Devotional songs that go deep into the night! Here again, all the women take the lead in singing!
Spreading the good word
Each village sets into a routine. Celebrating Krishna Janmashtami and Rath Yatra at their own village. Planning well in advance and combing the event together on an unprecedented level where several villages come together and do things in the grandest way imaginable! They are overwhelmed by the fact that Rath Yatra is happening at their place!
Bharat Mata Puja is an event when they all come together and pay their obeisance to their Motherland and vow to work ceaselessly for the welfare of all!. Taking vows to walk on the path shown by their guide and friend Swamiji. After the death of their beloved Swamiji, the void in the Hindu society was filled thus with the help of Sanskar Bharati organization. Few have decided to devote their life to this task, including six volunteers who are continuing to spread the message far and wide under their banner.
Rediscovering the divinity in Self
This movement has so far went into twenty-one villages. These villages interconnect and meet regularly. Each village has now a trained Kirtan mandali, full with a singer and drummer. Many girl children have taken up higher studies as a joint effort of the villagers. Discrimination, by whatever reason, has become a thing of the past. The strength and closeness of the villagers and the villages has increased. They love it and they welcome visitors to come and join in their play of the Lord’s play!
This has slowly wiped the wound that was carved by the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. They have emerged stronger and forged new bonds of love. The weeds of coerced conversion and abandoning their tradition in favour of blind aping of a modern world drunk with self-praise has weakened and lost its intoxicating strength. The new breeze brings back to them the simplicity and purity of their former self and they rediscover it in a journey that is bound to bring peace and love to all! Om!