Puri, the beautiful coastal town of Odisha, has always been a special place. My first memory of ever witnessing the wide blue sea is at Puri. I still remember standing at the shore while gaping at the huge turquoise waves that crashed against the golden sand, leaving me speechless. My second surreal experience was in the Jagannath Temple. I was struck by how huge and magnificent it is. As we made our way through the crowd into the main shrine, my father lifted me up to catch a glimpse of the deities: Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their cute little sister, Devi Subhadra. It was a divine moment and the beginning of a lifetime of love between them and me.

Lord Jagannath has always intrigued me. His large round eyes resembling two wheels (Chakanayana, as he is addressed by us Odias), his benevolent smile and his love for his devotees are what make millions like me, love and worship him unconditionally. His stories often serve as a guiding light to life.

On that note, here are six amazing and important life lessons that Lord Jagannath has for his devotees.

  1. If you can’t come to me, I will come to you

Photo Courtesy @shotonnote5
The most comforting feeling that any believer or devotee can have is the feeling of their deity coming to them with all their love. It is like the deity embracing the devotee just like a parent embraces a child. Lord Jagannath does this in his own special way. Every year on Ratha Yatra, he and his siblings step out of the temple, are carried into their chariots, which are then pulled by his devotees. Millions of devotees around the world, who don’t get to visit him at his temple, catch a glimpse of him through their television sets. On this day, he leaves his abode magnanimously to embrace his devotees, to reassure them that even if they can’t come to meet him, he will always go to them.

  1. I see everyone equally

On Ratha Yatra day, the reigning king of Puri sweeps the chariots of the deities in the ritual called “Chhera Pahanra”. The Chhera Pahanra act signifies that there is no distinction between the king and a sweeper. This ritual is a testament that in the eyes of Lord Jagannath, everyone is special and equal. An act of love, no matter how small or big, seldom gets unnoticed by him. This is a strong message of equality that he has for the entire humanity where he wants his devotees to treat each other equally and with respect, leaving biases behind.

  1. During every bad flu, I am always in quarantine

Photo Courtesy @amar_nuapada
Self-quarantine, lockdown and social distancing might be phrases that became familiar to the entire world after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic but Lord Jagannath and his siblings have been following these measures since centuries.

Legend has it that after a lengthy bathing session during Deba Snana Purnima, they catch a bad cold. During the 14-day period of Anasara, they practice self-quarantine by locking themselves from the outside world. They drink medicinal potions to heal themselves and finally emerge healthier and happier for the Ratha Yatra. This particular ritual of Anasara has so much to teach the entire human race about acting responsibly during a pandemic by practicing social distancing and self-quarantine.

  1. It’s okay to take a vacation sometime

Every year on the day of Ratha Yatra, Lord Jagannath and his siblings venture out from their temple and go for a mini vacation to their Aunt’s place. While traveling on their chariots, their devotees shower them with love. At their Aunt’s place they are pampered with love, care and great food. This is the Lord’s way to take a break and relax.
For the entire mankind, which is now reeling under the pressure of overworking and overachieving, this is a subtle message to always step back, take a break, rejuvenate and surround oneself with their near and dear ones.

  1. The world is my family

Photo Courtesy @sashiprabhaa
“Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” translates to “The world is my family”. This is one of the key messages of Lord Jagannath to the world.

Unlike other Hindu deities, Lord Krishna in the form of Lord Jagannath is worshipped with his siblings. The colour of the deities of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are black, yellow and white, a subtle symbolism of the entire world population. In a world, which is torn by racism and violence, he and his siblings convey this message that no matter what your skin colour is; the world is one big family. Looking at them, we realize that we shouldn’t discriminate and hate each other; rather we should honour, love and celebrate each other’s differences.

  1. I make amends with sweets

Upon returning to his divine abode after his mini vacation, Lord Jagannath’s wife and divine consort, Devi Lakshmi gets angry, as He had missed taking her along. Hence he tries to pacify her by offering her a pitcher full of rasagollas (The famous sweet from Odisha) and flashing his divine smile. By this sweet gesture, she decides to forget the past and happily welcomes him back.

This tiny act goes a long way in emphasizing the importance of mutual understanding, love and forgiveness in relationships. It also reinforces the fact that a way to a woman’s heart is through love and her favorite sweets.