Supreme Court gives green signal to Jagannath Rath Yatra

On June 22, the Supreme court of India turned down their previous decision to stay the Rath Yatra of Lord Shri Jagannath and allowed the authorities and Temple administration to conduct the Yatra with guidelines issued by the Supreme court of India.

Supreme Court gives green signal to Jagganath Rath Yatra

The bench then issued the following directions to ensure that the yatra is conducted safely:

  1. All entry points into Puri – airports, railway stations, bus stands etc – shall be closed during the festival.
  2. The state government shall impose a curfew in Puri on all the days during the time when the Rath Yatra chariots are taken in procession. The state government may also impose curfew in Puri on such other days and during such time as deemed necessary. The curfew shall begin on Monday night itself at 8 pm.
  3. Each rath, that is, chariot, shall be pulled by not more than 500 persons. Each of those 500 persons shall be tested for coronavirus. They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative. The number 500 shall include officials and police personnel.
  4. There shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots.
  5. Each of those who are engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.
  6. Only such persons shall be associated with the rituals who have been found to have tested negative and shall maintain social distancing.
  7. The primary responsibility for conducting the Rath Yatra in accordance with these conditions shall be that of the committee in-charge of Puri Jagannath Temple Administration.
  8. The rituals and the Rath Yatra shall be freely covered by the visual media.
  9. The bare minimum number of people shall be allowed by the committee to participate in the rituals and in the Rath Yatra.
  10. The state government shall maintain a record containing details of all those who have been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra or the rituals connected therewith along with details of their medical conditions after testing.

The apex court which earlier sought the limitations mentioned in Article 25 of the constitution of India to restrict the Holy Rath Yatra, later allowed it after the centre intervened. State Government which earlier supported the decision of the Supreme Court to stay the Rath Yatra also sided with the centre most probably for political reasons.

Rath Yatra of Lord Shri Jagannath has been a very significant religious practice for Hindus living in the Indian State of Odisha and worldwide for more than a millennium. But the rath yatra has been subjected to many attacks by Islamic Invaders who came to loot and plunder the Temple. In the past, the temple has been invaded 16 times by the Islamic invaders who considered looting the temples and desecrating the idols as “Jihad”(religious war) and twice for social and political reasons.

Historical Backdrop

Let us dive deep into history which involved battles to defend the temple and attempts to set ablaze the idol. As many as 18 attacks were made on the temple between the years 800 AD and 1740 AD, with sixteen of them coming in less than four centuries starting 1360 AD.

First Invasion

The first invasion was in the 9th century, by the Rashtrakuta king – Govinda III. The images were taken away by local priests and hidden. Attacks by Hindu kings on temples of other Hindu kings did happen at times, but the worst possible result of it was that the idols began to be worshipped elsewhere. The genuine effort to wipe out the reverend idols themselves, which formed the cornerstone of most of the future invasions, was absent from this one. The Rashtrakuta invasion only meant a change of ruler, not an attempted change of culture.

Second Invasion

The second invasion on the temple of Lord Jagannath was waged by Illias Shah, the sultan of Bengal in 1340 AD during the reign of Narasinghadeva-III. Shah suddenly attacked the temple of Lord Jagannath in 1340 AD. The soldiers of Illias Shah killed the people mercilessly and looted the wealth of the temple. Narasinghadeva III was unable to protect his people and the temple. But he successfully hid the triad in an unknown place.

Third Invasion

During the reign of the Ganga King Bhanudeva III, the third invasion took place in 1360 AD by Feroz Shah Tughluq, the Muslim ruler of Delhi. At the time of invasion Bhanudeva – III was not in his capital. He got the news of the invasion. He returned to Puri with his army and Feroz Shah Tughluq was nowhere to be found. Feroz went back to Delhi via Jajnagar (Jajpur). Nothing is known about his desecration of the triad and plunder of the temple.

Fourth Invasion

The fourth invasion was launched by Ismail Ghazi, the commander of Allauddin Hussain Shah the Sultan of Bengal, in the year 1509 AD. The Suryavamsi King Prataprudradeva was the ruler of Orissa who was in South at the time of the invasion. The priests of the temple sailed the triad to the foothills of the ‘Chadheiguha Pahada’ in the ‘Chitika Lake’. On being informed, King Prataprudradeva rushed back from Deccan and drove away Ismail to the point at Huguli in Bengal.

Fifth Invasion

The fifth invasion was launched by a Muslim invader Kalapahara in the year 1568 AD during the reign of Mukundadeva Harichandan, the Chalukya King of Odissa. The servitors of the temple got information and they hid the triad in an island inside the ‘Chilika lake’ as stated in the‘Madalapanji’. The deities were hidden underground at Hastipatna in Parikuda identified with Chhapali, Khepali and Hatipada.

Kalapaharacould easily knows about the secrecy of the hidden cities. He carried the triad from ‘Chilika Lake’ to the bank of the river Ganges on an elephant where he burnt them. Bisher Mohanty, a Vaishnavite saint followed Kalapahara and managed to bring back the ‘Brahmas’ to Kujanga Gada keeping inside a Mridanga. Later on, the ‘Brahmas’ were brought to the Gopal Temple of Khurda Gada in 1575 A.D. by King Ramachandradeva. Subsequently, the ‘Brahmas’ were placed in the deities. The deities were brought back to the temple of Jagannath fromKhurdagada.

Sixth Invasion

After them, the sixth invasion jointly waged on the temple of Jagannath in 1592 Suleman, the son of Kuthu Khan and Osman, the son of Isha (ruler of Orissa). They killed the residents mercilessly. They desecrated the images of the great temple and plundered its wealth.

Seventh Invasion

During the reign of Purushottam deva of Bhoi Dynasty Mirza Khurum, the commander of Islam Khan, the Nawab of Bengal invaded Puri in 1601 A.D which is considered as the 7th attack on the temple of Lord Jagannath. The servitors of the temple got the smell of it and shifted the triad to village Kapileswarpur near Puri in vessels through the river Bhargavee. The deities were kept in the  Panchamukhi Gosani temple at Kapileswarpur.

Eighth Invasion

Hasim Khan, the Subedar of Orissawaged the eighth invasion on the great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. This time PurushottamDeva was also the King of Khurda. He shifted the deities to the Gopal temple at Khurda before Hasim’s arrival at Puri. In order to satiate his master Jahangir the then Mughal emperor, HasimKhan plundered the temple of Jagannath at Puri. The deities returned to the temple of Jagannath at Puri by the King in 1608 A.D.

Ninth Invasion

The ninth invasion on the temple of Lord Jagannath was launched by a general serving under Hasim Khan. He was a friend of Jahangir. He came to Puri in the disguise of a pilgrim accompanied by his faithful soldiers without military uniform during the celebration of the car festival. They entered the Jagannath temple and occupied it. They converted the temple into a fort.

Tenth Invasion

In 1611 A.D. Kalyan Malla, Son of Todal Mall, one of nine gems of Akbar, marched against Khurda and conquered many territories. Purushottamadeva, the King of Khurda was compelled to surrender before Kalyan Malla. On the eve of this tenth invasion, the Sevayats were frightened and shifted the triad to the ‘Mahisanasi’ in the Chilika Lake. 

Eleventh Invasion

Kalyan Mall is known to have attacked Puri temple twice. The second attack might have occurred in 1612 A.D. But this time he was retaliated by the valiant Paiks who chased him up to Cuttack and killed many of his soldiers. As a result of this, he did not venture to attack Odisha up to A.D 1617. 

Twelfth Invasion

MukarramKhan waged the 12th attack on the temple of Lord Jagannath in 1617 A.D. He created a situation of the reign of terror by his iconoclastic activities. The priests of the Jagannath temple carried away the image of Jagannath toGobapadar in panic. Mukarram Khan failed to trace the deities, fled with riches and gold but was drowned in the waters. The deities kept in a Mandap in the precinct of the Bankanidhi temple for some days and returned to Puri in 1620 A.D.

Thirteenth Invasion

The thirteenth invasion on the temple of Jagannath was launched by Mirza Ahmad Beg, the nephew of Moghul empress Nurjahan. Ahmad Beg became the Governor of Orissa in 1621 A.D. At this stage, the rebellious Moghulprince Shah Jahan arrived in Orissa with his army. Ahmad Beg left Khurda for Bengal out of fear. From Cuttack, Shahjahan proceeded to Allahabad and Oudh across Orissa.

This march of Shah Jahan through Orissa caused panic among the priests of Jagannath temple at Puri. They carried away the image of Jagannath to‘Andharigada’ in the mouth of the river Shaliaacross the Chilika lake. Efforts were made to transfer ‘Brahma’ to Gadamanitri in the Khurda District. The deities returned Puri in 1624 A.D.The triad were reinstalled on the golden throne and Mahaprasad was reintroduced.

Fourteenth Invasion

The invasion of Amir Mutaquad Khanalias Mirza Makki is considered as the fourteenth one. Mirza Makki became the new Governor of Odisha and ruled till 1641 A.D. During his GovernorshipNarasingha Deva was treacherously killed by his nephew Gangadhar who occupied the throne ofKhurda. Mirzamakki invaded the Jagannath temple for two times. His commander plundered the temple and the old palace at Balisahi. The invasion took place in the year 1645 A.D.

Fifteenth Invasion

The fifteenth invasion was waged by AmirFateh Khan in 1647 A.D. He attacked the temple and plundered valuable gems like diamond, pearl and gold etc.

Sixteenth Invasion

In 1692 AD, Aurangzeb the Moghulemperor issued an order to destroy the temple of Lord Jagannath. At that time Divyasingha Deva was the king of Khurda. Ekram Khan was the Nawab of Orissa who waged this invasion on the temple with the help of his brother Mastram Khan. The Nawab entered the temple and climbed to the golden throne of Jagannath. The treasure of the temple was looted.

The King was unable to face the invader hidden in an unknown place. Lord Jagannath was hidden behind the ‘Bimala Temple in the precinct of the Srimandir. The triad was shifted one after another to ‘Maa Bhagabati Temple’ at Gadakokal located atBrahmagiri block. As per records of the ‘Madalapanji’ the Bije-Pratima (Representatives of Lords) were transferred to Gadakokal. Then the deities were shifted to Bada Hantuada in Banpur across the Chilika Lake. The deities were returned to Puri in 1699 A.D. 

Seventeenth Invasion

Muhammad Taqi Khan became Naib Nazim (Deputy Subedar) of Orissa from A.D.1727 to 1734. During his time he invaded the temple of Jagannath for two times in 1731 A.D.and 1733 A.D. He invaded the temple with iconoclastic zeal. He invaded to demolish the temple, desecrate the God and plundered its treasure. So the servitors removed the idols to Hariswar in Banpur, Chikili in Khalikote, Rumagarh in Kodala, Athagada in Ganjam and finally to Marda of Kodala. 

Eighteenth Invasion

But an unwanted incident occurred at Puri in the year 1881 AD. That the followers of Alekh religion did not recognize Jagannath worship. In that year a large number of the followers of the Alekh religion came from Sambalpur and Raipurregions to Puri. They entered the Jagannath temple. According to ‘Utkal Dipika’ they brought the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra out of the temple and burnt them on Grand Road at Puri which was recorded in the records of police. As a result, the invaders were imprisoned. 

The most significant feature in the history of invasion on the great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri is that in no case the ‘Brahma’ of the deities were destroyed which continued till today. 

The servitors played an important role in safeguarding the triad at the time of danger. The Kings have taken care of the temple from destruction by surrendering before the invaders. 

In Ayodhya, Kasi and Mathura the mosques have been built in place of the temples due to Muslim invasion. At Puri, the temple of Lord Jagannath remained standstill at the time of the invasion. No mosque had been erected which is the miracle of the deities. The people of Puri have suffered but kept the temple safe.

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