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How the first Jagannath deity came to ISKCON

3 July, 2019 01:42:18
How the first Jagannath deity came to ISKCON

In recent times, because of his Divine Grace, Puri's Ratha-yatrá has become famous worldwide. Srila Prabhupada brought the Ratha-yätra to the Western world, inspiring his disciples to celebrate the first Ratha-yåtra on 9 July 1967 in San Francisco. Now, because of his endeavours and inspiration, the whole planet receives Lord Jagannatha's mercy.

Sri Jagannätha, Baladeva, and Subhadra Deities are the first to be worshiped in Deity form in ISKCON. One day Malati, one of disciples of Srila Prabhupada, hurried into Srila Prabhupada's apartment, took a small item out of her shopping bag, and placed it on Prabhupada's desk for his inspection. “What is this?” Śrila Prabhupäda looked down and beheld a three-inch wooden doll with a flat head, a black, smiling face, and big, round eyes. The figure had stubby, forward-jutting arms, a simple green and yellow torso with no visible feet. Srila Prabhupada immediately folded his palms and bowed his head, offering the little figure respects.

“You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe,” he said, smiling and bright-eyed. “He is Krishna. Thank you very much.” Srila Prabhupäda beamed with pleasure, while Malati and others sat amazed at their good fortune of seeing Swamiji so pleased. Prabhupada explained that this was Lord Jagannatha, a Deity of Krishna worshiped all over India for thousands of years. He said that Jagannatha is worshiped along with two other Deities: His brother, Balaräma, and His sister Subhadrā.

Excitedly, Malati confirmed that there were other, similar figures at Cost Plus, the import store where she had found the little Jagannatha, and Srila Prabhupada said that she should go back and buy them. Malati told her husband, Syämasundara, and together they hurried back and bought the two other dolls in the set. Srila Prabhupada placed the black-faced, smiling Jagannatha on the right. In the center, he placed the smallest figure, Subhadra, who had a red, smiling mouth and a rectangular black and yellow torso. The third figure, Balarama, with a white, round head, red-rimmed eyes, and a happy red smile, had the forward-jutting arms like Jagannätha and blue and yellow base. Prabhupada placed him next to Subhadra. As Prabhupada looked at them together on his desk, he asked if anyone knew how to carve.

Syamasundara said that he was a wood sculptor and Prabhupada asked him to carve three-foot-high copies of the little Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra.

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