Asit Mohanty & Sib Kumar Das
‘Brahma padartha’ is easily the most discussed subject in Nabakalebara. Yet, its identity is still shrouded in mystery. ‘Brahma padarthas’ are core materials in the four wooden deities of Sri Jagannath temple. These core materials are transferred from the old idols to the new in a metaphor of immortality of soul and its reincarnations.
The four ‘badagrahis’ entitled to perform the transfer of ‘Brahma padartha’ get the chance to see and touch these secret core material kept within the four idols. Bound by a vow, they never disclose the identity of ‘Brahma padartha’ to anyone. Till date, generations of these ‘daitapati’ servitors have steadfastly kept the identity of ‘Brahma padartha’ a closely guarded secret.
Any unsolved mystery inevitably gives rise to speculations, myths as well as absurdities. There are several theories regarding the identity of ‘Brahma padartha’, several of them based on myths. Many believe ‘Brahma padartha’ to be the mortal remains of Lord Sri Krishna. This belief is rooted in an episode in Odia Mahabharat written by Adikabi Sarala Das. Some western researchers have also quoted this theory. According to this belief, the body of Sri Krishna did not burn up completely despite repeated efforts. Legend has it that the unburnt mortal remains of Sri Krishna were flown in the sea and reached the Puri coast to be used as ‘Brahma padartha’ of ‘daru’ idols. But this belief has no historical basis and is completely based on mythology. Moreover, it is quiet illogical to accept that something thrown into sea near Dwaraka on the western coast of India could circumnavigate around the Indian peninsula to reach the Puri coast on the eastern side.
Some others claim ‘Brahma padartha’ may be a tooth of Goutama Buddha. As per Buddhist history, a tooth of Buddha collected from his funeral pyre by a ‘ther’ named Kshyema. This tooth had reached Kalinga where it was worshipped in a city named Dantapura. Historians say this tooth is now being worshipped at the ‘Dantamandir’in Kandy in Sri Lanka. Kalinga had faced several invasions because of this tooth. Its king Guhashiva had been killed in battle. His daughter Hemamala and son-in-law Dantakumar had managed to escape to Sri Lanka along with the tooth of Buddha. So, this tooth cannot be the ‘Brahma padartha’.
Some claim ‘Brahma padartha’ is actually a ‘shaligram’. To escape the devastation caused by sea waves and attacks of Raktabahu, the idols of Sri Jagannath temple had been whisked away to Sonepur area in western Odisha. Idols were buried deep down the ground. Later king Jajatikeshari had recovered remnants of these idols and new idols had been constructed to replace them. On the instructions of Sankaracharya, a monk named Bharati Acharya had visited Nepal to procure two shaligrams. These are thought to be ‘Brahma padartha’. But analysts of rituals of Sri Jagannath temple are of the opinion that worship of shaligram does not need ‘prana pratistha’ or invocation of life. But ‘prana pratistha’ is an integral ritual for deities of Sri Jagananth temple.
Another myth regarding ‘Brahma padartha’ is related to Sati and Lord Shiva. Shiva was doing tandav carrying corpse of Sati on his shoulders. Lord Vishnu cut down Sati’s body into many parts by his Sudarshan chakra. Its naval portion fell at Jajpur and was carried by river to sea. It was collected from Puri coast and was divided into four parts to become ‘Brahma padartha’ of four idols. This again has mythological overtones.
Several other objects have been assumed to be ‘Brahma padartha’. They include mercury kept in small caskets, miniature idol of a couple in sleeping position, tulsi leaves crafted from gold or ‘ashtadhatu’ alloy.
Another assumption based on circumstantial evidence claims the ‘Brahma padartha’ inside idol of Sri Jagannath is shaligram and a Shri Gopal Yantra drawn on gold leaf. Idol of Sri Balabhadra does contain gold Shivalinga along with ‘Shaiva Yantra’ as ‘Brahma padartha’. Core material in Devi Subhadra is a ‘Bhuvaneswari Yantra’ drawn on gold plate and ‘Brahma padartha’ of Sri Sudarshan is a shaligram and ‘Sri Nrusimha Yantra’ made up of gold.
There is no authorised statement or clear evidence to prove any of these assumptions true. But it can be safely presumed that it is a small thing. It may be too common to look at, but must be extremely important because of its metaphorical, spiritual values. Its mystery provides scope and enthusiasm to delve into the realms of spiritual evolution.
‘Brahma padartha’ happens to be the basis of the existence of ‘daru’ idols. Therefore, insight into ‘Brahma’ can put some light on the unexplained arena of ‘Brahma padartha’. Indian philosophy terms omnipresence of eternal existence as ‘Brahma’. It is a state of perception of ultimate eternal reality, which is beyond description and mortal sense organs. Some ‘mahavakya’ of Indian philosophy have tried to put some light on the perception of ‘Brahma’. They are ‘sarva khalvidwam Brahma (every thing is Brahma)’, ‘tat twam asi (you are that)’, ‘ayamatma Brahma (I am Brahma), ‘Aham Brahmosmi (myself Brahma)’ and ‘pragyanam Brahma (knowledge in Brahma)’. Adi Sankaracharya had assigned one ‘mahavakya’ for each of the four ‘dhams’ established by him including Puri. For Puri the ‘mahavakya’ was ‘pragyanam Brahma’.
Brahma is also considered to be the eternal existence without any beginning or end. One, who experiences Brahma becomes that or remains in ‘Brahmisthiti’ or state of Brahma. So, scriptures have said ‘Brahmavit Brhamaiva bhavati’. It is another description of the ultimate state of consciousness termed as ‘nirvikalpa samadhi’ or ‘nirvana’.
So, ‘Brahma padartha’ cannot be accepted as the identity of Brahma. Everything in this existence, including ourselves as well as ‘Brahma padartha’, is a manifestation of same ‘Brahma’. Anything that has manifested has a beginning and end. ‘Brahma’ is the ultimate eternal source of the whole existence. The basis of existence of ‘Brahma padartha’ as well as we mortals is surely the same,
Let ‘Daitapati’ servitors continue to keep the identity of ‘Brahma padartha’ a closely guarded secret. Let them continue with the claim that perception of ‘Brahma padartha’ is excusive birth right of their clan. Commoners should not be disheartened by it. As per Indian spiritual tenets, every being has the potential to realise ‘Brahma’ or to attain omnipresent eternal state of ‘Brahma’.
‘Brahma padartha’ is the basis of divinity or life force of ‘daru’ idols of Sri Jagannath temple. Any human can also unravel the mystery of ‘Brahma padartha’ by trying to unravel and explore the basis of own existence because omnipresence is the identity
The servitors take pride in having perceived ‘Brahma padartha’ and experience it through their five bodily sense organs. Mind is considered to be more subtle sense organ and every human has the capability to use own mind for the purpose.
Adi Sankaracharya had provided a technique to unravel ‘Brahma’. It is ‘neti-neti’ or continuous denials till one reaches the ultimate state of realisation. We can use this technique to reach ‘Brahma padartha’ of our mortal existence by unravelling various strata of our basis of existence.
One can say breath is the basis of our existence while some may put it as the brain. But we should not stick to any perception and continue our search till we reach ultimate basis of our existence is. Our core of existence cannot be different from the basis of existence of Sri Jagannath. Mystery of ‘Brahma padartha’ continues as a catalyst to kindle this urge for ultimate exploration in us.