Vaisnavism in ODISHA
(Copy right protected by Dr. G.S. Tripathy)
Cult of Vaisnavism and its origin goes back to the pre-rigevdic period when Vishnu was conceived as a member of the solar family. From very early times Vaisnavism might have existed in the then ODISHA. This can be connected with the archeological monuments relating to the early medieval period. Holding Sankha, Chakra, gada and Padma Vishnu makes his appearance as a subsiding deity on the Temples of Odisha belonging to 6th- 7th- 8th century of Bhubaneswar and other places. An image of Vishnu with distinctive attributes had been enshrined originally in the central niche of the southern facade in the Swarnnajalesure temple at Bhubaneswar assigned to seventh century A.D. was removed to the Orissa State Museum by Prof K.C. Panigrahi. On the outer walls of this Temple, certain scenes from the life of Sri Ramchandra have been depicted out of which some scenes are clearly identifiable and discernible. Especially the scenes of Ramchandra cutting down Sapta-salas, killing of Vali, and of Veer Hanuman preparing for Flying to Lankapur or quite prominent. That the Ramayana story was fully known to the builders of this temple, has been proved beyond doubt with these panels of sculptures providing panoramic views of the life of Sri Ramchandra.
An assembly of all the main deities of the Brahmanical Pantheon has been found in which vision is quity prominent with the scenes of marriage of Siva appeared on the Bharateswar, Parsurameswar and the Swarnagaleswar temples in Bhubaneswar. Vaisnavi makes her appearance with the distinctive attribute GARUDA on the Pedestals in the group of Saptamatrukas to be found in the Parsurameswar, vaital and Mukteswar temples in Bhubaneswar. Into the sculptures of the early medieval Period, Vishnu and his female Counterpart have thus been introduced in a very nice way. Vishnu images as the presiding deities of temple shrines are not tracable in the Coastal belt of ODISHA.
At Gandharadi about fifteen kilo meters from Boudha One solitary Vishnu temple is still in existence in the hilly region to the surprise of many visitors. On the northern façade of the vaital temple an image of Harihara is to be seen in which a combined figures of Siva and Vishnu are clearly prominent. As a part of Siva, Vishnu appears here but as an independent deity. On the southern facade of Markandeswar temple a panel of sculptures appears where Brahma and Vishnu are paying homage to Siva with folded hands. It has been thus established the superiority of Lord Siva over Vishnu in many temples in the minds of Siva Bhaktas.
On the temples of Bhubaneswar Child Krishna makes his appearance. In the ODISHA state Museum, an architectural fragment containing a Panel of sculpturs showing the scene of KALIYA DALAN has been preserved, Bhubaneswar was its Provenance. Its stylistic development indicates to a temple which is not later than the seventh Century A.D. On the southern façade of the Vimana of the lord Lingraj temple these is an appearance of the figures of Nanda Yasoda, and the child srikrishna which attracts the attention of many. Almost in the same form at the north east corner of Brahmeswar temple it is found on its Western façade. Nanda is a bearded figure in both the panels’ fitting opposite Yasoda. Where Yasoda is engaged in Churning Curds. It is shown that child Srikrishna is sitting by the side of the Curd vessel.
The presiding deity is an attractive and beautiful visnu image with all his attributes at Jalauka near Chhatia in the district of Cuttack in a temple with four subsidiary ones in four corners of the compound. It is still in existence in a tolerably good condition. It is a contemporary of Mukteswar temple at Bhubaneswar built during somavanpi period. In all likelihood in the same period, a Subhastambha had been built at Jajpur which is a beautiful monolithic Pillar but due to vandalism the pillar had been pulled down. The Subhastambha is certainly a Vaisnavita monument.
Towards the close of the twelfth century, Swapneswardev, the Commander -in-chief of the Ganga dynasty built Megheswar temple which contains on its southern façade a small panel of sculpture depicting godhan-haran. Srikrishna is seated on a couch or stool with some female figures in the scene. Those figures must be Gopis on his sides with a herd of cows on the pedestals. On the right side of the top corner, this is a little bearded figure to be found is witnessing the whole scene should be identified with Brahma only.
On the bank of Vindusagar, Anant-Vasudev temple is situated. This is a vaisnavite shrive which had originally a commemorative inscription which is now preserved in the hall of the Royal Asiatic society of Great Britain in,London.In the epigraph it is stated that the temple was built for Srikrishna and BALARAMA .On the bank of Vindusagar by Chandrika Devi who was the daughter of Ananga bhim Dev(III) in the Saka Year 1200, Corresponding to 1278 A.D. Paramardi Dev, the ornament of Haihaya family married Chandrika Devi who built the Anant-Basudev temple in memorium to her husband who died in a battle fighting against Muslims in Bengal.
Bhaum queen Tribhuvan Mahadevi. I was a great devotee of visnu.She created some Vaisnava shrines but no temple of Vishnu had been built by her.
On the Balustrades of the window on the northern side of the Anant-Vasudev temple, the figures of Ram-Laxman-Sita and Hanuman appear which proves clearly that Ram was considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu as they are found place in a temple meant for Anant- Basudev. Near the balustraded window in the north, a few other cult images like Laxmi and Saraswati appear on the Jagmohana of the Anant-Basudev temple and no doubt that they are the members of the family of Vishnu. On the southern and northern niches of this temple, there are free-standing images of the Boar and Dwarf incarnation which are also enshrined respectively. On the balustrades of the window consisting of Srikrishna & Gopis to the southern side of the temple there were five images out of which three balustrades have become detached and placed in a nearby small temple by the side of vindusagar.
The ten incarnations of Vishnu are well known to the people of ODISHA clearly shows from the sculptures of the Anant-Vasudev temple built in 1278 A.D. All the incarnations are identical with Vishnu representing his different forms including the last two incarnations by name Buddha & Kalki. It should be pointed out in this connection, that the 9th incarnation of Vishnu related to Goutam Buddha by many is absolutely wrong as Goutam Buddha was the son of a Zamindar at Kapilvastu in the then Kalinga and he was a refarmering. With the influence of Geet-Govind by Jaydev, these ten incarnations have been taken as granted by many but it is not correct at all. However people of Orissa were familiar with this incarnation. Nrisimha appears to have received the special attention of the kings and people of ODISHA out of all these incarnation. In the compound of Lingaraj temple a temple of Laxmi- Nrisimha is to be found and from the days of Gangas Nrishimnath temple at Simhachalan has developed into a great shrine.
In the twelfth Century, Gitagovind had been composed by Jaydev. This appears to have been responsible for popularizing the ten incarnations including that of Buddha, where Buddha cannot be taken as an incarnation. In the fifteenth century Sarala Das composed Mahabharata where there are references to necklaces with the incarnations of Vishnu and that their special attributes were well known even to the artisans of ODISHA.
During the Ganga period, Narahari Tirtha and Jaydev appear to have made Vaisnavism more popular in the then ODISHA. A disciple of Anant tirth, Narahari Tirtha lived in ODISHA for long twelve years and exercised a great influence on the Ganga royal family who was the founder of the DVAIT philosophy. He worked as governor for some years and acted as regent to the boy king Narasimha II. Narahari placed the boy king when he came up age and then went to his guru with the images of Rama, Sita. This was his original mission assigned to him by Madhab Tirtha. For the spread of Vaisnavism of his own sect in the then Orissa & Kalings, numerous inscriptions of Simhachalan and Srikurumanatha have been testified. Due to his influence, perhaps, the later Ganga kings alternately bore the names of Narashimha and Bhanu where Bhanu being considered an aspect of Vishnu. Ultimately the sun cult merged into Vaisnav cult in Orissa. As an aspect of Vishnu, the sun was conceived and was called Viranchi Narayan later on. The only two known examples of saura monuments are the temples of Konark and the beautiful temple of PALIA in the Balasore district. In Dhenkanal district two colossal images of images of PADMANABHA or sessayi Vishnu are to be found near Talcher.
On the stony bed of the river Brahmani at Sarang a colossal image of PADMANABHA measuring thirty two feet in height is also to be found which has special attributes of Vishnu in this form. Another colossal image of Padmanabha measuring fifty one feet and a half in length is to be found at Bhimkand, 18 miles from Talcher. To the eighth and ninth century A.D. these images can be assigned.
From this various places of ODISHA, stray images of vision assignable to the later going period and the Suryavansi period have been discovered. Huge images of Krishna-Vasudev have been discovered in the Prachi valley of the Puri district. But with the special attributes of flute and peacock feather of Krishna images are rarely found. Probably belonging to the transitory period of the 14th & 15th century A.D. One such image is now preserved in Orissa State Museum. With four hands, two of which hold a flute, the deity stands cross-legged. This is an indication, that Krishna-Vasudev of the earlier conception was being merged into Krishna the flute- holder who became famous for his alliance with the Gopis.
Specially by Jaydev, the cult of Krishna Gopi vallaba was made in popular the then ODISHA. As described in the Geet-govinda, the form of Vishnu with Radha as his consort represents the conception of Vishnu of the later Sahajiya sect. The religious philosophy expounded in Geet- govinda had not been accepted by the earlier Poets of the then ODISHA even though it might have been popular. In the sixteenth century Oriya Bhagabat had been composed by Jaganath Das. It does not refer to Radha at all. Oriya Bhagabata is not an exact translation of Sanskrit Bhagabata Mahapurana. At a number of points, the poet has deviated from the original. Radha could have been introduced easily by him but he has not done at all. In their works the other members of Panchasakhas have also avoided Radha scrupulously. Sarala Das also has ridiculed the tenants of Sahajiya sect as propounded by Gitagovinda.
To all sects, Sarala Das has shown respects in his writing but there is one exception to this general pattern of his religious behaviour. SAHAJIYAS have been the targets of Sarala Dasa’s satires. In the fifth can to Geet-govinda there is an episode in which a husband & a wife were out at night to meet their Paramours. In intense darkener they lost their ways and met each other. They soon became engaged in copulation without knowing each other. Through the letterance aver of Soft words at the time of engagement, they could recognize each other eventually. In his Adi Parva, Sarla Das has utilized this episode satirically in his own way On Srikrishna.
A pattern of vaisnavism found in the Gita-govinda was different from the one that followed by ODISHA Poets till the sixteenth century A.D. From the time of the long- sojourn of Sri-chaitanya at Puri till his death in 1533A.D, a change in the conception of Krishna cult however took place in ODISHA. This great saint never followed nor favoured the type of love between Srikrishna and SriRadhe as described in Geet-govind. The love between SriKrishna and SriRadha is to be emotionalized and idealized according to him which had no relation with carnal desire. Within the meaning that he had given into it his followers in the then ODISHA and elsewhere did not keep in love as Preached by his Writing on Krishna Charita, all the later Vaisnava ODIA poets followed more Jayadev than Srichaitanaya in dealing with the love between Srikrishna & SriRadha. With a full description of sexual intercourse almost all of them ended their works as it is to be found in Gitagovinda. DeenKrishna, Abimanyha, Bhakta Charan, Baladev, and Gopal Krishna have all followed the model of love in their works between SriRadhe& Srikrishna as it is described in Gitagovinda. But they had one deviation in their works. They have not represented Radha as a Khandita woman forsaken by her lover like Jaydev.
In 1568, the then ODISHA was Occupied by Afgans and it became benighted country thereafter. The ODIA vaisnava Poets were very much influenced by the petty chiefs who use their Patrons in the dark age that followed in the then ODISHA. Their Patrons favoured the type of love depicted in the Gitagovinda. During this period, a class of ODIA literature known as VOLIS originated. On the people at large, it must have exercised a great demoralizing influence. For controlling their sexual relation between man and woman, the volis dealt with love between Srikrishna & Sriradha in a form that transgressed all the limits prescribed by the human society. SriKrishna is described enjoying sexual pleasure in various guises, such as garland maker, the dealer of ornaments, the boat-man, the dealer of brass utensils even as a tiger or a mouse in their works of these poets. In all conceivable forms in fact, Srikrishna was described as a voluptuously lewd person whose only business was to enjoy sexual pleasure. But it is totally & basically wrong because these poets were influenced by the Gitagovinda only.
ODISHA produced a vaisnava literature so rich, so varied & so great in poetic attainments and so great in number that its parallel can hardly be found in any other contemporary literature of this lenivense specially in the sixteenth century A.D. But this unparalleled literature was vitiated by a debased form of religions philosophy forming its theme.
At a very late stage of her history, it is to be noted that SriRadhe as a deity or consort of SriKrishna was introduced into the Indian literature specially in ODISHAN religion and culture. In the vast Indian Sanskrit literature except in a single verse of the saptasati of HALA of uncertain date Radhe does not appear at all. In which state of India the character Radhe was created at first that is also not known.
Before the time of Jaydev, it is stated, in the history of Bengal, Probably Radha was a Bengali innovation. We do not know how for it is true. On the other hand, Sri P. Acharya of ODISHA maintains in his article entitled “RADHA-KRISHNA MURTI PUJARA ITIHASA” in his (“ODISARA PRATNA TATTVA O ANYANYA PRAVANDHA, 1969-PP411) that Radhe Originated in ODISHA.
Before the sixteenth century A.D. the Image of RADHA was not associated with the image of Gopal or Srikrishna to be found in ODISHA –is a fact, be if as it may. Originally the image of Radha was not associated that with the shrines of KHIRACHORA Gopinath at Remuna in the Balesore district or Sakhigopal in Puri district. There are also other shrines of Gopinath or Gopal at Balianta. Sarakare and Hirapur in Puri district besides these two famous shrines. No Radha image was originally associated in them. Near Jajpur we find Gopinath images of Gopinath Pur and of Malatira near Agarpada in the Balasore district had similarly no Radha image at all by their sides. Sri P. Acharya had mentioned in his article that a Radhe image had been taken to Brindaram from ORISSA to be associated with SriKrishna.
We known very well Sri Narahari TIRTHA took the images of Rama & Sita from the then Orissa and presented them to his teacher Madhave Tirtha.
But it does not indicate that the cults of these images originated & in the then ODISHA with the transportation of these images of Rama Sita & Radhe to the other regions of India from Orissa. That ODISHA had the best sculptors who produced most beautiful cult images only it indicates.
From the sixteenth century onwards the entry of Radhe into ODISHA religion and culture througly changed their original Character and gave a different turn to her history.
Sri Chaitanya demoralized ODISHA and the ODIAS also is acceptable with the fall of Pratap Rudra Dev and his invincible army. This is the view of Prof. R.D. Banerjee.
The then Oriyas were influenced by Jaydev & by Sri Chaitanya also.