It must be 4:00 in the afternoon, when the car stopped near the Jagannath Temple, Puri. The cyclic sound of sea waves suggested that the famous sand sculpture beach of Puri was very near. Despite the beach being so near our first task was to find the temple priest, who was a relative of our kind driver.
He said was wearing an orange dhoti and white kurta, well this made the task extremely easy. After minimum of 5calls and disturbing 3 priests we finally found him. A stout young man was our guide for the temple.
As soon as we entered the temple the sound of sea waves mysteriously vanished. He made us sit outside the temple sanctum and briefed us about the flag on top of 214-metre-high temple. This flag unscientifically floats in the opposite direction of the wind. This flag is changed every day in the evening by a temple priest. This was a spectacle to watch as within minutes he climbs over the temple without any safety and support. Every devotee/tourist, cheers the priest from below.
There were a few artists trying to paint the huge greyish brown temple. We were about to ask them were they from art-school, right then the priest stopped us. He said, “Kabhi bhi koi bhi karigar ko toko mat. Aisehi Raja Indrayumna ne Bhagwan Vishnu ko isi mandir me murti banate hue toka tha isilie ye murtiya aaj tak bina haat ke hai.” (Trans: Never disturb an artist. Raja Indrayumna once disturbed the artist making the idol and till date the idols remain without hands.) He subtly connected the old fable to reality.
While moving around the temple we saw huge earthen pots and bamboo baskets full of prasad(offering). A typical fried sweet smell followed the men carrying this prasad. Looking us astound by these huge offerings he immediately said, “Isme se ek nivala bhi nai bachega aur mandir me aya ek adami bhi bhooka nai jaega. Ye is mandir ki khasiyet hai.” (Trans: Nothing of this would go waste and no one will leave hungry.)
It was about 6:30 in the evening and we could hear birds chirping. The moment he heard the birds he pointed out to the sky, “Vo dekho ek bhi panchi ya havai jahaz is mandir ke uparse nahi jaega. Raja Indruyumna ne kaha tha ki iske upar kuch nai aega swayam Vishnu unka mandir uparse dekh paenga.” (Trans: Look up no bird or plane flies above the temple as Raja Indrayumna promised Vishnu that he would have a clear view from heavens above.)
The sanctum area is closed when food is offered to the lord, he has a variety of 56 different dishes as his meal. At 7:00pm the lord has his dinner and then the sanctum is open again. But the queue was now more than an hour and the priest told us to wait until he arranges something for us to go in the sanctum. He arranged a special pass for us.
As soon as one enters the sanctum 3 huge idols with black, yellow and white faces, dilate the pupils. The idols are beautifully decorated with flowers, ornaments, and clothes. But the floor was all slippery due to offerings and huge crowd was pushing hard trying to get in. We took the blessing within minutes and immediately came out.
By then our priest was standing outside with a small bowl of plain rice (prasad). The size of the bowl somehow made us angry. 7 hungry people, at proper dinner time having from just one small bowl? Still we took it from him and divided it amongst us. Everyone hardly got a morsel of the prasad. Still, it felt as if we were completely full. In fact, everyone skipped dinner after having a single morsel.
The fable of no one leaving the temple hungry held true. We with single morsel had no more hunger and while coming out we saw people with plate full of different dishes. The temple surely was blessed, it could understand real hunger for food and our hunger for taste. It gave the underprivileged basic needs and others the basic teachings of life.
“There is more fruit in rich man’s shampoo than in poor man’s plate.“Maya Angelou. (Edited)
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