Puri: Jagannatha Temple: Relics

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat May 2 17:07:46 UTC 1998

Mary Storm <umadevi at SFO.COM> wrote:

>I just recently came across a 19th c. reference to relic bones in the
>Jagganatha Temple in Puri, which are supposedly associated with Krsna.

Read "The Cult of Jagannath and the regional tradition of Orissa" (eds.)
Anncharlott Eschmann, Hermann Kulke, Gaya Charan Tripathi; New Delhi:
Manohar, 1978, for a very comprehensive set of articles on the subject.

In the 19th c., there was great speculation, bordering on certainty
through repeated assertion, that the "brahma-padArtha" that is put into
the new idol of Jagannatha is a Buddhist relic. The most common
assumption was that the relic is a tooth. However, the fact remains that
neither the Brahmin priests of the temple nor outsiders know what it
really is. The Brahmin priests think it is a sAlagrAma stone, but the
"brahma-padArtha" is put into the idol by a non-Brahmin tribal priest,
who is blindfolded when he transfers it from the old idol. It might be a
tribal artefact that has nothing to do with either Buddhism or
Brahminism in its origins.

>Considering the pollution associated with death and the body in
>this would seem to be  highly unusual, not to say unlikely.

No pollution is associated with the death of a sannyAsin. The body is
buried, and a memorial structure is usually built over the site. Erosion
by the sea constantly damages these structures, which exposes the buried
remains. It should be remembered that Puri has also been a major center
for sannyAsins of various traditions, and not all of them are associated
with the Jagannatha temple. If specific body relics have been found,
they need not always be of Buddhist origin, nor necessarily associated
with the Jagannatha temple tradition.


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