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The Vesas of Lord Jagannatha
(story retold by Sri Gadadhara Das)
The term "juggernaut" entered the English language long before Lord Jagannatha came to British shores. Describing an "irresistible force" or procession, "juggernaut" eventually became identified with mighty battleships - and now means a large lorry.
But the original Lord Jagannatha truly embodies an irresistible force, because He is none other than Krisna: the all attractive Lord of the Universe. And the annual procession of the Deity of Krisna in the form of Jagannatha carried on the Ratha chariot enacts one of the world's oldest and largest festivals. A celebration dating back thousands of years in India. Rathayatra has spread to cities throughout the world since the late 1960's.
The history of Lord Jagannatha is a story of devotion, the eternal love between man and God. It tells how the prayers of a devotee caused the Lord to make His appearance in a wondrous way. And it shows how Krisna came as the Deity Jagannatha, so that He could accept loving service from all classes of men.
The ancient Vedic literature describes the world ruled by King Indradyumna as a tranquil place. From his capital in Avantipura, the emperor surveyed a land filled with peace and prosperity unknown in modern times. Abundance was everywhere during the enlightened age of Satya-yuga, except in the heart of the King. Indradyumna felt all vacant in the world he ruled, because he hankered for a pleasure beyond material bounds: he long to see the Lord face to face.
This is a difficult feat, even for the greatest monarch in the world. The Gita states that such a boon is rarely achieved by mystics who devote their entire lives to God realization. Usually, the more one is involved in material pursuits, the less likely one is to make spiritual advancement. So how is it possible for a king absorbed in worldly affairs to obtain the Lord's special mercy?
Krisna is not partial to displays of material wealth or power: they are insignificant compared to His glories. What is significant though is the love each soul may direct to the Lord. And sometimes Krisna can be conquered by a very pure love.
The Search Begins
One day as Indradyumna lamented that he was not able to serve God directly, a pilgrim suddenly appeared. This man revealed how he had actually seen the Lord accept direct loving service in His Deity form of Nila Madhava. God incarnates in many ways throughout the ages, and sometimes He manifests in the form of stone or wood just to please His devotees and accept their loving service.
The traveler described how, on the remote mountain top of Niladri, he had seen the demigods worshiping the Lord. The King immediately dispatched his chief brahminical priest, Vidyapati, to find this Deity, so that all of Avantipura could be presented at the lotus feet of the Lord as an offering of love.
After a month's journey without rest, Vidyapati found Mount Niladri, where he discovered Sabaras, low-born pig herders, camped near the holy ground. Looking beyond class distinctions married the daughter of the tribal chieftain, Vishvavasu, who had been worshiping the Lord in great secrecy. Due to his daughter's pleas, Vishvavasu finally agreed to show Lord Nila Madhava to Vidyapati - only if he went to the site blindfolded. But the brahmin tricked his father in law by sprinkling mustard seeds along the path, seeds that would eventually sprout and lead the emperor back to claim the Lord's attention.
For many years Lord Nila Madhava had been served by Vishvavasu with simple fruits and flowers. Knowing the prayers of Indradyumna, Nila Madhava spoke to Vishvavasu and revealed His intention of accepting more opulent worship according the desires of Indradyumna. Vishvavasu was devastated.
No-one can predict the plan of the Lord; sometimes He bestows special mercy on His devotee by being present before them, and sometimes that mercy is also shown through separation which increases the longing and attachment of the devotee.
That the Deity was speaking to him did not strike Vishvavasu as remarkable, he was too much absorbed in grief at Nila Madhava's imminent disappearance. He blamed Vidyapati for persuading Nila Madhava to accept Indradyumna's worship. Accusing the brahmin of cheating him out of Cod's favor, Vishvavasu bound Vidyapati with ropes. But his daughter heard her husband's cries for help and freed him to return to Avantipura.
The Deity Vanishes
Upon Vidyapati's return, Indradyumna climbed upon his chariot and led an army to the mountain, where they located the trail of tiny mustard plants. The two struggled with the temple door and discovered that Nila Madhava had vanished.
Only Vishvavasu could be suspected of removing the Deity. In his desperation to keep the Lord he might have done anything. However, when they found the chief of the Sabaras, he was still mourning Nila Madhava's departure. Not believing his lament they arrested Vishvavasu. Suddenly Narada Muni, a great sage, appeared and revealed what had really happened to Nila Madhava.
The Lord had withdrawn due to His own choosing, but He would re-appear again in the form of Lord Jagannatha to bestow benedictions upon the entire world. Whereas Nila Madhava had enjoyed the simple and intimate service of Vishvavasu, His appearance as Jagannatha would be for the benefit of everyone. First, however, Narada Muni announced that a great temple must be constructed. Then Lord Brahma, chief of the demigods, would receive Indradyumna on his own planet and plan for the sacred installation of Jagannatha Swami, the Lord of the Universe.
When the temple was finally completed, Narada Muni escorted Indradyumna to his father's abode on Satya-loka. The home of Lord Brahma is inaccessible to ordinary human beings, but so great was Indradyumna's devotion to God that even Lord Brahma was eager to meet him. Lord Brahma further described how Lord Jagannatha would appear in a wooden form from a great kalpa-vrksa tree, transported from the spiritual planet of Svetadvipa.
As Indradyumna returned to earth in a space ship from Brahma's planet, he noticed that things had changed. Though he was away for what seemed a short time, the earth had aged many years. No one recognized him in his own kingdom, and his trusted priest Vidyapati had been replaced by another.
The Sacred Tree
The King remained bewildered until a mystical crow revealed how all Indradyumna's associates had died in his absence. For the sake of worshiping the Supreme he had lost everything: family, friends, and kingdom.
Despite this hardship, Indradyumna remained steadfast in his courage. He knew that God sometimes tests the love of His devotees by removing all other objects of affection. King Indradyumna was determined to hasten the Lord's arrival by fasting, if necessary until death. Then Jagannatha did appear - but only in a dream - and the emperor was guided to a great log floating in the ocean. No ordinary tree, this giant had come uprooted from the spiritual sky, part of the same transcendental energy as the Lord's own body. Even the might of the army could not budge it.
A lowly Sabara stepped from the crowd and handled the huge trunk with ease. This amazing fellow turned out to be a descendant of Vishvavasu, and he carried the sacred log to Gundica Temple for preparation.
The greatest craftsmen in all the world assembled to carve the Lord's Deity form, according to scriptural injunctions. But all their tools simply shattered to pieces. Then a mysterious old brahmin appeared, Ananta Maharana, and he agreed to carve the Deity of the Lord. But it had to be done on his own terms: complete isolation for three weeks. Gates were locked and the beat of the chisel resounded for days. After only two weeks however, it stopped and Indradyumna worried. The brahmin was old, perhaps...
Overcoming the restraints of priests and advisors, the King wrenched open the doors to discover an unusual sight: a form of the Deity never before seen. The Lord's form was apparently unfinished having no hands or feet, and the Emperor feared he had made a great mistake in opening the doors too early. The aged sculptor had vanished.
As Indradyumna cursed his foolishness, new found friends tried to console him. The descendant of the Sabaras said, "Whatever happens is by the Lord's will. You acted out of love so there can be no wrong." And the chief priest said that the Deity of Jagannatha, along with His brother, Baladeva, and sister, Subhadra, should be painted and dressed and prepared for the installation ceremony by Lord Brahma.
Indradyumna felt ashamed until God's plan was finally revealed by Narada Muni. A passage in the Vedas mentions that the Lord has no hands or feet, which impersonalists and atheists interpret to deny the Lord's personal existence. So Jagannatha's appearance proves that He is a person - unlike any other - and that He can still bestow blessings and accept offerings of love, even without hands and feet.
Narada Muni then described how he had seen this form before, while visiting Dvaraka. At that time, the Lord's Vrindavan pastimes were being discussed, and the Lord overheard the conversation and felt loving separation for His devotees. He went into a trance and His eyes opened wide, His feet and hands retracted into His body. Sharing in this transcendental exchange, Krisna's sister and brother were similarly transformed.
Then, Narada Muni announced that his father, Lord Brahma, would soon arrive to install the Jagannatha Deity. Before the celebration began, Brahma gave Indradyumna divine vision to see that his new friends were, in fact, the embodied souls of his old companions Vidyapati and Vishvavasu. Thus the story of Jagannatha's appearance ended happily, with the reunion of loving devotees to honor and serve the Lord.
After thousands of years, the Jagannatha Deity remains a source of unlimited joy to His friends and servants. And the Rathayatra procession is a time to celebrate the loving exchange between the Personality of Godhead and His devotees. All those who take part in this festival will receive His special blessings and help on their journey back home, back to Godhead. Hare Krisna. Jagannatha Swami Ki Jaya!
composed by Adi Sankaracarya, uttered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
jagannathaishtakam punyam ya pathet prayata shuci
sarva-papa-vishuddhatma vishnu-lokam sa gacchati
(1) kadacit kalindi-tata-vipina-sangitaka-ravo
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(2) bhuje savye venum shirasi shikhi-puccham kati-tate
dukulam netrante sahacara-katakisham vidadhate
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(3) mahambhodhes tire kanaka-rucire nila-shikhare
vasan prasadanta sahaja-balabhadrena balina
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(4) krpa-paravara sajala-jalada-shreni-ruciro
surendrair aradhya shruti-gana-shikha-gita-carito
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(5) ratharudho gacchan pathi milita-bhudeva-patalai
stuti-pradurbhavam prati-padam upakarnya sadaya
daya-sindhur bandhu sakala jagatam sindhu-sutaya
jagannathah svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(6) para-brahmapida kuvalaya-dalotphulla-nayano
nivasi niladrau nihita-carano 'nanta-shirasi
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(7) na vai yace rajyam na ca kanaka-manikya-vibhavam
na yace 'ham ramyam sakala jana-kamyam vara-vadhum
sada kale kale pramatha-patina gita-carito
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
(8) hara tvam samsaram druta-taram asaram sura-pate
hara tvam papanam vitatim aparam yadava-pate
aho dine 'nathe nihita-carano nishcitam idam
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
The world-famous Rathayatra of Lord Jagannatha is also known as Yatra and Ghosha Yatra. It is held on Ashadha Sukla Dvitiya i.e. the second day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July) every year. Rathayatra symbolizes that after a long time of the separation Lord Sri Krisna is going to Kuruksetra from Dvaraka to meet the inhabitants of Vrindavan. Three different sizes of chariots are made for this Rathayatra which begins from Jagannatha temple. The chariot of the Lord Jagannatha is called Nandighosa, the chariot of Balabhadra is called Taladhvaja, the chariot of Lady Subhadra is called Padmadhvaja. Except the vessels of kalasa, which are on top of the chariots, and the Deities, the rest of chariots is made new every year in accordance to the strict ancient specifications. Nearly around one thousands of devotees are needed to pull these chariots with the help of four ropes which are tied to each chariot and has no steering system on it.
Nandighosa ratha: This chariot is of Lord Jagannatha, it is 45ft (13.71 m) high and has sixteen wheels. The fabric of the roof is in red and yellow colour. A wheel is placed on the top of the chariot.
Taladhvaja ratha: This chariot belongs to Balabhadra. The height of this chariot is 44ft (13.2 m) and consists of fourteen wheels. The fabric colour of the roof is red and green. Tala fruit is placed on top of the chariot.
Padmadhvaja ratha: Lady Subhadra's chariot is 43ft (12.9 m) in height and consist of twelve wheels. The fabric of roof is in red and black colour.
There are side Deities on each of the chariot. Sudarsana is seated by the side of Lady Subhadra in Her chariot, Madanamohana sits in the Lord Jagannatha's chariot, and small Deities of Lord Rama and Krisna take their seats in the Balabhadra chariot. Thus total seven Deities are seated on the three chariots and are pulled by the devotees by the ropes tied to the chariots and taken to the Gundica temple which is about 3 km away from the main temple.
Before Rathayatra begins some ceremonies are held in main temple:
(1) Snana yatra festival: This ceremony is held on "Jyestha Purnima", when the main Deities along the Sudarsana are brought to the Snana Mandapa (a platform for 'snana', bathing) and are bathed around midday. One hundred and eight pots of water are poured on the Deities. The water is brought from a sacred well which is dear to the goddess Sitala. After bathing the Deities get elephant masks, which is called as Ganesa Vesa. Then the Deities are offered bhoga (cooked food) and arati. The Deities are then taken back to the temple in a procession and stay in retirement for fifteen days. The Deities are placed in the hallway between the inner and outer shrine in a semi-horizontal position. Here in this ceremony the general public can see the food offerings to the Deities, which is not possible any time in the year.
(2) Anavasara festival: After Snana yatra Lord Jagannatha become 'sick' and suffers from fever. He is therefore moved to His private stay, there He is offered drugs which are prepared by the fruit juice. The dayitas (servants of Lord Jagannatha) take care of Lord. They sleep and stay there with the Deity. The word Anavasara is used when Lord Jagannatha is not seen in the temple.
(3) Nibhrita festival: The fifteen-day period of resting and renovation is called Nibhrita. Honoring the isolation of His wife, goddess Laksmi, Lord Jagannatha lives there in privacy enjoying svakiya rasa. Then by taking Her (goddess Laksmi's) permission Lord Jagannatha comes out for His Rathayatra.
(4) Anga-raga or Nava Yauvana festival: These festivals are held for the purpose of renovation of the Lord Jagannatha's body. After being washed the body of Lord Jagannatha needs repainting, This work is done by the dayitas, which takes two weeks to complete. Then the Deities are fully restored to youth (nava yauvana).
(5) Netrotsava: This ceremony is performed in the inner shrine where the Deities are placed in semi-horizontal position. They have been fully painted, except their eyes. In this ceremony the eyes of the Deities are painted by their respected pujaris and the puja (worship) is started in the temple. The Deities are still in the same position.
After completing the above ceremonies the Deities are taken out from the temple and placed in Their respective chariots on the Rathayatra day.
The procession of the Deities from the temple to the chariot is the most colorful aspect of the Rathayatra. The chariots are brought and kept at front of the Simha Dvara facing north side before Rathayatra begins. In a traditional ceremonial manner first Sudarsana is brought from the temple and put on to the chariot of Lady Subhadra. Balabhadra as elder in the family is placed in His chariot first, followed by Lady Subhadra and Lord Jagannatha.
While bringing the Deities of Balabhadra and Lord Jagannatha out of the temple they are made to swing forward and backward in a manner called "pahandi". As the Deities are extremely heavy they need many strong men to move them. Each Deity is provided with thick soften ropes around their body. By taking assistance from the pujaris who hold the ropes, the dayitas move the Deities. As the main Deities arrive on Their respective chariots ,the small Deities of Lord Rama and Krisna are placed on the Balabhadra's chariot and Madanamohana Deity is placed on Lord Jagannatha's chariot. All Deities are then refreshed and offered fresh garlands. At this time in a palanquin the king of Jagannatha Puri arrives and sweeps the street in front of the chariots with a golden handled broom-stick and sprinkles the ground with fragrant waters.
After all these rituals completed the Rathayatra begins with the Balabhadra chariot going first as He is elder. Then follows chariot of Subhadra and then follows chariot of Lord Jagannatha. The chariots of Lady Subhadra and Balabhadra reach directly the Gundica temple, whereas the chariot of Lord Jagannatha stops at his mausima (aunt's) goddess Ardhamsini temple. Here the Lord is offered poda pitha (fried cheese cake). Then the chariot of Lord Jagannatha proceeds towards the Gundica temple and usually reaches it next day. After reaching the Gundica temple the Deities take rest on their chariots for another day, then They are taken into the sanctum of the Gundica temple. While staying in the Gundica temple for seven days the Deities receive all the routine rituals as in the main temple.
On the 10th day, fortnight of Ashadha, the Deities are brought back on their respective chariots and pulled back to the main temple. This is known as Bahuda yatra. While returning to the main temple Lord Jagannatha stops again at His mausima (goddess Ardhamsini) temple and receives bhoga (poda pitha). He then proceeds towards the king's palace where He has a meeting with goddess Laksmi and continues his Yatra. The Rathayatra reaches an end in Jagannatha temple at night and the Deities spend Their night in Their rathas till morning.
Next day in the morning on Bada Ekadasi the Deities are dressed in the Suna Vesa (golden dress). Arms and feet made of pure gold are attached to the Deities and are decorated by putting on Them golden ornaments and golden crowns. This day is considered to be the most auspicious day of the festival. The devotees make pradaksina of the ratha (moving around the chariots). After a few hours the golden ornaments are removed from the Deities and brought back to the temple. As usual first comes Balabhadra, then Subhadra and then Lord Jagannatha in a traditional procession among huge assembly of thousands of devotees.
Lord Jagannatha faces a tough time when He tries to enter into the temple, as goddess Laksmi is angry with Lord Jagannatha because He went to Rathayatra along with His brother and sister. She also expresses Her anger by going to the Gundica temple on 5th day of the festival. The devadasis (servants of goddess Laksmi) close the Simha Dvara and ultimately open it again but close the Jaya Vijaya Dvara, hear songs comprising of dialogues exchanged between devadasis and dayitas. Then Lord Jagannatha tells goddess Laksmi if He is allowed to enter into the temple. He will present her many gifts. Listening to this, goddess Laksmi allows Lord Jagannatha to enter into the temple. Thus Rathayatra is completed.
The Vesas of Lord Jagannatha
The word 'vesa' means outfit or costume, in English. The Deities on the ratnavedi are dressed in different outfits beginning with mangala arati, the first arati of the day, and ending with ratri pahuda. The dresses are made of cotton and silk, and are adorned with gold ornaments, precious stones, different kinds of flowers, peacock feathers, tulasi leaves and so on. Sandalwood paste, camphor and occasionally musk are used in the daily and periodic rituals. A few of the major vesas are listed below.
Abakasa Vesa or Tadapa Uttari Vesa
This is done daily, after mangala arati, for the abakasa (abhisekha) rituals. Abakas is the tooth brushing and bathing ritual. The clothes that are worn by the Deities are called 'Tadapa' and 'Uttariya.'
This is a very beautiful vesa. It is done before the night time 'pahuda', when the Deities are allowed to take rest. It is therefore the vesa the Deities appear in the following morning, for mangala arati. This vesa is mostly made of different kinds of flowers. The Lords are decorated with flowered ornaments known locally in Puri as adhara, jhumpa, gava, candrika, tilak, alaka, guna, hrda pallava, karapallava and tadaki among others. The Deities also wear many flower garlands, some with tulasi leaves, and silk clothes called khandua.
This vesa is done for 42 days, beginning on Aksaya Trtiya.
Ganapati Vesa or Hati Vesa
On the full moon day of the month of Jyestha, after the bathing ceremony is over, the Deities are dressed in elephant costumes. Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra are made to look like Ganapati (Ganesa, the eldest son of Siva and Parvati).
Suna Vesa or Bada Tadhau Vesa
On the 11th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Asadha, when the Deities return from the Gundica Mandir on Their chariots, They appear in the Suna (gold) Vesa. They are decorated with golden ornaments and wear gold crowns. Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra appear with hands and feet made of gold. Lord Jagannatha holds a golden cakra in His right hand and a silver conch shell in His left. Lord Balabhadra holds a golden club in His right hand and a golden plough in His left.
The same outfit as Suna Vesa, but it is worn on Dussehra, Karttik Purnima and Pausa Purnima.
On the 10th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadra, the Deities are dressed for a picnic, like cowherd boys.
On the 1th day of the dark fortnight of Bhadra, Lord Jagannatha is dressed as Krsna in His pastime of killing the serpent Kaliya.
Pralambasura Badha Vesa
On the following day, the 12th day of the dark fortnight of Bhadra, the Deities are dressed to commemorate Lord Balabhadra's pastime of killing the demon Pralambha.
On the 13th day of the dark fortnight of Bhadra, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra are dressed very attractively as Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama.
Bali Vamana Vesa
On the 12th day of the bright fortnight Bhadra, Lord Jagannatha is dressed like the dwarf brahmana Vamana, who defeated the demon Bali. Vamanadeva is one of the dasa avataras, the ten incarnations of Lord Visnu.
For an entire lunar month, from the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Asvina to the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Karttika, the Deities are dressed in this vesa. Damodara refers to the Lord with a rope tied around His waist, which relates to Krsna's pastimes with Mother Yasoda.
Thiakia Vesa or Laksmi-Narayana Vesa
This vesa is used on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Karttika.
Used on the 12th day of the bright fortnight of Karttika.
Adakia Vesa or Trivikrama Vesa
Used on the 13th day of the bright fortnight of Karttika.
Dalikia Vesa or Laksmi-Nrsimha Vesa
Used on the 14th day of the bright fortnight of Karttika.
This vesa honors Parasurama, the warrior incarnation. It is used only occasionally, during the month of Karttika, when there are six days of Pancaka. This was done six times in the last 30 years on 11/3/95, 11/16/94, 11/26/93, 11/3/68, 11/16/67 and 11/26/66.
During the period from the 6th day of the bright fortnight of Margasirsa to the 5th day of the bright fortnight of Magha (Vasanta Pancami) the Deities wear winter clothes.
From Vasanta Pancami to Dola Purnima the Deities wear modified ghoda (winter clothes).
It is done on Saturdays or Wednesdays between the new moon day of Magha and Vasanta Pancami. 'Padma' means 'lotus,' and the Deities' dresses are made from lotus, sola lace and paper. These dresses are traditionally supplied by the Badachhata Matha. Halva is offered to the Deities when They are in this vesa.
Gaja Uddharana Vesa
This vesa is done on the full moon day of the month of Magha. It commemorates the story of Gajendra, the king of the elephants, and the alligator.
Q: Recently I've seen a picture of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Baladeva with elephant noses. Does anybody know the story related to this picture?
A: (Vaidyanatha Das) The Deities on this picture are in Snan-yatra costume (see Ganapati Vesa above). The story behind is as follows. Once a pious merchant came to Jagannatha Puri during Snan-yatra for the Deities, when the Deities from the temple are taken out to the raised platform above the temple wall. He was a devoted worshiper of Ganesa and heard before that Jagannatha was the embodiment of all gods and goddesses. But somehow he could not see that and therefore felt disappointed. He was ready to leave Jagannatha Puri since he could not find his worshipable Deity there, and before leaving he cast the last glance on the Lord of Universe. Lo and behold, Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Devi took elephant-like form and were smiling at him from the temple wall. Since that day to commemorate this lila, the Deities They are dressed in elephant costume on Snan-Purnima day (which is by the way Their birthday).
Pata-Chitras of Orissa: An Illustration of Some Common Themes by Bernard Cesarone
Subhadra Devi appears in Krsna-lila as Krsna's sister.
(Elevation to Krsna Consciousness, chapter five: Knowing Krsna's Energies):
Krsna cannot distribute inferior energy because He is not inferior. He is always superior, spiritual, and therefore His energy is always spiritual. Subhadra is the sister of Krsna, and from her comes the incarnation of Durga, the personification of material energy. Subhadra is in the spiritual world and is eternally related to Krsna as His energy, but when Durga conducts her activities here in the material world, it is not that she is to be considered inferior. In the Bhagavad-gita as well as in Brahma-samhita it is said that
(SP Lectures, Bhagavad-gita 1968, 680613BG.MON):
Prabhupada: Subhadra? Subhadra is the sister of Krsna, and she is
incarnation of Durga.
Mahapurusa: Subhadra is the external, external energy? Is Subhadra in
the spiritual world? Is Subhadra in the spiritual world?
Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
M: She's in the spiritual world?
Prabhupada: No. In one sense, she is also in spiritual world because
she is energy of Krsna. So Krsna's energy is also eternal. So wherever
Krsna is there, His energy is there. But her activities are in the
(Letter to Madhusudana: 68-07-29 Montreal):
Subhadra is yogamaya. The spiritual energy is called yogamaya. And she has 16 different expansions. Out of these 16 expansions, Subhadra is one. The mahamaya of the material energy is also expansion of the energy of yogamaya; and both yogamaya and mahamaya are equally important to Krishna as much as any government department is equally important for functioning of the government.
The Mahabharata Adi Parva has a section called Subhadra-karana Parva. Therein we find that Subhadra devi is the favorite daughter of Vasudeva and the sister of Lord Krsna. But note: here Krsna tells Arjuna that Subhadra is the "uterine sister of Sarana" (in Sanskrit, saranasya sahodara). To be more clear, Subhadra is born from the same womb as Sarana. I consulted another book that gives a list of wives and children of Vasudeva (Krsna's father) that is taken from the Padma Purana. According to this, Sarana was born from the womb of Vasudeva's wife Rohini. Thus Subhadra would be the maternal sister of Balarama, and the paternal sister of Lord Krsna, whose own mother is Vasudeva's wife Devaki. This could be verified by checking the original Sanskrit of the Padma Purana. Unfortunately the book I consulted does not give a chapter and verse reference for that Purana, and I don't have the time to hunt for the original reference myself.
In a book about Jagannath Puri prepared by the "Jagannath Temple Managing Committee," it is mentioned that some people say that the Subhadra deity is originally a Durga murti that was added to the altar of Jagannatha and Baladeva after the 7th century AD, when the Sakta religion (i.e. the worship of Durga) became very popular in India. Then later, under the influence of popular Vaisnavism, Durga was worshiped as Krsna's sister Subhadra. I should hasten to add that the authors of this book do not attempt to argue that this account is accurate. They disclaim it as only being a story. I mention it here to suggest that the controversy about whether Subhadra is really Krsna's sister or Durga-devi can be traced to the friction between the Saktas and the Vaisnavas. There was a similar controversy during the time of Ramanuja about the identity of the Balaji Deity in Tirupati. The Saivites claimed Balaji is Karttikeya; but Ramanuja established Balaji is 4-armed Vasudeva. No doubt there are still Saivites who go around grumbling that Balaji is really the son of Lord Siva, but is worshiped as Visnu by the clever Vaisnavas. No doubt there are impersonalists who say, "No matter, Visnu, Siva and Karttikeya are all one." So I suppose from that side we may hear that Subhadra and Durga are one. By the way, Bhadra is a name of Durga. "Su", as Srila Prabhupada explained when he gave me my name, means "very nice." "Bhadra" means auspicious. So if Durga is auspicious, Subhadra is very nicely auspicious. I would say that means she is transcendentally auspicious.
Anyway, to me the claim that Subhadra is actually "just" Durga does not make sense when you consider that there are other sakti-tattva deities worshiped in the greater Jagannatha temple complex. Vimala devi (after whom Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was named Vimala Prasada) is accepted by everyone, including Gaudiya acaryas, as Durga herself. She is worshiped by the Jagannatha pujaris during Durga puja. Jagannatha prasada becomes mahaprasada after it is offered to her. There is likewise a Laksmi mandir in the complex. She is worshiped as Lord Jagannatha's consort (Her yearly pastime with Lord Jagannatha, in which she obliges Him to return to Puri from the Gundica Mandira, is described in Cc). Besides Vimala and Laksmi devis, there are temples to Sarasvati (Brahma's consort) and Bhubanesvari (Siva's consort). So again, it seems senseless to identify Subhadra devi as Durga (who is there as Vimala), or even as Lord Jagannatha's consort (who is there as Laksmi), or as Sarasvati or some other demigoddess.
As usual, the only sensible conclusion is Srila Prabhupada's: Subhadra is Krsna's sister.
- Krsna tells Her to go to Vraja (SB 10.2.7)
- appears as the daughter of both Devaki (SB 10.1.56) and Yasoda (SB 10.2.9)
- is "nondifferent" from Mahamaya (SB 10.2.10)
- is present only in Goloka, not in Vaikuntha (CC 2.21.104p.).
- reveals/manifests Bhauma Vrindavan (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Kalyana Kalpataru 126.96.36.199)
- arranges parakiya-rasa in Vraja (CC 1.4.30p.)include("../sys/bottom.php"); ?>