Black and White Gods

“We take so many sweets for Lord Jagannatha, but he doesn’t eat anything. Why?”

I was sitting today with Aai, my mother’s mother, and talking about her longstanding relationship with her God. She was telling me of times she had to walk a day and a half to Puri to see her Jagannatha. And she was telling me about all the miracles that had happened when she was younger.

“Who said Jagannatha doesn’t eat our prasad?” she questioned back. “I know he does.”

“He does?”

“Yes. You haven’t heard of the rasagulla miracle?”

“No.”

“It happened when I was very young. Your mother was just a baby. Or maybe it was your Aunt Uni. All of them were little little back then. Anyway, so it was from that time. There was a merchant. He did some cloth business, or maybe food grains, or something like that. He said he will prove Jagannatha doesn’t eat our prasad. And he turned out proving it the other way.”

“How?”

“Wait. I am coming to that part. He had bought one kilo of rasagulla. He weighed it in front of people. Rasagulla was cheap back then. Not so pricey as today. Only one rupee for one kilo. Now it is some five hundred. And it was this big, like a cricket ball. Not the size of lemons we find in the market today.”

“But one kilo is one kilo, Aai. If it is small, the number of rasagullas will be more.”

“Yes, it will be. But you will not feel the same satisfaction, will you? Big rasagullas you still get in a few places in the village. They say there is a town…”

“Aai, what happened to the one kilo?”

“Yes yes. So he weighed it in front of people before offering it in puja. It was one kilo. Everyone saw it. Then, he offered it to Jagannatha. Once the puja was done, he saw the plate again. It looked just like it had looked when he had offered it before the puja. He said with a chest puffed up like a king that Jagannatha doesn’t eat. Here was the proof. But what did he know? When he took the plate and weighed it again to show off his point further, people around started gasping. The one kilo weight was heavier. The balance was not right.”

“Ohh…”

“Yeah, when they tested with different weights, they found that a quarter kilo was missing. Haven’t you heard of the line in that bhajan about the quarter kilo?”

“Oh yeah…I never thought it was about this.”

“It is.”

“So Jagannatha eats a quarter of what we offer?”

“Yes yes. It all looks same, like before, but it is always a quarter short.”

“Have you seen it yourself, Aai?”

“No no. I heard from my sister-in-law. But I have felt it. The prasad always feels lighter to me after I have offered it.”

“Ohh. I should try it then.”

“You were there a week back. You should have tried then.”

“Don’t worry, Aai. I will have so many other opportunities. Will Jagannath eat everything? Chicken?”

She mock slapped me on my back and we both started laughing.

“You are a baya — a crazy one,” she said. “And you keep calling everyone else baya. You know how they beat up the guy who took eggs into the temple?”

“Wait, wait, wait. They beat someone up?”

“Yeah. What else would they do if someone takes eggs into the temple and pollutes it?”

“Why did someone takes eggs into the temple?”

“There was this farmer, or carpenter, or someone like that. He had prayed that he will offer the first fruit of the morning to Jagannatha. The day he was preparing to leave, there were no fruits in his backyard. Only the hen had laid two eggs.”

“So he brought the eggs to the temple?”

“Yes. That baya thought this was a fruit too.”

“Hmm…what happened to the man?”

“What will happen? He had hid the eggs in his shirt pockets. Back then we used to have two breast pockets. Not like today where you have one, if at all. And when he brought the eggs out, people got angry and beat him out of the temple. They also took money from him to purify the temple again.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Why is this wrong?”

“What do you mean? Jagannatha gives life to everyone. How can he take the life of a chicken in an egg?”

“But the eggs got broken anyway, didn’t they? When this person was beaten up?”

“No no no. That is the whole divinity of the Lord. The two eggs cracked to give two chicks. One black like Jagannatha, one white like His brother Balabhadra.”

“Woah…”

“Yes.”

“You have seen this?”

“My sister-in-law only said this.”

“Hmm…she seems to have seen a lot of these miracles.”

“She kept going to the temple. She must have seen a few, heard a few.”

“And she speaks the truth?”

“What will she get by telling lies?”

“Umm… I don’t know. But I have never seen a black chick.”

“Have you seen a black tiger?”

“Umm…no.”

“But there was one. We went to Odagaon Raghunatha a couple of days ago, remember? There a white tiger and a black tiger had come.”

“When?”

“The temple was made like that. Back in those days there was only forest all around. And a few dirt tracks that businessmen and armies had made. One such businessman was travelling with his wife one day. Near the place where we have Odagaon now. He was attacked by some thugs and bandits. They tied him up and took his woman away somewhere else. He prayed to Raghunatha, one of the personas of Jagannatha. And then came two tigers, one black, one white. They saved him and his wife. The businessman realised he was saved by Raghunatha Himself. So he built the temple. Understood?”

“Yeah…”

“Where are you going?”

“Just a minute, Aai. I have something to show you.”

I went off for a couple of minutes and came back with two stuffed toys. Both monkeys. One black, one white.

She started laughing in her seat.

“You are a complete baya.”

“That I am.”

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