Updated: Nov 27, 2021
Magic in the Air with a Single Strand of Hair!
The month of Kartik is a very auspicious one. Many distinct and special festivities are observed in the Puri Jagannath Temple. Mahaprabhu gets dressed in the ‘Radha Damodara Vesha’ during this month. Radha Damodara and Mahaprabhu Jagannath are one and the same. Gajapati Maharaj, the king of Puri, visits the Sri Mandira every day for darshan of the Lord. He has the foremost right on Mahaprabhu’s ‘prasad’, all that has been offered and used by the Lord. Along with the various gold ornaments studded with precious gems, tulasi leaves, camphor, sandalwood paste, the sevaks also use flowers to make Mahaprabhu’s jewelry and dress Him up. Mala, Adhara, Jhumpa, Guna, Alaka and many other jewelries made of flowers that are used to adorn Lord Jagannath are later given to the King as Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s prasad.
That day, the priests in the temple received the news that the king wouldn’t be making his daily rounds of the temple. The sevaks relaxed on hearing this news. They were always anxious and on their toes till the king’s tour was over. They never knew if they might have missed or become careless and committed some mistake, somewhere in their seva. They are not scared of the Lord. Because they consider Lord Jagannath as their own, and keep Him very close to their heart. He forgives all their faults. They serve Him pouring out their heart, mind and soul. How can rules and regulations reign supreme in matters of the heart? Love is an exemplary emotion. Fear, insecurity, timidity disappear in the presence of love. When the servitors serve the Lord with their body, mind and soul, Mahaprabhu Jagannath forgives any mistake committed by them unknowingly. But the king is different. Every mistake that is brought to his notice will be punished.
Since the King would not be visiting the temple that day, one of the servitors, Sri Tarij Mahapatra, took a Guna, a jewelry adorning Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s nose made of flower, and gave it to one of his dear maids who pinned it in her hair. A little while later, again the news reached the temple that the king will come for darshan of the Lord. Sri Tarij Mahapatra’s head reeled in fear. In case the king wants the Guna prasad that was offered to the Lord, then he will be in deep trouble. The king has a right to receive the ‘Guna’. So, he hurried to his home to meet the maid. As luck would have it, the flower in perfect condition still decorated her hair. He got it back from her, arrived at the temple as the king was entering. The king after darshan looked at him for the prasad and Tarij Mahapatra handed over the Guna to him. The king accepted the offering but noticed a long strand of hair in the flower jewelry that adorned Mahaprabhu’s nose. Such a long strand of hair must belong to a woman. The king became furious, “What is this? How did I find a hair in this ‘guna’ from the Lord’s ornaments?” Unperturbed, Tarij Mahapatra stood there calmly. He had surrendered himself at the feet of Lord Jagannath and served Him with all his heart. He stood there with the faith and the belief that Mahaprabhu will surely defend his honour. He replied with conviction, “This is Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s hair.” The king’s face twisted in rage. Tarij Mahapatra had committed a crime and on top of it was lying blatantly. But Tarij Mahapatra stood there unmoved. He collected himself and replied, “O king! Why do you think there in no hair on Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s head?” Hearing his reply, the king turned red with fury and shouted, “Come on and show me the hair on Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s head. I would also want to have a look at it.” The power of devotion and faith is immense. Tarij Mahapatra led the king to the inner sanctum sanctorum. The king went in and saw Mahaprabhu’s head full of hair. Seeing the strands of hair, the king was mesmerized. He stood there like a statue unable to utter a single word. His eyes swelled up and tears flowed wetting his dress.
What a miracle the king witnessed! The Lord was so restless, so anxious to withhold the dignity of his servitor. The Lord showed that impossible becomes possible if your heart is filled with such love, faith and devotion. The king embraced Tarij Mahapatra tightly. Who can harm when Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s mercy acts like a shield to protect His devotee?
To remember this event, the day when he witnessed hair on Mahaprabhu Jagannath’s head, the king commenced a ritual of offering Puja and Bhog to Mahaprabhu in the month of Kartik. This ritual was named ‘Baal Dhoop’. The odia word for hair is ‘Baal’. The ritual that started because of sighting of this strand of hair in Mahaprabhu’s guna was named ‘Baal Dhoop’. So, Baal Dhoop is not Balya Bhog that is normally offered to the Lord in the morning. Even to this day, this Bhog called ‘Baal Dhoop’ is still offered to Mahaprabhu Jagannath.
Image Credit: Eila Sahu