“Ahe Nila saila Prabala Mata barana mo Arata Nalini banaku Kala dalana Ahe Nila saila”. Nestled on the eastern coast of India neighboring West Bengal lies Odisha the home to Sri Lord Jagannath. Notable for being one of the Char Dham or four abodes, the grandiose Jagannath temple of Puri for ages has heard the devotional songs sung by many great poets and priests. Drawn by the alluring aura of the Great Lord saints like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and poets like Salabega have also been mesmerized by it. Just like the sweetness of Kanika bhog which is offered to the lord as Mahaprasad, there is an immense sweetness in this story of love and devotion of Salabega. Salabega was the son of the Mughal subedar, Lalbeg, and a young Hindu Brahmin widow who was a devotee of Lord Jagannath, who lived in the first half of the 17th century. As soon as he was sufficiently old, SalaBega took up fighting in his father’s campaigns. It so happened that, in the war where Lalbeg died, SalaBega got badly injured and was battling for life. His mother prayed to her beloved Lord Jagannath for her dear son’s life and her prayers were answered. SalaBega was cured miraculously. His mother told him then that Lord Jagannath was an incarnation of Vishnu, the creator of the universe. This incident made SalaBega convinced about the healing essence of the Lord, thus he ended up becoming Lord Jagannath’s devotee. Feeling greatly indebted to Lord Jagannath, he went to Puri to see Lord Jagannath. However, due to the custom of not allowing non-Hindus to enter the temple, the priests didn’t allow SalaBega to enter the temple. SalaBega didn’t fight or opposed them. He waited for the annual Chariot festival, the Rath Yatra where Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra are brought out onto the Bada Danda and travel to the Shri Gundicha Temple, to their maternal aunt’s temple, in huge chariots allowing the public to have darsana. They stay there for nine days and travel back to the Shree Mandira. So every year he kept a watch for the chariot, he built a small hut on that road which is the Mazar now. During the rest of the year, he kept visiting religious places. On a particular year, he got delayed in coming back to his hut from Vrindavana, as on the way he suddenly fell ill. Feeling helpless and realizing that he would not reach Puri in time to see the Ratha yatra festival, he offered prayers to Lord Jagannath pleading him to wait until he arrived at the Rath Yatra. An anxious SalaBega cried out to Lord Jagannath and had a dream in which the Lord promised him that He would wait for him. So when the Nandighosha or the chariot of Lord Jagannath reached near the hut of SalaBega, it refused to move even an inch. People tried to pull it hard but nothing happened. They even got elephants to push the Nandighosha but SalaBega’s utter devotion to the Lord kept the Chariot glued to that exact spot for seven days. By then, the King of Puri and all priests were worried. The head priest got a dream telling him not to worry as the Lord was waiting for his favorite kid. So for 7 days, all rituals of Lord Jagannath, all pujas were done on the Chariot itself. SalaBega came at last. This time, nobody stopped him from going closer to the Lord. He went and had his darshan, and worshipped the Lords. Now it is ritualistic for the Lord’s chariot to stop near his Samadhi every year during Rath Yatra. The Lord’s benevolence is not restricted to just one religion, he sees everyone as his children.
Recently before the commencement of the rath yatra this year, the Supreme court of India passed an order canceling the Rath Yatra citing the growing concern of the pandemic as the reason for which 21 persons moved the court seeking recall of its order staying the historic Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra. Among them was Aftab Hossan, a 19-year-old Muslim student from Odisha’s Nayagarh district. Hossen has said his grandfather had constructed a Trinath (Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar) temple at Itamati in 1960. He said that he has also read several books on Lord Jagannath and developed devotion towards the ‘Lord of the Universe’. This instance shows that faith breaks all the boundaries created by religion uniting people.people.