Lord Jagannath Prana Pratishtha in the largest Sai temple in the North America

Boston: A long awaited three-day (May 14th-May 16th) Prana Pratishtha ceremony of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Mata Subhadra had been concluded yesterday at New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar(NESSP) Temple, 99 Shirdi way, Groton, MA, in the greater Boston area of the USA.

Lord Jagannath is famously known as the “God of the Universe”. The colors of deities Lord Balabhadra( white ), Goddess Subhadra(yellow), Lord Jagannath(black), Lord Sudarsan(red) symbolizes peaceful co-existence of all human races. Lord Jagannath is considered as a non-sectarian deity and represents universal brotherhood irrespective of religion, caste, creed, gender, and physical appearance. Lord Jagannath is considered as the God of devotion and love. Though the current Jagannath temple of Puri was built in the 12th century, the old temple has been one of the major pilgrimage destinations for Hindus in the Indian subcontinent since about 800 CE. Jagannath is worshipped as Purushottama form of Vishnu, is a syncretic deity that combines aspects of major faiths like Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

The NESSP is the largest Sai temple in North America that serves the local community to meet the religious, spiritual, educational, and charitable/philanthropic needs. Shirdi Sai Baba is the main deity in the temple along with other deities from Shiva Parivar( Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Maa Durga), Vishnu Parivar ( Lord Ram, Lord Laxman, Maa Sita and Lord Hanuman , Lord Venkateswara, Radha Krishna ), Bhudevi and Sridevi. NESSP has undertaken many charitable activities in the past to support the victims during floods in India, support victims of Haiti earthquake, support the homeless in the local community by distributing cooked food from Sai Bhandar, and organize winter clothes drives for the needy.

Due to COVID-19, the Prana Pratishtha had been delayed for a year or so. As per the new health and safety guidelines of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the temple conducted the ceremony, and the devotees were allocated a specific time slot for visiting the Lord. The deities were brought to the USA from Odisha by Lord Jagannath devotees. The pooja was performed as per Vedic rituals and broadcasted live on Facebook as well. The devotees also got the opportunity to have tastes of Odisha arts, culture, and cuisine (Mahaprasad) during this three-day event. There was a photo exhibit on Odisha temple architectures on Sri Jagannath Temple, Sri Ling raj Temple; Konark Temple, Buddhist’s monuments of Ratnagiri, Raghurajpur Pattachitra, Palm leaf engraving and painting, Odisha hand woven textiles (Gitagovinda Pheta), Pipili Applique work, Ganjam Horn craft, Chitta wall painting (Mural art), Terracotta art, Stone sculptures, Wooden mask paintings, and Sand art.

The cultural programs were streamed live via Facebook live to minimize the crowd in the temple. From India, eminent Odissi artists Dr. Jyotsna Rani Sahoo, Sujata Mohapatra, Engr. Srinivas Ghatuary, students of Madhumit Rout, Guru Amrita Sahoo and her students performed beautiful Odissi dances along with the local students of Guru Jayashree Mohapatra, Guru Mouli Pal, Guru Srabonti Bondopadhyay. Goura Mohan Padhy sang beautiful Jagannath Bhajan. The three-day cultural program included discourse on “Rahasyamaya Jagannath” by Pandit Suryamani Khuntia, a Kendra Sahitya Academy Award Winner, discourse on “Jagannath History and culture” by Dr. Budhinath Padhy of University of Massachusetts and discourse on “Sri Jagannath Iconography and Philosophy” by Dr. Bijoy Mohan Mishra of Harvard University. Group Odia Bhajan recital was another attraction in the temple. The cultural program was led by Dillip Behera, supported by Guru Jayashree Mohapatra and team.

The temple founding members Mahender Singh, Neelkanth Mishra, and Baskaran Narashima were present during the “Prana Pratishtha” ceremony along with current temple board members Ramakanth Challa( President), Vijay Bala(Treasurer), Rajesh Singh, Jayshree Patel, Amal Dutta, Kumar Patulla, Anantha Ji, and Niranjan Senapati(trustee).

A core team of volunteers comprising Niranjan Senapati, Pradeep Dhal, Dillip Behera, Arun Mohanty, Nishikanta Bhadra, Nishikanta Sahoo, Sujata Dhal, and Rajiv Behera has been actively pursuing the Lord Jagannath Initiative with the generous support from the local community and the temple management.