Atibadi Jagannath Das

Born :- 14th Century
Died :- 15th Century
Place of Birth :- Kapileswarapur Shasan, Puri

Legendary devotional poet of Odisha, Jagannath Das, is a glorious pillar in the field of spiritual literature that had its growth in the 16th century.

Most prominent among the five illustrious Vaishnavites, known as the Pancha Sakhas or the Five Spiritual-Comrades-in-Arms, Jagannath Das revolutionised  Odia spiritual literature by writing the Shrimad Bhagabata in lucid and intelligible Odia for millions of devout Odias who could not exactly follow what was read out to them from the original book in Sanskrit by traditional Brahmin reciters. The contemporary fundamentalist Brahmins, then domineering over all affairs at the Jagannath temple at Puri and exploiting the people, challenged this ‘adventurous act’, conspiring to malign him, bar his entry into the temple and throw him into the royal prison. They succeeded in their mischief for the time being but Jagannath Das finally came out with flying colours. In fact, legend has it that Lord Jagannath himself came forward to prove him innocent.

Born to pious parents – mother, Padmavati and father Bhagaban Das of Kapileswarapur Shasan of Puri district — Jagannath touched the earth on the Eighth day of the Waxing moon Fortnight of 1 January, 1487. Under the guidance of his father, he acquired adequate knowledge in mother tongue Odia as well as in Sanskrit. It is said that Amarkosha, the basic Sanskrit lexicon, the Vedas and the Upanishads were on the tip of his tongue.

Jagannath undertook the venture of writing the Shrimad Bhagavat at the insistence of his mother, who, among other women, regularly attended the recitation session of the Sanskrit Bhagavat in the temple premises every evening. She complained before Jagannath that she, along with other women, could not literally understand what was recited to them by the traditional reciter.  This prompted Jagannath — well conversant with the Sanskrit Bhagavat — to start writing the scripture in plain and lucid Odia which he completed in 12 volumes.

The Odia Bhagavat, with similar content as in its Sanskrit version, deals with the incarnation, life, activities and teachings of Lord Sri Krishna, but in an intelligible and popular style, which is an immortal master work in Odia literature and which is uniquely popular in every village and hamlet in Odisha. In language, style and presentation all 12 volumes bear testimony to the depth of understanding, originality and erudition of this illustrious son of Odisha. He was laurelled with the title Atibadi (The Greatest Devotee) by Sri Chaitanya, exponent of the Vaishnav cult, who admired Jagannath Das as a great devotee of Lord Jagannath and a great devotional poet as well.

Among other works, Jagannath Das is also famous for his spiritual and mystic verses like Gupta Bhagabat, Darubrahma Geeta, Gundicha Bije, Shaivagama Bhagavat, Shola Chaupadi, Artha Koili and Tulabhina.


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