Odana-sasthi and Pundarika Vidyanidhi
By Giriraj Swami
Today is Odana-sasthi, the date on which Lord Jagannatha is given a winter shawl. One year, when Lord Chaitanya and His associates celebrated this festival in Puri, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who is Vrsabhanu Maharaja, Srimati Radharani’s father, in krsna-lila, received some special mercy. His experience is instructive for us all.
Srila Prabhupada explains, “At the beginning of winter, there is a ceremony known as the Odana-sasthi. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to Lord Jagannatha. That covering is directly purchased from a weaver. According to the arcana-marga, a cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, and then it can be used to cover the Lord. Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that the priest neglected to wash the cloth before covering Lord Jagannatha. Since he wanted to find some fault in the devotees, he became indignant.” (Cc Madhya 16.78 purport)
And Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 16.78–81) describes the event: “Pundarika Vidyanidhi initiated Gadadhara Pandita for the second time, and on the day of Odana-sasthi Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw the festival. When Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that Lord Jagannatha was given a starched garment, he became a little hateful. In this way his mind was polluted. That night the brothers Lord Jagannatha and Balarama came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi and, smiling, began to slap him. Although his cheeks were swollen from the slapping, Pundarika Vidyanidhi was very happy within. This incident has been elaborately described by Thakura Vrndavana dasa.”
From this incident, we can learn that the Lord does not tolerate offenses against His servants, even from an advanced devotee, and that He chastises any devotee who commits such an offense even within the mind. We can also learn that a pure devotee accepts such chastisement from the Lord with great happiness, as a manifestation of the Lord’s mercy, of His love and care for His devotees—both for those who may commit such an offense and for those who may be objects of such an offense. He thanks the Lord for rectifying him and preventing him from committing further offenses, and he feel great jubilation within his heart.
Yours in service,