A French sailor was coming to Pondichery from Calcutta by his ship through the eastern coast of India and was bringing a big bell from a port of France to the church of Pondicherry . The ship was moving parallel from the shore of the Bay of Bengal and proceeding through the parts of Chandipur, Paradip in Odisha . People belonging to France and England were in that ship.
His assistant suddenly saw a giant whale big enough to swallow the whole ship. He was scared and could not speak . His voice was choked as he saw that the ship was heading directly towards the creature.
He dared and shrieked “ Captain! All alert!” The sailor was taking a reading of the ship’s course from the chart in the control room. Hearing the call, he rushed out, a little perplexed. “What is the problem?” he inquired. The speechless assistant pointed his finger towards the huge whale. The captain observed the approaching whale with his binoculars carefully . There was also an impending storm on the horizon. The winds were gusting and tearing at the sails. The captain first thought of releasing the lifeboats from the ship. But could these small boats even reach the shore in such high windy situation . He thought it will lead to more deaths . The ship left two months ago from France and he knew all the passengers by name . The captain realized the gravity of the situation, but was haunted by a sense of helplessness. Huge waves continued making the sea turbid and black. The more he observed the approaching danger, the more frightened he became. He had no idea what course of action to take immediately . He decided the only thing to do was ring the warning-bell. He shouted to the crew to look out for themselves. There was no way to avert this imminent disaster.
The Captain was running about the ship frantically. All the frightened passengers encircled him. Any hope to save even lady passengers was thin. He was an experienced captain, having spent a good part of his age at sea. Yet now he was completely bewildered. A lady passenger ran towards him and appealed, “ Oh Captain, I don’t mind if I die, but please save my baby!” Tears ran down the captain’s cheek, and the little baby began to cry along with its mother. The captain was helpless and had no way to console them. The shadow of death loomed large, a transition between life and death about to be violently enacted. Everyone was screaming . Some were crying, while others were taking half-measures to save their lives. Only a few moments remained before the unavoidable end. Utterly confused , he cautioned everybody in the ship to adopt precautions for their lives at their own responsibility. His anxiety made him run all around the ship .
He could see one man was sitting quietly and was relaxed . The captain went close to him .A midst the turbulence ,he was looking at a picture of his worship able Lord and keeping it close to his heart, whispering something to himself. His mind was totally fixed on that picture.
The Captain recollected … Oh this is the old man who had boarded the ship at the last port in India . The captain rushed past him many times, still he was hardly noticed. The ship was about to be battered by the storm. The Captain ran to the upper deck of the ship and snatched the binoculars from a deck hand so he himself could see their approaching fate.
He muttered to himself, “ Oh dear God, we are so close to that deadly whale! What a harrowing sight!” He was seeing death itself approaching steadily. Now only the touch of death remained to be felt. Totally dejected and with a sense of deep despair he walked away cursing his fate .
He again caught sight of the old man, sitting still a midst all the fright and confusion very relaxed . With curiosity he bent over to see the picture, which the old man held. It was a hand drawn painting, with three Deities sitting close to each other (Deity of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva & Subhadra). ” The eyes of the black deity looked so big and prominent and he felt as HE was looking straight towards him and drawing him closer …
“What are you doing?”shouted the captain at the old man . The old man was in a prayer mood and was shaken .He looked at the captain………………………………… Each eye was adorned with a tear.
He replied “I am praying to Lord Jagannatha to rescue us from this catastrophe,” he said quietly.
“ Jagannatha? Who Jaggantha ….. Who is He? Where is He? What can He do for us? Can He kill the whale with a weapon ? Can He save the ship?” retorted the captain.
A trace of a smile came over the old man’s face. He appeared so calm and composed at that moment of crisis. “ Lord Jagannatha is my only resort. Any danger is dispelled if one prays to Him,” the old man said passionately. “He makes a human response. His mystery is inscrutable, even to the demigods, what to speak of mere human beings. Yet when we call to Him, He comes and helps us instantly .”
Hey ….. said the captain ..“ Can He save our ship from the clutches of death?” in disbelief.
“ He will do the needful, that is His work.” Replied the man simply.
“ What power does your God have to do that! Can He act as a controlling force over nature?”asked the captain.
Look Old man ……..
If He can save this ship, I will offer Him all the treasures on board the ship and myself as well.” thundered the captain ….
The old man smiled and returned to his praying. The captain rushed to the upper deck of the ship again, and to his greatest surprise he saw the whale change its direction! The whale’s forward movement was slowing down and slowly he veered out to deep sea.The more the captain observed this, the more his face filled with amazement.
But the ship never stopped tossing about from the onslaught of the storm. ‘ One danger is removed, but still there is another with its own fury,’ thought the captain. It seemed the ship might be wrecked within a minute’s time.
The old man’s curious picture began flashing before Captain eyes. Those intoxicating eyes …… He loved them …. Now he prayed, “Oh Lord Jagannatha, you controlled the whale, but are you able to check the storm now ?”
A huge thunderclap was heard and a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, so powerful that it seemed as if the whole world would be destroyed. But all at once the storm died down and the ship was saved. The captain announced in a joyous booming voice,
“We are saved! We are saved! from the overboard deck he said …
Lord Jagannatha has freed us from all danger!” Lord Jagganatha is great …
The captain rushed to the old man’s side and embraced him tightly. The old man was still doing his prayers before the picture of Lord Jagannatha. “The Lord of the universe has answered our prayers,” he said simply. A benign smile appeared on the old man’s tired and time worn face. Tears filled the captains eyes and his voice choked. “ No one is foreign to your Lord Jagannatha. He deserves all the diamonds, precious gems, gold ornaments, and even the old French church bell be taken from the ship storeroom and given to Lord Jagannatha temple”
Captain announced bravely “ Our ship has been saved, due to the mercy of Lord Jagannatha .”
He went close to the old man and asked what is the meaning of JAGGANNATHA
The old man replied …….He is Lord of the Universe and he will reach to the one who surrenders .. All joined the old man’s prayers .
.Jai Jai Jagganath ..Jai Jai Jagganath
Captain ran to the upper deck to observe whether any shore was visible in sight. The top of a huge temple, looking like a Blue Mountain, was clearly visible. His assistant overjoyed said ..Captain …, “ That is the earthly home of Lord Jagannatha of Puri.”
The panic mood of the travelers was converted to heavenly bliss …
This french bell can be seen in the old courtyard near to the original office of the Puri Jagganath temple .
Jai Jai Jagganath …
Our Travel diary is available in the appended link post
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan
Pics credits : Google images
Video credits : HG Swarupa damodar das