Built on a high rock not far from the Royal Palace and Gangour Ghat of the lake Picchola, Jagdish Mandir is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one the largest and most splendid temples of Udaipur.
There are quite a few fascinating common beliefs related to the construction of Jagannath Rai Ka Mandir, popularly known as Jagdish Mandir by Maharana Jagat Singh. The Maharana was a worshipper of Lord Shiv in keeping with the family tradition but was also deeply devoted to Bhagwan Jagannath of Puri. He meditated daily on the latter every day. It is said that by keeping of a miraculous Gutika made with mercury in his mouth and through power of Yoga Vidhya, he was able to go to Jagannathpuri by space route early in the morning. After having the Lord’s ‘darshan’, he returned home before sunrise and only after this he began his daily routine.
Once on the occasion of the Lord’s Rath Yatra, he was not able to reach Puri in time. He had to half on the way to the sacred city. Perhaps it was due to the diminishing power of the miraculous Gutika or decline in his spiritual power. So he could not have the ‘Darshan’ or participate in the procession. So unhappy was he that he didn’t take food or water and went to sleepy hungry. At night in a dream appeared Bhagwan Jagannath who told him that it was not his fault that he was not able to reach Puri in time and that there was no doubt that he had full faith in the Lord. He was asked to reach Puri by road and have his meal. The Maharana was greatly relieved and carried out the Lord’s order.
While resting at night in Puri, the Lord again appeared in the Maharana’s dream and told him that as he was getting weak and it was difficult to continue the routine of visiting Puri every morning, he should stay at home. The Lord asked him to build a temple in Udaipur where he would come and reside in his full glory. He said that he had also promised Meera to stay in Udaipur.
Hightly elated at the Lord’s blessings, the Maharana returned to Udaipur and ordered that a temple be built speedily.
It is said that a temple was first built on the road in the south- west of Sahelion Ki Bari, leading to Fatehsagar and the idol of Lord Krishna in the form of Daneraiji performing Daanleela was established in it. However, Lord Jagannath appeared again in a dream and told the Maharana that he would not like to reside so far away from him. So the Maharana ordered for the construction of another temple near his own palace where the Mandir exists now.
People say that there is another strange incident related to the building of this Mandir. In the morning when the construction work started, one hundred labourers came to take the implements. However, at the end of the day after finishing the work, only ninetynine of them turned up to take their payment. The puzzled supervisors watched all this for some time. Then one day they reported the matter to the Maharana who himself came to see what was happening and found that the supervisors were right. That night the Lord appeared before the Maharana in a dream and told him that he himself was helping in the construction work but how he could accept wages for doing his own work.
It is said that when the time for the Pranpratishtha of the idol came, the Maharana began to doubt whether the Lord would really reside in it or not. Lost in these thoughts, the Maharana saw that the idol was wearing the same golden Kadas that he had offered him in Jagannath Puri. This dispelled all his doubts.
Perched on the top of a rock, one has to climb up thirty two steps to reach the temple. Then one can have the ‘Darshan’ of the beautiful black stone idol of Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Jagannath, the Lord of the universe. The building has a fine porch and there are fifty finely carved pillars each on the first and the second floor of the three- storey temple. It has beautifully decorated ceilings, gorgeously painted walls and spacious halls and corridors. The exterior and the plinth are covered with bas-relief of alligators, elephants , horsemen and celestial musicians rising in tiers. Also what is interesting is the huge brass Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s half eagle, half man, mount outside the main mandap of the temple.
Modelled on the original Gudicha Mandir in Puri, the temple was built under the supervision of Arjun son of Gugawat Pancholi Kamal and the guidance of Sutradhar (Suthar) Bhanao of Bangora Gotra and his son Mukund.
In the Parikrama are small temples of Surya, Ganesh,Shiv and Devi. There is an inscription in Sanskrit on both sides of the porch written by Pandit Krishna Bhatt that gives a detailed account of the reign of Maharana Jagatsingh .
Built in Indo- Aryan style, the Mandir is an excellent example of Takshat art. All the principles of Vastushatra and Mandan Sutra were followed in the construction of the Mandir.
It is said that at the time of Pranpratishta of the Mandir the Maharana gave one thousand cows, several horses, a lot of gold and five villages in charity. The builders were given elephants made of gold and silver and a village near Chittorgarh.
Historians tell us that during the reign of Maharana Rajsingh, Udaipur was attacked by Aurangzeb in 1680 and as advised by his nobles he moved to western hills. On that occasion Barhat Naru, a member of a nomadic tribe with his twenty soldiers took upon himself the responsibility of safeguarding the temple. Another warrior also rushed out of the northern gate of the temple and put up a brave fight. The Mughal army was astonished to see that there was no one in the city but these few brave soldiers were ready to face them bravely. These warriors fought courageously and sarificed their life. The Mughal soldiers expressed their desperation by destroying several idols in the temple. Barhat Naru’s courage and determination in face of the enemy have given him a place in Mewar’s history. A monument to him, a small ‘chhatri’ marking the place where he died, can be seen closely by .
According to item numbers 20th and 21st of the original ‘farman’ (document/orders) in Persian language with seal that is available in Bikaner State Archives, Emperor Aurangzeb ordered his army to destroy Jagdish temple among others and for this purpose he sent his army under the leadership of Ruhilla Khan and Yakataj Khan. But the act of attacking other places in addition to this temple turned out to be a wrong move and in turn the army had to face defeat. The outer parts of the temple that were damaged by Aurangzeb’s army were got repaired by Maharana Sangram Singh Second.
Whatever might have been done to the building of the temple, the reverence among the devotees was not affected in any way. Even now there are a huge number of them who begin their day with the ‘darshan’ of the Lord and attend the ‘aartis’ regularly. One gets to hear chanting (‘kirtan’s) bells and music at regular intervals through out the day. A big group of devotees, mostly regular ones, sing, chant and dance enthusianstically and visitors, Indian and foreign, are overwhelmed listening to this divine music. Viceroy Lord Elgin came to Udaipur in 1951 and offered a golden Kada to Lord Jagannath.
There is an interesting incident about the offering of ‘bhog’to the Lord. It is said that one evening the priests forgot to serve evening ‘bhog’. The Lord waited and waited. Then he wrapped his ornaments in a piece of cloth and walked to a sweet shop in the vicinity. The seller was about to close his shop. The Lord asked him to give him some sweets but he didn’t do so thinking that the young boy didn’t have anything to pay in return. The Lord gave the ornaments to him. Highly pleased, the seller gave him a lot of sweets. Next morning, the Maharana was angry when he found the ornaments missing. He thought that the priests had stolen them but the latter told him that they had not done so. That night the Maharana in a dream saw the Lord buying sweets outside the sweet shop. In the morning, when the Maharana‘s men went to the shop, first of all the seller refused that he had sold sweets to the Lord. Only when he was threatened that he would be punished severely, did he return the Lord’s ornaments.
Eloborate rituals are performed through out the day. On festivals like Krishan Janmashtami, the temple becomes a centre of attraction. It is tastefully decorated with multi-colour flowers and buntings and there is colourful lighting at night. Before the ‘darshan’, a large number of devotees present here sing ‘bhajans’ related to the ‘leelas’ of the Lord , who resides here in the child form of Krishna. As midnight approaches, the devotees become more eager about the Lord’s birth. As the clock strikes twelve, a 21- gun salute is given and the whole premises reverberate with sound of Nand Ke Anand Bhayo, Jai Kanahiya Lal Ki. The devotees have ‘darshan’ of the Lord dressed in eye catching dress and precious glittering jewellery. Then there is Aarti in which the devotees take part with great enthusiasm and this is followed by ‘prasad’ distribution.
A new fascinating feature that has been added to Janmashtami festival is the Matki Phod competition in Jagdish Chowk. An earthen pot full of curds etc. Is put up at a height of over twentyfive feet. Several teams take part in this event. The team forms a pyramid and one member reaches the top and tries to break the Matki. The winning team gets lucrative prizes.
The Jagannath Yatra in the month of Ashad is also a big event. In the afternoon, the idol of the Lord is decorated beautifully and brought down to the Chowk by the chief priest. Eagerly waiting devotees welcome it shouting Jagannath Swami Ki Jai, Hathi Ghoda Palki, Jai Kanahaiya Lal Ki. With a twentyone gun salute the procession starts. Devotees vie with one another to pull the ‘rath’. It seems the whole town is out on the streets and men dressed in Mewari clothes and Pagri and gaily attired women welcome the idol showering flower petals and ‘gulal’ and waving ‘aarti’ at several places on the route. The procession that has bands, ‘dhols’, ‘akharas’ etc is watched from housetops, windows and stairs Wending its way through different parts of the town the procession returns to Jagdish Mandir just before midnight when the final ‘ aarti’ is waved and the Lord returns to the main temple.
The stunning structure of the Mandir today is not only a place of worship but also initiates one into the culture of Mewar.