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Birajakshetra Jajpur - Introduction and Mythological Significance

Maa Biraja of JajpurMaa Biraja ensconced in her temple in Jajpur Town, known famously as Biraja Khetra has occupied a prominent place in the landscape of Orissa’s socio religious consciousness since time immemorial. Somehow the Place Jajpur and the deity Maa Biraja compliment each other. And thus any reference to the place is bound to end up with Maa Biraja and similarly reference to Maa Biraja would inevitably drag in references of Jajpur. It is thus easy to comprehend why the Place that is known as Jajpur today was known as Birajakshetra in the olden times.

Baitrani river is considered very sacredIn fact, situated on the banks of river Baitrani , Jajpur held a key place in the history of the nation as is evident from quite in a number of ancient Indian texts like Puranas and even the Mahabharat. The Mahabharat, for example depicts the famous legend of the Pandavas being instructed by Sage Lomash to go to the Baitrani River encompassed by the Biraja Tirtha and to take a holy dip in the river to washout all sorrows, sufferings and pain in the Vana Parva. The below mentioned couplet highlights the same:

“Tato Baitranim gachhet Sarvapapa Pramochanim Birajatirtha masadya virajate Yatha Sasi” (Mahabharat – Vana parva)

Similar references in Vayu Purana , Kapila Samhita and other religious epics confirm the antiquity & importance of the place. Its place in the history and as a prominent place of religious pilgrimage of India has been vindicated times and again as the place had been visited and mentioned by many saints including Adi Sankrachrya, Guru Nanak and Sri Chaitanya. Historically Jajpur dates back as the most ancient place in Orissa. There are five Kshetras (places where different deities of Vaishnavite importance rest) in Orissa. These are

  • Vinayakkshetra: Associated with Lord Ganesha is in Mahabinayak
  • Arkakshetra: Associated with Sun God, is in Konark
  • Padmakshetra: Different temples in Bhubaneswar
  • Sankhakshetra: Also known as Jagannathkhetra is in Puri
  • Virajakshetra: Also known as Gadakshetra is today’s Jajpur.

All these Kshetras emphasize the importance that the Vaishnavite Cult had on Orissa in the ancient days. Of all the Kshetras, Birajakshetra or Jajpur was considered the most sacred in the ancient times till 11 the Century AD when the Jagannath Cult started and slowly gained in prominence over the general masses of the state. In fact it was the cultural hub of Orissa and had hosted all sorts of religious movement in the state starting from Vaishnavite to Buddhism and Shaivaite to today’s Shakti.

Shivalings in BirajakhetraMany things about the place make it one of the most sacred pilgrim places in the religious map of the country. First the river Baitrani that flows touching it is considered very sacred; next only to river the Ganges in sanctity and religious importance. Secondly mythological quotation refer  this place as Nabhi Gaya, the place where the navel of Mother Savitri (consort of Lord Shiva) fell after her body had been cut by Lord Vishnu from his famous Sudarshan Disc. Similar mythological anecdotes associate Jajpur with Gayasur, the great demon devotee of Lord Vishnu. A great Yagna (sacrificial oblation) was performed over his body by the Lords Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Biraja Kshetra or today’s Jajpur is the place where is navel rested. The exact spot is said to be a well that lies inside the Biraja temple just close to Maa Biraja.

Thirdly Birajakhetra is the only place in the entire country after Gaya in Bihar where oblations/offerings (pitrupinda) can be made to the departed souls of one’s family. Thus it is known as “Pitrtirtha” or the pilgrim place for departed souls. It is interesting to note that it was the first Pitrutirtha (where pitrupindas are offered) in the entire country and the pitrupinda tradition here outdates that of Gaya by over many centuries. How and when Gaya got the privilege of the prominence in Pitrupinda is a subject altogether different.  

Fourth, Jajpur is known as a great Shavite destination. It is often referred to as the places with “One less than One Crore” Siva lingas. References from many old texts say that “Dig anywhere in Birajakshetra and you will stumble upon a Shiva Linga”. Presence of many ancient Shiva temples in the town and even the occurrence of series of Shivalings in the Biraja temple ( Rudra Mela) along with the practice of worshipping Lord Shiva in the form of Ishaneswar and Vaidyanath inside the Biraja temple point to the fact. Not taking the dilapidated structures into account, estimates suggest that there are around 240 ancient Shiva temples in the Biraja Kshetra.

Fifth, Birajakhetra is associated with Maa Biraja the great symbol of Shakti worship and one of the Nav Matrukas (Nine Mother).Sixth,  Jajpur is the only place in India and Biraja Temple the only temple where the Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his Varaha incarnation.

Last but not the least, it’s a historically significant place; a place that was once the capital of Orissa. Many battles were fought here including the last battle in Orissa that established the Muslim rule. It was in this battle in Gohira Tikiri, a place 5 kms away from Jajpur that the last reigning king of Orissa, Mukundadev was killed. The period that followed was mass destruction of sculptures and structures in Jajpur by the marauding Muslim army under their ferocious general “Kala Pahad”. However what has survived that holocaust is enough to recount the glory of a place that was once the epicenter of religion and culture in the state of Orissa.

 

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