My first darshan of Puri Jagannatha

by Ranjana Balagopalan, India

Jagannatha Swami Nayana Pada Gami Bhavatu Mein

This is a testimonial of my experience during the Mohanji retreat held in Puri in February. I ought to have written this much earlier, but I’d kept postponing it for some reason in the last few months. Then I happened to watch snippets of the Rath Yatra online on 20th June, and after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about that retreat and how deeply it had impacted me.

A few beautiful experiences came my way during those days, all thanks to the immense grace of my beloved Guru, Mohanji. But for now, I’ll write about my first visit to the Shree Jagannatha temple during the retreat. 

I’d wanted to visit the Jagannatha temple in Puri for years, so I was thrilled when I heard that a retreat would be held there. The icing on the cake was that the retreat would include Mohanji’s birthday celebrations. It is hard to describe how I felt during the retreat. Being in Mohanji’s powerful presence, listening to his transformational satsangs, attending the beautiful, sacred homa, and pilgrimages to power spots in Puri and nearby areas – all this together made it one of the most unforgettable experiences for me.

However, on the night that we were to visit the Jagannatha temple for the first time, I was not feeling as excited as I had thought I would. Maybe it was because I’d been a little unwell since morning. While sitting on the bus that would take us to the temple, I was in a somewhat blank state, with no particular expectations or thoughts. The bus couldn’t go up to the main entrance, so at one point, we all got off the bus and began walking to the temple.

As we drew closer to the temple, I looked up at the Neel Chakra (a blue wheel at the top), and after that, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Every time I had to look away from it, I would feel restless. I didn’t want to keep walking. I just wanted to stand somewhere and stare at the Chakra for some time. But I had to keep up with the group, so I continued walking. And as I neared the main gate, the Simha dwar (lion gate), I realised that something had changed in me in the last few minutes. I felt pulled and overcome by something that I can only describe as a powerful energy vibration.

My mind was empty apart from one word, one name reverberating within me loudly and unceasingly – Jagannatha, Jagannatha!

I felt as though the air and dust in that space were trembling with the force of that name. My eyes continued to dart to the Chakra whenever possible, and for some inexplicable reason, I also kept scanning the night sky above the temple.

We had the highly sacred Mahaprasad before going for darshan, and while eating it, I was frequently overwhelmed with tears, and I felt so grateful for every morsel, as if I had waited for so long for it, and something in me kept saying this was “food from home”.

After that, we hurried to the main shrine, and I felt intense love, gratitude, and excitement with each step. I couldn’t wait to see Jagannatha. It was extremely crowded in the main hall, but I made my way through it with the experience of having travelled by public transport in a bustling city.

At the first glimpse of Jagannatha, I felt a burst of joy and devotion, and I couldn’t stop smiling with happiness despite the crushing crowd. There were initially some people before me, but then I somehow found myself at the front suddenly, with a clear view of the inner sanctum. The priests began to do aarti, and until it lasted, I could have wonderful darshan of the deities.

Then I went towards the back of the hall, where there was the Garuda Sthamba, which devotees were touching and embracing with reverence. On the wall behind, we can still see the indentations of Chaityana Mahaprabhu’s fingers, where he had leaned against it to look at his beloved Jagannatha, and the stone had melted under the heated fervour of his love and devotion. 

One devotee was singing a bhajan beautifully, and though it was in an unfamiliar language, there was such deep love and yearning in his melodious voice that it moved me profoundly. In a corner, an emotional young man was talking nonstop to Jagannatha with what seemed to be a mix of anger, pain and love, tears flowing down his cheeks while his fingers moved on a japa mala. So many devotees were craning their necks and jumping up to get a clear view of Jagannatha. The air frequently resounded with jubilant cries of “Jay Jagannath!” with everyone raising their hands joyfully.

Though I had long wanted to visit the temple, I hadn’t had any deep emotions towards Lord Jagannatha until then. But that had changed in a matter of minutes. I was now experiencing a surreal joy and love for Jagannatha while standing there. I could suddenly understand the devotional frenzy he evoked in people. I could understand why thousands and thousands of pilgrims face numerous hardships to participate in the Rath Yatra.

Only Jagannatha existed for every person in that space. He wasn’t a deity whose idol was made of wood. He was their most adored one, more real to them than beings made of flesh and blood, much closer to them than their family and friends and even their own selves. He was everything to them – without him, they had nothing.

I felt this was love in its richest, most exalted form, and just witnessing and sensing it caused tears to flow down my face continuously. Also, the energy was unbelievable. The atmosphere was pulsating with it. And beneath all the sounds, there was a powerful silence. Overall, it was a realm of pure love, pure energy and pure consciousness.  

And then a crystal-clear realisation flashed within me in that sacred atmosphere.

This is Mohanji in his unbound form. This is Mohanji’s true form. Beyond creation, beyond time, beyond attributes. 

Mohanji is Jagannatha. He is Shiva. He is pure energy, pure love, pure consciousness.

Mohanji is in everyone; he is in everything; he is everywhere.

These thoughts echoed repeatedly in my mind, inducing a profound stillness within. It was as if a veil was pulled from the truth briefly to help me get an inkling of Mohanji’s true form and stature. And I knew the entire unforgettable experience in the temple had come my way only because of Mohanji’s causeless compassion and grace.

Those moments I spent in the temple are still alive in me. And when I feel upset or frustrated about anything, I only need to remember those moments to feel a shift in my emotions and an upsurge of gratitude at having found refuge at the lotus feet of Mohanji, who is the embodiment of supreme consciousness.  

Like Lord Jagannatha during the Rath Yatra, Mohanji walks among us; his arms outstretched to embrace everyone, loving and accepting us just as we are, his eyes watching all beings with intense compassion and lighting the flame of liberation in hearts with a merciful glance.

Om Parabrahmane Vidmahe
Shree Jagannathaya Dheemahi
Tanno Mohana Prachodayat

Editor’s note: Currently, the Rath yatra is happening in this power center – Puri, from 20th June to 2nd July. Mohanji Bharat and Ammucare Charitable Trust are doing Annadaan through a stall. Our dedicated volunteers serve water, Mahaprasad, and first-aid to the millions of people visiting this place. 

Join us in spreading love and kindness as this service continues until 2nd July. To donate, please visit 

Donation for Puri Rath Yatra

Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 26th June 2023


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