It was an impromptu trip to Joronda Gadhi, Dhenkanal . A drive of almost 75 kms from Bhubaneswar to Joronda ,this temple introduced me to a completely different cult of Hinduism.Maha mel in Joronda, hustling and bustling with devotees, localities and sellers,this place was different.
Joranda Gadhi is a temple built in a location where three villages meet: Joranda, Natima and Patna. The temple is dedicated to the supreme lord. the followers of mahima dharma worship him as Sunya Brahma or the shapeless lord.No idol worship is permitted in this sect.
On our way I noticed some sadhus very distinctively similar to Naga Babas. A man clad with saffron robe, having knotted hair on his head, a bag dangling from his shoulder, a palm-leaf umbrella over his head, walking with down-ward glance, singing Bhima Bhoi’s Bhajans to the music of his castanet, prostrating before sunrise and sunset, smearing his forehead with dust or eating from an earthen pot or leaf plates, sleeping beneath the open sky beside a burning log or Dhuni, you can instantly conclude, here is a Mahima Baba.
The Mahimaites touch no prasad or tulsi leaf or medicine. They entertain no casteism or idolatry or belief in spirits. They play no games, move with no sanyasini, sit under no canopy, domesticate no birds or animals. They do not accept alms from astrologers, prostitutes, barbers, Brahmins, Kshatriyas (Rajas) and Chandals. Like the Vaishnavas, they wear no sacred threads, no tilak or mark of Vishnavism, no garland of beaded tulsi. They take no dinner, touch no food which is too salty or too sweet or too bitter. They perform sarana and darsana, beg food only once from a family, stay only a day in a village. They practise truth, non-violence and believe in immortality and rebirth.
Born in an atmosphere of suppression and distrust, Mahimaism opposed the spread of Christianity and Vaishnavism. It resembles Christianity in its belief in one God and one caste and also in bridal and funeral ceremonies. But unlike Christianity its God is Alekh. Like Vaishnavism, it is based on faith, but it runs to philosophic abstraction. (To scholars like B.C. Mazumdar and L.N. Sahu this religion is the culmination of Jainism for its saffron robe, its non-violence, its code of conduct and its custom of fasting at night, while to others, it is the modern form of crypto-Buddhism for its theory of the void, its projection of Mahima as Buddha, non-attachment and rejection of casteism, idolatry and the Vedas.
Mahima Dharma originated in Orissa in the second half of the 19th century. It took its birth out of the two great religions i.e. Hinduism and Buddhism. Mahima Dharma is the last protest of saints against the established Hindu religious order. The great Prabuddha Guru Mahima Gosain founded and preached the religion called “Mahima Dharma”. Mahima Dharma is also called “Satya Sanatan Mahima Dharma.
The founder of Mahima Dharma is Mukunda Das. He appeared at Puri in 1826 and lived for a long time, there as an Achari-Vaishnab and was known as Dhulia Babaji from the fact of smearing his body with ashes. He left Puri and came to Dhenkanal where he selected the Kapilas hills near a shrine of Mahadev as his dwelling-place. During the first twelve years of his residence at Kapilas, Mukunda Das lived on fruits and accordingly was known as the Phalahari Babaji. The next twelve years passed on by taking milk and water which secured him cognomen of Khira-Nirahari. During his sojourn at Kapilas, he was known to be a devout worshipper of the local deity and took much pains in improving the place by cutting the jungle, making gardens, looking after the Bhog or sacred food of the idol and taking care of the pilgrims who were visiting the place periodically. This procured him the respect of the mother of the late Maharaja of Dhenkanal who supplied him milk as food every day. He gradually succeeded in securing the respect of the people of the surrounding villages, and there developed a popular belief that he was in secret communion with the idol. After remaining at Kapilas hills for several years and finding that he had sufficiently established his reputation and commanded respect of the people, Mukunda Das left the place and began to preach that various idols worshipped by the Hindus were nothing else but stone and wood and that the worship of these were articles was useless and of no avail, that the Creator of the Universe was Alekh or Mahima, a spiritual being without form and that he alone could hold communion with him and get his prayers granted. He eschewed his Kaupin and Kanthi and wore Kumbhipat to cover his nakedness. Afterwards he came to Daruthenga where he built a tungi and commenced to propagate the new doctrine. It was at this place that Mukunda Das was deified and began to be addressed as the Mahima Gosain. Mahima Gosain breathed his last in 1876 A.D. The death of Mahima Gosain gave a great shock to his followers who used to look upon him as the Creater of the Universe and Sunya Brahma.
The very essence of Mahima Dharma is echoed in the writings of Bhima Bhoi. The obvious advantage that he enjoyed was that he had the company and darshan of his guru. His writings are, therefore, the only original source materials of Mahima Dharma. The writings of the poet are second to none, being original, authentic and real. Mahima cult, as expressed by Bhima Bhoi is basically a humanist cult. It believes that a house holder and a worst sinner can attain deliverance through devotion to Alekh. Thus he has drawn a synthesis between the life spiritual and life temporal. Bhima Bhoi modified the tenets of Mahima cult and became himself the “Guru” of a new form of Mahima religion. The following illuminating lines of Bhima Bhoi have made him world famous. ” Boundless is the anguish and misery of the living who can see it and tolerate Let my soul be condemned to Hell But let the Universe be redeemed .
I was glad to know about the Sunya Brahma and the mahima cult and their roots to Hinduism and Jainism.