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Devotee Karmabai – Jagannath leela

Under the reign of king Virakisora, there was a saintly lady from Maharastra called Karmabai. She was very much devoted to Lord Krishna. She did not have any son. As per her guru’s instructions, she accepted Krishna as her son and was living in Puri.
Everyday, she would wake up in the morning and start cooking Kichidi bhog for Krishna. She did this sincerely and with great devotion. Jagannath in the form of small boy, would come everyday to her house to personally honour the bhog offered by Karmabai. She would offer it in front of her Krishna deity and then when the small boy comes, she would give him the Kichidi. The boy used to relish the Kichidi.
This went on for a long time.

Once a sadhu/panda who came to her village, visits Karmabai. He sees the regular activities of Karmabai, that she wakes up in the morning and starts cooking bhog for the Lord at once and then a small boy comes and eats that Kichidi. Sadhu wants to correct Karmabai’s methods. So the sadhu tells her that, she should get up in the morning, clean the place, take a nice bath herself and then only prepare the Kichidi for Lord Jagannath, otherwise the offering would not be accepted by Jagannath. Immediately, Karmabai decides that she should follow the process instructed by the sadhu.

Next day, she gets up in the morning, washes her face, cleans the house, takes bath and then it becomes very late before she can start preparing the bhoga. By that time, the small boy is already waiting. “Mataji, when will you give Kichidi? I have to go, everyone is waiting for me” – He says. So, Karmabai quickly prepares the Kichidi, offers it to Krishna and then brings it for the small boy. Jagannath in the form of small boy, is hungry and eats quickly and before He could finish eating and wash His hands and mouth, its time for darshan in the temple. Lord Jagannath hurriedly leaves Karmabai’s house and goes back to the temple.
When the pujari opens the mandir and sees Jagannath, he finds particles of Kichidi around His mouth. Pujari wonders, “We haven’t offered Kichidi to the Lord today. Then where did these particles around His mouth come from?”

This was not working well…so Jagannath appeared in the dream of the sadhu and asked him to tell Karmabai, “Whatever she was doing earlier was good. She need not follow the process that he had instructed her. Jagannath only looks for the Bhava of the devotee.”

After few days, there were tears in the eyes of Lord Jagannath. Upon asking the reason, Lord Jagannath said that His dear mother Karmabai has left this world. From tomorrow, who will give me Kichidi?
From that day, Kichidi is made for Lord Jagannath and offered everyday. This is called Karmabai’s kichidi.
Even today the earthen pot in which the boiled rice (Abhada) is offered to Deities is called “Bhai Handi”.

Usually it is said that the food is accepted when the priest can see Sri Jagannatha’s image reflected into a drop of water he is holding in his hand. But the image of the Lord did not appear any more in the water, instead, the food immediately became rotten and had to be discarded.

Nilachala Nivasaya
Nityaya Paramatmane
Balabhadra Subhadraabhyaam
Jagannathaya Te Namah

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