Legendary Origin of Jagannath
Source : Jagannath Puri Book Published by SJTA
Originally, Jagannatha was worshipped as Nila Madhava by an aboriginal chief secretly at this spot, while it was covered with dense forest. It was Indradyumna, who made him a public deity.The story goes, there was a king in Malwa in central India, Indradyumna by name. He was a great devotee to Visnu. For those who are not acquainted with the names of Hindu gods and goddesses, it may be stated here that the Hindus believe in the cosmic trio namely Brahma, Visnu and Siva. Brahma is the creator of the universe, Visnu is the sustainer and Siva is the destroyer. Indradyumna developed in him a rather queer and eccentric desire to see Visnu in his most perfect form on the face of the earth. He had a divine communication in dream that Visnu could be seen in his best form in Utkala (another name of ancient Orissa).
The fixed nitis that are observed daily areas on of routine. The periodical nitis are observed on occurrence of some specific occasions like, Ekadasi, Sankranti, Amabasya, on eclipses and Nakhatras etc. Lastly there are various festivals observed during the year some outside the temple like the Snana Yatra, the Ratha Yatra, the Chandana Yatra etc. and some inside the temple like Jhulan Yatra or swinging ceremony etc. Each sevaka or the temple functionary. has his specified duty to perform in these nitis having terms and times specified. Unless, a particular niti is performed, the next one can not take place and consequently punctuality sometimes fluctuates to ensure attendance of various categories of sevakas required for a particular Niti.
The word 'Niti' in Sanskrit means a principle, a rule or policy. But this word is used in the Puri temple in a more general sense, signifying a particular religious rite performed in the temple.
The Nitis or rituals of the temple may be classified under three heads - (a) the daily Nitis, which are fixed and are observed every day as of routine course; (b) the special Nitis according to the specialty of certain days, months etc. or some mishaps in the temple, (c) the various festivals observed during the year.
So, he deputed Vidyapati, the brother of the royal priest, to spot out the place where Visnu had such a manifestation and to report his findings to him. Accordingly, Vidyapati visited Orissa and after laborious search, came to know that Visnu known by the highly connotative name of Nila Madhava, was being worshipped somewhere on a hill in a dense forest. This was also an image of extraordinary lusture. Vidyapati could also know that Nila Madhava was the family-deity of Visvavasu, a Savara (an aboriginal tribe) chief. So great was the secrecy maintained about the location of Nila Madhava that Visvavasu refused on request to show Vidyapati the place of his worship. Later still, this Brahmin married Lalita, the daughter of the aboriginal chief, but even then, he was not shown the deity. At last, at the request of his beloved daughter, he took his son-in-law blindfolded to a cave on a hillock where Nila Madhava was being worshipped. As Vidyapati was made to go through the forest on foot, he could somehow manage to drop mustard seeds on the ground. As the seeds germinated after a few days, Vidyapati could easily trace the way to the lonely cave of Nila Madhava.