Friend of Lord Jagannath
There was once a great devotee of Lord Ramachandra named Raghu Dasa. He lived in Puri under a big umbrella near the Lion Gate of the Jagannath temple. Once when he went to see Lord Jagannath he saw Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita on Jagannath’s altar. From that day on he was convinced that Lord Jagannath was non-different from Lord Ramachandra. Raghu developed friendly love, sakhya rasa, for Lord Jagannath.
Once Raghu prepared a nice garland for Lord Jagannath and gave it to the pujari to offer to the Lord. But the pujari did not want to offer it, since Raghu had used a string made from the bark of the banana tree. At that time use of such things was prohibited in Jagannath’s temple. Raghu felt very sad that his garland was not offered to Lord Jagannath. He left the temple feeling very down.
Later in the day, the pujari was finishing the evening arati. Before the Lord goes to bed the pujaris dress Him in a special dress called bada shringar-vesha. After dressing the Lord, the pujari started to decorate His body with flowers. But to his surprise, whatever he did, not a single flower would remain on the Lord’s body. The Lord would not accept any of the flowers. All the pujaris became very worried, thinking that they must have committed some offense. But what could it have been? They all decided that to try to understand what offense they had committed, they would all sleep in the temple and fast until the Lord appeared to them in their dreams to inform them of their offense. Sure enough, that same night Lord Jagannath appeared in the dream of the head pujari, and told him, “My devotee Raghu Dasa brought a flower garland for Me. He prepared it with so much love and devotion. You saw the external feature of the string and denied him permission to give the garland to Me. You could not see how nicely he prepared the garland. He strung it with love and devotion. Now my devotee, being deprived of my service, is lying in his house keeping the garland in front of him. He has not eaten anything and is constantly crying. He has not yet slept. How can I accept any garland from you and sleep peacefully unless My devotee’s desire has been fulfilled?”
Immediately the head pujari woke up and told everything to the other pujaris. Then all of them went to Raghu Dasa and explained their offense, and asked him to give his garland to Lord Jagannath. Raghu Dasa was very happy to hear that the Lord is so merciful that He was personally waiting to accept his garland. Raghu Dasa was in ecstasy.
Once, Raghu Dasa suffered from a very serious disease. His health deteriorated to the point that he could not get up from bed. He had to pass stool in his bed. The smell was very bad. Raghu Dasa, being very ill, passed in and out of consciousness, unable to help himself. One small boy was coming to serve Raghu Dasa. He cleaned his body and put on sandal paste and offered nicely scented things to remove the smell and purify the room. When Raghu came to his external senses, he found that the boy was Lord Jagannath Himself. Raghu told Lord Jagannath, “My dear Lord, what are You doing here? By doing this low service to me, You are making me an offender. I am becoming more sinful by receiving service from You. O Lord, You are very merciful. You are the Lord of the universe. You are able to do everything. If you want, You can easily cure my disease. Instead of curing me, why are You doing this low service for me?” The Lord replied, “Yes, I could easily cure you. But I want you to be free from all your prarabdha karma so that you will come back to My abode at the end of this life. Also you should know that as My devotees get pleasure by serving Me, I also get pleasure by serving My devotees. I always desire to serve you. There is no difference between Me and My devotee.” In this way the Lord and Raghu had a very intimate relationship.
Raghu was very simple and his nature was like a small boy’s. His relationship with Lord Jagannath was very friendly. Sometimes the Lord would come to him in the form of a boy, and they would both play together. It was known to people in general that the Lord came to Raghu to play with him. Everybody respected Raghu. He was very famous and known among the people as the ‘Friend of Lord Jagannath’.
Content Credits: Vrushali (from Facebook)