Puri part 3: The contrasting tales of Jagannath’s origin
In the 11th century, Odisha was at the crossroads of multiple faiths. That could explain why the backstory of Puri's resident idol has so many versions
The origin of the Jagannath idol is the subject of many tales. My favourite comes from Sarala Dasa, the 15th century Odia poet who wrote his version of the Mahabharata. In it, he imagines Krishna’s death. The actual way that Krishna dies is somewhat innocuous. A hunter named Jara sees Krishna’s foot sticking out from behind a tree and, thinking it to be the ears of a deer, shoots an arrow and kills Krishna.