Pandit Binayak Mishra was born in 1894. After the Successful completion of M. E. School Examination he started his career as a teacher at Nilagiri in the district of Balasore in Orissa. Two years later he resigned the Job. Shortly after that he was appointed as Assistant Lecturer in Oriya in Calcutta University. In course of time he held the post of professor of Oriya in the said institution with distinction. Pt. Mishra was the author of several books in Oriya and English, some of his famous works.
On a hot summer day of 1965 Pandit Binayak Mishra asked me to be with him for some time. During our meeting he showed me the manuscript on Indian Culture and Cult of Jagannatha which he expected to bring out shortly, and wanted me to go through it. I Wast least surprised to see the manuscript, because he had already published a number of volumes both in English and Oriya. He was a genius in our eyes. He had no higher academic degree. He had only passed the M.E. School examination (in the modern parlance he had passed the examination held for students of Class VII), but he was appointed Professor of Oriya in Calcutta University in recognition of his vast knowledge in Oriya, Sanskrit and Pali. The present volume would itself speak of his command over the English language as well.
While going through the manuscript on Indian Culture and Cult of Jagannatha, I never thought for a moment that it would be my duty to write a Preface for the volume. Pt. Mishra left for heavenly abode in 1970 and the volume remained un-published for a long time. Now that it is published, I feel happy and I express my sincere thanks to the publishers.
I deem it necessary to give a short account of the subject discussed in this volume. Pt. Mishra has aimed at presenting an original and comprehensive account of the many facets of our country’s culture and their influence on the Jagannatha cult, centering round the shrine of Lord Jagannatha at Puri. The sources utilized in this work are varied in nature and include Inscriptions, Jaina, Buddhist and Brahmanical texts, and some foreign travel accounts on India. The information gleaned from these sources have been nicely pieced together by the learned author who has forwarded many interesting thesis while deducing conclusions on different subjects of traditional and historical interest.
After a short and yet purposeful discussion on the topography of Ancient Orissa, the book passed on to enumerate the different castes and tribes of Orissa and Eastern India, and determines their origin and nativity by tracing their possible connections with Puranic families and personalities. A description of the folk-gods and goddesses worshipped by these casts and tribes follows along with the inherent meaning of different musical notes. The incarnations of various cult deities of the Jaina, Buddhist and Brahmanical order the well-illustrated with the help of traditional stories in chapter Four, while the next chapter vividly describes the rise and growth of Buddhism, Vajrayanism, and Alekhism in Orissa and their influence of Orissan culture. Chapter six holds a discussion on different dynasties of Ancient and Early-medieval Orissa like the Dattas, Manas, Bhauma-Karas, Bhanjas, Somavamsis, Sulkis, Nandas and Tungas and raises many issues connected with their history. Then follows rather a long account of Orissa under Kharavela and Asoka and a general discussion on the various aspects of Orissan culture with the help of miscellaneous data obtained from the Epics and Puranas, the Mudrarakshasa, and early Oriya literature. The two concluding chapters summarise Orissan folklore and tradition and associate them with the festivals of Jagannatha at Puri besides explaining the numerous chores of worship of the deity, his antiquity and time.
What makes the book a worthy account is its original approach to the various themes. The learned author has made a painstaking effort to gather traditional accounts and puranic stories and associate them with known historical data. In doing so, he has displayed a rare originally and greater clarity of expression. All said and done, the author deserves the praise of the readers for this brilliant compendium on a topic of historical and general interest not so perfectly known.
In conclusion, however, I wish to make one thing perfectly clear. There are opinions and judgments in this book with which some readers may not agree, yet the departed soul of Pt. Mishra would rest in peace if it is generally appreciated by the readership in and out of India.
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