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Salabeg, the Jagannath devotee- epitome of Diversity

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Salabeg

Mysteries, stories, and tales of several temples of India are astonishing enough to blow your mind. India, a hub for mysterious places also has a long-rooted history behind it. One such place is Jagannath temple which is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites of India. This centuries-old temple has stories of its origination that also find mention in old Hindu texts such as Brahma Purana and Rig Veda. But this article isn’t devoted to Jagannath temple, instead of to a man who devoted his entire life chanting Lord Jagannath’s name. Salabeg, a Muslim born boy was among one of the most celebrated devotees of Lord Jagannath! Who was Salabeg and how his story got recognized, let’s check that out.

The legacy of Jagannath Devotee Salabeg!

Salabeg was an Odia religious poet and was a son of Lalabeg. His father was a Muslim, his mother was a Hindu Brahmin. Lalabeg served in the Mughal army and one day after returning from a battle, he saw a beautiful Brahmin widow returning from a bathing area. He was so mesmerized by her beauty, that he kidnapped her and forcefully married her, who later came to be known as Fatima Biwi. Since Salabeg was borned he listened about the stories of Lord Jagannath, Lord Rama and many other Hindu deities from his mother.

Salabeg

A Muslim born boy- Salabeg, is the most celebrated Devotee of lord Jagannath. Looking at the records it can be expected that Salabeg was born somewhere between the 17th century. Salabeg has composed several folklores and Bhajans on Jagganath that are extremely heart touching, sweet and soothing. As Salabeg was born in a Muslim household, being a devotee of someone out of his religion wasn’t acceptable to his family. It was his devotion towards the lord that made him discarded by his family. After leaving his family, Salabeg started roaming here and there chanting the lord’s name. During one incident, he visited Mathura during the car festival, where his devotion towards Jagannath indicted its depth! On his way back, Salabeg fell extremely ill and therefore prayed to Lord Jagannath to wait for him in his chariot until he visits. Surprisingly, the chariot in which lord Jagannath was being carried met an accident due to which he has to be detained on Bada Danda and people believe that this happened because the Lord made it possible for Salabeg to see him on a chariot. It shows that lord too was connected with Salabeg.

“Jagabandhu he gain, Tumbha Sricharana Binu Anya gati nahi! Satas Panchasa Kosha diga disunahi, Moha jiba pain nandighosha thiba rahi.” (Jagabandhu, my Lord! Friend of everyone in this world, I have nowhere else to go…Than seeking shelter, at your pretty, auspicious feet. Fifteen hundred miles is too far, A distance for me to cover. Till I arrive there and get a glimpse of you- stay), says Salabeg.

Another legend says that, when Salabeg’s mother Fatima Biwi died, he became severely ill and doctors said he can’t be cured. One day lying on his bed, he heard a Bhajana and thought that the great Lord Jagannath can cure his illness. He then, consistently start praying to the Lord and surprisingly got cured. It was this incident that led Salabeg to become a great devotee of Lord Jagannath. Around this time, seeing his devotion towards a Hindu god, he was discarded by his family.

Many ancient researchers believe that Salabeg’s father died a year after his birth and thus he spent most of his time with his mother. This could describe why Salabeg was so deeply devoted to Lord Jagannath. According to many stories and folklore, it is believed that he started writing songs and Bhajans dedicated to the lord after his supplications were answered by the lord. As these stories say that after seeing Jagannath, Salabeg stayed in Puri and composed most of his songs while staying there for the rest of his life. After Salabeg died he was cremated at the very same place and his Samadhi lies at Badananda in Puri’s Grant Road.

“Salabeg is the only devotee of Lord Jagannath whose Samadhi is situated on the way through which his chariot passes. To commemorate his devotion, every year during the Rath Yatra, the chariot is stopped outside his Samadhi for five minutes,” says Suryanarayan Rath Sharma, researcher of Jagannath culture.

Most of Salabeg’s literature came into recognition during the Bhakti movement of India. When the movement reached its pinnacle, it brought a reformation in Hinduism by discarding the priesthood and establishing direct communication with the god. It was this time, where poets like Kabir, Nanak, Mirabai, Tulsidas, and many more came into being. Therefore, Salabeg is an important figure because of his poems and Bhajans have now become an integral part of the tradition of Jagannath temple. Not only Salabeg, but there are also several other poets in Odisha culture with the same origin, one of them is Uzir Beg who has greatly contributed to the cult of Lord Jagannath.

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