This is one of the most beautiful pastimes of Lord Jagannath!
There was a person named Bandhu Mohanty in the city of Jajpur in Orissa. He had two daughters and one son. His wife was very obedient. He was very poor and lived by begging alms. He had no reserve funds—whatever he collected in one day he spent in one day with nothing left over. Bandhu Mohanty was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath. He used to spend his days chanting the holy name of the Lord. He was merciful to all living entities, was very truthful, and was very fond of serving brahmanas. He was indifferent to his family life, knowing that everything is temporary except the holy name of the Lord. In this way, he spent his days happily chanting and remembering the sweet pastimes of Lord in Vrindavan.
Once there was drought in his area, and people were dying due to want of food. Bhandu Mohanty went to some villages to beg alms, but the people had no food even for themselves—how could they give alms to Bandhu Mohanty? He returned to his house without any food, all the while meditating on the Lord. His wife told him that the children were very hungry. They could not tolerate their hunger pangs any longer. She asked, "Don't you have some relative who can help us during this difficult time? Let us leave this place and go to some other place where your relatives are staying." Bandhu Mohanty replied, "I have no relatives to help me, but I do have a friend. But He lives far from here. He is the best among all the people. There is no one equal to him. He lives in Shri Kshetra Puri Dhaam. If some how or other we can manage to reach him, our problems will be solved." His wife was very happy to hear this. She said, "Then let us go there immediately. I will carry one child. You will carry the others. Let us go there now without any delay. Otherwise all of us will die." Bandhu Mohanty was very happy to hear this from his wife. He thought it would be very nice to go to Shri Kshetra and take darshan of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra. Yearning to see his Lord, he merrily set out with his family on empty stomach but full heart.
They started their journey to Shri Kshetra, arriving four days later. He was relieved as soon as he saw the Neelachakra. They approached the Jagannath temple at the Lion Gate. Thousands of people were visiting the temple, and security was very tight. Many guards were there with sticks in their hands. As it was not possible for them to enter the temple, they took darshan of Patita-pavana, the deity of Lord at the entrance of the temple's eastern gate. Whoever is not allowed to enter the temple can take darshan of this deity. Then Bandhu Mohanty went towards the southern gate near Peja Nala, where all the starch from the cooked rice from Jagannath's kitchen gathers. The cows drink this liquid known as 'peja'. Bandhu Mohanty was very tired. He sat down there near the south gate. His wife said, "Why are you sitting here? It is getting late. Now it is already evening time. Let us go to your friend's house to get refreshed and eat something. We all are very tired and hungry. Where is your friend"s house?" At this time all the children also started to cry, saying, "We are very hungry. We cannot tolerate our hunger any more. If you do not feed us, we will die very soon."
Bandhu Mohanty said to them, "Today there are many guests at my friend's house. The gate-keepers are allowing only selected guests inside. If anyone tries to enter by force, they'll be beaten. Let us sleep here tonight. We can drink some starch from Jagannath's kitchen and spend the night here. Early in the morning we will go to meet with my friend and ask him to give us shelter and food. My friend is very merciful." His wife agreed to the proposal. They arranged a broken clay pot, and all of them drank the rice-starch water, and got a little relief from their hunger. All the members of the family were very tired and soon fell asleep. Bandhu Mohanty started to offer his prayers to Lord Jagannath: "O Lord of the universe. You are maintaining everyone in your creation. Am I out of your creation? We are dying here due to want of food. Please bless us. Otherwise we would lose our lives. Please have pity on my family and consider our case." While he was praying to the Lord in this way, he fell asleep.
In the meantime the Lord Jagannath's pujari completed the evening offering to the Lord. After finishing the puja, he locked the temple door, and with the key in hand, headed towards his home. During the night, Lord Jagannath became very worried that His devotee was sleeping without having eaten anything. He could not sleep! "My friend has come from so far. How can I sleep peacefully without feeding him? He has come here thinking I am his only friend, to seek My help at this tough time." Then the Lord of the universe entered into the storeroom and took one golden plate in His hand. He collected many varieties of foodstuffs like pan-cakes, puddings, sweets, sweet rice, vegetable rice, all kinds of dry sweet prasada. Then He came to south gate of the temple. The Lord called, "Oh my dear Bandhu, please come here." Bandhu Mohanty heard someone calling his name. He thought, "Maybe they are calling someone else. There must be so many people here with this name.
No one knows me here, so who could be calling my name?" Thinking like this, he did not respond. Then the Lord called again, "Oh, Bandhu Mohanty from Jajpur, please listen! You are staying near Peja Nala along with your family. Please come here. I have brought food for you." Hearing this, Bandhu went and saw an old brahmana ready to hand him a plate filled with so many varieties of foodstuffs. The Lord, in the form of this old brahmana, told Bandhu, "Please accept this food and feed your family members. Tomorrow morning I will arrange everything for you." Saying this, the Lord disappeared from there. Bandhu Mohanty took prasada very happily. He woke up all the family members, and they all honored prasada very eagerly and gratefully, then once again slept, content with full bellies. After cleaning the plate, Bandhu Mohanty went to the south gate to return the plate. He pushed the door, expecting that the brahmana would be there and he could return the plate to him. But to his surprise the brahmana was not there. Bandhu went back to his sleeping place and wrapping the plate in his cloth, decided he would return it in the morning.
Early the next morning, Lord Jagannath's pujaris opened the temple gate. Everybody was busy with their individual services. When they opened the store room they discovered the golden plate of Lord Jagannath was missing. The plate had been stolen! The pujaris reported the theft to temple management, and the police arrested all the pujaris and beat them, thinking that it could only have been a pujari who had stolen the plate from inside the store room. It happened that by chance some people saw one person along with his family sleeping near the south gate of the temple. They could see the golden plate wrapped in his cloth. The plate was dazzling in the sunshine. Immediately several people caught hold of Bandhu Mohanty. They bound him with rope, beat him severely, and took away the golden plate. Bandhu Mohanty and his wife both explained how one brahmana gave them this plate filled with prasada in the middle of the night. After eating he went to return the plate to the brahmana but could not find him, and that was how the plate ended up with in his cloth. Bandhu Mohanty and his wife appealed to the police: "We are not at fault. Why are you all beating us with out any fault?" But nobody cared for what they said. He was arrested and put in prison. Bandhu Mohanty stayed in the prison house. He fixed his mind on Lord Jagannath and started to offer prayers: "Dear Lord Jagannath, I am the greatest sinful person in this universe. You are an ocean of mercy. There is no one as sinful as me, and there is no one like You, the great deliverer of the fallen souls. Whatever You wish to do with me, please do it. I have no other shelter than You." Thinking like this he meditated upon the lotus feet of the Lord.
Later that evening all the temple devotees completed their services to the Lord and went back to their respective houses. That Lord, who is all pervading and always worried for His devotees, could not tolerate the suffering of His devotee. He immediately climbed on the back of Garuda and went to the palace of the King. At that time the King was sleeping. The Lord appeared to the King in his sleep and told him, "Oh King, please listen; when guests come to your house, do you let them stay without feeding them and caring for them? Is there anyone in your palace who stays with out eating? My friend had come all the way from Jajpur along with his whole family with so much faith in Me. I provided him food. Did I spend your father's property? I served My friend prasada on My gold plate. What is the problem for you? Your people caught him along with his whole family, and they were beaten severely. They bound them hand and foot and threw them in the prison house. Now my friend's whole family is suffering so much. I order you to go immediately to Puri to release them from jail and wash their lotus feet with the greatest humility. Give them the best cloth and ornaments. Place a turban on my friend's head in order to give him topmost respect. My friend deserves the same service from you as you give to Me. You will provide him and his family with the best food and accommodation for their whole life. If you do not follow My order, your whole family will be destroyed." After saying this, Lord Jagannath woke the King, and then left the palace.
The King immediately called all his ministers and explained everything to them. He personally went to the prison house to release Bandhu Mohanty, and embraced him with affection. The King said, "My life has become successful simply by taking your darshan. Now I am blessed. Please forgive me for all the offenses committed by my people." After saying this, the King performed abhishek to Bandhu Mohanty with holy water, gave him opulent cloth for wearing, and placed a turban on his head with great respect. He arranged for the. maintenance of Bandhu Mohanty's whole family for the rest of their lives. The King respected them as if they were his own relatives. He arranged a house for them near the south gate of the temple. Bandhu Mohanty was happy to stay next to his friend Lord Jagannath. He happily served Lord Jagannath along with his whole family for the rest of their lives.
This is an example of the bhakta-vatsalya mood of Lord Jagannath. Whoever serves Him with great faith, He reciprocates with him in this way. He is very dear to His faithful devotees. Whoever lacks faith, for him Lord Jagannath is very far away.
**Whoever hears or reads this pastime of Bandhu Mohanty will be free from the reaction of all sinful activities. He will achieve success in all his attempts and will never see Yama-loka. This is the verdict of all the Vedic scriptures.**