Shankha-kshetra Panchatirtha: Swetaganga Tank

BY: SUN STAFF - 11.11 2020

Swetaganga Tank - Swetaganga Pushkarini

A seventeen-part series on Sri Jagannath Puri Dham - Shankha-kshetra: The Holy Dham at Puri Jagannatha's five sacred bathing places.

Among the five Panchatirtha's in Shankha-kshetra, Jagannath Puri Dham, is the Swetaganga Tank. This small sacred bathing site is situated on the western side of the Jagannath Temple, midway between the Lions Gate and Swargadwar, the cremation ghat.

Sri Swetaganga is mentioned in the Mahabharata, where it is described as having been manifested from the nail of Lord Vishnu. The water is also said to flow directly from the Ganges, which flows into the bottom of the tank. Pilgrims coming to get darshan of Lord Jagannath often bathe first in the Sea (Mahodadi), then in Swetaganga and the other three tanks before visiting Their Lordships.

On the bank of Swetaganga Tank are two small temples, dedicated to Sweta Madhava and Matsya Madhava. Devotees come to these Visnu temples to perform sraddha ceremonies, and after the burning of bodies at the cremation ghat they come to Swetaganga for purifying bath.

There is an interesting passage about Swetaganga Tank and the Matsya Madhava shrine found in the biography of Sri Ganga Mata Goswamini (Sachi Devi):

"According to the Utkala-khanda, there was a King Shveta in the Treta Yuga who was a devotee of Jagannath. He made arrangements for Jagannath's bhoga just as Indradyumna had done. One morning he came to the temple and saw the offerings which were made by the gods--thousands and thousands of wonderful gifts which were beyond the power of any mortal to present to the Lord. Shveta became disturbed at the insignificance of his own offerings and stood at the temple door, his head hung in shame. As he was meditating on his own insignificance, he had a vision in which he saw Lakshmi Devi herself taking his food offerings and feeding them to both sets of Jagannath deities [FN: Besides the main deities, there is a second set, known as the vijaya-vigraha.] who were eating them with great enthusiasm. The King immediately thought himself consummated by this vision and he continued to serve Jagannath with unflagging enthusiasm. Jagannath eventually granted him the boon of being liberated in a spot which faces Matsya Madhava, halfway between Akshaya Bata and the ocean, which was subsequently named Shveta Madhava in his honor. The tank excavated here was also named Shvetaganga. On the banks of this tank, deities of Shveta Madhava, Matsya Madhava and the nine planets are still worshiped.

One night, the king of Orissa, Mukunda Deva, had a dream in which Jagannath Deva appeared to him and told him to give Sachi Devi a tract of land which bordered this Shveta-ganga. The next morning, the King joyfully came to see Sachi Devi and told her about the dream. Though she had no interest in increasing her worldly possessions, Sachi Devi decided to accept the King's gift for the sake of her guru-given mission to improve the condition of Sarvabhauma's house. Prior to that she had had to beg for the wherewithal to serve the deities. Wherever there is true devotion to the Lord, the trouble which one has to take to serve him is not seen as trouble, but rather as an opportunity and a source of joy."

Over many years, the Swetaganga Tank has been allowed to fall to ruin, until a local Puri devotee and social worker from Sankhamandi Panchayat Pratapagiri village, Ganjam Sri Mangulu Patra, began organizing helpers to repair it. Using his own funds, he began renovating the ancient tank, which covers an area of about two acres. With the permission of the Jagannath Temple administration, Mangulu Patra began work on the tank in May 2010.

Initially, the renovation effort has involved removing silt from the tank bed, by hand and with a bulldozer. The District administration has given four tractors to help remove the silt, along with a few laborers. Mangulu Patra has gotten some help from local Puri citizens and some NGO's, but he is asking the Orissan government and Puri District administrators for additional assistance, especially labor.

Mangulu Patra's urgent requests for assistance were especially focused on help to move the piles of removed silt further away from the tank, so that coming monsoons wouldn't wash the material right back onto the tank's bottom.