Orissa Culture Center (OCC)

OCC was established in 2008 and obtained its not-for-profit 501 C 3 status from IRS in 2009 as an unique center outside of India to provide a center of excellence to foster Odia culture, heritage and traditions of universal brotherhood and harmony . The vision of OCC is to: Celebrate Annual Houston Ratha Jatra to promote the culture of universal brotherhood. Promote Lord Jagannatha’s (Lord of the Universe) message of Universal Brotherhood Promote Odia art, literature, culture, heritage and traditions Establish a museum to showcase Odia artisans’ art work and Jagannatha Culture Create a library with a rich collection of rare Indian books Document immigration of people of Odisha to North America.

Key Achievements at a Glance

In 2008, OCC took a leadership role as a major partner to celebrate the first ever Jagannatha Ratha Jatra in Houston. In 2010, Houston Arts Alliance awarded a major grant from the Mayor’s Arts Initiative towards the Ratha Jatra Celebration. Since then Houston Arts Alliance has granted OCC grants for the past 3 years to celebrate the Annual Houston Ratha Jatra (Chariot Festival). These are testimony for our maturity and success as a cultural organization. The inaugural 2008 Ratha Jatra was organized at the India House premises with congresswoman Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee as the Chief Guest, whereas the 2009 event was celebrated at the Shri Radhakrishna temple with former Houston city Mayor, Mr. Bill White in attendance as the Chief Guest. 2010 event was graced by Harris county judge honorable Ed Emmett.

In September, 2009, OCC purchased a two Acre land (2002 De Soto Street, Houston TX 77091) in the heart of the town towards building a temple of our deities and a culture center cum auditorium. The land has been cleared and currently being filled and leveled for the construction. An architectural plan has been developed with active consultations from our community members and has been provisionally approved by the City of Houston. We expect the construction of the temple and an auditorium to be completed by the Fall of 2015. The project skecth is avialbale at Architizer.

OCC has developed a framework to bring Odiya artists to promote our culture. As a part of this initiative OCC board of directors (BOD) has sponsored two prominent Odissi Gurus from Odissa (Guru Nityananda and Guru Bijay) in the summer of 2011 for a workshop and retreat for the young Odissi dancers in the greater Houston area and other cities in North America.

To broaden OCC’s presence to broader Indian community in the greater Houston area, where possible, OCC participates in major festivals like Republic and Independence day, Janmastami, and Holi etc. OCC highly encourages its members to take an active role in bringing our small community to the forefront of others.

In summary, the above initiatives are part of OCC’s long term-term vision to provide a permanent infrastructure to support community events, house Lord Jagannatha in Houston and celebrate His unique Ratha Yatra and host a library with a rich collection of books on Jagannath culture and Oriya literature. We envision that OCC will become a center for Greater Houston Odia and Indian community supporting activities such as spirituality, cultural events, community service, education, music, dance and Odia culture.

Lord Jagannath, Lord of the Universe

Lord Jagannath, the supreme personality of Godhead, the Lord of the Universe is the symbol of universal love and brotherhood. Sri Jagannath, He, who makes the devotees fearless and who grants liberation, appears in the form of “Daru Brahma” (the Supreme Soul in a Sacred Log), along with His elder brother Balabhadra, sister Subhadra, and armament Sudarshan on the bejeweled platform of the 12th century AD Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha, India.

In Sanskrit, ‘Ja’ represents Jagannath, ‘Ga’ represents Balabhadra, ‘Nna’ represents Subhadra, and ‘Tha’ represents Sudarshan. So Jagannatha or Jagannath means the union of the four deities in the form of Chaturdhha Murati or Four-Fold Form of the Lord. The images of Jagannath, the black color representing sunya or inscrutability, Subhadra, yellow representing the creative energy, Balabhadra, white representing love, peace, and enlightenment, and Sudarshan, red as blood representing life and vitality are the four races (e.g. Black, White, Yellow, and Red) of the world. This representation of the Lord is the unity in diversity.

Charming Features: His Heavenly Design

Unlike the stone images of Hindu Gods, the unique and mysterious icons of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Sudarshan are carved from neem (margosa) wood. Based on the myths and legends, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are unfinished without any identifiable hands and legs. The deity of Jagannath is about 6 feet (1.83m) tall and black in color with over dimensional head. His enormous round eyes have three concentric circles- Red on the outer layer, white in the middle, and black in the center. The statue of Balabhadra is also approximately 6 feet tall with white color and almond shaped eyes. Both Jagannath and Balabhadra have stump like arms stretching forward at mouth level. Devi Subhadra’s idol is yellow in color and stands about 5 feet (1.52m) tall with oval shaped eyes and without hands and legs. Sudarshan, a cylindral projection of wood is approximately the same height as the two male deities.

Lord Jagannath, an abstract form of Sri Krishna and Vishnu, is eternal

Lord Jagannath, an abstract form of Sri Krishna and Vishnu, is eternal. History cannot establish His appearance. However, legend says, king Indradyumna installed the wooden form of Jagannath in Satya Yuga (Era of Truth). Interestingly, the most ancient reference to sacred log (Daru) is found in Rig Veda. Vedic commentator, Sayanacharya ascribed the Rig Vedic sukta to Jagannath in terms of Purusottama (The Perfect Being). Jagannath has been mentioned in Uttara Khanda of Balmiki Ramayana. In Mahabharata, Jagannath has been represented to have a seat in Sankha Khetra. In puranic literature, Vishnu Purana, Matsya Purana, Agni Purana, Padma Purana, Narada Purana, Brahma Purana, and Skanda Purana, mention of Sri Jagannath and Purusottama Khetra have been found. Above all, the Jagannath Astakam of Adi Shankaracharya (788 AD-820 AD) is the vital historical literary piece on Jagannath which provides information about the temple and appearance of the deity. In 810 AD, Shankaracharya visited shrines at Puri and established Govardhana Matha (monastery).