Simple Puppet Theatre Of The Pastime Of Lord Jagannath (Story Script Included)

I just have recently heard about the story of how the famous khaja sweet has become the offering to Lord Jagannath (in the West, the term “Jagannath tongue” is often used to name this candy). I was inspired to prepare a short drama with puppets of this story as a part of our Ratha Yatra celebration this year at home. The kids were especially thrilled that Lord Jagannath appeared in a form of a dog in this story (and they like dogs very much!). After the story, we were all inspired to head to the kitchen and make lots of khaja threats and offer them for the pleasure of our Deities Jagannath, Baladev, and Subhadra!

I want to share the story script for the drama theatre that you can use either to make your own puppet theatre, act out a drama, or read it to your kids as a story. I used puppets and props that I had at hand: Jagannath puppet from the Gopal soft toys, two needle-felted boy puppets for the Muslim and the guard, and I quickly made a dog out of black felt and khaja out of a light brown felt.

I presented this story as the simplest method of puppet theatre that is called “lap theatre”. It means that you use your lap as a scene by spreading out scarfs of different colors over your lap and upper body. In this kind of story presentation, you as the narrator are visible all the time. You can use any kind of puppets for lap theatre: finger puppets, hand puppets, or table puppets, and move them in your hands while narrating the story. You can use some boxes and baskets as a part of the scene as well, and any kind of little props that you might need to conjure up a landscape, such as a shell in this case. For the temple of Lord Jagannath, I used a big wooden box covered with the fine Odissi type of scarf.

Before heading up with a story script I would like to mention a small note regarding the story. In my opinion, this story is appropriate for children ages 7 and up, because to the little ones it might be unclear why some people can enter the temple of Lord Jagannath and some can’t. Little children do not understand yet the differences between different religions, and the concept of religion itself could be difficult to comprehend. If you present this story to them, you might need to clarify the answers to these kinds of questions –  so be prepared! But, if your children live in a culture where these distinctions are established from an early age, then most probably these questions would not arise.

So, here is the story! I hope you and your children would enjoy hearing this lovely pastime of the unpredictable Lord Jagannath having the sweet loving exchanges with His devotees.

I prepared the PDF document of the story for you if you wish to save it on your computer or print it out for your personal use. You will find the link down at the end of this blog post.

Lord Jagannath Accepts The Sweet Made By The Muslim

On the shores of the East Sea lies a shell-shaped kingdom. The Goddess of Fortune always watches over this kingdom, which is therefore considered very sacred. In it, there is a magnificent temple in which the Deity of Lord Jagannatha resides. Lord Jagannath is known for having huge, wide-open eyes that see everything that happens in any corner of the world. He is also known for having ears that hear every sound in any corner of the universe. But most importantly, He has a wide smile that He never takes off His face and outstretched arms that want to embrace everyone in this world. That is why they call Him Lord of the Universe.

Lord Jagannath has another important quality – He loves to eat. That is why the cooks in the temple cook 56 types of food and offer it to Him six times a day! Lord Jagannath especially likes to eat sweets. One day He wanted to eat a kind of sweet called khaja. Lord Jagannath knew that a young man in the neighboring village knew how to make this treat (since He could see and hear everything everywhere). The name of a man was Mustafa, and He was a Muslim. One night, Lord Jagannath appeared in a dream of a young Mustafa and told him: I want to taste the khaja you make. Please make a khaja sweet for Me and bring it to the temple.

Mustafa was very surprised by this dream. He thought: This must be an auspicious sign, that Lord Jagannath addressed me personally in a dream! It will be best for me to make khaja sweet as soon as possible so that Lord Jagannath does not wait long. I only worry about whether the guards will allow me to enter the temple because I am a Muslim.

Mustafa was well aware that the guardians of the Jagannath temple followed a strict rule that only those who were members of the Vedic tradition were allowed into the temple. Followers of other religions were not allowed to enter the temple. Nevertheless, his strong desire to satisfy Lord Jagannath prevailed and he decided to give it a try. He immediately made the best khaja sweet he could, and the next day he set out for the temple.

When he arrived at the gate, the guard immediately stopped him and said: Stop, Muslims are not allowed to enter the temple!

Mustafa tried to explain: Dear Sir, I understand that you follow the temple rules and regulations, but please listen to me, my case is an exception. Yesterday Lord Jagannath appeared in my dream …

The guard interrupted him: Do you think I will believe if anyone comes to me and says that he dreamed of Lord Jagannath? This is no valid reason for permission to enter the temple.

Mustafa continued: I not only dreamed of Lord Jagannath, but He instructed me to make Him this special treat. Here, look, I carry it in my bag. Please allow me to offer it to Him, He wants to taste it.

The guard began to lose patience and angrily replied: How dare you even say what Lord Jagannath wants! And do you think that He does not have enough treats offered to Him by His servants in the temple?! You think He’s missing this candy of yours! It is an insult to the cooks and servants of Lord Jagannath!

Mustafa tried to justify himself: Dear Sir, I have no intention of insulting anyone. I just want to fulfill the command of Lord Jagannath and please Him.

The guard repeated resolutely once more: You can’t enter, period! Such are the rules and my duty is to follow them. I am not interested in any dream stories and they will not influence me to change my decision.

At that moment, something unexpected happened. A black dog appeared from somewhere and imperceptibly took the sweet from Mustafa’s hand. The next moment, the dog sneaked right into the temple. The guard got terribly excited and started running after the dog shouting: Hey, where are you going? You are not allowed to enter the temple either! Stop this dog!

Mustafa remained in front of the temple gate empty-handed and with a sad heart set out to return home. Walking with his head bowed down, he thought: My hopes were in vain, and now all my efforts have been in vain too. Instead to be offered to Lord Jagannath, the sweet I made ended up in the mouth of an ordinary dirty dog. Oh, how unhappy I am! I better go home as soon as possible and forget about everything.

In the meantime, the guard followed the dog into the interior of the temple and noticed him entering the very altar of Lord Jagannath. The guard shouted in utter despair: Noooo! Dog on the altar! Get him out!

However, no one was able to find the dog. It looked like he disappeared.

The guard knelt before Lord Jagannath, praying: My dear Lord, forgive me for this terrible insult! I can’t understand how this dog got in and where it has disappeared now. I admit it’s all my fault, please forgive me!

At that moment the voice of Lord Jagannath was heard in the air: My dear servant, do not worry because I am that dog. I came to taste the khaja sweet prepared by Mustafa. You were arguing with him too long and I was impatient to taste sweet, so I took a form of a dog and took it by myself. I want this sweet to be offered to Me every day from now on because I love it very much!

At that moment the guard realized what a mistake he had actually made by not believing Mustafa and not letting him into the temple. He quickly ran outside and started shouting after Mustafa: Wait, stop! Today you have received the extraordinary grace of Lord Jagannath, who appeared in the form of a dog to accept your offering! Come, now you can enter the temple.

Mustafa was overjoyed to hear of this outcome. He entered the temple and offered to Lord Jagannath the rest of khaja sweet ​​offering which he carried in his bag. Then, at the request of the guards, he instructed the temple cooks on how to prepare this treat for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath.

From that day on, khaja ​​has been offering to Jagannath every day in the temple and has been distributing to the hundreds of pilgrims who come to Jagannath Puri. Some say that Lord Jagannath loves to eat this sweet so much that He does not wait for the priests to offer it, but tastes it as soon as it is fried and dipped in sugar syrup.

Download the PDF of the story here:

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