|The giant chariot or "Rath" of Jagannath at Mahesh|
One of the earliest mentions of the village of Mahesh (pronounced Maa-hesh), now part of the town of Serampore in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, occurs in the works of 15th century poet Bipradas Pipilai. Bipradas is known as one of the contributors to the “Manasamangal” genre, and for having written many of the stories of “Chand Saudagar”. His descriptions of Mahesh are probably from around 1495. But the cult of Jagannath in Mahesh is much older than that. The area was probably under the rule of Oriya Kings, and as Lord Jagannath (Anglicized to Juggernaut) was the royal family’s deity of choice, it found acceptance among subjects here. Mahesh today, remains a centre of Jagannath worship, and is home to the second oldest “Rath Yatra” or car festival in India, after Puri. The story goes that Dhrubananda Brahmachari, a devout man of Mahesh had travelled to Puri to worship Lord Jagannath. It was his desire to give the deity “bhog” with his own hands, but this was prevented by the temple authorities. But right after this debacle, Lord Jagannath himself appeared to the heartbroken Dhrubananda in his dreams, commanding him to return to Mahesh, where he would appear to his devotee. Dhrubananda followed the instruction, returned to Mahesh, and by one account found an idol of Lord Jagannath trapped in the sands of the Ganges’ bank. An alternative version says Lord Jagannath had promised to provide to Dhrubananda, a Daru-Bramha, or the trunk of a Neem tree, out of which Dhrubananda had the idols carved out. These idols were that of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balarama, and sister, Subhadra. They were installed in the original Mahesh temple which dates back to 1397. But this temple is no longer in existence.