Destination: Jagannath Temple, Puri
The very name of Puri
brings the world famous Jagannath Temple to mind. It
is one of the four sacred dhams of the Hindus, the others
being Dwarka in the west, Badrinath in the north and
Rameswaram in the south. The mammoth temple, towering
214 feet 8 inches above Puri town, promotes the precept
of equality of castes. The Lord is also known as “Sarvam
Jagannatham” and his gates are open to all irrespective
of castes. Visited by savants and seers like Adi Shankaracharya,
Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Nanak, Vivekananda and many others,
Lord Jagannath has been the melting pot of all religious
The temple is actually
a part of a larger temple comprising four chambers,
namely, the Deul, the Jagmohana, Natamandir and Bhogamandir.
It has four gates and each gate has an animal theme.
The main gate on the east is predictably called the
Singhadwar. The archetypal temple was built in Kalinga
style architecture by the Ganga King Chondagangadeva
in the 12th century.
It is now a big pilgrim
center with an amazing amalgamation of priests, their
assistants and the exuberant pandas (guides). This incredible
assembly of more than 6,000 priests and 14,000 sundry
employees is headed by the Raja of Puri. He is the only
person, who has the authority of sweeping before the
proceeding chariots. He alone is entitled to carry the
revered Lord's umbrella.
The legend associated
with the temple takes one back to the time of the Yadava
hero Sri Krishna. It is said that when Krishna died,
his mortal body was cremated by the valiant Pandava
brothers inside the Jagannath Temple. However, his heart
was not consumed by the funeral fires, and so it was
immersed in the sea at Puri. The heart floated on the
sea and cast a brilliant lustre over the place. In the
course of time, it was found out by a tribal chieftain
named Vishwabasu Sabara. The heart had transformed into
a blue statue or a parama vigraha (super form). Vishwabasu
started worshipping the statue at Nila Kandara and,
hence, the deity came to be called Nila Madhava.
It was around this time that King Indradyumna of Malava,
who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, wished to obtain
the most exquisite idol of his chosen deity. He had
embarked upon constructing a splendid temple for the
purpose. A messenger of the king by the name of Vidyapati
became aware of the extraordinary Nila Madhava. Consequently,
Vidyapati informed King Indradyumna of the superior
idol. To lay his hands on the idol, the overzealous
king imprisoned Vishwabasu but the deity could not be
A divine message instructed the king to free the tribal
chieftain. The repentant king prayed hard to the Lord
and subsequently, he was assured that he would get the
Lord in a different form. At the end of the completion
of the temple, the king's men found a colossal log at
the seashore, which they brought in with the thought
of carving a deity out of it. However, to add to their
surprises, none of the skilled carpenters succeeded
in carving on the log. To relieve Indradyumna of the
distress, Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods, came
down in disguise and took on the charge of carving.
Vishwakarma wanted to sculpt the deity in secret and,
accordingly, he started carving the idol in a closed
room. As days passed by, the queen of the land, unable
to bear her curiosity, opened the closed room and was
shocked to find that Vishwakarma had disappeared leaving
behind four partially carved figures. At that moment,
a heavenly voice instructed the king on how to proceed,
and named the four figures Jagannath, Subhadra, Balarama
WHEN TO VISIT
Normal: Throughout the Year
Special Event: Rath Yatra in June-July
THE Journey It is a 65-km journey from
the Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar to Puri. The
distance can be covered in an hour if you happen to
travel by car. After reaching Puri, you will be approached
by a number of pandas whose job is to look after the
pilgrims until the end of the pilgrimage rituals. They
would guide through the various processes and help one
to have a darshan of the shrine. One should take the
services of a registered panda only.
The ritual begins with
the buying of the prasad (food items) to be offered
at the temple. The pandas will help you in deciding
what to buy. The next step is to swirl and squeeze one's
way through the sea of human crowd towards the gateway
of the sanctum. As one starts entering into the chamber,
two temple priests standing by the gateway bless the
passing pilgrims with a kind of broom. By this time,
the panda will forward the prasad for the puja to the
main priest. When the puja is over, the panda collects
the prasad from the deity for the pilgrim.EVENTS
The annual Rath Yatra is the biggest and the most famous
of all the festivals of this shrine. The festival is
the occasion when the images of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra
and Balarama are taken out for a chariot ride in the
months of June-July each year. The three idols are taken
out placed in gigantic yellow chariots, which are almost
45 feet high and have six wheels. These raths are then
drawn by the zealous pilgrims. The festival is attended
by a large number of devotees from al over the subcontinent.
A temple within the temple
compound, Koili Vaikuntha is a kind of cremation ground
for the old deities after the new ones are installed
during the Nabakalevara (a ritual that occurs once every
The Golden Well, known as the Sunakuan, is used for
drawing bath water just once a year on Snana Yatra
The Kalpa Bata is an ancient tree supposedly believed
to fulfil the wishes of the devotees Mukti Mandap
Mukti Mandap is an elevated platform, where the seers,
the pundits and the scholars can sit and discuss the
cases of religious controversy.
The Ananda Bazaar is the food market where devotees
can purchase prasad.
Aruna Stambha or the Sun Pillar is located outside the
walls in front of the Singhadwar (Lion Gate). It is
a colossal pillar, about 34 feet high that stands on
a platform. This pillar is usually decorated with pieces
of cloth by the devotees
Bira Hanuman is the Lord's eternal devotee, who guards
the temple at all the four entrances.
Lord Patitapaban is the deity who was installed especially
for those who can never enter the temple, especially
the non-Hindus. If you enter from the Lion Gate, it
is on the right side of the temple complex.
Baishi Pahacha is a flight of twenty-two steps, which
is used to bring down the revered Lord Jagannath, Subhadra
and Balaram on the Rath Yatra day.
Good lodging facilities are available at a number of
hotels like the May Fair Beach Resorts, Hans Coco-Palms,
Tosali Sands, OTDC Panthanivas, Puri Hotel and Sagarika
Hotel. In addition, a large number of dharamshalas are
available on both sides of the Grant Road.
HOW TO REACH
Indian Airlines flights as well as private airlines
operate from the Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar
(65 km). Bhubaneswar is well connected by air to Delhi,
Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad
Being a terminus on the South Eastern Railway, Puri
is easily reachable from a number of cities like Calcutta,
Delhi, Ahmedabad, Patna and Tirupati by trains. The
Khurda Road junction in Bhubaneswar connects the state
with Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai.
The National Highway links Puri with Calcutta (480 km),
Chennai (1225 km), Delhi (1745 km) and Mumbai (1691
INFORMATION TIT BITS
There are three information centers at the Jagannath
1.Lion's Gate Information Center
2.Sea-beach Information Center
3.Railway Information Center
DO'S AND DON'TS
1.Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple.
2.Some objects like the shoes, socks, camera, leather
articles, umbrella, radio, tape recorder, intoxicants,
arms and ammunitions are not allowed inside the temple.
3.Food items from outside are prohibited.
4.Smoking is not to be indulged inside the temple.
5.Littering is prohibited inside the temple.
6.One should not touch any idol.
7.The Temple Outpost should be contacted for any kind
of police help.
8.Complaint/suggestion books are available at the Temple
Branch Office and Information Center at Lion's Gate.