Located in the sacred town of Puri, the Jagannath Temple or the pride of India was built in the 11th century by King Indradyumna. This glorious temple is the abode of Lord Jagannath who is a form of Lord Vishnu. It is the most revered pilgrimage site for Hindus and is included in the pious Char Dham Yatra with Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. Apart from the main shrine that rises high, many minor temples within the complex will make you feel like you have entered God's home itself.
The history of the Jagannath Puri Temple is related to a fascinating story. Lord Jagannath was worshipped secretly in a forest as Lord Neela Madhaba by a king named Viswavasu. King Indradyumna was curious to know more about the deity, and so, he sent a Brahmin priest, Vidyapati to Viswavasu. All the efforts of Vidyapati to find the place went in vain. But, he fell in love with Viswavasu's daughter, Lalita and married her. Then, on the request of Vidyapati, Viswavasu took his son-in-law blindfolded to the cave where he worshipped Lord Jagannath. Smart Vidyapati dropped mustard seeds on the ground on the way. After this, King Indradyumna proceeded Odisha to the Deity. However, the idol was not there. Though he was disappointed, he was determined to see the idol of Lord Jagannath. A sudden voice told him to construct a temple on Nilasaila. Afterward, the king ordered his men to build a beautiful temple for Vishnu. The king later invited Brahma to consecrate the temple. However, Brahma was in meditation which lasted till nine years. By then, the temple got buried under sand. The king was anxious when during his sleep, the king heard a voice that directed him to find a floating log of a tree on the seashore and make idols out of it. Accordingly, the king again got a magnificent temple built and installed the images of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra made out of the wood of the divine tree.
The Jagannath Temple is one of the most spectacular temples of India. With its classic Oriya architecture, it never fails to sweep tourists off their feet. It covers an area of approximately 4,00,000 square feet and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer wall is called as Meghanada Pacheri which is 20 ft. high. The other one is called as Kurma Bedha which surrounds the main temple. The main shikhara or tower which is higher compared to other shikhara houses the deities. The temple has four distinct structures- the Vimana, the Jagamohan or the porch, the Nata Mandir and the Bhoga Mandap built in a row. There are four gates- the eastern Singhadwara (Lion Gate), the southern Ashwadwara (Horse Gate), the western Vyaghrasana (Tiger Gate), and the northern Hastidwara (Elephant Gate). The Lion Gate is the main gate, located on Grand Road. Within the temple complex, there are many shrines also. Also, there is a wheel on the top of the temple known as the Nila Chakra or the Blue Wheel. It is made up of different metals and every day a new flag is hoisted on the chakra.
Jagannath Puri Temple is known for celebrating religious festivals with great pomp and excitement. Some of the major festivals you should definitely witness are-
1. Puri Rath Yatra- This is the major festival of the temple. Also known as the Car Festival or Gundicha Yatra, it is usually held in the month of June or July. All the three idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are carried in huge chariots or raths from Bada Danda, the main street of Puri, to the Gundicha Temple. Then, after nine days, they are brought back to the Jagannath Temple. The return yatra is called as Bahuda Yatra and it is performed in the same way as the Rath Yatra. Thousands of people gather around for darshan of the lords. It is really a beautiful sight to see all the deities adorned in bright colours. The zeal and excitement of people is a cherry on the cake.
2. Snana Yatra- In this festival, the deities are bathed on full moon day. They are brought out from the temple and taken in a procession to the Snana Bedi. This festival takes place in May or June.
3. Chandan Yatra- Held in April-May, Chandan Yatra is a 21-day festival. During this period, the deities along with images of Siva from 5 Shiva Temples are taken in a procession to Narendra tank where the idols are kept in beautifully decorated boats and are worshipped.
4. Dola Yatra- This festival takes place in the month of Phalguna.The respective deities are taken in a procession to Dolavedi which is located outside the main temple and special rituals are performed.
5. Makara Sankranti- This festival is held in the month of Pausa. Special dresses are made for the deities. Boiled rice mixed with candy and fruit juices are offered to the deities. This festival has an agricultural significance.
The temple does not charge any fees for general darshan. However, if you wish to be a part of some rituals, you might have to pay INR 10-50. The temple remains open from 5:00 in the morning till 12:00 in the midnight.There are a couple of rituals or nitis that are performed daily in the temple. Some of them are-
1. Mangal Aarti- This is the first ritual of the day when the temple gets opened early morning at 5:00 AM.
2. Beshalagi- The deities are made to change their dresses several times. At 8:00 AM, they are adorned with gold and beautiful dresses according to the festive occasions. This is also known as 'Bhitara Katha'.
3. Sakala Dhupa- At around 10:00 AM, morning poojas are performed with Upachars. Bhog in large quantities is prepared and offered to lords.
4. Mailam and Bhoga Mandap- After morning pooja, clothes of the deities are changed again which is termed as Mailam. This is followed by a pooja in Bhoga Mandap. Huge quantities of Bhog or Prasad is prepared which is offered to the public as well.
5. Madhyanha Dhupa- Just like Sakal Dhupa, this pooja is performed between 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM with the Upachars.
6. Sandhya Dhupa- Around 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, poojas are performed again and bhog is prepared.
7. Mailam and Chandana Lagi- After evening poojas, deities are anointed with sandal paste. One can witness this ritual after paying a nominal fee of INR 10.
8. Badashringara Bhoga- This is the last bhog of the day. Also, a pooja is performed.
May to July witness the monsoon season of Puri and therefore, heavy rainfall is observed during this time. However, the major festivals of Jagannath Puri Temple like Rath Yatra take place in these months only. Though the weather is unfavourable, you have the opportunity to be a part of the dazzling festivals of Puri. The prices can be high as a plethora of devotees visit this time.
Once you reach Puri, you can easily hire an auto rickshaw or a cycle-rickshaw if your hotel is nearby. Bikes can be taken on rent here. There are no metros in Puri. However, private as well as state-run buses are available to take you through the town.
Sri Jagannath Puri temple is a pious place were every year thousands of devotees come to pray. I was astonished by the grandeur of this holy place. The line of the devote is long but worth the wait. I saw a lot of playful monkeys jumping in and around the temple. They are quite? a sight to see. The temple serves a delicious Prasad of rice and dal.
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