A World- famous Hindu temple of India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna; known as Lord Jagannath.
Besides, there are idols of Devi Subhadra(sister of Lord Krishna) and Lord Balabhadra (brother of Lord Krishna) inside the sanctum sanctorum along with Lord Jagannath.
More than the temple, the Rath Yatra- the processional festival carrying the images of Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Devi Subhadra in three separate chariots to the Gundicha temple, is famous all over the World.
The ancient Hindu temple inspired the religious and cultural life of the region in many ways. There are innumerable literature, arts and dance forms that hover around the Lord Jagannath of this temple. The ‘Gita Govinda’, a famous Kriti of Sri Jayadeva, deserves a special mention here.
There is an interesting legend on the origin of the temple. The original name of the Lord Jagannath was Nila Madhab. The story goes like this; Sri Visvavasu, a tribal chief of the present day Puri, used to worship an idol of Lord Nila Madhab in secrecy; no one knows the exact location of his worship: not even his close family members.
The worship of Nilamadhab made Visvavasu prosperous and famous all over the region. Now, another famous king of the region, King Indradumnya of Malwa, came to know about Visvavasu and his secret worship. Indradumnya sent his minister Sri Vidyapati to find the location of the secret worship. Vidyapati played many tricks with Visvavasu to know the location but all failed one by one.
Finally, Vidyapati enticed the daughter of Visvavasu and married her. On the repeated request from his beloved daughter, the tribal chief finally agreed to take Vidyapati to the location of his secret worship. But as a precaution, he blind folded Vidyapati before taking to the location. However, the clever Vidyapati dropped seeds of Mustard all along the way.
Thereafter, he took King Indradumnya to the secret location of the Nilamadhab. As the mustard seeds sprouted in a few days, Vidyapati could easily find the way to the secret location. But a big disappointment awaited king Indradumnya there.
Although, he could get a glimpse of Lord Nila Madhab, the Lord disappeared. A disappointed Indradumnya did severe penance at that spot to please the Lord . Finally, the Lord came to the dream of King Indradumnya; a divine voice directed the King to go to the Puri sea-shore where he can see a log of Sal wood floating on the wave. The Lord directed Indradumnya to make idols of Lord Jagannath, Bhalabhadra and Subhadra out of this Sal wood.
King Indradumnya obeyed the direction of the Lord. He found a log of Sal wood on the Puri sea-shore. He made three idols as directed by the Lord in his dream; installed the idols at the spot ( present day Puri temple) where Visvavasu originally worshipped Lord Nila Madhab. This is the origin of the famous temple of Lord Jagannath of Puri.
A World- famous festival of the temple. During this festival, the processional idol of Lord Jagannath, along with the idols of Balabhadra and Subhadra, is taken on a three separate chariots for a ceremonial procession to the nearby Gundicha temple. The massive public participation marks this procession a unique one and a must watch!
The elaborate arrangements for the famous Rath Yatra begin two months before. As a first step, idols of the Gods are taken for a ‘’Snan yatra’’; a ceremonial bathing ritual follows. After that, the idols are kept in a special enclave to do the refurbishing works like repair and painting etc… as a prelude to the procession. This ritual lasts for 15 days.
After the Snan Yatra ritual is over, arrangements for the Rath Yatra begins. The idols of Jagannath, Bhalabhadra and Subhadra are taken to three separate chariots. The three chariots, although looks alike, have different names and color schemes to identify it. They even have separate charioteers to ride their respective chariots.
Thus, Nandighosh is the name of the chariot of Lord Jagannath; Taladwaja and Padmadwaja for the chariots of Bhalabhadra and Subhadra respectively.
The three chariots can be identified even from a distance by the color schemes of it. Lord Jagannath’s chariot has a bright red and yellow cloth to adorn it; Lord Bhalabhadra has a bright green and red color cloth; Devi Subhadra has a bright red and black color cloth around it.
The three chariots even have separate designated charioteers; Mathali for Lord Jagannath, Daruka for Bhalabhadra and Arjun for Subhadra.
The Rath Yatra usually falls on the month of Ashadha (that is Mid June- July). The Yatra begins with the famous ‘chera pamhara’ ritual in which the Gajapati King of Puri , the first servant of Lord Jagannath, sweeps the chariots with a golden broom. There after the famous procession starts from the Eastern gate of the temple. The chariot of the Lord Bhalabahdra moves first; followed by Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath.
The chariots are moved by the rope pulled by thousands of devotees in ecstasy; a beautiful sight indeed!!
By night, it reaches its destination- the Gundicha temple. After spending next seven days at that temple, the procession returns to the Puri temple- marking the culmination of the Rath Yatra festival.
The massive chariots are built anew each year.
Besides Rathyatra, the famous Hindu temple has many other festivals throughout the year. Out of these, the Navakalebar festival attracts the second largest (after Rath Yatra) crowd to the temple. During this festival the wooden idols of the deities are replaced by new ones; every year.
The massive Hindu temple is built on a raised platform (the area of this platform is said to about 4, 20,000 sq feet!!). The entire complex is fortified with a seven meters high wall with four Gopuras or entrances in four directions. Out of the four, the Eastern Gopura is the main entrance to the temple. This is known as Lion gate as it has images of two Lions on it. The famous Rath yatra passes through this gate.
A ten meters high monolithic pillar, known as ‘’ArunaSthamba’’, in front of this gate is noteworthy. Originally, it adorned the main gate of the famous Sun temple at Konark, which was later taken to this place.
Other two noteworthy features of this famous Hindu temple is its massive kitchen and a 22 step flight leading to the inner prakaram (courtyard) of the temple. It is said, this kitchen can prepare food for one lakh devotees at a short notice.
It is here the food for the deities are prepared; known as Mahaprasada. After the rituals are over this Prasada is distributed to the devotees at a place known as Ananda bazaar adjacent to this kitchen. This kitchen is known to be the largest restaurant in the World, if we can call it so.
The 22 steps near the eastern Gopura is said to have the presence of Lord Jagannath on it. So it is considered sacred by devotees.
Sri Sankaracharya- the well-known Hindu reformer visited this temple; he established one of his four Mathas at Puri. This Math is now known as Govardhan Math.
Puri is about 70 kilometers from Bhuvaneswar.