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Places to Visit - Puri

The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath (Vishnu) and located in the coastal town of Puri in the state of Odisha, India. The name Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) is a combination of the Sanskrit words Jagat (Universe) and Nath (Lord of). The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for many Hindu traditions, particularly worshippers of Krishna and Vishnu, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimages that a Hindu has to be visited in one's lifetime.

The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated chariots. Since medieval times, it is also associated with intense religious fervour.

Legendary account as found in the Skanda-Purana, Brahma Purana and other Puranas and later Odia works state that Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped as Neela madhab by a Savar king ( tribal chief ) named Viswavasu. Having heard about the deity , King Indradyumna sent a Brahmin priest, Vidyapati to locate the deity, who was worshipped secretly in a dense forest by Viswavasu. Vidyapati tried his best but could not locate the place. But at last he managed to marry Viswavasu's daughter Lalita . At repeated request of Vidyapti, Viswavasu took his son-in-law blind folded to a cave where Neelamadhab was worshipped.

Vidyapati was very intelligent. He dropped mustard seeds on the ground on the way. The seeds germinated after a few days, which enabled him to find out the cave later on. On hearing from him , King Indradyumna proceeded immediately to Odra desha ( Odisha ) on a pilgrimage to see and worship the Deity. But the deity had disappeared. The king was disappointed. The Deity was hidden in sand. The king was determined not to return without having a darshan of the deity and observed fast unto death at Mount Neela, Then a celestial voice cried 'thou shalt see him '. Afterwards the king performed a horse sacrifice and built a magnificent temple for Vishnu. Narasingha Murti brought by Narada was installed in the temple. During sleep, the king had a vision of Lord Jagannath. Also an astral voice directed him to receive the fragrant tree on the seashore and make idols out of it. Accordingly the king got the image of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan Made out of the wood of the said tree and installed them in the temple.

Temple Structure

The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2), and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. It contains at least 120 temples and shrines. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Odia style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India.[13] The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the 'srichakra' (a eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. Among the existing temples in Odisha, the temple of Shri Jagannath is the highest. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape. The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls, or mandapas, rise in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks.

The main shrine is enclosed by a 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall. Another wall surrounds the main temple.

The Singhadwara

The Singahdwara, which in Sanskrit means The Lion Gate, is one of the four gates to the temple and forms the Main entrance. The Singhadwara is so named because two huge statues of crouching lions exist on either side of the entrance. The gate faces east opening on to the Bada Danda or the Grand Road.The Baisi Pahacha or the flight of twenty two steps leads into the temple complex. An idol of Jagannath known as Patitapavana, which in Sanskrit, means the "Saviour of the downtrodden and the fallen" is painted on the right side of the entrance. In ancient times when untouchables were not allowed inside the temple, they could pray to Patita Pavana. The statues of the two guards to the temple Jaya and Vijaya stand on either side of the doorway. Just before the commencement of the Rath Yatra the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out of the temple through this gate.On their return from the Gundicha Temple they have to ceremonially placate Goddess Mahalakshmi, whose statue is carved atop the door, for neglecting to take her with them on the Yatra. Only then the Goddess allows them permission to enter the temple. A magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic pillar known as the Arun stambha stands in front of the main gate. This pillar has an idol of Arun, the charioteer of the Sun God Surya, on its top. The pillar originally installed in the Sun temple of Konarak was shifted to Puri by the Raja of Khurda.

Other Entrances

Apart from the Singhadwara, which is the main entrance to the temple, there are three other entrances facing north, south and west. They are named after the sculptures of animals guarding them. The other entrances are the Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate.

Culture and Tradition of Puri

Puri is one of the fascinating littoral district of Odisha. The Cultural heritage of Puri with its long recorded history beginning from third century B. C till present day, The monuments and religious sanctity, way of life of the people with their rich tradition possess emphatically to be the cultural heart of Odisha. In deed Puri is considered cultural capital of Odisha. The culture here is flourished with its manifold activities.

The District has the happy conglomerate of different religions, sects and faith in course of history, Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, Muslim, Christian, Sikh found here in the District.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation thought of Lord Krishna, appeared 500 hundred years ago, in the mood of a devotee to taste the sublime emotions of ecstacy by chanting the holy name of Krishna. Stalwart scholars of Puri like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya (a priest & great Sanskrit pandit) and others followed His teachings. Even kings and ministers of His period became His disciples. Espicially King Prataparudra became His great admirer and ardent follower.

Temple today

In modern times the temple is busy and functioning.The temple is selective regarding who is allowed entry into the grounds. Most non-Hindus are excluded from its premises,as are Hindus of non-Indian origin. Visitors not allowed entry may view the precincts from the roof of the nearby Raghunandan Library. There is some evidence that this came into force following a series of invasions by foreigners into the temple and surrounding area. Buddhist, and Jain groups are allowed into the temple compound if they are able to prove their Indian ancestry. The temple has slowly started allowing Hindus of non-Indian origin into the area, after an incident in which 3 Balinese Hindus were denied entry, even though Bali is 90% Hindu.





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