Jagannatha Temple - One Among the Four Most Sacred
Puri is one of the most visited cities of Orissa and Jagannatha Temple is its greatest attraction. The temple is an important pilgrim destination for Hindus. Jagannatha Temple is one of the four Dhams (most sacred places) in India along with Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. The temple is dedicated to Jagannatha ( Lord Krishna). The word Jagannath in Sanskrit means 'Lord of Universe'. There are three main deities in the temple, Lord Jagannatha, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra. It is visited by devotees throughout the year but during Rath Yatra, the number increases many folds. It is probably the most exuberantly celebrated event of Orissa. Though only Hindus of Indian origin are allowed entry into the temple, one can admire the exceptional beauty of the temple from outside as well.
History of Jagannatha Temple
The construction of Jagannatha Temple started during the reign of Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev who was a famous ruler of Kalinga. Few of the portions were completed during his reign itself. However it was King Ananga Bhima Deva who reconstructed it and brought it to the shape it is in today. The rituals were carried on in the temple till 1558 when an Afghan General Kalapahad attacked . After sometime, when Ramachandra Deb formed an independent kingdom at Khurda, the images were reconsecrated. The Legend that goes with it is that Dharma found the original image of Lord Jagannatha near a fig tree. It was in the form of a Blue Jewel. The image was blindingly bright so he wanted to hide it in earth. King Indradyumna of Malwa wanted to find the image. And for that he performed penance for long and hard. Lord Vishnu then appeared and told him to look for a log on the coast in Puri. As advised, he came to Puri and found the log. There, Lord Vishnu and Lord Vishwakarma appeared as artists and carved images of Lord Krishna, Lord Balarama, and Goddess Subhadra from the log. These were the images that were consecrated in the Jagannatha temple.
Architecture of Jagannatha Temple
It is among the finest architectural works that still stand in Orissa. The temple is walled by a 20 feet high wall. The premises covers an area of around 40000 sq. feet and has more than 120 small temples inside the temple. Most of these temples are built in the Orrisan style of temple architecture. The main shrine is around 214 feet tall and is in a curvilinear shape. What will amaze you the most will be the 11-m high pillar, which is, located right at the entrance. This pillar has 16 sides to it and some magnificent carvings on it. The premises is divided into four parts, Bhogmandir, Natamandir, Jagamohana and Deul.
Famous Festival of Jagannatha
This annual festival is the biggest event that takes place in Orissa. Rath Yatra beckons pilgrims and tourist from all over the world, They come here to witness the grandest procession of the country. During the festival, three gigantic chariots housing the idols of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. The chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees from Jagannatha Temple to Gundicha Mandir which is at a distance of 3 Km. The entire path is filled with millions of onlookers who are immersed in devotion. It is believed that the deities are visiting their aunt. The idols are brought back after five days. The festival takes place in the month of July.
Being situated in Puri, which is one the major cities in Orissa, Jagannatha Temple easily accessible. Puri is at a distance of 93 from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. For staying, there are many hotels and dharamshalas ( low budget accommodations) around the temple. Only Hindus of Indian origin are allowed inside the temple premises. One can visit the temple throughout the year although best time is during the Rath Yatra in July when the festive mood in Puri is at its peak.