The landmark of Puri, Jagannath temple is a thriving spiritual hub in India and is visited by devotees from all over the world. The ancient temple is laced in spirituality and was established by the great sage Adi Shankaracharya as a part of the Chardham Yatra of India. The magnificent 11th-century temple houses the Jagannath incarnation of Lord Vishnu who is worshipped especially by the people belonging to the Vaishnav traditions. The temple also springs to life during the annual Rath Yatra festival. It has also been associated with a lot of prominent saints like Ramanuja, Ramananda etc. the sanctity and the divine presence of the lord can be felt from the moment you step into its premises.
Legends about its Origin
The traditional legendary account about the origin of this temple can be found in the holy books of Skanda Purana, Brahma Purana among other Puranas where it is mentioned that the lord was worshipped originally as Neela Madhab by the tribal chief Visvavasu. King Indradyumna came to know about this unique deity and sent a Brahmin priest to locate this deity who was being worshipped deep inside the dense forest cover. His name was Vidyapati and in the end he was unsuccessful in locating the deity but finally he managed to marry visvavasu’s daughter Lalita. However Vidyapati continued and begged his father in law visvavasu to take him to this cave and offer his prayer to the lord. He took his son in law to the cave blindfolded but Vidyapati dropped seeds of mustard throughout the way and after a few days once the seeds germinated vidyapati was finally successful in finding the cave. Upon getting this news, king Indrayumna immediately set out for his pilgrimage to Odisha or Odra Desha. On reaching however the king was disappointed to see that the deity had vanished, instead it was completely buried in sand. The king did not give up on his spiritual pursuit and decided that until he gets the divine darshan of the deity, to fast till death at Mt. Neela. During this he heard a celestial voice saying you shall see him, which later on provoked him to perform a horse sacrifice and get the holy temple built dedicated to lord Vishnu. The Narsimha Murti inside the temple was brought by Narad. Another voice directed him to make idols obtained from the wood of the fragrant trees lining the sea shore next to the temple. The idols of lord Jagannath, Subhadra and chakra Sudarshan were created and installed inside the temple.
Jagannath temple is a significant part of the holy and one of the most sacred pilgrimages in India, Char Dham Yatra. Along with Puri the other places include covering; Badrinath Yatra, Rameshwaram Yatra and Dwarkadheesh Yatra. This pilgrimage is extremely pious and auspicious for the people belonging to the Hindu community and is it is said that going on a Char Dham Yatra will rid you of all your sins and grant moksha. The other significant Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand takes place in Uttarakhand and is equally significant in terms of spirituality. These sites include visiting Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. All these temples are dedicated to different gods and goddesses which makes this pilgrimage special.
Entry and Darshan
The temple remains open from 5 am in the morning to midnight where the idols are worshipped by the devotees going around the temple. Non Hindus are not allowed inside the temple and can view the temple from the roof top of the Raghunandan library located in extremely close proximity to the temple. This policy was put forward due to the continuous invasions by the foreigners. If you want to have a special darshan of the idol then the devotees can pay a small fee and offer their prayer right in front of the idols. If you reach the temple during the auspicious time of Sahana Mela then you will be able to have the close darshan between 7 to 8 am without paying any fees.
The massive temple complex covers a massive area of 400,000 sq. feet and is surrounded on all sides by tall and strong fortified walls that rise up to 20 feet high and is known as Meghanada pacheri. The main temple structure is surrounded by a wall known as Kurma Bedha and houses almost 120 other small temple shrines dedicated to various different gods and goddesses. The temple is constructed using the traditional Oriya architecture design and is deemed for being one of the most stunning temples in India. The premises contain 4 main temple structures called:
- Deula or the Garbha Griha where the three deities are place on a throne of pearls or Ratnavedi.
- Mukhashala or the frontal porch which holds the devotees visiting the temple.
- Nata Mandir or the Natamandapa which is also the audience or the dancing hall which is also known as Jagamohan.
- The final part of the temple is the offerings hall or the Bhoga Mandap.
Crowning the top of the main temple is the Srichakra or the 8-pointed wheels of Vishnu which adds a lot of significance and spirituality to this place. This chakra is also known as Nilachakra which is created out of Ashtadhatu.
How to Reach
Puri is a very small district in Odisha and there is only a few convenient ways of getting to the temple like:
By Road – Puri can be reached by taking a bus from Gundicha temple that enables you connect with Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The public uses function everyday at an interval of 10 to 15 minutes. You can also take car rental services to Jagannath temple or even hire minibus services that leave in between every 20 to 30 minutes from Jatiababa Chhak. The temple is located at a distance of 3 km from the closest bus station. Auto rickshaw services and local town buses are also available to commute and go from one place to another easily.
By Train – The railway station at Puri caters to a number of express trains from Mumbai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Tirupati etc. from here people can also take the local transport facilities to reach the temple. Some of the trains that the Puri station caters to are – Howrah Puri express, Jagannath express, Purushottam Express among other. Another rail head is situated in Khurda road station which is located at a distance of 44 km from the town of Puri and connects trains from Chennai and the remaining western part of India.
By Air – The closest airport for Jagannath temple, Puri is situated in Bhubaneshwar’s Biju Patnaik airport which is located at a distance of 60 kms. The flights that connect on a daily basis is from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and other such destinations. You can choose to hire a cab and head on for Darshan at Jagannath temple which will be the most convenient way of travelling.
Being a sacred hub of religion and spirituality Jagannath temple hosts a lot of festivals throughout the year which is also attended by devouts from far and wide. Some of these important festivals are:
- Rath Yatra – Each year during the month of June or July the entire town of Puri springs to life due to the celebrations related to the auspicious Rath Yatra. In this festival lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought outside from the temple of Jagannath and kept on three different chariots. They are then taken to the Gundicha temple and this chariot is pulled with the help of devotees.
- Chandan yatra – this is the longest festival that is celebrated in the temple and it requires 42 days to be completed. This yatra journey is divided into 2 different parts called Bahara and Bhitara and each of these parts are divided among 21 days. Bhadra Chandan is the first leg of the journey and covers the part when the chariots for the deities are built. The remaining 21 days the three deities are taken to Narendra Tirth Tank where they are put in a boat and the idols are worshipped inside the temple.
- Snana Yatra – this day is celebrated on the full moon night of the month of jyeshtha which marks the birthday of Lord Jagannath. All the three idols are taken to Snana Bedi followed by a colourful procession where the lords are bathed and various different rituals are performed.
Best Time to Visit
Winter – The months of October to February is advised to be the best time for you to visit the temple. The temperature remains between 16 to 28 degree celsius during this time and allows you to also explore some nearby tourist attractions like – Markandeshwara temple, Daya River, Sudarshan crafts museum etc.
Summer – Being a coastal town, summer time in Puri is hot and humid with the temperature ranging between – 20 to 40 degree Celsius. summer time is experienced between the months of March to May and you won’t be able to explore much of anything other than the temple of Jagannath.
Monsoon – The months of June to September experience the rainy season in Puri. Although the region gets covered in rain there is no dearth of devotees looking to pull the chariot of the lords. The temperature remains between 27 to 31 Degree Celsius and going near the sea to take a dip is not a good idea during this time.
- Must Read: Top 10 Places To Visit In Odisha