Jagannath Temple, Puri

It is believed in Hinduism that visiting the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha will take you one step closer to “moksha” – a release from the cycle of rebirth forced by the laws of karma. The Jagannath Puri temple has the honored with being one of the “char dham” places every Hindu must visit to attain Moksha (the other being Badrinath, Dwarka, and Rameshwaram). The temple has three main idols along with others. Those are of – Lord Jagannath (who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu), his elder brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra.

Jagannath Temple History

The temple was built in the 12th Century. It took years and different rulers to finish the construction of this temple. The process was started by Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev, a Kalinga King and completed by King Ananga Bhima Deva. The temple was built to worship three main deities, Lord Jagannath (five feel idol), Balabhadra (six feet idol) and Subhadra (four feet idol). The idols are made of wooden logs and are replaced every seventeen to nineteen years with the same replica. Over the years many smaller temples were built within the main temple complex to worship other Gods and Goddesses. Currently, there are around 30 small temples within the Jagannath Temple.

Jagannath Temple Weather and Accommodations

The best time to visit the Jagannath temple is from July to October when the temperature is cool and one can see the famous Rath Yatra in the month of July. One should avoid the months of April to June when summers are on the peak in Odisha. The months of December to February are quite cold but one can still visit the temples during these months.

For accommodations, since the Jagannath temple is visited by millions of devotees every year, there are a lot of hotels and guest houses around the temple complex at all kinds of price ranges. The Jagannath Temple Administration has come up with “Shree Gundicha Bhakta Niwas”, a guest house to facilitate the needs of the devotees.

Jagannath Temple

The city of Puri is well connected with roads and also has adequate supports of railways and flights. So reaching Puri is an easy ob. For the temple, there is a car park a little away from the temple. One will either have to walk or take a rickshaw cycle till the temple. A thing to note is that one cannot carry their belongings inside the temple. You will have to submit them at the entrance which includes phones, cameras, shoes, and socks. Leather is completely banned inside the temple.

The temple has four gates from the main four directions. Every entrance is adorned by stone images of animals and that is how the gates are named. There is the Elephant Gate in the North, the Horse Gate in the South, the Lion Gate in the East and the Tiger Gate in the West. The gate on the east, the Lion Gate is the main gate and it is from here that most of the devotees enter. At the entrance of the main gate is the 11 meters high, monolithic pillar known as Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology, Aruna was the charioteer of the Sun God and the pillar was originally placed at the Sun Temple in Konark. In the 18th Century when the Konark temple was abandoned, the Aruna Stambha was shifted to the Jagannath Temple in Puri to protect it from invaders. Once you enter the temple complex you will see the “Baisi Pahaca” which means “twenty-two steps.” One has to climb 22 steps to reach the temple’s inner courtyard. It is generally said to visit all the other temples before visiting the main temple.

Other than that there are a couple of things one can see here. There is a museum on the west entrance, Niladri Vihar. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his 12 incarnations. Then there is a banyan tree where devotees pray for the fulfillment of their wishes. But one of the things not to miss here is the temple’s kitchen. Some call it the world’s largest kitchen. It feeds over 1, 00,000 people on a daily basis and the food offered to the gods is freshly made here every day. One can view the kitchen by buying a pass. According to the char dham, Lord Vishnu dines at Puri (he bathes at Rameshwaram, gets dressed and anointed at Dwarka, and meditates at Badrinath). So, food is given a lot of significance at the Jagannath Temple. Lord Jagannath (Vishnu) is offered bhog (food) six times a day. Each time there are 56 items which are offered to him. As a means of redemption and spiritual advancement, the devotees are allowed to consume this mahaprasad. It can be bought from Ananda Bazaara which is inside the temple complex at a nominal price.

Beware of the pandits who will try to hoax huge amounts of money from you in lieu of getting you premium darshans and other false promises. They can get quite rude and might even insult you but if you can avoid them, it’s the best course of action.

Rituals and the Rath Yatra

Only Hindus are allowed to enter this temple. People from other religion can look at the temple from nearby buildings. There are around 20 rituals held every day at the temple. They reflect the day to day activities carried out by mankind in everyday life and start with brushing teeth, bathing, getting dressed, having food, etc. The rituals start at 5 a.m. when the temple opens and goes on till midnight when the temple closes.

There are two ways to enter and see the deities here:

  • One can attend the public darshan (viewing) which are held for an hour each morning. It is known as Sahana Mela and it takes place between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Or one can buy a “Parimanik Darshan” ticket from inside the temple complex priced at Rs 50/- each. Even with the passes, people are permitted to only go inside at fixed times of the day after certain rituals. These times are 5 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. One is advised to arrive 30 minutes beforehand to buy these tickets.

The Rath Yatra happens everywhere in the month of July. The deities of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out from a temple. They are placed in three temple-shaped chariots and driven to the Gundicha temple, some two miles away to the North amongst grand spectacle, drama, and color. After staying there for seven days, the deities return to their abode. The Yatra holds great significance in Hindu rituals. The Yatra according to Hindu Mythology is explained by saying that wisdom is a symbol of the charioteer in our lives which controls one’s mind and its thoughts. In the Rath Yatra, the chariot is a symbol of the body and the idol inside the chariot acts as the soul. It is said that during the Yatra festival the deity of Lord Jagannath and the chariot merge and become one. It is considered both an honor and privilege amongst Hindu’s just to touch the ropes that pull the chariot during this festival. It is said to bring peace and prosperity in the life of the person just touching the ropes.

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