Puri in Orissa is considered to be one of the four sacred places of Hindu pilgrimage, the others being Badrinath, Rameswaram, Dwaraka.
Jagannath temple is the main attraction here for the pilgrims. ’Jagannath’ literally means Lord of Universe.
The presiding deities in the temple are Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. The idols are made of neem wood(margosa).
The present temple is said to have been built in the 12th century A.D by King Ananta Burman Chodaganga Dev. As with other temples in Orissa, the main temple has four sections – Vimana, (Sanctum where Deities are seated), Porch, Nata Mandir and Bogamandap.
According to the legend, Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped as Neelamadhava by an aboriginal tribal chief named Viswavasu. It was learnt that Viswavasu secretly worshipped the deity in a dense forest. After hearing about the Deity Lord Jagannath, king Indradyumna sent a brahmin priest Vidyapati to locate the deity. Not able to locate the place, Vidyapati managed to manny Viswavasu’s daughten Lalita and atthe request of Lalita, Viswavasu took Vidyapati blind folded to a cave where Neelamadhava was being worshipped by Viswavasu.
While being led to the secret cave, Vidyapati dropped mustard seeds on the ground. The seeds germinated after a few days and thus Vidyapati was able to locate the cave and pass on the information to king Indradyumna. King Indradyumna then proceeded to worship the deity.
However, the deity had suddenly disappeared and was hidden in sand. The king was disappointed and observed fast unto death. During his sleep, the king had a vision of Lord Jagannath who directed him to make idols out of the fragrant tree on the seashore. Accordingly, the king got the idols of Vishnu, Balaram, Subhadra and Sudarshana made and installed them in the temple.
It is further said that the king had requested Viswakarma to make the idols. Viswakarma had put a condition that while he made the idols inside a closed room no one should open the door till the work was finished. One day, not hearing the sound of chisel, the king opened the door and found the idols incomplete with unfinished hands. Hence till date, the idols are without hands.
The temple opens at 5 a.m and the rituals continue till 12 midnight.
The Car Festival ‘Rath Yatra’ is an important festival for Lord Jagannath. This festival is held on the 2nd day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July) every year. The chariot of Lord Jagannath consists of 16 wheels with red and yellow colored fabrics. The chariot of Lord Balabhadra has 14 wheels with red and green fabrics and the chariot of Subhadra has 12 wheels with red and black colored fabrics. On the ninth day return CarFestival ”ulta rath’ is observed when deities are brought back to the temple.
Puri temple is about 3 kms from Puri railway station which is connected with New Delhi and Howrah.
Puri is located at about 60 kms from Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Orissa. Bhubaneswar is well connected by train from major cities of India.
Other main attraction in Puri is puri beach.
A lot more information on the temple can be obtained from the book ‘A Brief Look at Shri Jagannath Temple’ written by Shri Mahimohan Tripathy (Ex-Administrator & Chief Executive, Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri)
he Legend of Lord Jagannath
There lived a king Indradyumna in Satya yuga. He was a great devotee of Nilamadhava Vishnu form of Vishnu. He once dreamt an unusual form of Vishnu and was curious to know where this from of deity is worshipped. He sent his troops in four directions to find this out and declared a great amount as reward.
One of his emissaries Vidyapati came to the east. He came to know that King Visvavasu went secretly to a temple in Niakandara. He married his daughter Lalitha to extract information about Nilamadhava. Getting tired of Vidyapati’s insistence to show the deities in Niakandara, Visvavasu agreed to take him there blindfold. But Vidyapati was cleaver. He took some sesame seeds with him and scattered on the way so that he can trace the place.
Eventually, when Vidyapati was taken to Nilamadhava he saw wonderful Nilamadhava. He was very happy for his triumph achievement. But soon all that turned out to be a nightmare. The deities refused to accept the food offered to them and said to King, “ We would no longer continue to be worshipped by you. We will change the present Nilamadhava form and assume Daru (wooden) form. We shall be worshipped in thetemple by Raja Indradyumna.” They disappeared after saying this.
Vidyapati told whole story to King Indradyumna. Upon visiting Nilakandara, the King heard a voice from air to construct a temple of Nilasaila. Following that, he also got a dream saying that he will get a log of wood floating in the sea. Sage Narada also assured Indradyumna that Vishnu would appear in his temple in three wooden images.
The king went to the sea and started meditating. He soon found a big log coming floating towards him. Upon seeing the divine marks on the log, King confirmed that this is the log he was seeing. King Indradyumana immediately took up the work of constructing thetemple. He gave the temple contract to Visvakarma, the architect of Gods. He built a magnificent temple to house the deities.
Next came the carving of the deities. It is said that Lord Vishnu Himself came in guise of a carpenter and made the idols. The divine carpenter said that he will make the deities on one condition. He told that he should not have any disturbance till he finishes the work, which the King agreed.
Everyday the King and Queen could hear the carpenter working. But after 2 weeks, they could no longer hear the sound. The queen became suspicious thinking carpenter might have dead. She opened the room. Upon getting disturbed, the divine carpenter abandoned his work leaving the deities unfinished and disappeared. But a divine voice ordered King Indradyumana to install those deities in the temple.
This is how the wonderful deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra manifested in Puri. These deities are worshipped till date in the temple of Jagannath in Puri. These deities are taken for Ratha Yatra every year.
Sri Jagannath, Baladeva, Subhadra Rani Ki Jai!! Sri Purshottam Kshetra Puri Jagannath Dham Ki Jai!