Shree Jagannath Temple of Puri is one of the Holiest Char Dham sites of India comprising Badrinath(North), Rameshwaram in South and Dwarka in West, this religious heritage site is famous for its rich culture, history and the annual Chariot festival held each year.
Let’s dive deep into the History and Facts about the Jagannath Temple.
Deities Worshipped here:-
Jagannath an avatar of Lord Krishna, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.
Vishnu who is known as the preserver of the world is worshipped over here as Jagganath (Lord of Universe).
History of Jagannath Temple
King Indradyumna built this temple in Satya Yuga, the history of this temple could be found in the Skanda Purana.
According to legend:-
Indradyumna was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, one day a traveller came and told the king that Vishnu is been worshipped as its truest form as Neel Madhaba in a cave in Odisha.
Indradyuma sent his Bhramin priest Vidyapati to Odisha for the search of deity. Vidyapati reached Odisha where he found the tribal chief named Vishwavasu guarding the cave of Neel Madhaba secretly. On asking the tribal chief refused.
Vidyapati stayed in the village and married Viswavasu’s daughter Lalita, after that he requested his wife to ask Viswavasu for showing the Neel Madhaba.
Viswavasu agreed on a condition that Vidyapati would be taken blindfolded to the cave. Vidyapati agreed on the condition, but he outsmarts viswavasu on their journey by dropping oil seeds. Vidyapati on reaching the cave was spellbound on seeing the form of Neel Madhaba.
On narrating this to Indradyumna, they both set on a journey to the cave in Odra dash(now Odisha). On reaching they both find that cave was empty and Neel Madhaba got disappeared.
King was devastated after this, during his sleep he heard a celestial voice that he should go to Puri in Odra desh(now Odisha). Where he would find a log of wood floating on the seashore and carve the idols out of it.
He obeyed and set on a journey to puri where he found the log of wood floating in the waves, Indradyuma brought the log of wood to his palace and asked his craftsmen to make an idol from the log, but none of them could do so as nobody could visualize Neel Madhaba as none of them had seen him.
When this seems to be impossible, Vishwakarma the artisan of the god appeared in the form of an old craftsman to the in King Indradyuma. He said he could carve out the idols from the log of the wood with the condition that he would lock himself in the room for the next 21 days and nobody could disturb him.
King Indradyumna agreed on the condition, after 15 days patience of queen broke and she persuaded Indradyumna to look into the progress. Indradyumna opened the door where he found the carpenter got disappeared leaving behind 3 incomplete wooden images of the idol.
According to the belief, the same form of these idols is worshipped in the Jagannath temple, and that’s the reason the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra don’t have hands and legs.
This temple was later built by the Anantavarman Chodaganga the King of Ganga Dynasty in the 12th century the exact year of completion of the temple is unclear according to chronicles it completed(1196,1197,1216,1226).
However, according to the temple Chronicles the Jagannath temple was founded by Anangabhima Deva-II which suggests the temple was completed or renovated during the reign of Anangabhima son of Anantavarman.
Non-Hindus aren’t permitted to enter the temple, the trust clarifies that this is a religious site of worship and not regarded as a tourist site, Muslims, Jews, Parsees, Christians, Bahai’s, Druze aren’t allowed to enter.
This policy came after the repeated series of invasions. Even the former Prime minister Smt Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter into the temple premises also.
The Religious Travel of Char Dham
The 4 religious abodes of Hinduism, Badrinath in North, Puri in East, Rameshwaram in South, Dwarka in the west which every Hindu wish to travel in their lifetime generally start their religious journey from the Jagannath Temple of Puri.
The Structure Of Jagganath Temple
The temple area is of 400,000 sq feet which is surrounded by a 20ft wall known as the Meghanada Pacheri.
The height of the main structure is almost around 200ft as same as the Taj Mahal of India, and the temple complex has 30 smaller temples of different sizes of various other Deities of the Hindu Religion.
The Sudarshan Chakra crowned on the top of the temple symbolizes the Chakra of Vishnu, this is known as the Nilachakra, this is made of ashtha Dhatu and protects the temple from the thunderstorm also.
Also, the shadow of the main structure of the Shree Jagannath Temple isn’t visible any time during the day from any direction you see
One mystery resolves around the Chakra also, its design in such a way, from every direction you see it resembles the same.
The flag hoisted above the chakra always flows in the opposite direction of the wind defying the laws of nature.
Every day the flag on the top of the temple is changed by the priest who climbs the wall of the temple bare hands without any protective equipment and the ritual is far to the history when the temple was built and it is believed that if the ritual is skipped of just one day the temple will be closed for next 18 years.
There are 4 gates of the Jagannath Temple in each cardinal directions.
-Lions Gate(Singhdwara) this is the main gate of the temple with 2 crouching lions on both sides of the gate, this gate serves as the main entrance facing towards Grand Road of Puri.
The other gates are Hathidwara(Elephants Gate), Vyaghradwara(tiger’s gate), Ashwadwara(Horse Gate).
The sound of the sea waves are audible outside the temple, but once you step into the Singhdwara the audacity no sound of the waves could be heard inside the temple, it is believed that Devi Subhadra insisted to left undisturbed inside the temple.
Travelling is not limited to devouts. The Deities of Sri Jagannath Temple also goes on travel on 3 gigantic chariots every year. Lord Jagannath along with his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra travel 3 km from the Jagannath Temple to Gunndicha Temple (King Indradyumna Queens temple).
This 13-day festival sees millions of visitors in Puri to get the glimpse of Lord Jagannath who himself are travelling for their devouts.
The 3 deities have 3 separate chariots:-
Chariot of Lord Balabhadra:-Taladhwaja 43ft 3 inch high with 14 wheels(Left one in the above picture)
Chariot of Devi Subhadra:-Darpadalana 42ft 3 inch high with 12 wheels(Middle)
Chariot of Lord Jagannath:-Nandighosha 44ft 2 inch high with 16 wheels(Right)
When all the 3 chariots reached Gundicha Temple, and the deities are taken inside the temple in the same rand manner.
After 7 day procession in Gundicha temple, the 3 deities return to the Jagannath Temple in their 3 chariots where they stop at Mausi Maa temple and have the offering of Poda pitha( a type of pancake) on their return journey.
Every year the Puri prepares for the Rath yatra 2 months Prior from the Akshay Tritya, the date when the construction of these raths is carried from scratch.
The amazing fact is this these craftsmen have no written instructions for the building these Chariots instead the knowledge is passed on from one generation to other and there are no standard measures for measuring the rath or the length instead they still use the age-old technique of handspan.
It is believed that if the rath yatra is skipped for just one 1 year it won’t happen for 12 more years.
Snanpurnima before Rath Yatra
Every year the last Purnima(Full moon) just prior to Rath Yatra, the idols of Jagannath Temple, Subhadra, Balabhadra and Jagannath are bathed with 108 Pitchers of water and it is believed that the lord falls ill after that and the temple gets closed which gets reopened during rath yatra.
Naba means new kalebara means body. This cycle is done at 8,12, or even in 19 years. This ceremonial witness the burial of old idols of the deities and creation and installation of the new idols. The first Nabakalebara of this Millenium took place in 2015 after 19 years and sees huge footfalls of devotees in the Jagannath Temple.
Administration of Jagannath Temple
The state government passed the Jagannath Temple Administration Act of 1952, which had the provisions of Rights and duties of the sevayats and other people connected with the temple.
The current King of Puri Dibyasingha Deb is the Adhyasevak(chief servitor of Puri) also known as the Gajapati Mahara.
Invasions of the Jagannath Temple
According to the Madala Panji records the Jagannath temple has been invaded nearly 18 times. In 1692, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordered to close the temple and wanted to demolish.
The temple was merely closed when the locals requested the Mughals official who came to carry out the order and the temple was later reopened after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707.
Mahaprasada, the food or known as the Abhada
The Prasada is cooked in a large kitchen of the area of around 100ft*150ft, which looks like a fortress from outside and nearly 600 cooks prepare the food. The food is served first to Lord Jagannath then the goddess Vimla then to visitors
The food is cooked by using traditional techniques of wood and earthen pot, and nearly 7 pots are kept are mounted together and topmost one gets cooked first.
Nearly 56 types of food are prepared every day and this prasad never gets wasted any day and it can feast nearly 10,000 to lacs of visitors without any food getting wasted.
The raw materials for the Mahaprasada are taken from the “Laxmi Bazaar” next to the Jagannath temple, in which vegetables from the farmers indigenous to the region can only sell.
No Flying zone above the Temple:-
No birds can be seen flying above the temple, might be because of the lord’s wish that nothing can be over him.
Reverse Sea Breeze in Puri:-
During the day the breeze from the sea comes to land and the reverse happens in the evening but in Puri, the breeze blows from land to sea in day and the opposite happens in the evening.
Culture, Tradition, History Travel and the Deities himself are most important in the Hindu Religion. So the story of Shree Jagannath temple and its culture plays an important role and the religious travel of Char Dham.
Must watch the legend of Lord Jagannath on national geographic by Rajeev Khandelwal
Visit our Photo Section here