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  Home > Holiday Ideas > Pilgrimage India > Jagannath Puri: The Gateway to Heaven

Jagannath Puri: The Gateway to Heaven

 
There are many interesting legends associated with Lord Jagannath and his temple. One such legend is associated with the idols of the temple. According to a story mentioned in the Skand Purana, King Indradyumna was once told about the presence of a Lord Almighty whose mere presence would absolve one from the cycles of birth and death. This deity was Lord Jagannath who was being worshipped as Neelamadhab in the jungles of Odra by the Savaras tribe. King Indradyumna set out to get the idol, but when he reached there he found out that the idol had miraculously disappeared. Disappointed he returned back but was told in a dream of a log of Margosa wood (Daru) that will get washed to the seashore & of which he was to built an idol of the God.
Jagannath Rath Yatra, Puri
Indradyumna asked Viswakarma, the divine carpenter to carve out the image of the Lord. Viswakarma agreed to do so but on the condition that no one should open the door until unless he asked to. Months passed by and one day, the Queen being curious that no noise was coming from behind the closed doors peeped in only to find that Viswakarma has disappeared leaving behind the three unfinished images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. Indradyumna then asked Brahma to consecrate the mages and installed these images in a newly built temple built atop a hill.
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A sacred pilgrimage town and one of the four original Dhams of India, Puri in Orissa, is the abode of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Brahma Purana regards it as the holiest of all the Dhams and it is believed that one can achieve salvation here even if he or she hasn't visited all the other three dhams viz., Dwarka, Badrinath & Rameswaram. No wonder then, the place is also known as Swargdwar or the Gateway to Heaven. The holy town of Puri also has a special place for the followers of Buddhism. According to the Buddhist texts, Puri was the place where the tooth of the Enlightened One was hidden before it was shifted to Kandy in Sri Lanka.

Puri is renowned for its famous Rath Yatra and the Jagannath Temple - also known as the White Pagoda of the Europeans. The Black Pagaoda - as Konark Sun Temple is often called is also a star attraction in Puri. There are still a few other beautiful temples, beaches and places of tourist interest that continues to attract families and solo travellers from all corners of the country and different parts of the world.

Places of Interest

Jagannath Temple: The mainstay of Puri around which the entire life of the town and its inhabitants revolve, the Jagannath Temple along with the Konark temple marks the pinnacle of Orissa temple architecture. The present temple said to have been built by the Ganga ruler Anantavarman Chodagangadeva in the 12th century  and is the highest of all the Orissa's temples (214 feet from the ground level).

The temple stands on an elevated 8m platform known as Nila Parbata (Blue Mountain) and is surrounded by huge gateways on the four sides. The main gateway known as the Simha Dwar (Lions gateway) has two massive stone lions guarding the entrance. The temple is constructed as per the Pancharatha plan in the typical Kalinga School of Architecture with a Nata Mandir, Bhoga Mandir, the Jagamohana or the mandapa where devotees gather for worship and the Deul or the sanctum sanctorum where the deities - Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are enshrined.

The Jagannath - Juggernaut
The Jagannath Temple occupies an area of over 400000 square feet, and is bounded by a 20 feet high fortified wall. This complex contains about 120 temples and shrines. The shikhara of the Jagannath temple towers to a height of 192 feet. The main highlight of the Jagannath temple apart from its annual Rath Yatra festival is its Mahaprasad (bhoga/prasad) which is prepared in the Lord's kitchen.
Gundicha Temple, Puri

Gundicha Temple: The second important temple of Puri, the Gundicha Temple is the place where Lord Jagannath along with his siblings- Balabhadra and Subhadra go to every year for 9 days during the annual Rath Yatra festival (Asadha/June or July). Also known as ‘Janak Puri', the temple is situated at the other end of the great highway (Badadanda)- distance of 8,327 feet from the gates of Jagannath temple.

The Gundicha Temple stands in the middle of a garden and is 430 feet x75 feet. It is temple is surrounded by a 20ftx5ft wall and as per the Kalinga Architectural style consists of a Vimana, Jagamohana,Natamandapa and Bhogamandapa. The images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are seated on raised platform 4 feet high and 19 feet long when they visit the Gundicha temple. This platform made of chlorite is called the 'Ratnavedi'. This temple has two gates the western gate (the main gate) and the eastern gate called Nakachana gate. A pond nearby the temple is home to a number of tortoises who are said to have been shilpis in their past life & who carried huge stones on their back to build the Jagannath temple.

Lord's Kitchen

The kitchen of the Jagannath Temple is said to be the largest and the biggest in the world serving about 5,000 persons every day. This number however increases during festivals and other festive occasions reaching to about a million. The size of the kitchen is about 150ft x100ft x20ft and around 600 cooks known as Suaras and 400 assistants are involved in preparing Lord's food known popularly as Mahaprasad. Around 56 varieties of food are prepared daily to be offered to the gods as bhoga. This bhoga are offered to the deities five times a day viz., ‘Gopala-Ballava' (Breakfast), ‘Sakal Dhupa' ‘Madhyana Dhupa' ‘Sandhya Dhupa' and ‘Badasinghar Dhupa.' These prasad can be brought from the Anand Bazzar situated on the northeastern corner of the outer enclosure of the temple. However it is usually the ‘Khaja'  - a  dry Mahaprasad  made of maida, sugar and ghee which can stay fresh for days together that is preferred by tourists to carry back home.

Pancha Tirtha: It is believed that the visit to Puri is incomplete unless one partakes a bath in the Pancha Tirtha .The Pancha Tirtha are the five sacred bathing places viz., the Indradyumna Tank, Markandesvara Tank, Swetaganga Rohini Kunda and Mahodadhi (sea). By visiting Lord Jagannath and bathing in the Pancha Tirthas the pilgrims gets Salvation.

  • Indradyumna Tank: Located on the north western part of the Gundicha temple, the Indradyumna Tank is 396 feet wide, 485 feet long and covers an area of four and a half acres. A temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is located nearby the Tank as also a small shrine, dedicated to King Indrayumna. The Indradyumna tank was earlier a 'Yagnya Kunda' where the king had organized 'Ashwamedha Yagnya'. The statue of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra being constructed by Biswakarma is located near this Yanga kunda at Gundicha temple.
  • Swetaganga Tank: Situated to the west of the Jagannath Temple in between Lions gate and Swargadwar, the Swetaganga is said to be created from the nail of Lord Vishnu. One needs to take a bath on Swetaganga before visiting the temple.  Two small temples, dedicated to Sweta Madhava and Matsya Madhava are located near this tank.
  • Rohini Kunda: Located inside Lord Jagannath Temple and in front of Goddess Vimala Temple is the Rohini Kunda. The water of the Kunda is known as 'Karana Water' and is sprinkled by devotes for purification. Behind the Rohini Kunda  is an image of  Bhusanda Kaka (a crow). As per the legend, Bhusanda fell into this tank and got transformed to a form of Vishnu with four hands and holding a conch (sankha), wheel(chakra), lotus (padma) & gada (mace)
  • Markandesvara Tank: The tank is located on the very spot where Lord Vishnu once rested in the form of a tree. A temple dedicated to him lies buried in the sand dunes. Another story associates the tank with Sage Markandeya who meditated here after he was saved by the Lord on this very spot from the sea.
  • Mahodadhi (Sea): The sea as a sacred bathing site!…sounds amusing but its true. The golden beach of Puri is considered as the greatest among the Tirthas (Tirtharaj) mainly due to the fact that the sacred Daru or the log from which the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra were made came floating in the sea.

Puri Beach:  One of the best beaches in the country and also one of the holiest, the beach in Puri is often overshadowed by its more popular counterparts in Goa and Kerala. But ask anyone who has been there and the answer is but unanimous- the Puri beach is one to the best beaches conducive for swimming for both kids and adults alike.

The Puri beach offers a relax atmosphere- you can swim, take a stroll or simply watch the sun go down without any disturbances. If you are hungry then there are various restaurants and small dhabas located nearby offering some of the tasty Oriya snacks and cuisine.  Other attractions at the beach includes the five days long Puri Beach Festival held in the month of February and the festivities during the "Kartik Purnima"  when people gather here in the  early morning to take a holy dip and pray sea God. 

Puri - Rath Yatra
The annual car festival or Rath Yatra held in the month of June -July. Once in a lifetime experience and a spectacle not be missed, it is said that the word “Juggernaut" (meaning an overwhelming, advancing force that crushes or seems to crush everything in its path/) was coined by the British only after witnessing such an event in which thousands of devotees has flung themselves in front of the huge chariots in the believe that they will achieve salvation.

District Museum Puri: A branch museum of Orissa State Museum, the Puri Museum located on Station Road was established in 1997. Managed  by the  Government of Orissa, it showcases the different   veshas  of  Lord   Jagannath,  Sculptures  of  various Kinds, Patta  paintings,  palm  leaf   paintings etc

Sri Lokanath Temple: One of the oldest temples of Puri, the Sri Lokanath Temple located some 2½ kms to the west of Jagannath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.  Before Puri became an important Vaishanava site, it was the seat of Saiva worship and as per the legends, the 'Linga' of the Lokanath Temple was installed here by Sri Ramachandra during the Treteya Yug. The ‘Linga' is an interesting feature of the Sri Lokanath Temple, which remains submerged under water. It is visible only on the night of 'Pankadhar Ekadasi' few days before Sivaratri, when all the water is bailed out to enable thousands of the devotees to see and worship the Lord. It is said that the decomposed water has miraculous properties and can cure several diseases.

The Sri Lokanath Temple currently buried under the sand is built in sandstones locally called Sanla Pathara. The main temple is about 30 feet from the ground level and consists of the Vimana (Main Temple), Jagamohana (Entrance Hall), Natamandapa (Dancing Hall) and Bhogamndapa (Offering Hall). The image of Shiva-Parvati is carved on the northern side wall; that of Lord Kartikeya on the eastern side and of Lord Ganesha  on the southern side wall. There are also a few temples located inside the Sri Loknatha temple premises notable among which are the Surya-Narayana Chandra-Narayana and the Satya-Narayan. One can also find an image of Lord Hanuman located on right side of the entrance to the inner courtyard. Near the temple is a pond known as Parvati Sagara where devotees are required to wash their hands and feet before entering into the temple.

An image of Lord Lokanath ('Bije Pratima') known as Bhandar Lokanath is kept in the Sri Jagannath Temple. He is considered as the guardian deity of the Ratnabhandara (treasure house) of Sri Jagannatha Temple and is also associated with Lord Jagannath in several festivals like Sivaratri, Chandan Yatra and Sital Sasthi.


Places Nearby
Sun Temple, Konark

Sun Temple of Konark: This architectural masterpiece also known as the Black Pagoda as opposed to the White Pagoda of Puri is a Unesco World Heritage Site. One of the few temples dedicated to the Sun God, The Konark temple is also famed for  its erotic sculptures. A bike ride along the Marine Drive from Puri to Konark is widely recommended. Konark is located 35 kms from Puri.

Chandrabhaga Beach: Though the strong currents of the sea do not make the Chandrabhaga Beach safe for swimming, the beach nevertheless is a nice place to witness the sunrise and sunset and to spend some time with the family by either going on for a boat ride with fishermen or climbing the nearby light house. The beach wears a festive air during the annual Chandrabhaga Mela in the month of Magha (Jan-Feb). Chandrabhaga Beach  is 3 kms from the Sun Temple at Konark and 30 kms from Puri.

Chilika Lake: The largest and biggest inland brackish water lake in Asia and home to a rich variety of aquatic fauna and migratory birds, Chilika Lake is about 105 kilometers from Bhubanehwar. Covering an area 1,100 sq. km, it runs along the length  of three districts of Puri, Khurdha & Ganjam before joining the Bay of Bengal through a narrow mouth forming an enormous lagoon of brackish water. Read more on Chilika

Satapara/Satapada: 50 kms from Puri, is the place where the Chilka Lake pours into the Bay of Bengal great for viewing the dolphins, birds  and picnics.

Balighai: An isolated beach suitable for those seeking solitude.  It is 10kms from Puri on Puri-Konark Road.

Baliharachandi: Baliharachandi is the site of ancient Sakti cult. A temple dedicated to Goddess Durga in the form of Baliharchandi is located here. The temple is situated at the beginning of the river Bhargavi on the road towards Brahmagiri and Satapada. One of the few unknown scenic spots of Orissa, Baliharachandi is an ideal place for a picnic and enjoying a sunbath, 27 kms south west of Puri. Take care not to wander away into the unknown without the help of local people as quicksand pervades the area.

Beleswar: An old Shiva temple and a scenic picnic spot with a beach to fun and frolic. Beleswar is 20 kms from Puri on Puri-Konark road.

Brahmagiri: An important Vaishanava site associated with Lord Vishnu, Brahmagiri, 25 kms from Puri is known for its Alarnath Temple. In this temple, Lord Vishnu is worshiped as Lord Alarnath. He is represented here with four arms each arm holding a shankha, chakra, gada, and padma. Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu is shown kneeling at the feet of the deity with his hands folded in prayer position. An image of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in full devotion of the lord in also located nearby. It is said that whoever failed to get a glimpse of Lord Jagannath during the Anavasara ( the 2 weeks period when Lord Jagannatha take rest in isolation from the rest of the world after suffering from fever due to the annual bathing festival (Snana Yatra) can get their blessing if they visit this temple and taste its of holy 'Kheer'.

There is a lake behind the temple where the Chandan Yatra (Sandalwood festival) is celebrated for 21 days every year. Interestingly, the name Alarnath is traced to Alwar in Rajasthan reason being that the temple was established by the rulers of Alwar and hence the name.

Pipli: 40 kms from Puri, the village of Pipli is well known all over the world for its beautiful appliqué work - an old temple art now refined to perfection. Appliqué is generally the  process of cutting colored cloth into shapes of animals, birds, flowers, leaves and other decorative motifs and stitching them on to a piece of cloth that can ultimately be used as a lamp shade, a hand bag , purse, wall hanging etc.

Raghurajpur: An artisan village, 16 km from Puri famed for its palm leave paintings and pattachitras, Raghurajpur is also one of Orissa's finest example of rural tourism.

Sakhigopal: Sakhigopal 20 kms from Puri is famous for its Radha Krushna Temple. It is generally held that the pilgrimage of Puri is not completed unless one visits Sakhigopal. The town wears a festive look during the festive days of Amla Nabami, Dolapurnima, Chandan Yatra, Kartika Purnami, etc.


Stay Options

Puri has a number of hotels, which provide comfortable accommodation to pilgrims visiting this temple town in Orissa. Hotels in Puri include a number of luxury hotels, mid price hotels and various budget hotels and guest houses. Click here to find more on hotels in Puri.


How to reach

By Air: The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar (60 km from Puri)

By Rail: Being an important pilgrimage destination, Puri has its own railway station and is well linked to all the major cities and towns of the country. Puri has good rail connections with Delhi , Kolkata, Tirupati, Okha and Ahmedabad.

By Road: Puri is well connected by road from different parts of the state. State Highway connects Puri from Bhubaneswar (60 kms) via Konark through the Marine Drive (100 kms).
Driving directions from Bhubaneshwar to Puri

Best Time to visit Puri: Puri is an all the year round destination though the best time is from October to April when the weather is pleasant. However, the annual Rath Yatra festival usually takes place in the months of June-July.


About Puri: Puri Information & Fact File
Altitude Sea-level
Temp
Summer 34 (Max) & 25 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Winter 30 (Max) & 16 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Best time to Go October – May
Monsoon June - September
Summer March-May
Winter December – February
Clothes Cottons all year round
Nearest Airport Bhubaneshwar, 65 km
Nearest Railway Station Puri (Direct trains from Kolkata, Delhi, Ahmedabad)
Bus Station Puri (Direct buses from Bhubaneshwar, Konark)
Hospital & Doctor

Puri has a District Hospital and a Municipality Hospital fully equipped to handle emergencies

Places to see Jagannath Temple, Gundicha Mandir, Atharnala Bridge, Beach-front, Pipli, Raghurajpur …
   
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