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The Legends And Mysteries Of The Puri Jagannath Temple

Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha

If you’re planning for a trip to the eastern coast of  India, make sure to include the Puri Jagannath temple in your itinerary. The Puri Jagannath temple is located in Puri in the state of Odisha. The temple is the abode Lord Jagannath (Maha Vishnu’s form). Above all, the Puri Jagannath temple in Puri is one of the important Hindu Char Dhams.

The History Of Puri Jagannath Temple

The history of Puri Jagannath temple revolves around mysteries and mythological stories. Most importantly, ancient Vedas and Puranas have mentioned Lord Jagannath’s existence. It is said that the Pandavas of Mahabharata have also worshipped Lord Jagannath at this holy place. On the contrary, some unconfirmed reports suggest that Jesus and Mohammad have also visited this place. During the 9th century, Shankaracharya visited Puri and founded Govardhana Matha as the eastern dhama of India. Additionally, around 30 temples are present in the premises of Lord Jagannath’s shrine. The deities of Chatur Murti (Lord Jagannath, Balarama, Subhadra and Sudarshan) have been worshipped together at this shrine.

 Puri Jagannath Temple
An Aerial View of the Puri Jagannath Temple

The main temple of Puri has many more temples situated in its premises. Accordingly, the devotees need to visit all these temples before paying respect to the main sanctum of Lord Jagannath. In addition to this, the main sanctum consists of idols of Lord Jagannath, Balarama, Subhadra and Sudarshan (also known as Chatur Murti).

Some Interesting Puri Jagannath Temple Facts

  1. The flag on the dome of the temple waves in the opposite direction of the wind. But there is no scientific reason for its occurrence.
  2. A priest climbs at the temple’s dome every day to change the flag without any safety gear. However, the ritual of changing the flag is mandatory else the temple would be shut down for 18 years.
  3. Believe it or not, the temple has no shadow at all. Unfortunately, scientists do not have any explanation for this.
  4. The chakra weighs around a ton and it appears to be facing towards you irrespective of the place.
  5. Nothing flies above the temple. There is no movement of birds above the temple’s dome. Even the aeroplanes do not fly near the dome.
  6. Lakhs of devotees visit the temple on an everyday basis. But the food prepared in the form of prasadam never gets insufficient or wasted.
  7. You cannot listen to the sound of wavesonce you enter through Singha Dwara of the temple.
  8. Normally, the wind blows from sea to land in the daytime and the reverse takes place in the evenings. At Puri, the wind blows from land to sea all the time.
  9. The sacred deities disintegrate on their own. In fact, the replacement of deities takes place between every 14 – 18 years.
Mahaprasad at Jagannath temple
Mahaprasad cooked in earthen pots at the Puri Jagannath temple

Puri Jagannath Temple Timings

The Puri Jagannath temple darshan timings begin from 5.00 am and goes on to 12.00 pm. The general darshan at the temple is free of charge.

The Deities At Puri Jagannath Temple

The deities worshiped at the temple are Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra. Moreover, the idols are sculpted from neem logs. Further, the height of the deities ranges from 2.5 to 3 meters. The deities are in the shades of black, white and yellow, where black is for Lord Jagannath, white for Balarama and yellow is for Subhadra.

Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra’s faces appear to be black, white and yellow in colour. Most importantly, Lord Jagannath’s eyes are circular in shape. But the eyes of Subhadra and Balarama are oval. But the people are clueless regarding the over-sized heads of the deities. Balarama’s head appears to be a semi-circle with a hood like structure depicting a serpent’s head. Subhadra’s head has a crown while that of Lord Jagannath is a straight line.

Crowd of devotees seeking Lord Jagannath's blessings
Devotees gather at Puri Jagannath temple

The deities sit on bejewelled platforms in the temple. They are accompanied by Sudarshana Chakra, Madan Mohan, Sridevi and Vishwadhatri. Likewise, the deities are bedecked with different attire and jewels according to the season.

The Unforgettable Legends Of Puri Jagannath Temple

The tribal chief, Viswavasu, secretly worshipped Lord Jagannath as Nila Madhava. King Indradyumna had ordered a Brahmin Priest, Vidyapati, to locate the deity. Eventually, Vidyapati located the area and took shelter in the tribal community. During the same time, he married the tribal chief’s daughter, Lalita. But Vidyapati realised that Viswavasu secretly worshipped Nila Madhava. In fact, after making repeated requests, Viswavasu allowed his son-in-law, Vidyapati to see Nila Madhava. But Vishwavasu blindfolded Vidyapati before taking him to the sacred place.

What Happens Next?

Furthermore, Vidyapati dropped mustard seeds on the way to the sacred temple. On reaching the holy site, Vidyapati was freed from the blindfold. While Viswavasu was out collecting flowers, Vidyapati witnessed a crow falling from a tree branch. To his surprise, it took the form of the four-armed Vaikuntha and flew away to the spiritual world. Following wthishich, Vidyapati decided to climb up the tree and jump into the lake. However, a celestial voice ordered Vidyapati to inform King Indradyumn about Nila Madhava.

Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra idols
Deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Goddess Subhadra

Subsequently, Vidyapati narrated his experience to King Indradyumna. On reaching the holy site, the King realised that Nila Madhava had miraculously disappeared. Following this, the mighty king collected wooden logs from the seashore as per divine instructions and fabricated the body of Lord Jagannath. In fact, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as an old carpenter and helped carve the image of Jagannath. Moreover, the carpenter claimed to complete his work within twenty-one days without any disturbance. The queen grew impatient after a few days and persuaded the king to open the doors of the temple. On opening the temple doors, they could only see incomplete wooden images of the deities.

How to Reach Puri Jagannath Temple

Bus stops and railway stations are easily accessible from the Jagannath temple. Auto rickshaws and local buses are available from the town at frequent intervals. Biju Patnaik International Airport (BBI), Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport located at a distance of 49 kms from Puri. You can catch direct, express, or super fast trains to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Tirupati from Puri terminus. Buses from Gundicha Temple to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are available at regular intervals of 10-15 minutes. Within the city, you can travel in an auto rickshaw, cycle rickshaw and motorbikes at a reasonable fare.

Rath Yatra in Puri
Festival of Chariots – Rath Yatra

Places to Visit

  1. Puri Beach – This is one of the major tourist attractions. The beach is on the coastline of Bay of Bengal. The sand sculptures made by renowned sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik are a major attraction at this beach. Moreover, the artist derives the inspiration from mythological characters or temple architecture.
  2. Puri Jagannath Temple Rath Yatra – Rath Yatra or Festival of Chariots is celebrated in the honour of Lord Jagannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balarama. Devotees, along with priest, pull the Lord’s chariot and seek his blessings. The procession carried out is very vibrant and colourful. Playing drums, trumpets, tambourines and singing devotional songs are the part of the grand festivities.
  3. Chilika Lake – Chilika Lake is a saltwater reservoir. Also referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth’. This place is suitable for bird watchers and nature enthusiast. Tourists flock on to see this pear-shaped island, along with bird island, honeymoon island and breakfast island.
  4. Narendra Tank – This tank is one of the oldest and the biggest tanks built in the 15th century. There are many small and big sized temples located on the same premises. Chandana Mantapa temple is right at the centre of this lake.
  5. Markandeswara Temple – This temple is also one of the most preferred tourist destinations of Odisha. Markandeya is said to have meditated at this place for Lord Shiva. Pinda dana and mundan kriya rituals take place here.
Puri beach's sand sculptures of the idols
Sand Sculptures of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Goddess Subhadra at Puri beach

Best Hotels To Stay At

Hotel Mayfair Views,  Hotel Mahodadhi Palace, and Beach Resorts are the best places to stay in the town. These exotic hotels provide free WiFi, air conditioning, flat screen TV, spa, and a fitness centre. The hotels are located within a radius of 3 km from the city centre and are budget friendly too.

Complete your Char Dham Yatra by visiting the Jagannath Puri temple at Puri. The term Jagannath means the Lord of the universe. To witness the Rath Yatra, you can visit in the months of June and July. The ideal time to seek Lord Jagannath’s blessings is between December to February. Most of the restaurants in Puri offer pure vegetarian food. Besides, select restaurants offer South Indian and Oriya cuisines too. Above all, visit the Puri Jagannath temple in Orrisa and experience the mysteries in and around the temple.