One of the ‘Char Dhams’ in the country, an architectural marvel filled with mystical stories, the Jagganath Temple in Puri has not only attracted pilgrims from across the world but seekers of faith. Looking at what makes the temple the most visited destination in Puri.
As a country that is dotted with unique spiritual locations, it is never difficult to pick where to travel in India. However, JagganathPuri in Odisha stands out as a destination known to unlock the door to salvation as per Hindu beliefs, filled with mystical stories besides being a sight of brilliant architecture. Therefore thousands flock to Puri every year, seeking the blessings of Lord Jagganath meaning ‘Lord of the Universe’.
According to the Mahabharta, as the Pandavas started their journey to Yamraj, the Sapt Rishis advised them to visit the ‘Char Dham’ to attain ‘moksha’ making Jagannath Temple on these four unique locations in India. Since then, Lord Jagganath’s idol is hidden from people, only taken out once a year during the The Rath Yatra or The Chariot Festival.
Situated roughly two hours from the main capital city of Bhubneswar, the temple was built in the 12th century AD, with more additions made later in the 16th century AD. Residing on a raised platform, the entire temple complex is bound by two concentric walls, the KurumaBheda and the MeghnaPachiram. The main structure of the temple is constructed in such a way that it does not cast a shadow at any given point in the day, making it an iconic marvel studied by many architects even in today’s time.
The temple is guarded by four doors with main entrance through Singhadwara located in the Eastern Front of the temple with three other entrances along with four universal directions. The 33 ft monolith structure pillar in front of the Singhadwara- Arunastambha- was originally located at the Sun Temple, Konark. Another unconventional fact about the temple is that as one enters through Singhadwara, the sound of waves are clearly heard, however the moment one crosses the door, takes a turn and walks back, the waves cannot be heard. Infact, in any other location in the temple, one will not be able to hear the sound of the waves. It is more evident in the evening time and the sound returns once you leave the temple. The local lore states that it was the will of the SubhadraMayi, the sister of the two Lords wished for serenity within the temple gates. It is truly one of the kind firsthand experiences that fails human logic and only strengthens ones faith in the divine lord.
The Blue wheel perched on top of the temple known as the Nilachakra orSudharshan Chakra is made of eight metals or astadhatu. For a monument build in the early centuries, it is often wondered how such hard metal was taken at that height through just human force without any machinery. Another architectural mystery that remains unsolved about the Neelchakra is that no matter where one stands in Puri, the chakra will be facing them. Many devotes say that if you see the Nilachakra, it is as good as seeing the Lord himself.
Similarly the flag on the top known as the Patitapabana flows in the opposite direction. The ritual of changing the flag everyday by climbing 165 meters bare feet without any support has been rigorously followed for over 800 years. The feet of changing the flag’s rests with a family appointed by the King.
Going beyond these designing intricacies of the temple, one keeps unravelling more stories. Like the Mahaprasad that is offered to the Lord is made on firewood using earthen pots placed one on top of the other as the pot on the top cooks first. While around 2000 to 20,000 devotees visit the temple in a day, the quantity of Mahaprasad remains the same and yet, nothing ever goes waste.
Celebration of Faith
The idols of holy trinity are carved out of wood rather than stone or metal unlike other major temples of the country in Jagannath Temple. As per the regional beliefs there are many rituals and festivals that celebrate the Lord however, two main festivals namely DevasanaPurnima and The Chariot Festival or RathYatra attract thousands of devotees to Puri. The holy Lord is brought out from the main temple, seating on a raised platform and bathed with purified water drawn from a well within the premised on the annual bathing ritual known as the DevasanaPurnima.
The month of June or July mark the Chariot Festival of Puri, one of the biggest celebrations of Lord Jagganath. The deities of the main temple Sri Mandira, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are brought out from their sanctum for the ritual procession on their respective chariots. The grand Chariots or Raths are prepared months in advance, beautifully decorated with flowers of various colors. Thousands of devotees then follow the chariots as they Lords undertake a journey roughly two miles to the North to the Gundicha Temple. The idols stay there for seven days before they have brought back to the main temple in a grand way. The local folklore educates you that it is similar to the Lords spending some time at their maternal grandmother’s home, thus marking a huge celebration.
Thousands gather to catch a glimpse of Lord Jagannath on a chariot as it is considered to be very auspicious. Over the years many saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly emphasized the sanctity of this festival, glorifying that even a touch of the chariot is a true blessing from the Lord himself. A regional Oriya song explains that on this occasion, the chariot, the wheels and the grand avenue represent the Lord Jagannath himself.
Puri, known as the temple town of Odisha defies some of the major laws of universe. Like if you take any place on Earth during the daytime, the breeze from sea come s to land and the opposite happens in the evening. However, in the land of Lord of Jagannath, the breeze flows in from land to sea making it a surreal experience to witness and wonder. (can be used as blurb)
While many still dig deeper to understand what makes the temple defy so many rules of scientific logic and still stand tall as a structure of architectural brilliance in today’s time, it is the faith of Lord Jagannath’s devotees that overshadows it all. Many spiritual travelers of the country have already visited or definitely wish to visit the temple atleast once in their lifetime. They come to seek blessings of Lord Jagannath and leave with a spell binding experience of what Puri offers as a destination.