Introduction to Jagannath Puri Temple
The magnificent Jagannath Temple is located on the Eastern coast in Puri, Odisha and is an important pilgrimage destination particularly visited by ardent devotees of Lord Krishna. This sacred shrine is one of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites, every Hindu must visit once in their lifetime. Saints such as Adi Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, and Ramananda are closely related to the temple and this is one of the revered temples to the Vaishnavites.
History of Jagannath Puri Temple
The history and heritage of Puri Jagannath Temple date back to 3rd Century B.C. Copper plates of the Ganga dynasty, which were discovered recently reveal that the construction of the current Jagannath temple was initiated by the ruler of Kalinga, 'Anantavarman Chodaganga'. The Jaga Mohan or assembly hall and the Vimana or Chariot was constructed during his ruling period. The current shape of the temple was given by the Oriya ruler Ananga Bhima Deva during 1174 CE. After the 1558 Afghan attack, Ramachandra Deb sanctified the temple and reinstalled the deities.
Significance of Jagannath Puri Temple
The temple is one of the holiest char Dham (four divine abodes) pilgrimage sites, with the other three being Rameshwaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath. All the renowned Acharyas or Saints have visited this holy site. Saint Adi Shankara established his Govardhana matha (monastery) here. There is also evidence for the visits of Guru Nanak, Kabir, Tulsidas, Ramanujacharya, and Nimbarkacharya. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Gaudiya Vaishnavism stayed here for 24 years and spread the love of God by reciting the Hare Krishna mantra. The place is also visited by Srimad Vallabhacharya, who performed a 7-day recitation of Srimad Bhagvat. His sitting place is still as famous as "Baithakji."
The main temple is curvilinear with an eight poked wheel called Srichakra or Nilachakra crowning the top. The sacred wheel is made out of Ashtadhatu (eight metals).The idols of the main deities are wooden, unlike the traditional metals used in other Hindu temples. They are ritually replaced with their exact wooden replicas every twelve years. This ceremony is called as ‘Navakalevara’. An intricate set of rituals is carried out during the renewal of the wooden statues.
The pyramid roofs of the surrounding towers and temples rise in steps towards the main tower like a range of mountain peaks.
Nila Chakra – Nila Chakra or the blue discus is an eight poked circular wheel and is an alloy of eight metals, mounted at the top of the main temple. The flag hoisted on the Nila Chakra is called as “Patita Pavana” which means Purifier of the Fallen” and is changed daily as per tradition. The flag is considered equally sacred to the main deities inside the temple. It is considered as the highly sacred and the most important iconic symbol of the shrine and is distinct from the Sudharsana Chakra placed along with the deities in the sanctum.
Singhadwara – In Sanskrit, Singhadwara means “Lion Gate” and is one of the four gates and faces Eastside, forming the main entrance of the temple. It bags its name from the giant statues of crouching lions guarding the entrance on either side. Apart from the Singhadwara, there are three other gates facing North, South, and West. They are named after the animals that guard them namely: Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate.
Festivals Related to Jagannath Puri Temple
How to reach Jagannath Puri Temple:
By Air: Puri does not have its own airport. The nearest airport is in Bhubaneswar, 60 km from Puri. It is connected by daily flights to all major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Vishakhapatnam.
By Rail: Express and Super-fast trains link Puri with major cities across India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Okha, Ahmedabad, Tirupati, etc. The station is about 1 km north of the town and one can avail cycle rickshaws and auto-rickshaws to commute within the city.
By Road: Regular buses ply from all major cities of the country to Puri. Puri has well-linked roads with state transport buses linking it with Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack and other nearby cities. Orissa Tourism Development Corporation runs buses for sightseeing in Puri.