Location: Puri, Orissa
Dedicated To: Lord Jagannath (Krishna)
Founded By: Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev
Reconstructed By: Ananga Bhima Dev
Famous For: Annual Rath Yatra
Jagannath Temple of Puri is one of the most revered pilgrim
destinations in India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord
of the Universe), another form of Lord Krishna. One of the most popular
attractions of the Jagannath Puri Temple of Orissa is its annual Rath
Yatra, a chariot festival in which a procession of the three main temple
deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, is taken
out on ornately bejeweled chariots. The temple is especially sacred to
the followers of the Vaishnava traditions.
Some time back, copper plates were discovered from the Ganga dynasty.
As per the inscriptions on these plates, Jagannath temple was
constructed under the patronage of Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev, the
ruler of Kalinga. Especially the Jagamohana and the Vimana portions of
the temple date back to the time period when Anantavarman was in power
(1078 - 1148). However, the temple assumed its present shape under
Ananga Bhima Dev, who got it reconstructed in the year 1174.
Till the year 1558, when the Afghan general Kalapahad attacked Orissa,
Lord Jagannath was worshipped in the temple. However, with the arrival
of the Afghans, the worship was stopped. It was only when Ramachandra
Dev established an independent kingdom at Khurda in Orissa that
Jagannath Puri was sanctified and the deities were reinstalled. There is
a very interesting legend surrounding this temple and its origin.
It is said that the original image of Lord Jagannath, a deity form of
Lord Krishna, was found near a fig tree. It was in the form of
Indranila, the Blue Jewel, and was so stunning that Dharma decided to
hide it in the earth. In order to procure the image, King Indradyumna of
Malwa performed ruthless penances. Pleased by his penance, Lord Vishnu
appeared before him and asked him to find a floating log by the Puri
seashore. The King found the log and soon, Lord Vishnu and Vishwakarma
appeared before him in the form of artistes.
They then prepared the images of Lord Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra
from the log. Jagannath Puri Temple is spread over an area of
approximately 400,000 square feet. The entire temple complex is
surrounded by a high-fortified wall and on the topmost point of the
temple is placed the 'Chakra' of Lord Vishnu. The entire complex of
Jagannath Puri Temple comprises of atleast 120 temples and shrines. The
complex has been built as per Orissan architectural style. Jagannath
Temple has a red flag, which conveys whether Lord Jagannath is within
the shrine or not.
The main temple, which houses the sanctum sanctorum, is curvilinear in
shape and is adorned at the top by the 'Srichakra' (eight-spoke wheel)
of Lord Vishnu. There is a huge tower in the temple, built on a raised
platform of stone and rising to a height of approximately 214 feet above
the inner sanctum. All the shrines, halls and mandaps situated near the
main temple have pyramidal roofs that seem to be rising in steps towards
the tower, looking just like a ridge of mountain peaks. Apart from a 20
feet high inner wall, another wall also encloses the shrine.
In the front of the main gate is a magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic
pillar. There are also two lions statues placed on either side of the
gate, which seem to be guarding the shrine. Inside the sanctum sanctorum
are the idols of three deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and
Goddess Subhadra. All the idols have been placed on an ornamented
platform. Elaborate worship services are held at the Jagannath Puri
Temple on a daily basis. Apart from that, the temple also serves as the
venue of numerous festivals every year.
The kitchen of the Jagannath Temple of Orissa is believed to be the
largest kitchen in the whole of India. Every day, thousands of devotees
come to the temple and are given the holy food called "Mahaprasad".
The entire temple complex of Jagannath uses the services of over 6000
priests. Along with that, over 14000 people serve as the assistants and
attendants of the priests, waiting on the Jagannath deity. Then, we have
the numerous pilgrim guides who take devotees on a complete tour of the
Jagannath Puri Temple.