This magnificent temple located at Puri, Odisha is a very important pilgrimage for all the Hindus. This historic temple, build in 12th century, is eastern one of the “Char dhams” (the four most divine temples). The Char Dhams are said to be visited by every Hindu at least once in their lifetime. Due to this, the temple of Lord Jagannath receives many pilgrims from all over the country every day. The temple space is spread over a vast area of 400,000 square feet which includes around 120 temples and shrines. This temple is also the biggest and highest temple of Odisha.
Things to notice in the temple:
The three idols –
The main complex of the temple has idols of three lords: Jagannath, Balabhadra (brother) and Subhadra (sister). What makes this temple different from any other temple is the image of lord Jagannath and other two. Usually in Hindu temples the deity and its forms are sculpted in metal or stones. But in Jagannath temple, the images of the lords are made of wood instead of metal or stones. These wooden figures are replaced with an exact replica after every 12 or 19 years. The triad is installed on a jeweled platform called Ratnavedi. If you carefully look at the idol, you will find that the eyes of lord Jagannath are round and does not have eyelids which signifies that the lord is looking upon all of his devotees and not sleeping ever. The arms of the lord are parallel which symbolizes that the god is embracing all the devotees.
The Nila Chakra –
It is a blue discus placed on top (shikhar) of the temple. It is a custom to wave a different flag everyday on the chakra. This blue discus is as important as the images of the deities and is as scared for the visitors.
The Singah Dwara –
Singah dwara means ‘lion gate’. The temple has four gates in all four directions. The main entrance is towards the east and is called the lion gate. The name of the gate is derived from the two statues of lion on both sides of this entrance gate. The pilgrims generally enter from this gate and climb the 22 steps which leads them to the main temple. The right entrance is decorated by a painting of Lord Patitapavana which was originally worshiped by the untouchables as they were denied entrance in the temple.
World’s largest kitchen –
The kitchen of the temple is one of the largest kitchens of the world. The kitchen there is called rosaghara and cooks are called mahasuaras. The food follows the Hindu rules and is pure vegetarian. This food is first offered to the gods depending of the temple rituals and is then available for the visitors as Mahaprasad.
Rath Yatra –
Another very interesting thing about the temple is its Rath Yatra (chariot festival). This festival carries the three main deities of the temple on three respective chariots. During the rainy season of Orissa, the triad are carried to the Gundicha Temple in chariots, called Raths. Every year, huge raths are made, decorated and pulled by the devotees. The triad stays in the Gundicha temple for 9 days and are them again bought back. This is a very old ritual and is practiced from the times of Puranas. During the yatra, thousands of devotees can be seen pulling the chariots and dragging the massive structures. It is said that the goddess gets upset from being left behind and hence the chariot of goddess Lakshmi proceeds towards Gundicha temple exactly five days later and returns soon. Then, when the deities come back to the Jagannath temple, Lord Jagannath has to charm Goddess Lakshmi again and hence offers her Rasgulla (sweet).
Apart from the chariot festival, there are many other seasonal festivals which happens in the temple and in those, the lord is worshiped in different forms. Worshipers from all over the world come to pray to the temple and seek blessings from the lord. The environment of the temple is so divine and full of purity that the mind feels at peace. During festivals, the crowd is joyful, excited and glad to be there. Such vast area and celebrations on such large scales aren’t easy for the management and temple administration but yet they leave no effort and put there best to make the devotees feel secure and safe in the temple.
Every Hindu travels large distances to reach the temple and worship the lord. The visit to Jagannath Puri is sure a very spiritual experience. The culture of Odisha reflects in the temple architecture and one may witness the rich religious culture and traditions of the place. The locals, whosoever they may be, either Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, or Christian, are always prepared for helping you which makes it even better a place to visit.