Jagannath Dham,Puri – place to go in India
The Char Dham, is the four most famous Hindu pilgrimage circuit in India which are believed to be the abodes of Hindu gods. Located in the four directions of India, the circuit consists of four sites – to the north is Badrinath, to the west is Dwarka, to the south is Rameshwaram and to the east is Puri. Puri, popularly known as the Jagannath Dham, is one of the Char Dhams of India.
The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of two Vaishnavite, one Shaivite, and one mixed site. Adi Shankaracharya-The great 8th century reformer and philosopher was prominently involved in reviving the Hindu Dharma in India. He travelled throughout the country and grouped the four sacred places Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Puri and Dwarka as the Char Dham which are dedicated to the Vishnu Avatars (incarnations). The Char Dhams are often considered the most revered sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one’s lifetime.
Jagannath Temple at Puri
Puri, a seacoast town in the state of Orissa is one of the traditional four principal pilgrimage sites in India. The main focus of the pilgrims who visit Puri is the famous temple to the god Jagannath. The name Jagannatha or Jagannath literally means “Lord of the Universe”. It is said that the present temple was begun by King ‘Chora Ganga Deva’ and finished by his descendant, ‘Anangabhima Deva’, in the 12th century. The temple is dedicated to Jagannath, who is identified by his devotees with Krishna. It is also dedicated to Balabhadra and Subhadra, the brother and sister, respectively, of Jagannath.
The architecture of the temple follows the pattern of many Orissan temples of the classical period. The main shikhara, or tower, rises above the inner sanctum where the deities reside. The temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer enclosure is called “Meghanada Prachira”. The walls are 6m (20 feet) high. The inner wall is called quot;Kurmabedha”. The walls were built during the 15th or 16th century. This temple is said to have the largest kitchen in the world and feeds thousands of devotees every day. The kitchen can prepare food for 100,000 people on a festival day and 25,000 are not unusual for a normal day.
Puri is a small coastal town of Orissa, situated on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal, about sixty kilometers from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. The resident deity at the main temple of this dham is Shri Krishna, celebrated as Lord Jagannath. He is present together with His elder brother Balabhadra and His sister Subhadra.
The temple, dating back to the twelfth century, was built by an Oriya king Chodagangadeva but legend has it that it has been there since time immemorial. The temple is a huge tall structure and dominates the seaside town. Legend has it that Vishwakarma Himself carved the idols out of wood. When the time came to make the idols Vishwakarma ordered for special wood and went into the temple. He stipulated that He would close the doors of the temple and would remain inside till the idols were ready. Before that time no one was to enter the temple. Unfortunately, moved by the impatience of his queen, the king had the doors opened before Vishwakarma came out. When they went in they found that the God had carved all the idols up to their elbows. He was about to put on the hands but this was not to be as Vishwakarma angrily went away from there and was never seen again! So the unfinished idols had to be set in the temple and worshipped. So Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are handless.
Best time to visit: October to April.
Owing to the significance of this religious circuit, devotees from all over the world, come here to experience the eternal bliss. Char Dhams are hustling and bustling with activity during the summer months, as hundreds of devotees embark upon the holy journey. The picturesque surroundings of the mountainous region are simply enthralling, giving the visitors a perfect opportunity to unwind themselves by filling their lungs with fresh air. Moreover, these otherwise silent and tranquil locales resound with the names of the Lord as the pilgrims advance towards their destination.