Puri, known as Srikshetra - Jagannath Puri, the Soul of Odisha , has been identified as the most sacred place and sanctum sanctorum of Hindu religion, located on the Shore of Bay of Bengal. Literally , the word Jagannath means “The lord of the Universe”. Puri is considered one of the four dhams for the Hindus. Like Ramnath of Rameswarm or Dwarakanath of Dwarka or Badrinath of the Himalayan regions, Sri Jagannath is the presiding deity of Puri. They constitute together the four Pillars of Dharma on which India stands. It is believed in Hindu philosophy that one has to step into these four Dhams during a life time in order to get Mokshya (salvation) from the cycle of birth & rebirth. In Sanskrit "JA" represents Jagannath, "GA" represents Balabhadra, "NA" represents Subhadra, "THA" represents Sundarsana. So, Jagannath means the union of all four deities (Chaturdha Murti) of the Jagannath Temple. Jagannath's parallel hands invite devotees from all over the world to embrace. His eyes are round without eyelids which denote that for welfare of his devotees. He remains awake throughout the day & night.
The present temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri was constructed in the first quarter of the 12th century A.D. during the reign of the King Choda Ganga Deb (1078-1147 A.D.), the most prominent ruler of the Ganga dynasty. Choda Ganga Deb was the son of Rajasundari, daughter of Kulotunga Chola, the Raja of Kanchi. The entire complex has covered an area of 10 acres and has been surrounded by two solid stone walls leaving a space in between them. The outermost is called 'Meghanad Pacheri' which has a length of 650ft from east to west and breadth of 644ft from north to south direction. The height of Meghanad Pacheri is 20ft and thickness of 6ft. The inner wall is known as 'Kusuma Pacheri'. The length of the Kusuma Pacheri is 400ft from east to west and 278ft from north to south direction.
There are 4 gates on Meghanad Pacheri from 4 directions for the entry into the complex.
Sight Seeing in Puri
1. Sri Jagannath Temple - The great temple of Jagannath at Puri has been a famous center of Hindu worship attracting thousands of pilgrims and visitors from all parts of India ,all through the ages. The present temple of Jagannath is a monument of the 12th century A.D, built by the Ganga King Chodaganga Dev.
2. Sea-Beach - Puri is a coastal town and beach-resort in Orissa. Puri is situated on the shore of bay of Bengal. Puri beach is very beautiful.
3. Sunar Gaurang - This temple is located at chakratirtha road. Presiding deity of this temple is Lord Krishna and the idol is made of gold.
4. Bedi Hanuman - Old temple and located at chkratirtha road. Presiding deity of this temple is Lord Hanuman. It is said Lord Ram has shackled Hanuman here for stealing laadu's. Bedi Hanuman is also known as Daria Mahabir.
5. Chakra Nrusingha - It is said that Gajendra Moksha has taken place here. Lord Vishnu has rescued elephant (Gajendra) from the clutches of crocodile. Sudarshan chakra is the presiding deity of this temple. The image of Narasingha is circled with a ring close by in a modern structure is the representation of the celestial wheel Chakranarayana.
6. Gobardhan Math - Gobardhan Peetha is one the oldest monastery or Math established by Adi Sankar at Puri, in 9th century A.D. This Math plays a pivotal role in the rituals of Shri Jagannath Temple. The priests of the temple used to be trained at the Sankaracharya Math and only after obtaining a certificate from the math were eligible to enter into priesthood and perform worship in the temple. But now this function is being performed by the Muktimandap.
7. Narasimha Temple - The temple of Narasimha is one of the ancient Vaishnav temple of Puri and is located near the northeast boundary wall of the famous Gundicha Temple. In the Skandha Puran, it is mentioned that Indradyumna built temple with the help of Sage Narada. The temple surface is about 3 feet high from the road level. The temple of Narasimha consists of three structures such as the Vimana, the Jagamohan and Natamandapa. Lakshmi - Narasimha is the presiding deity of the temple.
8. Jameswara Temple - Located at Gaudabada Sahi, Jameswara temple is one of the important saiva shrines of Puri town. The temple of Jameswara is said to have been built by Yama, the ruler of the nether regions, but it is poor in appearance and of no interest to the antiquarian. Prof. H.S. Pattanaik has mentioned that the deity Shiva is said to be known as Yameswara after he triumphed over Yama in course of the latter's bid to foil the meditation of Shiva. He had settled here to propitiate lord Vishnu.
9. Batamangala Temple - Batamangala Temple is located at 7 kms away from Sri Jagannath Temple, on the way to Bhubaneswar. It is the believed that, devotees coming to Puri, having a glimpse of goddess Mangala, finds all the blessings of goddess for happy and blessed journey.
10. Swarga-Dwara - Swarga- Dwara means Gate of Heaven. Swarga-Dwara, where thousands of pilgrims come to die, lulled to their last sleep by the rear of the eternal Ocean. Swarga-Dwara is located in the sandy beach towards the south-west corner of the town. It is said to be the place where God at the invitation of King Indradyumna came down to consecrate his sacred images.
11. Sweta Ganga - To the west of the Jagannath Temple, Sweta Ganga temple is located. On the bank, there are two small temples, one dedicated to Sweta Madhava and the other to Mastya Madhava, both forms of Lord Vishnu.
12. Narendra Pokhari - To the north-east of the Jagannath Temple, Narendra Pokhari (Tank) is located. Narendra Tank covers an area of over 3.240 hectares (8 acres). It is 834 feet by 873 feet in size. The Tank has an island in its middle bearing a small temple. This temple is connected with the south bank with a bridge, to which Madana Mohan, the representative deity of Sri Jagannath, is brought for 21 days during the Chandan Yatra ( April- May) . During the Chandan Yatra, every afternoon, God Madan Mohan takes a ritual cruise in the tank amidst public rejoicing.
13. Atharnala - It is believed that the Atharnala bridge was built towards the end of the 13th century A.D., crossses the Madhupur Stream and measures in all two hundred and ninety feet in length. Atharnala is composed of eighteen spans, ranging from seven to sixteen feet across.
14. Jagannath Ballav Math - Jagannath Ballav is a Math of Vishnu Swami - Sampradaya. Ramanada Ray, the great disciple of Lord Chaitanya, used to stay here amidst a beautiful garden and had his initiation from Chaitanya.
15. Lokanath Temple - The Lokanath Temple is situated about 3 kilometres away from Sri Jagannath Temple. Located on the western outskirts of the town. Its presiding deity is Lord Lokanath, a Linga remains always under water in a small square vat, fed by natural spring of the near-by Parvati Sagar (Tank). On the night of Shivratri all the water is bailed out to make the top of the Linga visible to the worshippers.
16. Siddha Mahavir - Located at a distance of about half a mile to the west of Gundicha Temple. Its presiding deity is Siddha Hanuman, popularly known as Siddha Mahavir. It is believed that Tulasidas resided at this place during his stay at Puri.
17. Gundicha Temple - Next to the Great Sri Jagannath Temple, the most important sanctuary of Jagannath is the Gundicha Temple, the abode to which Sri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are driven each on his/her wooden car once in a year during the car festival. Except for these few days, it is unoccupied, but there is a small establishment of servants by whom it is regularly maintained. It is situated at the other end of the great highway (Badadanda). The distance between the gates of Jagannath Temple and the Gundicha Temple is exactly 8,327 feet.
18. Satapada at a glance -Satapada is located at a distance of 50 kilometers from puri, on chilika is very famous for Irrawaddy, Dolphins corcaella (brevirostris). ‘Sata’ means ‘seven’ and ‘Pada’ means Village, hence the name Satapada means Group of seven villages. It is situated on the southern part of the chilika Lake. Satapada is also famous for sea mouth Island where chillka Lake meets the Bay of Bengal. Satapada, alternatively Spelt as satapara, is One of the most popular tourist place of Orissa. Here, every year, Dolphins & the scenic sea mouth attract large number of tourists. Satapada also provides the opportunity for viewing a memorable sunrise & sunset. It is advisable to reach there in morning hours and spent much of your time with Dolphins. At the dolphins view point it is difficult to view the complete dolphin. If you are lucky then you will be able to see entire dolphin, generally some portion of the tail or head of the dolphin is visible while they are swimming. If only they jump then complete dolphin can be seen. Another major attraction is the nearby Rajahansa Island. It is a small island on chilika at the mouth of the lagoon. This island is named after the famous bird ‘Rajhansa’. A one-and-a half hours boat journey across the chilika lake from Satapada, takes visitors to Rajahansa island.The island is 18 kilometres from satapada. Rajahansa is a small strip of land which has the lagoon on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other with a forest & mountains in between.
Sight Seeing Around Puri
1. Bhubaneswar: Capital city of the modern State and the ancient kindom of kalinga, Bhubaneswar is known as the temple city of India Bhubaneswar is located at 60km away from Puri. There are host of shrines dotted in Bhubaneswar. Among them are Lingaraj temple, Mukteswar temple, Parsurameswar temple and Svarnajaleswar temple etc. Lingaraj temple of lord shiva was built in the 11th century. Mukteswara temple was built in the 10 th century. It is well known for its stone arch at the entrance and is richly Sculpted. The svarnajaleswar temple located a little south of parsurameswara temple has beautiful depiction from the epic Ramayana.
2. Khurda: For its historical antiquities and religion shrines, the district of Khurda holds a Queen position in the Tourist Map of Orissa. The Khurda town with a rich historical past is encircled by the Barunei hills on one side, while the otherside is dense jungle. It is due to its strategic location, Khurda was the Capital city of Orissa in 16th century A.D. Barunei is a scenic spot 3km from Khurda. Throughout the year thousands of visitors throng Barunei. Barunei the presiding deity of the place adorns the hill top.
3. Atri: Hot Sulphur Spring and health resort. Atri is situated in Khurda district.
4. Dhauli: Dhauli is famous for Buddhist white peace pagoda and Ashokan Rock Edict .Dhauli is located on the river Daya and it is the place where Kalinga wartook place. Kalinga war turned the river Daya red with blood of dead soldiers and which finally converted emperor Ashoka and brought him to the Path of peace and non-violence.
5. Konark: Located at 32kms away from Puri. Konark completes the Golden Triangle of Bhubaneswar,Puri and Konark for the best of Orissan temple architecture. Konark is famous for the temple of Sun God. The temple chariot of the Sun God (black pagoda) on the sands of Bay of Bengal is a 13th century architectural marvel. It is designed as a celestial chariot of the Sun God, complete with twelve pairs of Wheels and seven horses. The Konark Beach offers a view of the glorious sunrise. About 10km along the beach is the famous Ramachandi temple on the bank of the river Kushabhadra.
6. Chilika Lake: Chilika is nestling in the heart of coastal Orissa. Spread over 1,100 sq km. Chilika is the country’s largest inland lake, dotted with emerald green islands with colourful names such as Honeymoon Island and Breakfast Island. Chilika has the richest variety of aquatic fauna and is a bird watcher’s Paradise when migratory birds arrive in winter. Boating and fishing facilities are available in this lake, Which is rich in fish. One can have glimpse of dolphins at Chilika mouth near Satapara.
7. Alarnath shrine (Brahmagiri): Brahmagiri is located 25kms from Puri and is famous for Alarnath shrine.
8. Sakshigopal temple: Sakshigopal is located 15km away from Puri. The presiding deity of Sakshigopal tample is Lord Krishna.
9. Khandagiri-Udayagiri: It is famous for rock edict of king kharavela in 1st-2nd century Bc. Hatigumpha inscription and the temple of Parswanath, picnic Spots.
10. Varahi temple: Varahi temple is situated in chawrasi in Puri district. Varahi Located 20km away from Puri.
Veshas (The Ceremonial Costumes)
On various occasions, the three deities - Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are adorned with specific ceremonial constumes. These are known as Veshas of the Lord. Thousands of people throng the temple to have a glance of these auspicious Veshas. Some of the Veshas are done with consumate artistry and immaculate aesthetic sense of the tradition. One such Veshs is:
(a) Padma Vesha (The Lotus Costume) - Padma Vesha is celebrated on any saturday or wednesday between the new moon day of Magha & Vasant Panchami. The faces of the deities resemble full blown lotus and their hands are adorned with lotus like decoration. It is an impressive sight to see the Lord, the Primal Being, expressed through grand floral designs. The Badsimhar Vesha is done flowers only. As a massive floral decoration Bada Simhar Vesha has no parallel. The deities are adorned with this Vesha everyday before retiring to bed.
(b) Ganesh Vesha - On the Snana Purnima the deities are dressed as Ganesh on the Snana Vedi. This is also called Hati Vesha.
(c) Suna Vesha - The Golden Costume or the Suna Vesha, which the deities wear while on their chariots on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Asadha, is a magnificent attire of shining jewellery. (d) Gaja Uddharan Vesha - This is celebrated on the full moon day of Magha. Lord Jagannath appears in the impressive attitude of saving the life of the praying elephant from the clutches of a malignant crocodile.
(e) Pralambasura Badha Vesha - Lord Balabhadra appears in the attitude of slaying or slaughtering the demon Pralamba in his past incarnation as the elder brother of Lord Krishana.
(f) Kaliya Dalana Vesha - Lord Jagannath as Sri Krishna is bedecked with the costume of Kaliya Dalana i.e. the slaughtering of the deadly cobra-da-capello.