A visit to Odisha, the incredible land of beaches, sea food, temples and pilgrimage destinations is incomplete if one fails to seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath at the palatial and magnificent Jagannath temple. Located in Puri, a few kilometers away from the smart city of Bhubaneswar, the temple is an ideal destination for those who are spiritually inclined and are keen on exploring the temple’s rich culture and history. That’s exactly why we too resolved to visit the temple during our trip to Puri.
After having enjoyed our time at the expansive resort, located minutes away from the Puri railway station, and immersing ourselves in the clear and salty waters of the resort’s private sea beach, we decided to leave for the Jagannath temple the very next morning. Since we were travelling with kids, we thought it was best to pay homage to the Lord early in the morning. And so we booked a Winger (a ten to fourteen seater van/vehicle) and left for the temple around 7 ‘0’ clock in the morning.
We managed to cover the distance in less than half an hour. However, upon reaching the destination, we were asked to vacate the winger and cover around half a kilometer of distance on foot, primarily because no vehicles are allowed near the temple area. This stretch was adorned by road side shops and vendors, who essentially sell souvenirs, bangles, Khajas (a dessert made of wheat flour and sugar), idols of lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, Sri Sudarshan and Lord Balabhadra and a host of other fancy and decorative items for all and sundry.
Regarded as one of the most majestic and pious destinations for pilgrims, the Puri Jagannath temple is also one among the ‘Char Dhams’ of India. As we neared the temple, we could see the massive chariot (Rath) placed closer to the temple premises. Later, we were led by a panda (a temple pandit) and we entered the temple from its Northern gate also known as the Hastidwara or the elephant gate. Here, we were greeted by a colony of bats that covered the inside of the entrance dome as well as a bunch of monkeys who are omnipresent within the temple premises.
The primary deities at the temple are Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Lord Sudarshan and Goddess Subhadra and their wooden idols are carved out of logs of Neem tree. It is said that on Nabakalebara (or the New body), that comes every 8 or 12 years, the old idols are buried ceremoniously while new wooden forms of the deities are installed in the temple. The last time the idols were replaced was in 2015.
According to legends, the temple was resurrected in 1078 by emperor Anangabhimadeva, who was also the grandson of Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. There are four entrances to the temple viz. Simhadwar (Lion Gate), Aswadwara (Horse Gate), Vyadhradwara (Tiger Gate) and Hastdwara (Elephant Gate). The temple boasts of the famous Kalinga architecture and is thronged by hundreds and thousands of devotees throughout the year. The temple also hosts the prominent ‘Rath Yatra’ festival, which is celebrated during summers i.e. in the months of July-August. During the festival, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram as well as Goddess Subhadra are carried in the chariot all the way to the famous Gundicha Temple.
Another highlight of the temple is its kitchen (Rosha Ghora) that is considered as the largest and the biggest kitchen in the world, feeding close to 5000 – 6000 devotees on a single day. The number rises to millions during important festivals. The unique feature of the kitchen is that clay pots five in numbers are placed in a special earthen oven, one on the top of the other, yet the one on the top is cooked first.
Prayer Offering and More
After standing in a long queue, we were finally able to enter the main temple premises where we offered our prayers and offerings to Lord Jagannath. Later, we also took rounds of the other small temples as well as shrines located within the boundaries of the temple and sought blessings of the Hindu gods and goddesses.
How to Reach
One can easily reach the state of Odisha by air (via the Biju Patanaik Airport located in Bhubaneswar), by train (via Puri and the Bhubaneswar railway station) and by road (via National Highway 5, 6, 23, 42 and 43).
– Puja Bhardwaj