Jagannath Temple, Puri
The most popular destination of the state, is synonymous with Lord Jagannath & his siblings Lord Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra.
Though the temple architecture is well researched and part of folklore, the origin of Lord Jagannath is still shrouded in mystery. The most significant inference on the origin of the Lord can be traced to the on Sayana in Rig Veda, which concludes that the history of Lord Jagannath can be traced to second century B.C. when Kharavela was the emperor of Kalinga. The history of Puri is well documented after the 9th century A.D. when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Puri and propounded the Govardhana matha and established Puri as the eastern dham.
According to the recently discovered copper plates from the Ganga dynasty, the construction of the temple was initiated during the reign of the then ruler of Kalinga - Anantavarman Chodaganga & was completed in its present form by King Ananga Bhima Deva.
Vehicles are not allowed near the temple complex. One has to park the car/minibus and either take a cycle rickshaw or walk down to the temple. The temple has four gates; However the main gate located on the east is the Singhadwar (Lion Gate) located on the Badadanda (Grand road). One can find guide’s there who will take you around the temple complex for a fees of approximately Rs.200/-. The entry to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is ticketed- for an up close and personal encounter with the lord. The ticket is priced at Rs. 50/-. The ticket holders are permitted to go in at set times after certain rituals.if you don't pay, you'll still be able to see the deities from a distance. In the morning between 7 am – 8 am during Sahana Mela- there is no ticket involved for a close encounter with the lord. The other gates are the Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate. Located on the north, south & west respectively, just like the Singhadwar, these gates are named after the animals guarding them.
Patitapabana- The flag of the Temple- is replaced every day at sunset between 6pm-7pm and is sold to a lucky devotee. The feet of changing the flag’s rests with two members of the Chola family who have been given exclusive rights to do this ritual by the king. They have been doing this ritual fearlessly for the last 800 years climbing 165 meters bare feet without any support on top of the temple to affix the new flag.
The Prasad (Holy food) offered to Lord Jagannath is certified as Mahaprasad only after it’s offered to Goddess Bimala. As per the Shakti Peetha tradition- the goddess is accompanied by Bhairav – a form of Lord Shiva- who is her consort. In Puri Lord Jagannath is Bhairav for Goddess Bimala. Thus in Tantric tradition, it is Vimala who is the guardian consort within the temple complex identified with the Goddesses Katyayini.
According to the legend, it is believed that the Master Chef of this kitchen is Goddess Laxmi herself. If the food is not up to her standards, then a dog appears out of nowhere in the Kitchen (this even after dogs are strictly prohibited inside the temple premises). If the dog is seen in the kitchen premises, then the entire food is buried and prepared again.
The dog is said to be an incarnation of Goddess Kutama Chandi - a tantric goddess in charge of purification of food in the Lords Kitchen.
There are three types of hearths in the kitchen of Srimandir such as Anna Chuli, Ahia Chuli and Pitha Chuli. The rectangular space created between two rice hearths is called Ahia. All types of dal are prepared in the Ahia Chuli. Anna Chuli as the name suggests is the place where all types of rice are prepared & Pitha Chuli is the oven where all types of pancakes are prepared.
After the conclusion of the Chandan Yatra, Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra are indisposed for 2 weeks & are out of bounds for devotees. During this period, they are only fed berries, roots, leaves & fruits – this is a reminder of the strong tribal influence in the genesis & evolution of the Jagannath cult. The first worshipper of Lord Jagannath is believed to be Biswabasu-the tribal chieftain. During this period till up till the end of the Rath Yatra- the lord is under the care of the Daitapatis- whose ancestry can be traced back to the progenies of Lalita- the daughter of Biswabasu & Brahmin priest Vidyapati.
For the uninitiated, Puri has another unique feature, the Panda’s (Priests) have records of every visitor that has come to the city and visited the temple. These records are centuries old and have passed on to successive generations. So if your ancestors have visited Puri …you would have a family priest at your service…For this one can approach the Temple authorities- this may require a bit of cajoling but the effort is worthwhile in the end as it makes your task of visiting the temple and going to other places of religious interests in the town so much easier and hassle-free.
The Aruna Stambha- a towering pillar around 11 meters high located at the Singhadwarattracts the first attention as one is about to enter the temple. Aruna is the charioteer of the Sun God and this pillar used to be part of the Sun Temple in Konark. However, it was relocated in the 18th century after the Sun temple was abandoned, in order to save it from invaders.
The Neelachakra- (blue discus) mounted on top of the temple is the most revered symbol of the Jagannath cult. Neelachakra is a disc with eight navagunjaras on the outer circumference each pointing towards the flag. The Neelachakra is made of an alloy of 8 metals called “asta dhatu”, the Neelachakra is different from the Sudarshan chakra which is placed inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple with the deities. The flag hoisted on the Neelachakra is called “Patitapabana” (purifier of the fallen) and is considered equivalent to the deities residing inside the temple.
The Bimala Temple– One of the four Adi Shakti Peetha’s of the country, it’s said that the feet of Sati fell here. Everything offered to Lord Jagannath has to first offered to Goddess Bimala. The temple according to Madala Paanji predates the Jagannath temple, when Puri was regarded as a Shakti Peetha before the Jagannath cult took over, the one we see today is believed to have been built in the 9th Century AD by Yayati Keshari- the Somavanshi Ruler, some of the sculptures may have been from the original temple. Goddess Bimala is worshipped as peaceful form of Shakti and is revered tantric seat.
The presence of Jagannath temple and Goddess Bimala temple within the same premises also denotes the syncritisation of the Shaivite and the Vaishnavite sects
As per the tantric traditions- meat and fish were offered to the Goddess on a daily basis in what was otherwise a pure vegetarian premise. King Narasimha Deva abolished the practice of meat and fish offerings. However the practice was revived and the Goddess is offered meat and fish during the 16 day long Dussehra and the ritual of animal sacrifice is also conducted during that time.
Laxmi temple – The other most important temple within the Jagmohan temple complex is the temple dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, his orthodox consort as per Jagannath traditions. The beautifully carved temple is located at the bayu kona (corner of the wind) within the premises. Devotees after paying their obeisance to the Goddess sit for while on the steps before proceeding to other parts of the shrine complex.
One can visit the Lord’s kitchen by buying a ticket worth Rs.5/-. The kitchen is situated in the South East direction of the Garbagriha for the records it’s the largest & biggest kitchen in the world. The length of the kitchen is 150 feet, breadth is 100 feet and height is about 20 feet. It consists of 32 rooms with 250 earthen ovens. Around 600 cooks and 400 assistants are responsible for preparing the Mahaprasada. A lot of legends is associated with this Kitchen adding to the mystic aura of Lord Jagannath -the first one is the Vaishnava Agni as mentioned earlier.
The other unique feature is that all the food is prepared in clay pots placed in a special earthen oven, five in numbers, one on the top of another. Yet the one on the top is cooked first.
The food is prepared with utmost care and love for the lord & that spirit permeates to devotees who consume the Mahaprasada.
Apart from the famous Jagannath Temple, Puri has several other interesting sites worth visiting including Loknath Temple,Jameswar Temple, Bauli Matha, Puri Sea Beach,Balukhand Sanctuary,Raghurajpur,Brahmagiri and Satapada to name just a few.
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