The Jagannath Temple
: Puri, Orissa
Built In : 12th Century
Built By :
Ganga King Chadagangadeva
Known As :
Another notable example of the middle period is the well-known temple of Jagannath at Puri (shown at the top of this page). This is a much larger and somewhat later structure than the Lingaraja temple, although both these great structures are built on more or less the same principle. Historical evidence suggests that this temple was originally built as tower of victory by Choda Ganga in 1030 A.D. when he conquered Kalinga, but that it was consecrated many decades later. There are earlier inscriptions which mention Purtishottam Kshetra - of which Puri is an abbreviation. Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have visited this temple in the 9th century. It is not improbable that the temple occupies the site of some more ancient shrine.
The temple consists of four edifices in one alignment from east to west, the bhogmandir, the natmandir, the jaganmohan and the deul or the inner sanctuary, which is surmounted by a conical tower of immense proportions. The natmandir, with its ceiling of iron beams and the bhogmandir, however, are believed to have been added in the 14th or 15th century, long after the original structure had been completed. The former, with its 16 pillars, is the only real example of a hypostyle hall in Orissan architecture. A significant feature of the inner enclosure is that, as in the Lingaraja temple, it stands in a large courtyard measuring 440 feet by 350 feet and is surrounded by a high wall.
In the inner sanctuary are the three holy images of Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra, and his sister Subhadra. The entrance to the shrine is decorated with scenes from the life of Krishna, and the gates and walls are heavily ornamented with marble figures of lions and sentries. The profuse decoration on the walls of the nat and bhog-mandirs is, however, stylized and comparatively lifeless. This clearly indicates that when these structures were erected, the Orissan style of architecture had entered a period of decline.
To preserve the temple from the corroding effects of the sea breeze, parts of the stone masonry and the elaborate carvings have been covered with thick plaster. Crowned with Vishnu's flag and wheel, the tower, however, retains its commanding appearance in spite of the heavy cement overlay.
Distributed around the main building are some thirty to forty shrines of various dimensions and designs, as in the case of the Lingaraja temple, but here these secondary structures are on higher ground, thus adhering closely to the Buddhist stupa tradition.
The Four Gate Entrance
There are four gates- the Eastern "Singhadwara" (Lion Gate), the Southern "Ashwadwara" (Horse Gate), the Western "Vyaghradwara" (Tiger Gate), and the Northern "Hastidwara" (Elephant Gate). There is a carving of each form by the entrance of each gate. The lion Gate, which is the main gate, is located on Grand Road.
Lord 'Chaitanya' used to regularly visit the Jagannatha Temple. In front of the altar of Lord Jagannatha is a column on which the statue of 'Garuda' is situated. It is called the "Garuda Stambha" and is very revered and worshiped, as 'Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu' usually saw Lord Jagannatha from a distance behind this column. Behind that column is a moat-like 'Kunda', or ditch, which was sometimes filled with Lord Chaitanya's tear. Also an impression of Lord Chaitanya's own handprint is found imbedded in the column.
It has been said that "If one is not allowed to enter the temple, or if he thinks himself unfit to enter the temple, he can look at the 'Chakra' and wheel from outside, and that is as good as seeing the Deity." (Cc. M.11.195) Non-Hindus (non-Indians) cannot enter the temple. Only Indians are allowed in the vicinity of the temple the people only over here only speak in Hindi or Oriya.
A Simple And Sober Touch
Scholars, however, were long puzzled by the plain facade on this holiest of holy temples, and wondered why it was untouched by Orissa's rich sculptural heritage. The answer was found in 1975, when archaeologists first began removing the plaster, and found that the sculpture underneath indeed rivals that of the other masterpieces of Orissan temple art.
The best guess as to the reason for applying the plaster originally is that an 18th century ruler decided that this would be a way to protect the temple from the ravages of the salty sea air. Succeeding rulers continued the practice. As the old plaster is being removed, archaeologists are also repairing the corroded iron dowels in the original structure, and replacing broken stones with new ones. Finally, a clear, thin coating is being applied to the entire structure, to preserve it for the centuries to come.
Because of the temple's intense religious importance and hallowed traditions, entrance is forbidden to non-Hindus.
To have a good view of the temple and its compound, visitors are welcome to ascend to the roof of the Raghunandan Library, which is across the street.
Lord Jagannatha & Other Deities
The main Deities in the temple are Lord Jagannatha, his brother, Baladeva, and His sister, Lady Subhadra. Lord Jagannatha is another name for Lord Krishna.
According to popular saying - "Being absolute, Lord Jagannatha is identical with His name, form, picture, qualities, and pastimes. If one thinks that the form of Lord Jagannatha is an idol made of wood, he immediately brings ill fortune into his life. A pure devotee who knows the science of Krishna Consciousness makes no distinctions between Lord Jagannatha and the actual form of the Lord. He knows that they are identical, just as Lord Krishna and his soul are one and the same."
Some of the other temples within the walls of this temple house Deities of 'Satya Narayana', Lord 'Chaitanya', 'Ramachandra', 'Gopala', Hanuman, 'Narsimha', 'Varaha' and others.
Temple Compound Sites
Twenty-two steps that take one from Grand Road and connect the inner and outer wall. Great respect is given to these steps because many devotees pass here and the dust of their feet sanctifies the steps.
Kalpa means a thousand years and 'Vata' means banyan tree. It is towards the south side of the temple. It is supposed to be able to fulfill all desires.
It is a 16-pillar hall known as "Brahmasava" (divine assembly).
Approach from the western gate, it is situated between the outer and inner enclosure. It is an art gallery, which shows the pastimes of Lord Jagannatha as well as the 12 incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Sona Kua (Golden Well)- Near the northern gate. The water of this well is used to bath Lord Jagannatha during "Snana-Yatra".
Koila Vaikuntha - In the western portion of the temple between the outer and inner walls. It is approachable from the northern gate. During 'Nava-Kalevara' (new incarnation ceremony), when Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra are newly carved, the old images are buried here.
After you come up the 22 steps by the Lion (main) Gate, on the right is Ananda Bazaar, where 'Maha-Prasada' is purchased.
The main temple is the home of Their Lordships Balabhadra (white), Subhadra (yellow), and Jagannatha (black). They are seated on the "Ratna Singhasan". Devotees can circumambulate the Deities between 8.30 and 9.30 am.
Mukhasala - Next to the main temple in a straight line is the hall of audience, which can be entered through 4 audiences, which can be entered through 4 separate doors. The 'Kalaghata' door leads to the sanctum sanctorum. The southern door leads out of the temple and the northern to the 'Ratna Bhandar' (Treasury house).
Nata Mandira - This is a spacious hall, 21m (65 feet) in length and 20m (61 feet) wide. This is where the "Garuda Stambha" is located, where Lord Chaitanya used to stand. It is believed that the potency of a devotee's prayers to the Lord becomes increased while he stands near this sacred pillar.
Bhoga Mandap - Next to Nata Mandira, it is a spacious hall, 18m in length and 17m wide. There are sculptures and paintings about Lord Krishna's pastimes and other stories in this hall.
Temple Tours & Temple Pandas
When one first enters the viewing area to see Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra, one is at a good distance from the Deities. With the help of a temple 'Panda' (Brahmin guide) one can get a closer view of Lord Jagannatha. The visitor gets his help by giving a donation. When one gets fairly close to the altar one will be approached for a donation for the Deities.
How To View The
One can get a view of the temple from the 'Jaya Balia' lodge or the roof of the "Raghunandan" Library on Grand Road, opposite the main entrance of the temple. One can also view some ancient leaf books in the library for a small donation. The library is open from 9 am to 8 pm. One can get a good photograph of the temple from the library.
Lord Jagannatha's 'Maha-Prasada' is pure vegetarian spiritual food offered to Lord Jagannatha. Just by honoring this Maha-Prasada one makes great spiritual advancement. Every day 56 varieties of Prasada are offered to lord Jagannatha. The main offering of the day becomes available anywhere from 3 to 5 pm. The offering times are not exact and change every day. Maha-Prasada should ideally be eaten while sitting on the floor, rather than standing or sitting at a table.
To get Maha-Prasada, one can go to the main gate of the temple on Grand Road. While ordering for the Maha-Prasada one should make it clear how much rice one wants.. Normally Maha-Prasada means a few small pots of 'Subji' (vegetable), 'Dahl' and a pot of rice ten times the size of the small Subji pots.
In the bazaar area surrounding the temple, dozens of shops display and sell images of the central temple deity, Lord Jagannath, presented in a trinity with his 'brother' Balbhadra and his 'sister' Subhadra. Even the non-Hindu visitor to Puri will feel some of the power of this throbbing pilgrimage center. The bazaar streets immediately surrounding the temple are filled with activity and bustle, but it is all infused with a palpable sense of gentleness and good spirit.