Jagannath Temple: An Architectural Beauty's Sangam with Devotion in Puri!

Built in the 12th century, Jagannath temple is the pride of Puri that sees crowds all year and is known for its beliefs, culture, festivals, and architectural significance.

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The cultural topography of Odisha is not just called the home to handicrafts but also the land of Lord Jagannath, meaning, the Lord of the universe. Every year, the temple town of Puri receives many devotees and pilgrims who flock to the most popular attraction here, Jagannath temple.

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Built in the 12th Century AD, the temple is a dedication to the Lord Jagannath who is worshipped not just by the locals but also tourists. A form of Vishnu, the lord is also considered the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire. As per the historical records, King Indradyumna of Avanti built the temple, which is not just popular for mysticism but also an architectural brilliance. 

A Masterpiece

It is said that it took entire three generations for the temple to be built. Constructed on a raised platform, the gigantic temple is a marvel. The modifications and additions to the temple kept building till the 16th Century AD. This temple is full of carvings of gods and goddesses, unlike other temples in the region. Two concentric walls surround the entire temple complex - the Kuruma Bheda (Inner wall) and the Meghnad Pachira (Wall). 

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One finds the main entrance to the temple through Singhadwara, which is located on the Eastern front of the temple accompanied by three other entrances along the four cardinal directions. One noticeable thing about these entrances is that they are not architecturally aligned, which historians believe is a result of the gates just being created for security purposes. It seems valid as the temple was considered at risk during the tumultuous period between the 16th and 18th centuries.

You will be amazed to know that the main temple is constructed in a way that it does not allow the shadow of the temple to fall on the ground at any time of the day. The Nilachakra or the blue wheel is perched on the top of the temple. It is made of eight metal ores and it is locally called, 'Ashta Dhatu'. The local belief here is that if you get to see this Nilachakra, it becomes equivalent to seeing Lord Jagannath.

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However, there are mysteries present with the Chakra. The first one raises a question as to how such a hard metal, weighing about a tonne, could go up there without any machinery but just with a human force, especially in that century. The second one is the fact that from every direction one looks at the Chakra, it has been designed to be visible the same way.

There is another unique fact about the temple which relates to its flag, called Patitapabana, it flows in the opposite direction of the wind, and the temple staff change it every day at sunset. But do you know who these temple staff could be? Well, they are a family appointed by the then-King and have been doing this ritual for over 800 years now. They climb almost 165 meters, equivalent to that of a 45-storey building, bare feet without any support, and perform the ritual. 

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Along with this, the Aruna Stambha is also a major highlight here. It is a 33 ft monolith structure pillar right in front of the main entrance of the temple. This structure was originally located at the Sun Temple, Konark. The temple comprises the idols of the holy trinity that are carved out of wood instead of stone or metal idols. These deities are considered to be the trappings of mortality.

What also surprises the devotee here is the fact that you lose the sound of the ocean as soon as you enter the temple. The temple is close to Puri Beach and while the sound of the waves crashing at the shore is audible, one cannot hear it after entering the temple. There is no scientific explanation for the same, but as per folklore, it was the will of the Subhadra Mayi. She was the sister of the two lords who wanted peace within the temple gates and was provided the same.

When it comes to the Mahaprasad, the offerings to Lord Jagannath are prepared on fire, lit by wood charcoal. On the other hand, items like rice, vegetables, cereals, and more are kept in earthen pots and placed on the fire one on top of the other. The pot on the top cooks first.

The temple is also very popular for hosting various festivals all year round. Some of the popular ones include Devasnana Purnima, an annual bathing ritual where the priests bring out the holy trinity from their sanctum to a platform to bathe with purified water drawn from a well present within the temple premises. The temple also organises Chariot Festival around June/July where the Lord is taken out on the street and devotees, regardless of their caste, creed, and colour seek his blessings.

Here, at Jagannath temple, the deities are buried every 14 to 18 years, one above another, as a customary and are replaced by new ones. The deities made up of neem wood are believed to be disintegrated on their own!

All in all, the temple boasts of cultural importance and architectural marvels in various ways that one must not miss on their trip to Puri!

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