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Jagannath Temple at Puri, Orissa, India.
Information given by Temple Architect Mr. Subhash Bhoite.

Jagannath Temple

Jagannath Temple
Date built
11th century CE
Primary deity
Lord Jaganath
Hindu temple architecture
Puri, Orissa, India.
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Project Details
The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Jaganath (Krishna) and located in the coastal town of Puri in the state of Orissa, India. The name Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) is a combination of the Sanskrit words Jagat (Universe) and Nath (Lord of). The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for many Hindu traditions, particularly worshippers of Krishna and Vishnu, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimages that a Hindu has to be visited in one's lifetime.
The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple Deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated chariots. Since medieval times, it is also associated with intense religious fervor. The temple is sacred to the Vaishnava traditions and saint Ramananda who was closely associated with the temple. It is also of particular significance to the followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism whose founder, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was attracted to the deity, Jagannath, and lived in Puri for many years.
Ritual chakra and flags at the top Shikhara of Puri temple of Jagannath also related to Sudarsana Chakra. The red flag denotes that Jagannath is within the building.

According to recently discovered copper plates from the Ganga dynasty (reference required), the construction of the Current Jagannath temple was initiated by the ruler of Kalinga, Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev . The Jagamohana and the Vimana portions of the temple were built during his reign (1078 - 1148 CE). However it was only in the year 1174 CE that the Orissan ruler Ananga Bhima Deva rebuilt the temple to give a shape in which it stands today.

Jagannath worship in the temple continued until 1558, when Orissa was attacked by the Afghan general Kalapahad. Subsequently, when Ramachandra Deb established an independent kingdom at Khurda in Orissa, the temple was consecrated and the deities reinstalled
Legend surrounding the temple origin
The traditional story concerning the origins of the temple is that the original image of Jagannath (a deity form of Krishna) was found near a fig tree in the form of an Indranila or the Blue Jewel. It was so dazzling that Dharma wanted to hide it in the earth. King Indradyumna of Malwa wanted to find the image and to do so he performed harsh penances to obtain his goal. Vishnu then instructed him to go to the Puri seashore and find a floating log to make an image from its trunk. The King found the log of wood. Vishwakarma appeared in the form of artist and prepared
Buddhist Origins
Some archaeologists theorize that there existed a Buddhist stupa at the site of the present one, which may have housed the tooth relic of the Buddha before it was transported to its present location in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Around that period Buddhism was assimilated within the Vaishnava fold, whence Jagganath worship gained popularity. This was in the tenth century, during the reign of the Somavamsi kings of Orissa.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the great Sikh emperor, had donated massive amounts of gold to this temple, (even more than he gave away to the Golden Temple at Amritsar). In his last will, he also ordered that Kohinoor, the most precious and greatest diamond in the world, to be donated to this temple, but the diamond could never actually make its way to the temple because the British, by that time, had annexed the Punjab and all its royal possessions.
The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2), and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. It contains at least 120 temples and shrines. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Orissan style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India.
The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the 'srichakra' (a eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape. The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls, or mandapas, rise in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks.
The main shrine is enclosed by a 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall. Another wall surrounds the main temple.
The Bada Danda or the Grand Avenue
The Singahdwara, which in Sanskrit means The Lion Gate, is one of the four gates to the temple and forms the Main entrance. The Singhadwara is so named because two huge statues of crouching lions exist on either side of the entrance. The gate faces east opening on to the Bada Danda or the Grand Road.The Baisi Pahacha or the flight of twenty two steps leads into the temple complex. An idol of Jagannath known as Patita Pavana, which in Sanskrit, means the "Saviour of the downtrodden and the fallen" is painted on the right side of the entrace. In ancient times when untouchables were not allowed inside the temple, they could pray to Patita Pavana.
The statues of the two guards to the temple Jaya and Vijaya stand on either side of the doorway. Just before the commencement of the Rath Yatra the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out of the temple through this gate.On their return from the Gundicha Temple they have to ceremonially placate Goddess Mahalakshmi, whose statue is carved atop the door, for neglecting to take her with them on the Yatra. Only then the Goddess allows them permission to enter the temple. A magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic pillar known as the Arun stambha stands in front of the main gate. This pillar has an idol of Arun, the charioteer of the Sun God Surya, on its top. The pillar originally installed in the Sun temple of Konarak was shifted to Puri by the Raja of Khurda.
Other Entrances
The Singhadwara in 1870 showing the Lion sculptures with the Arun Stambha Pillar in the foreground.
Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra in Padma Besha or the Lotus Garb Apart from the Singhadwara, which is the main entrance to the temple, there are three other entrances facing north, south and west. They are named after the sculptures of animals guarding them. The other entrances are the Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate.
The Mandapas
There are many Mandapas or Pillared halls on raised platforms within the temple complex meant for religious congregations. The most prominent is the Mukti Mandap the congregation hall of the Sevayats or the temple servitors. Here important decisions regarding conduct of daily worship and festivals are taken. The Dol Mandap is noteworthy for a beautifully carved stone Torana or arch which is used for constructing a swing for the annual Dol Yatra festival. During the festival the idol of Dologobindo is placed on the swing. The Snana Bedi is a rectangular stone platform where idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are placed for ceremonial bathing during the annual Snana Yatra.
The central forms of Jagannath, Balabhadra and the goddess Subhadra constitute the trinity of deities sitting on the bejewelled platform or the Ratnavedi in the inner sanctum. The Sudarshan Chakra, idols of Madanmohan and Bishwadhatri are also placed on the Ratnavedi. The idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan Chakra are made from sacred Neem logs known as Daru Bramha.Depending on the season the deities are adorned in different garbs. Worship of the deities pre-date the temple structure and may have originated in an ancient tribal shrine.
Minor Temples
There are numerous smaller temples and shrines within the Temple complex where active worship is regularly conducted. The temple of Mahalakshmi has an important role in rituals of the main temple.It is said that preparation of food as offering for Jagannath is supervised by Goddess Mahalakshmi. The Kanchi Ganesh Temple is dedicated to Ganesh. Tradition maintains that the idol of Ganesh was brought from Kanchipuram in present day Tamil Nadu by the legendary King Purushottam after he defeated the King of Kanchipuram in ancient times.
Minor Temples
Devotees visiting the Jagannath Temple in Puri on the occasion of Snana Yatra
There are elaborate daily worship services. There are many festivals each year attended by thousands of people. The most important festival is the Rath Yatra or the Chariot festival in June. This spectacular festival includes a procession of three huge chariots bearing the idols of Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra through the Bada Danda meaning the Grand Avenue of Puri till their final destination the Gundicha Temple. In a year that has two months of Ashadh which is usually once in twelve years the wooden idols of the deities are replaced during the Nabakalevara ceremony.On Akshaya Tritiya every year the Chandan Yatra festival marks the commencement of the construction of the Chariots of the Rath Yatra. On the Purnima of the month of Jyestha the Gods are ceremonially bathed and decorated every year on the occasion of Snana Yatra.Many other festivals like Dolo Yatra and Jhula Yatra are celebrated by devotees every year.
Temple today
The Rath Yatra in Puri in modern times showing the three chariots of the deities with the Temple in the background
In modern times the temple is busy and functioning.The temple is selective regarding who is allowed entry into the grounds. Most non-Hindus are excluded from its premises, as are Hindus of non-Indian origin. Visitors not allowed entry may view the precincts from the roof of the nearby Raghunandan Library. There is some evidence that this came into force following a series of invasions by foreigners into the temple and surrounding area. Buddhist, and Jain groups are allowed into the temple compound if they are able to prove their Indian ancestry. The temple has slowly started allowing Hindus of non-Indian origin into the area, after an incident in which 3 Balinese Hindus were denied entry, even though Bali is 90% Hindu.
The Temple Kitchen
The temple's kitchen is considered as the largest kitchen in India. Tradition maintains that all food cooked in the temple kitchens are supervised by the Goddess Mahalakshmi herself. It is said that if the food prepared has any fault in it a dog appears near the temple kitchen.The temple cooks or Mahasuaras take this as a sign of displeasure of Mahalakshmi with the food which is promptly buried and a new batch cooked. All food is cooked following rules as prescribed by Hindu religious texts. Cooking is done only in earthen pots with water drawn from two special wells near the kitchen called Ganga and Jamuna. The food after being offered to Jagannath is distributed as mahaprasad to devotees in the Ananda Bazar located to the North of the Singhadwara inside the temple complex.

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