The Jagannath Temple is situated in Puri city of Orissa, India. Puri is a coastal town of Orissa and lies to the south-eastern part of the country. The term ‘Jagannath’ is a Sanskrit term and it means “the Lord of the Universe”. The Jagannath temple is a very famous Hindu temple and all the worshippers of Hindu Lord Krishna and Vishnu mostly visit this temple. This temple is one of the four most important pilgrimage temples of Hindus which they call the ‘Char Dhams’. All the able Hindu devotees are obligated to visit this temple once in their life. The temple is most known for the annual chariot festival which is known as ‘Rath Yatra’. In this festival, the three main deities of the temple are hauled on very beautifully decorated huge and elaborate temple cars. This religious event is organized every year since the medieval times with a lot of fervor and festival fun. It is believed that the Jagannath temple was constructed by Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev, who was the ruler of Kalinga. This is evident from the copper plates discovered recently from the Ganga Dyansty. During his reign from 1078 AD to 1148 AD, the ‘Jagamohan’ and ‘Vimana’ parts of the temple were built. It was then later rebuilt in the year 1174 by Ananga Bhima, who was the ruler of Oriya, and gave it the present shape of the temple. The worshiping of Lord Jagannath continued till 1558 but was later banned because Orissa state was on attack by Afghan’s general Kalapahad. It was only after Ramachandra Deb who reinstalled all the deities in the temple after establishing an independent kingdom in Khurda, Orissa.
The complete buildings of the temple together occupy an area of 37 thousand square meters and high fortified wall lies around the complete temple. The fortified walls are 20 feet tall and are known by the name ‘Meghanada Pacheri’. Around the main temple, there is another wall called ‘Kurma Bedha’. The complete complex of this place has 120 temples and shrines. The sculptures and art of the temple reflects the Oriya style of architecture. There are 4 different sections in temple. First section has Deula, Viamana, or Garba Griha. In this section, we have the three main deities placed on the ratnavedi (throne made of Pearls). The second section is called Mukhashala which is the Frontal Porch. The third section is Nata Mandir, also known as Natamandapa’. This section is a Dancing hall or and Audience hall. The last section is the Bhoga Mandapa where you can place offerings for the temple.
The main building of the temple of has a curvilinear shape and the top of the building is crowned by an eight spiked wheel called ‘srichakra’ which is the ‘chakra’ or wheel of Lord Vishnu. This is also known as “Nilachakra” and is constructed by using ‘Ashtadhatu’ (eight metals) and is very sacred for Hindus. The temple building was constructed on a stone platform which was already raised. The tower of the temple rises 65 meters above the inner sanctum of deities. The roofs of the surroundings have pyramidal structure and all the halls or mandaps look like rising steps leading towards the tower which looks like ridge of mountain peaks.
In addition to the towers of the temple, the place has a ‘Singhadwara’ which is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘The Lion’s Gate’. There are in all four gates for the temple as the main entrances. The Singhadwara has two huge lion statues on either side of the gate. The gate faces in the east direction and opens to Bada Danda (the Grand Road). Then there is a twenty-two step flight leading to the main complex. The temple has an idol of Lord Jagannath which is also called Patitapavan (which means ‘Savior of the fallen and downtrodden). This idol is painted on the right of the entrance. This special idol at the entrance was made for the ancient practices which did not allow the untouchables inside the temple. There are two statues, one on each side of the entrance, which are called ‘Jaya’ and ‘Vijaya’ who are the guards of the temple. There is an Aruna Stambha. It is a pillar having the idol of Arun who is the charioteer of Lord Surya (the Sun God). This pillar was originally located at the entrance of Konark Sun Temple but was later moved to the entrance of Jagannath temple.
The image above shows the crowd in the annual Yatra of the three deities. The festival of Chariot ride has the ceremony of the three main idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra taken out from the ‘Singhadwara’ and taken to the ‘Gundicha Temple’. On their return, the idol of Goddess ‘Mahalakshmi’ carved on the top of the door is placated. This is a ritual because of neglecting to take the Goddess on the Yatra along with them. This ritual says that only the Goddess Mahalakshmi can allow the three lords to enter the temple again.
There are many other smaller shrines and temples where regular worship is conducted. Some of them are Bimala Shaktipeeth – where it is believed that Sati’s feet fell, Rohini Kund, Mahalakshmi Temple, Kanchi Ganesh Temple, and many more. In addition to that, there are many Mandaps (Halls) most significant of which are Mukti Mandap and Dola Mandap.