Puri Jagannath temple is just under two hours south of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha’s capital city. The nearest airport is situated in Bhubaneshwar. There are frequent buses (Both government and private) from Bhubaneshwar to Puri.
The first bus starts around 5.00 AM and continues till 10.00 PM at night. Puri’s railway station also receives long-distance trains from all over India.
Puri Jagannath temple is hardly 5.00 KM away from the station, and you can expect local communication throughout the day (Though at night, the local transporters charge much more from outsiders).
The temple, with says the skills and innovations of ancient Indian engineers, is built on a gigantic raised platform in middle of the city, enclosed by a seven-meter-high wall pierced by four gates, facing four directions:
- East gate – Lion gate
- North gate – Elephant gate
- South gate – Horse gate
- West gate – Tiger gate (Khanja gate)
Once you arrive at the vast open area in front of the Lions Gate (eastern gate), you can see a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology, Aruna is the charioteer of the Sun god.
Immediately after you get into the main gate and proceed forward, you will see a flight of steps. Locally, they are called Baisi Pahaca, which means twenty-two steps. The history, or rather the mystery of this flight of steps, has not been unveiled.
Puri Jagannath temple prasadam
As we cross the main entrance on the east and ascend the flight of steps leading to the main temple, you can spot a vast kitchen area of the temple on the left side.
It can feed even one lakh persons with only two to three hours notice. The method of preparation is most hygienic, and the traditional process of preparation of food for so many people in so short a time takes many by surprise.
To the right, we have the Ananda Bazaar, which is the popular name of the food-selling market within the enclosure. Ananda Bajara literally means the pleasure market.
In case you get a chance to visit this purest and holiest place, don’t forget to have a meal here. You may find many vendors with different food here. The rice is called “AVADA”. Once the AVADA gets dried, it becomes NIRMALYA.
History of Puri Jagannath temple
In one sense, Puri is synonymous with Jagannatha and vice versa. There are a number of old works in Sanskrit that sing the glories of Odisha in general and of Puri in particular.
A passage is frequently quoted from the Rig Veda and explained in the light of the well-known commentary of SAYANA to show that the history of Jagannatha dates back to the age of the Rig Veda itself.
The Puranas present elaborate accounts pertaining to the origin of Jagannatha in an atmosphere of mystery and divine inspiration. Prominent among the Puranas are the Skanda Purana, the Brahma Purana, and the Narada Purana.
Even in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, there are references to the Shreene of Jagannath. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata are believed to have come here and offered worship to lord Jagannath.
Historically speaking, the antiquity of Jagannatha can be taken to the second century B.C. when Kharavela was the emperor of Kalinga (the ancient name of Odisha).
There is one mention of Jinasana in the historic Hatigumpha inscription of the emperor. This is on the top of Udayagiri hills near Bhubaneswar. It clearly speaks of a Jaina deity, often identified with Jagannatha.
As per the materials in historical form, In the 9th century A.D., Sankaracarya visited Puri. He founded the Govardhana Matha as the eastern dhamma of India.
Sankaracharya has established four dham throughout India. Dham means a sacred place. Puri is the dhamma of eastern India.
It is the traditional belief that a Hindu should visit these four dhammas at least once in his life, and the prevailing practice is that, after visiting the other three dhammas, one must visit Puri dhamma.
The records maintained by the Pandas in the Puri temple contain reliable materials to show that for centuries past, people from the whole of India have been visiting Puri in the course of their pilgrimage.
Other deities in Puri Jagannath temple
Puri Jagannath temple is surrounded by about 30 different temples, small and big. Different deities are worshipped in different temples.
In the main temple, along with Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are also worshipped. These three constitute the basic and fundamental Trinity and are considered to be the forms and manifestations of the omnipresent.
Sudarsan, who is supposed to be the fourth important divine manifestation, is also worshipped with the celebrated trio, and these four are known as the Caturdha murti or the four-fold divine images.
Besides, Madhava, a replica of Jagannatha, Sridevi, and Bhudevi, are also installed in the sanctum sanctorum and worshipped.
Puri Jagannath temple - Ratha Yatra
The world-famous Car Festival of Lord Jagannath is held on’ AshadhaSukla Dwitiya’ -i.e., the 2nd day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June- July) every year.
This festival is popularly known as Ratha Yatra, Gundicha Yatra and also Ghosha Yatra. On the Car Festival day, the deities are taken out of the temple and placed in their respective chariots, kept near the Singhadwar.
The deities are carried to the chariots in a traditional ceremonial manner first, Sudarshana, followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath.
Balabhadra and Jagannath are made to swing forward and backward in a manner called ‘Pahandi’.
Ratha Yatra - Chariot
The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as Nandighosha. It has 16 (sixteen). wheels and the colour of the fabrics that cover the roof of the chariot are red and yellow.
The chariot of Lord Balabhadra is known as Taladhwaja. It has 14 (fourteen) wheels and the colours of the fabrics are red and green.
Subhadra’s chariot ‘Devadalana’ has 12 (twelve) wheels and fabrics are red and black. Sudarshan is seated by the side of Subhadra in her chariot.
Madanmohan, a representative deity of Jagannath sits in the chariot of Lord Jagannath.
So also two other small idols -Rama and Krishna take their seats in the chariot of Balabhadra. These small idols are made of metal.
Thus actually seven deities namely Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshana, Madanmohan, Rama and Krishna are seated on three chariots and moved to a temple known as ‘Gundicha Ghar’.
which is at a distance of about 3 kms from Jagannath Temple. The chariot of Balabhadra is dragged first, followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath.
How to visit Puri Jagannath temple
The temple complex opens around 5 am in the morning and is open till midnight. However, it is best to go around 7 am in the morning or after 9 pm in the night to avoid huge crowd.
The ambiance is evocative at night, when lamps are lit and the temple is illuminated.
Vehicles, with the exception of cycle rickshaws, are not permitted near the temple complex. You’ll need to take one or walk from the car park. The temple’s main Lion Gate is located on Grand Road.
Entry to the temple compound is free. You’ll find guides at the entrance, who will take you around the temple complex for a negotiable fee (about 200 rupees).
It is advisable to hire a guide if you a first time visitor. It will help you better understand the temple, its architecture and its religious importance.
Due to government restrictions, it’s no longer possible to go inside the inner sanctum of the temple where the deities are kept. Instead, the deities can be viewed from a distance, depending on how crowded it is.
A new ticketed darshan (viewing) system is proposed but yet to be fully implemented.
There is also a ticket system in place for viewing the temple’s famous kitchen. Tickets cost 5 rupees each. Don’t miss it.
The food is prepared in the same manner as it was centuries ago, with traditional methods and implements. About 15,000 new clay pots are transported to the temple every day for cooking in, as the pots are never reused.
Allow a couple of hours to completely explore the puri Jagannath temple complex.
What to keep in mind
If you are an outsider and planning to visit puri jagannath temple, then be careful on below mentioned things.
There are unfortunately many reports of greedy pandas (Local priests) forcefully demanding excessive amounts of money from devotees.
Recent intervention and monitoring by the police has greatly curbed this problem. The pandas are known to be experts at extracting money from people though, particularly at the smaller temples within the complex.
If you are approached by any pandas, it’s strongly recommended that you ignore them. If you do wish to avail of any of their services, make sure you negotiate the price beforehand
and do not give any more than agreed.
Most hotels have in-house pandas and you may be pushed to use their services. Be aware that you will pay a premium if you choose to.
If you wish to donate money to the temple, do so only at the official donation counter and obtain a receipt. Don’t hand over money to the pandas or anyone else.
Barricades have been placed inside the temple to ensure the orderly flow of devotees and reduce harassment by pandas. There’s a rush towards the inner sanctum though.
Note that you’re not permitted to carry any belongings inside the temple, including cell phones, shoes, socks, cameras, and umbrellas. All leather items are banned as well. There is a facility near the main entrance where you can deposit your items for safekeeping.
Why can't everyone go inside the temple?
The rules of entry into the Jagannath temple have caused considerable controversy. Only those who are born Hindu are allowed inside the temple. However, there have been instances of famous Hindus being denied entry.
These include Indira Gandhi (the third Prime Minister of India) because she had married a non-Hindu, Saint Kabir because he had dressed like a Muslim.
Rabindrinath Tagore since he followed Brahmo Samaj (a reform movement within Hinduism), and Mahatma Gandhi because he came with dalits (untouchables, people without a caste).
Reason behind not allowing non-hindu to go inside the puri jagannath temple are numerous with one of the most popular ones being that people who do not follow the traditional Hindu way of life are unclean.
Since the temple is considered to be the holy seat of Lord Jagannath, it has special importance. The temple caretakers also feel that the temple is not a sightseeing attraction.
It’s a place of worship for devotees to come and spend time with the god that they believe in. Past attacks on the temple by Muslims are sometimes mentioned as reasons too.
In 2018, the Supreme Court asked the temple to consider allowing all visitors inside, irrespective of their religion. This is yet to be decided though.
During car festival, when God comes out from his temple, everyone is allowed to see him and seek blessings, irrespective of their religion.
If you’re not a Hindu, you’ll have to be content with viewing the temple from the street or paying some money to view it from the roof of one of the nearby buildings (the old library opposite the main gate is a popular spot).
What else to do near by the jagannath temple
The road in front of Singha Dwara is called bada danda. Here you will find different kinds of local foods from roadside vendors. Try sweet lassi and rabdi from any lassi stall.
Raghurajpur handicraft village is about 15 minutes by car from Puri. There, artisans carry out their crafts while sitting in front of their prettily painted houses. Pattachitra paintings are a specialty.
You can explore Puri’s main beach and golden beach. It’s a very good place for fish lovers. You can get good quality fish dishes at a reasonable rate on the beach itself.