Puri has the Bay of Bengal and the rice-growing alluvial plain
on its east, Khurda district on its west, Sambalpur on its south
and the state capital Bhubaneshwar on its northern side. The
forest area lying to the west of Puri provides bamboo and sal.
The district of Puri encompasses most of the Chilka Lake, Asia's
largest freshwater lake. Bhubaneshwar is also located in Puri
Location 60-km from Bhubaneswar, Orissa
Reigning Deity Lord Jagannatha
Main Attractions Lord Jagannatha Temple, Puri Beach & Gundicha
Significance One of the four holiest points of pilgrimage for
Puri is the holiest place in Orissa and one of the biggest
pilgrimage centres in India situated on the shoreline of the
Bay of Bengal. Here, the city's activities generally revolve
around the Jagannath Temple where devotees visit from far and
near. The town is divided into two - the old town the main residential
area, including the main shops and huge market area. Most nights,
the beaches host colourful markets and the city is abuzz with
Puri is washed by the sea, and embraced by causarina - fringed
beaches. It is said that one obtains 'moksha' from the cycle
of birth and rebirth, if one stays here for three days and nights.
Puri is the hallowed seat of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe),
Subhadra and Balabhadra. One of the four holy dhams of Hinduism,
Puri is possibly one of the very few religious sites, which
combines the outdoor pleasures of sea and divine beaches with
the religious sentiments of 'darshan'.
A place, known by many names over the centuries - Nilgiri,
Niladri, Nilachal, Purushottam, Sankhakshetra, Srikshetra, Jagannath
Dham, Jagannath Puri - Puri is dominated by two great forces,
one created by God, and the other by man.
The holy city of Puri is located 60-km from Bhubaneswar on
the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the four holy dhamas
of India - Puri, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Badrinath Sri Ramanuja
visited Puri between 1107 and 1117 century AD and stayed for
some time. Vishnu Swami visited Puri in the second half of the
12th century and established a 'Matha' near 'Markandeswar' Tank,
called "Vishnuswami Matha". Nimbarka Acharya also
made a pilgrimage to Puri, and Srila Prabhupada visited in January
1977. The present temple structure was built in the 12th century
by the 'Ganga' King 'Choda Ganga Deva', replacing an earlier
structure, which probably dated to the 10th century.
Until recently, almost the entire temple was covered in white
plaster, so much so that European sailors in previous centuries
used it as a navigation point, referring to it as the "White
Pilgrimage Attractions of Puri
Puri Jagannath Temple
The temple of Lord Jagannath ('Lord of the Universe') at Puri
is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots in India, one of
the four abodes (dhamas) of the divine that lie on the four
directions of the compass. The present temple structure was
built in the twelfth century by the Ganga king, Chodagangadeva,
replacing an earlier structure, which probably dated to the
tenth century. Long before one reaches Puri, the 214 feet (65
meters) spire of the temple can be seen towering over the countryside.
This visual dominance is symbolic of the influence, which the
temple commands over almost every aspect of life in Puri. The
huge temple compound, each side of which measures 650 feet (some
200 meters), is surmounted with a 20-foot (6 meters) wall. Within
the compound is a city, or, more accurately, a universe unto
itself. With 6000 direct temple servitors, a temple kitchen,
which feeds 10,000 people daily (and some 25,000 on festival
days), and a central deity who has become the focus of religious
life throughout Orissa, the Jagannath temple is truly an institution
unique in the world.
Gundicha Mandir (Temple)
This temple is located at the end of Grad road (the main road)
about 3-km northeast of the Jagannatha temple. At the time of
the 'Ratha-Yatra' festival, Lord Jagannatha goes to the Gundicha
temple and stays there for one week. After one week He returns
to His original temple. It is said that the wife of 'Indradyumna',
the king who originally established the temple of Jagannatha,
was known as "Gundicha". The cleansing of the Gundicha
temple takes place the day before the Ratha-Yatra festival as
mentioned in "Chaitanya-Caritamrita".
Non-Hindus can walk within the walls and see the beautiful
garden, but they are not allowed in the temple building.
The shrine of Lord Sakshigopal is only 20 kms away from Puri.
the sacred feet of Shri Radha can however be only seen on 'Anala
Orissa is a land of innumerable fairs and festivals celebrated
round the year but the most spectacular of them is the Rath
Yatra, hitherto known as the Car Festival to western world.
Symbolically, the Rath Yatra (chariot festival) is a journey
to light from the dark and begins on the second day of the bright
fortnight in the month of Asad (June-July). It commemorates
the journey of Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. This festival
is celebrated at Puri with great pomp and ceremony. In this
religious journey, Jagannath, Subhadra and Balbhadra are taken
out in procession in three raths (chariots). The main rath is
43 ft high, 33 ft wide and has 16 wheels. The ropes of the chariots
are pulled by millions of devotees.
Rath Yatra - The Chariot Festival
Celebration - The three wooden deities of
lord 'Jagannatha', 'Balbhadra' & 'Devi Subhadra' with 'Sudarshan'
are brought out of the main temple and taken to Gundicha temple
for a week's visit in three beautifully decorated chariots.
Specialty - From the many specialties of the
festival the most unique one is that, this is the only occasion
to see, even embrace the deities irrespective of caste, colour
and creed outside the Temple.
Legend - After performing all the necessary
prostrations, he carried the lump of wood to the temple and,
following instructions from 'Brahma', called the court carpenter
'Vishvakarma' to carve out the image. Vishvakarma agreed to
perform the task on condition that no one so much as set eyes
on the deity until it was completed. The king, however, unable
to contain his excitement, peeped through a crack in the door
of the carpenter's workshop during the night to see how the
job was progressing. Vishvakarma spotted him, downed tools just
as he had promised and cast a spell on the deity so that no
one else could finish it.
Sequence in the Rath Yatra - Divine Procession
(Pahandi Bije): The deities are brought out of the temple to
the chariots by rhythmic movement called "Pahandi"
in a royal procession to the accompaniment of the beat of the
'cymbals' and drums and chanting of prayers by devotees. Sweeping
of the Chariots (Chhera Pahanra): After the deities are installed
on their respective Chariots, the traditional King of Puri sweeps
the Chariots with a golden broom, which is known as "Chhera
Pahanra". Pulling of Chariots (Rath Tana): The most exciting
part of the Rath Yatra is the pulling of Chariots by thousands
of devotees to the Gundicha Temple, which is about 3-kms away
from the starting point of the 'yatra'. Devotees stay in the
temple for a week. Return Journey (Bahuda Yatra): On 'Ashadha
Sukla Dasami', the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha
(June-July), return journey or 'Bahuda Yatra' of the deities
commences in the same manner from Gundicha temple to the main
temple like Rath Yatra. Suna Besha: Before going in their original
abode, the deities are dressed in Golden attire on the Chariots
the next day.
Nabakalebar - When two months of Ashadha fall
in one year, Rath Yatra is observed as the festival of 'Nabakalebar'
the old deities are buried within the temple premises ('Koilibaikuntha')
and are replaced by new deities, carved out of Margosa trees
for which there are set procedures. Double Ashadha occurs at
intervals of 8 to 19 years. The Nabakalebar was held in 1996,
1977, 1969, 1950 and 1931 during this century.
The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar (65 kms).
Puri is linked by rail to other cities in Orissa and the country
including Bhubaneshwar and Calcutta.
Government State Transport and Orissa Road Corporation buses
connect Puri with Bhubaneshwar, Calcutta, Chilika, Konarak,
Madras, Sambalpur, and Visakhapatnam.
The cycle rickshaw is the most popular mode of travel within
Bicycles are also easily available for hire and are recommended
for touring the temple and beaches.