|Location:||60-km from Bhubaneswar, Orissa|
|Reigning Deity:||Lord Jagannatha|
|Main Attractions:||Lord Jagannatha Temple, Puri Beach & Gundicha Mandir|
|Significance:||One of the four holiest points of pilgrimage for Hindus|
|Related Links:||Jagannath Temple, Puri Rath Yatra|
Puri Tourism :
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 colorful markets and the city is abuzz with life.
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.
Puri Orissa 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 district.
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 Pagoda”
What To See in 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.
- Satyabadi (Sakshigopal)
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 nawami’ day.
- Rath Yatra
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 Mtahura. 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.
- Nava Kalebara
Held once in every 12 to 19 years according to lunar calander, on this religious ritual, the idols change their external forms. New idols are carved out of specially sanctified trees.
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.
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.On day of Puri rath Yatra festival Puri recepies are made.
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.
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.
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. As history records, Nabakalebar was held in 1996, 1977, 1969, 1950 and 1931 during this century.
Puri Hotels and Puri Resorts
Hotel Naren Palace
Chakratirtha Road, Puri
Hotel Holiday Resort
Mayfair Hotels & Resorts
Pearl Beach Club & Resort
Sterling Days Inn Resort
The Hans Coco Palms
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 Puri. Bicycles are also easily available for hire and are recommended for touring the temple and beaches.