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Puri in Orissa, India – The temple town




Best Time to Visit Puri: October to March (June and July are the months to witness the Rath Yatra, but are very crowded)
Climate: Closeness to the waters of the Bay of Bengal gives Puri an excellent coastal type climate
Main Languages: Oriya, Bengali, Hindi and English
Temperature:
Summer: Max: 38, Min: 27
Winter: Max: 28, Min: 15

Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath, is situated in the eastern part of Orissa and is one of the four holy dhams of Hinduism. Puri is also called “Sri Purusottama Dham” or “Martya Vaikuntha”, the abode of Lord Vishnu on earth. It is an extremely important religious center for Hindus. Puri is located approx. 60-km from Bhubaneswar (the capital of the state of Orissa) and approx 35-km from Konark on the Marine Drive. For centuries now, the beach at Puri has been the venue of countless pilgrims taking the traditional purification dip.

Map of Puri (including directions) from Mapmyindia.com

Puri is the abode of Lord Jagannath and considered one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage destination. The temple here and the associated Rath Yatra is a very important religious institution. Puri is the forerunner of the Jagannath cult in Orissa, which saw the flowering of several temples dedicated to Jagannath all over the state. Puri’s ancient shrine, enshrining Krishna (in the form of Lord Jagannath) in the form of a wooden image, also is accompanied by wooden images of Balabhadra (Balarama) and Subhadra, the brother and sister of Krishna respectively.

Rath Yatra : Rath Yatra, which is also known as the Chariot Festival, is one of the most prominent festivals of Orissa, which is celebrated in the holy city of Puri. The Rath Yatra has derived its name from the words Rath, which means Chariot, and Yatra, meaning a procession. This festival is celebrated with gusto in almost every part of the country, with the Rath Yatra in Puri being arguably the most famous one. The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is a very colorful festival, in which a large number of people participate enthusiastically.
During the yatra, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, are brought out and placed on their respective chariots. Then these chariots are pulled by the devotees and taken to Gundicha Temple. The deities are placed at this temple for seven days and then, are taken back to the Jagannath temple, in a similar procession. Before the procession starts, Gajapati (the ceremonial King of Puri) comes and cleans the chariots with a golden broom and then, sprinkles holy water on them.
Historically, as per tradition, the local king used to sweep the road on which the procession was to take place with a golden broom, proclaiming to be the Lord’s first servant. The king being a sweeper would normally be seen to be something that is unthinkable, but in the case of the Rath Yatra, it is seen to be a holy right of the king.
It is believed that it is very auspicious if one manages to catch even a glimpse of Lord Jagannath on the chariot, and people throng the route to try and catch a glimpse of the Yatra. People also hold a belief that the one who manages to touch the chariot, or even the ropes with which it is pulled, is bestowed with the results of several pious deeds for ages. In ancient days some devotees would throw themselves beneath the wheels of the Chariot in the belief that such an act of piety involving Lord’s blessings would send them straight to heaven.

The most famous temple in the town is the Shri Jagannath Temple. The Temple of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) was built approximately during the 12th century A.D. by Chodaganga Deva and the wonderful structure dominates the landscape for kilometers around. Being the tallest temple (65 metres) in Orissa, it is one of the most magnificent pieces of monuments of India. The majestic ancient temple of Lord Jagannath is situated in the middle of the Jagannath Puri.
The Aruna Stamba is in front of the main gate of Jagannath Temple. On the top of the stamba is the figure of Aruna the charioteer of Sun God. The Jagannath Puri temple is a great example of the Orissan style of architecture. In the sanctum sanctorum (Garbhagriha ) there are a strange archaic type of wooden images of Sri Jaggannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra. Subhadra’s image is in between her two brothers and smaller in size.
History : The history of the present temple goes back to approximately the 12th century A.D. when the founder King of the Ganga Dynasty, King Chodaganga Deva began the construction of the temple, with the construction being completed by King Anangabhima Deva. As per available records, the temple existed in one form or the other since ancient times; being patronized by the Kings ruling Orissa at the time with some of the rulers pursuing a policy of neglect. With the construction of the grand temple around the 12th century, patronage of the kings was assured. The King acknowledged Lord Jagannath as the actual ruler of the kingdom with the King ruling on behalf of the Lord.
Over the years, the royal worship continued until the invading Afghans defeated the Orissa Kings and plundered the temple in the 16th Century. The temple priests saved the deities from the invaders until kings were able to reclaim the kingdom. With the Moghuls invading the empire again, worship stopped for some time and was restored again. The advent of the Imperial British East India Company and its successor British rule by the crown again brought the temple Management under stress. However, the British respected the right to worship of the Hindus at Jagannath and indirectly allowed patronage. They recognized Jagananth Puri’s King of Orissa (Gajapati Maharaj) as the Superintendent of the Temple and granted some revenue rights and privileges to the temple to run its affairs.

Even before one enters Puri, this 65-metre high temple makes its presence felt. A 20-foot high wall surrounds it. A traditional porch, shrine, hall of offerings and a pillared hall of dance, form the rest of this temple. The remarkable feature about this temple, since its early beginnings, is that there has been no discrimination, ever, between castes. There is no caste distinction and all are welcome before the Lord Jaggannath but non-hindus are not allowed inside the shrine. They can have a fair view of the inside of the temple from the nearby roof of the Raghunandan library, opposite the main gate of the shrine.
There are four gates to enter into the complex.
Eastern Gate : Generally people enter into the temple through this gate. These figures of two lions made of sandstone are placed at both sides of the entrance, for which the gate is known as Simghadwar or lion’s Gate. There is a pillar named Aruna-Stamba in front of this gate. It is a monolithic sharft or chlorite having sixteen sides and in 33 feet 8 inches. high from the ground.
Southern Gate : The Southern gate of the temple is known as Aswadwar (Horse gate) and it is five steps above the road in front. Towards the right side of the steps, a huge figure of Hanuman has been installed. The door is said to better entrance of the tantric to go inside the temple.
Western Gate : Four steps above the road there is a door at the westernside and two small figures of tiger are place at both sides of it, therefore it is called Byaghradwar on the Tiger Gate
Northern Gate : It is known as Hastidwar or the Elephant Gate, small figures of two elephants made of stone are seen standing at both side of the gate. The upper door-frame depicts the nine planets in usual Orissan style. Local people are named this gate as chemenidwar, because large number of house-bats staying on it.

Other temples and places nearby (in Puri and outside):

Bada Danda: This place is also known as the Grand Road. The Bada Danda extends from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, and is the scene of the great Festival of the Chariots or Ratha Yatra..
Ideal for shopping: The grand road, as surprising as it seems, is ideal for a leisurely stroll as well as shopping for souvenirs. Typical Puri handicrafts include miniature stone-sculptures, woodcarvings, seashell items, patta paintings and colourful applique work.

Gundicha Temple: The most important sanctuary of Jagannath is the Gundicha temple, the abode to which Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are driven each of his or her wooden cars once in a year, during the Car Festival for 7 days. During these 7 days, the temple is occupied by the Lord, and remains unoccupied for the other days, but there is a small establishment of servants by whom it is regularly maintained. it is situated at the other end of the great highway (Badadanda). The distance between the gates of Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple, is exactly 2,688.0696 meters (8327 feet). The temple is surrounded by a wall and stands in the middle of garden. it consists of four pars connected with kitchen rooms by a narrow passage. The tower, a construction of Pidha type, is 75 feet high with a base of 55 feet by 46 feet outside, and 36 feet 8inches by 27 feet inside. All the four structures (Vimana, Jagamohan, Natamandap, and Bhogamandap) bear the traces of several plastering and are carved in places with obscene figures in mortar. There is a plain raised seat, 4 feet high and 19 feet long, made of chlorite, and this is called the Ratnavedi- the throne on which the images are placed when brought to the temple.

Astasambhu Temple: The eight guardians Siva’s of this abode of Jagannath (Vishnu) are Markandeswar, Yajneswara, Nilakantheswara, Vilveswara, Kapalamochana, Baleswara, isaneswara and Pataleswara.

Astachandi Temple: The eight Chandis, collectively called Astachandi, are Bata Mangala, Bimala, Sarvamangal, Ardhasani, Alamba, Dakshinakalika, Marichika and Harachandi.

Panchatirtha Temple: The sacred tanks are indradyumna near the Gundicha temple, Manikarnika in the Marnikarnika street, Markanda towards the north of the Jagannath temple and Swetaganga towards the south of the Jagannath temple. These four tirthas or sacred waters together with the sea make the Panchtirtha or five sacred waters in which pilgrims are solemnly enjoined to take bath. Some of these places and few other places, such as: Lokanath temple, Atharnala Bridge, etc., deserve special mention.

Loknath Temple: This is the famous Siva temple of Puri Located about One Kilometer away from the Jagannath Temple towards the western end. There is a popular belief that Lord Ram had installed this lingam with a Lauka or Pumpkin. The Temple was build during 10th-11th century A.D. The devotees come here to see Lord Loknath in order to be cured from any kind of disease. There are certain festivals observed in this temple out of which ‘Saranti-Somobar-mela’ is the important one. There is a stream on the head Sivalinga playing the roal of the Ganges and linga, it self remains under the water. The flowers, sandal paste, ‘Bilva-patra’, etc. offered to the God remain decomposed in the water emittining a special smell. The festival of Siva Ratri is observed in the temple of Lokanath with great devotion. A meeting of Siva and Vishnu takes place on the day.

Chakratirtha Temple: The Chakratirtha, a small and unprotected pool, is in the South-east of Jagannath Temple on the Sea-Beach of popularly known as C.T. Road heading towards Pentha Kata – The fisherman village. The place is known as Bankimuhana. Near-by is the temple of Chaitanya called Sunar – Gouranga.

Chakranarayan Temple: Towards the northern side of the temple of Sunar-Gouranga is the temple of Chakranarayana. The image of Lakshmi-Narasimha is worshipped here.

Daria Mahabir Temple: At the distance of about thirty meters to the west of the Chakranarayan temple, Daria Mahabir is a small temple dedicated to Hanuman. He is also known as Bedi Hanuman.

Ardhasani Temple: On the way to Gundicha temple, Ardhasani is a small temple dedicated to the goddess of that name. She is also known as Mausi Maa (mother’s sister) of Lord Jagannath.

Siddha Mahavir Temple: At a distance of about half a mile (804.672 meters), to the west of Gundicha temple, there is a small temple dedicated to Siddha Hanuman. it is believed that Tulasidas resided at this place during his stay at Puri.

Jameswara Temple: This is again a temple of 11-12th Century A.D. located on the extreme end of Harichandi Street. It houses Jameswara Siva, who protects this holy land from the influence of Yama, on the other hand it is know on as Yamanaka Tirtha.

Alabukeswara Temple: Alabukeswara is a Siva shrine situated to the west of the Yameswara.

Kapalamochana Temple / Manikarnika: Kapalamochana is a small Saiva temple in the immediate neighborhood of the Alabukeswara in the Manikarnika Sahi. The sacred pool of Manikarnika is also located here.

Daksinakali Temple: The temple is situated towards the south-eastern side of the Lord Jagannath temple on Balisahi. Puranic tradition say that in Sriksetra or Puri, Sri Jagannath is regarded as Daksinakalika. The deity is enshring in a modern temple at an higher rasied platform. The temple is facing to east an consist of a vimana and a Jagamohana. The deity is four armed and seated on a corrpse. She is shown as drinking blood, with a dagger and holding severed head in two of her hands. it is believed that Daksinakalika is the guardian of the kitchen of the Lord Jagannath Temple.

Dasavatara Temple: There are the ruins of a temple of the ‘Dasavatara’ of Vishnu near Gundicha temple. This is the place where the Kabi Jayadeve, the author of Gitagovindam stayed. Being inspired with the ten incarnations of Vishnu, he wrote Dasaavatara Strotra in his famous work Gitagovindam.

The Temple of Seven Mother Goddesses: This temple is situated on the embankment of a big sacred pond, Markandeya Soravara. This reminds us of the similar temple build at Dasasvamedha Ghat of Yajpur built in the 10th century by the Somavamsi Kings. Brahmi, Maheswari, Andri, Kaumari, Vaisnavi, Varahi and Camanda are known as the seven mother Goddesses. Sometime Narasimha replace Vaisnavi, a female from the man-Lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However, the Shrine of the seven mother goddess at the pond Markanda proves very well that once upon a time Puri was a bonafide Sakta Pitha and Goddess Vimala was the presiding deity of this pitha.

Mausima Temple: The three chariots of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra start from the Singha Dwara of the Temple of Jagannath and reach at ‘Gundicha Temple’, at the other end of the Bada danda. in between ‘Gundicha Temple’ and ‘Singha Dwara’ there comes the Shrine of the Goddess, Ardhamsini or Ardhasini. Popularly known as Mousima (aunt) of Jagannath where the Lord take a bhoga of ‘Podapitha”, a special cake. it is stared in Skanda Purana, Vaisanava Knadha that during the deluge, when the sea overflooded Puri, this goddess drank half of the flood water and saved the town. There for her name become Arthasini.

Balighai: Just 8 kms away from the crowds of Puri, on the mouth of River Nuanai, Balighai has excellent beach and the Sea Turtle Research center. Its serene environs are an ideal getaway from the tensions of the city life.

Exciting moments : The Casuarina fringed Balighai beach is a famous picnic spot. The Sun and fun at the mouth of the river Nuanai is unforgettable. Location : 8 kms away from Puri.

Chilka Lake: Situated southwest of Puri, Chilka is the largest fresh water lake in Asia (65 kms long, 8-20 kms wide, about 2 m deep). One can enjoy boating on the shimmering blue waters and in leisure one can enjoy fishing.
It has been affectionately called as the honeymooner paradise and breakfast island. The simmering blue water makes it an excellent site to have a break from the monotonous daily routine..

Attractions : Nalbana Island
Due to its varied flora and fauna, it forms the core of Chilika sanctuary.

Birds Island: A haven for resident and migratory birds. One can watch birds in their natural habitat here, carry a good camera here.

Kalijal Island: Kalijai Island is home to the Goddess Kalijai, venerated by the local fisher folk. Hosts a huge fair on Makar Sankranti annually in the month of January.
Location : Southwest of Puri, Orissa
Much to offer : You can boat and fish here. The thrilling sight of dolphins round the year, and abundance of migratory and resident birds in winter, makes Chilika island an ideal vacation for people who love nature. Talking about lakes, there is also Ansupa, a small but picturesque lake attracting migratory birds in winter. Saranda Mountain and the surrounding bamboo and mango groves cast interesting reflections on its waters.
Natural Bliss : The shallow waters enclose an immense area of marshes, lowlands, and islands.
The surrounding hills and sandy stretches abound in cheetals, blackbucks, monkeys, fishing cats, mongoose and porcupines and a dolphin population cavorting joyfully near the channel meeting the sea. Snakes and turtles, lizards and cobras inhabit the surrounding beach area and wooded undergrowth.

Satapara: Satapara, a retreat in nature on Chilika Lake, is opened up to the tourists. For its location near the confluence of the lake with the ocean and proximity to Puri (48 km), it is an ideal spot to enjoy Chilika. The thrilling sight of dolphins round the year and abundance of migratory and resident birds in winter make it a preferred place for a vacation with nature.

Raghurajpur: Famous for its Patta Chitra paintings, this artists village 14 kms from Puri, makes an interesting excursion. This village is heavily involved in preserving India priceless skills with its thatched, brick, houses on high plinths with sit-out platforms and artists busy at work.

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..
Location : 20 kms away from Puri.
Legend : According to legend once Gopal Krishna came down to this place from Vrindavan as a witness to clear out a dispute between two Brahmins. When he saw this beautiful place he fell in love with it and stayed on.

Choudwar: Choudwar, a growing industrial area was once the capital of Somakuli Keshari Kings of Orissa. Eight prominent Siva pithas were established by the Keshari dynasty in the vicinity of Choudwar which is now in ruins. Tradition records that it was the capital of Virat, the brother-in-law of Kichaka. The five Pandava brothers with their consort Draupadi took shelter in Choudwar in their secret exile.

Chhatia: Popularly known as Chhatiabata, Chhatia is a sacred place of pilgrimage. The shrine of Lord Jagannath at Chhatia is a modern piece of Orissan temple architecture. Nearby one can find the archaeological remains of Amravati-Kataka, one of the five important forts of Chodaganga Deva. Amaravati with the back drop of the hill “Dhania” presents an attractive sight.

Jajpur: Otherwise known as Vaitarani Tirtha, Jajpur with Goddess Viraja (Durga) as its presiding deity is one of the sacred places of pilgrimage in Orissa. The place has its unique importance in India as Navigaya Kshetra where pinda is offered for the satisfaction of the ancestors. The shrine of Sweta Varaha (the white boar incarnation of Vishnu) along with hundreds of other shrines here made Jajpur a Tirtha par excellence. The “Dasavamedha Ghat”, the flight of steps leading to the Vaitarani where the ten horse sacrifices were performed is a great sanctified spot for the Hindus.

Ansupa: Ansupa the small but picturesque lake holds a prominent position in the tourist map of Orissa and offers an asylum to the migratory birds in winter. The play of the shadow of Saranda mountain and surrounding bamboo and mango groves on the rippling waters of Ansupa make it a real thing of beauty. One can have a boat journey or go for fishing in the lake.

Ratnagiri Lalitgiri Udayagir: These three hills comprise a remarkable buddhist complex. Hieun-T’sang, the Chinese pilgrim found it to be the seat of a flourishing Buddhist University called “Puspagiri”. Extensive ruins of brick pagodas, sculptured stone portals and esoteric Buddhist images testifying its ancient glory have been unearthed. Ratnagiri is the gem of this complex. The magnificently carved door jambs of the Vihar and superbly finished Buddha images from perhaps the greatest concentration of Buddhist sculpture of the post-Gupta period. Ratnagiri is 70 kms, Lalitgiri is 55 kms and Udayagiri is 60 kms from Cuttack.

Dhavaleswar: A small island in the Mahanadi, the temple of Dhavaleswar is situated on a hillock. Though a new structure, sculptures of 10 / 11th century A.D. are found in the temple premises.

The Beach: The fine white sands of Puri beach and the roar of the breakers rolling in from the Bay of Bengal have fascinated visitors throughout the years. The local fishermen, with their catamarans and wide-brimmed cane hats, are also expert masseurs. With excellent hotels and guesthouses, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot.
Memorable moments : Puri offers tourists the rare opportunity of witnessing the colourful sunrise and sunset on the same beach where they can bathe and relax around for hours on its golden sands. Also a marine drive is there to konark and bramhagiri.
The local fishermen, with their catamarans and wide brimmed cane hats are welcomed by tourists for they not only provide you with a ride on their boats but also act as lifeguards if you wish. And yes,they are also expert masseurs. With excellent beach facing hotels and guest houses, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot where you can easily spend a lot of time.
The southern end of the beach has the Swargadwara, Gateway to heaven where one can pick seashell items miniature stone sculptures and woodcarvings.
The Puri Beach Festival, with Tourism of Orissa tour packages, offers a kaleidoscopic view of Orissa’s cultural heritage and modern lifestyle. Modeled on the Goa Festival, the Puri Beach Festival has its own energy and positive vibes that will make you drop your guard and enjoy every single moment of your stay in Puri, Orissa during the Puri Beach Festival.
The Puri Beach Festival is held over 5 days, in the month of November, on the Puri beach that is a popular tourist and pilgrimage destination on its own. Come festival season and the popular Puri Beach is transformed into the well-lit colorful venue for the Puri Beach Festival. The festival gives you a chance to explore the nuances of the inhabitants of Puri, Orissa, who display a radical attitude towards changing environs and are yet deeply religious and conservative at heart.

HOW TO REACH THERE:
BY RAIL: From Calcutta, New Delhi, Tirupati and Ahmedabad there are direct trains to reach Puri. Puri is a terminus on the East Coast Railway having direct express and super fast train links with New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Okha, Ahmedabad, Tirupati etc. Some important trains are Kolkata (Howrah) Puri Howrah Express, Jagannath Express; New Delhi; Purushottam Express. The station is about one km North of the town. Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available to get you to your hotel from there.

BY ROAD: By Road Puri is 60-km from Bhubaneswar and 35-km from Konark on Marine Drive.

Places to stay:
Toshali Sands (link)
Niladri Hotel
Sterling Puri Resorts
Hotel Holiday Resort
Mayfair Hotels & Resorts
Nilanchal Ashok
Pearl Beach Club & Resort
The Hans Coco Palms
Hotel Naren Palace
Hotel Samudra
Hotel Sea Palace
Hotel Shree Hari
Hotel Sonali
Hotel Swimming
Surya Beach Inn
Hotel Padma
Hotel Vijoya International
Hotel Arya Palace
Hotel Gandhara
Hotel Niladri
Hotel Prabhupada
Hotel Sapphire International
Hotel Sonar Bangla
Hotel Nayak Plaza
Hotel Deep Resort
Hotel Diamond Place
Hotel Gandhar
Map of Puri (including hotels) (link)

External articles:
1. Article on indiatravelogue.com (link)
2. Officially approved web site (link)
3. Pooja timings at the Puri Jagannath Temple (link)
4. Wikitravel link on Puri (link)
5. Blog with photos (link)
6. Locus Blog (link)
7. Photos of Puri from world66.com (link)
8. Photos from pbase.com (link)
9. Photos of Puri during the Snana festival (link)
10. Photos of Puri and Konark (link)
11. Photo of Puri Jagannath Temple (link)
12. Photos of Puri Jagannath temple including the four gates (link)
13. Scenes from around the temple at kalarte.com (link)
14. Photo Gallery from ebharat.in (link)




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