Archive for the ‘The Temple of Jagannath’ Category

Shri Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu lord of the Universe is the supreme solace and saviour of countless devotees around the world. since time immemorial, His monumental and magnificent Shrine at Shri Purusottam-Kshetra (Puri, Orissa) one of the four major Dhamas of India has been a most sacred centre of pilgrimage and worship symbolising and uploading one of the greatest spiritual and cultural heritages of the world.
The most frrequently depicted theme involves the holy Triad of the Jagannath Temple – Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra
The Puri temple is built on a gigantic raised platform in the heart of the city, The temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high -including the 0 height of the platform. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates ,facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Lions Gate. The north, south and west facing gates are similarly known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate (also called the Khanja Gate) respectively. The north gate is mainly meant for the God himself in as much as, the logs of wood out of which, the images are fabricated, make their entry into the temple premises through this gate, when the Navakelevara ceremony takes place. The east-facing Lions Gate is the main gate. There are pyramidal structures over the four gates, which are not very old.

As we arrive at the vast open area in front of the Lions Gate (eastern gate), we see a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology Aruna is the the charioteer of the Sun-god, The world famous Konarka temple was designed in the form of a stupendous chariot and this monolithic pillar with the beautifully carved Aruna seated on its top was installed right in front of the porch of that temple. When the temple was abandoned and there was no presiding deity in it, this pillar was removed from Konarka to Puri and was fixed in front of Jagannatha temple where we see it now.

 Immediately after we get into the main gate and proceed forward, we find ourselves on a flight of steps. Locally, they are called Baisi Pahaca, which literally means, twenty-two steps. The history or rather the mystery of this flight of steps has not been unveiled. It is interesting to note that great reverence is shown to this flight of twenty-two steps. The parents bring their children & make them slowly roll over the steps from the top to the bottom ones in expectation of spiritual bliss in as much as countless devotees have walked on the steps which are believed to be throbbing with spiritual animation. 

As we cross the main entrance on the east and ascend the flight of steps leading to the main temple, we find on the left-hand side, a vast kitchen area of the temple. Some tourists rightly observe that on account of this kitchen, the Puri temple may be described as the biggest hotel of the world. 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 Bajara which is the popular name of the food selling market within the enclosure. Ananda Bajara literally means, the pleasure market.  

Historical background

 In one sense, Puri is synonymous, with Jagannatha and vice versa. For more than a century past, historians, foreign and Indian, have been trying to’ unveil the mystery of the three deities namely, Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra worshipped in the Puri temple. But the success they have achieved is almost negligible. All the same, the traditional authorities strongly hold that Jagannatha is perhaps as old as human civilization. The antiquity of Jagannatha is so much shrouded in mystery that it may take many more years for scholars to arrive at any definite conclusion. There are a number old works in Sanskrit which sing the glories of Orissa in general and of Puri in particular. A passage is frequently quoted from the Rg 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 (Voluminous works in Sanskrit containing accounts of ancient Indian history, culture, mythology, philosophy, religion, etc.) 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 shrine of Jagannatha. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata are believed to have come here and offered worship to Jagannatha. ,Some scholars hold that even Jesus Christ and Mohammed, the founders of Christianity and Islam respectively also visited Puri. But the historicity of such a view is yet to be established.
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 Orissa). There is the mention of one Jinasana in the historic Hatigumpha inscription of the emperor on the top of Udayagiri hills near Bhubaneswar and though it clearly speaks of a Jaina deity, it is often identified with Jagannatha. But reliable materials in historical form are available from the 9th century A.D. when Sankaracarya visited Puri and founded the Govardhana Matha as the eastern dhama of India.
The place where each one of the four Mathas has been established by Sankara is known by the celebrated name of dhama which literally means, a sacred place. Puri is the dhama of eastern India. It is the traditional belief that a Hindu should visit these four dhamas at least once in his life and the prevailing practice is that, after visiting the other three dhamas, one must visit Puri dhama. 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 course of their pilgrimage.
The main temple in Puri is surrounded by about 30 temples, small and big, a list of which may be seen in Chapter 8. They were Put up at different periods of history by different periods. Even to, this day, the pilgrims are generally advised by the Pandas to visit and offer worship in almost all these temples before they are taken to the Jagamohana or the porch to see the presiding deities in the sanctum sanctorum.
Jagannatha is not the only deity worshipped in the temple, though it is known as the ‘Jagannatha  Temple’. But along with Jagannatha, two others namely, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are also worshipped here. These three, constitute the basic and fundamental Trinity and are considered to be the forms and manifestations of the omni-present, omni-scient and omni-potent supreme power.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.
The majestic temple of Lord Shri Jagannatha at Puri is said to have been built by emperor Anangabhimadeva, historically identified as Angangabhima III belonging to Ganga dynasty. Some historians are of opinion that the construction was commenced during the reign of emperor Chodagangadeva, the founder of the dynastic rule in Orissa. It is described in Madala Panji, the temple chronicle of Puri that Anangabhima on contemplated to construct a temple of Srivatsa khandasala type with 100 cubits in height. But on the advice of the ministers and royal priests, the height was reduced to 90 cubits. Accordingly the temple was built, as it stands today. Babu Manamohan Ganguly has measured the height of the present temple by theodolite method and has concluded that it is 214 feet 8 inches.

The temple consists of four structures called (a) the Vimana or Bada Deula sanctum sanctorum) (b) the Jagamohan or Mukhasala (the porch), (c) the Natamandir (the audience hall) and (d) the Bhogamandap (the hall for residuary offerings) built in a row in an axial alignment in east-west direction. The temple faces the east. The Vimana is constructed in Pancharatha (temple containing five Pagas or segments) Rekha order. Rekha is the name given to a type of temple with a curvilinear spire. Out of the five Pagas or segments, the middle one is known as Raha, the two feanking pagas as Anuraha, and the two corners as Kanika. Like a full-fledged Orissan temple, it has four-fold vertical divisions, i.e. the Pitha (pedestal), the Bada (wall), the Gandi (trunk) and the Mastaka (the head).
The temple stands on a high pedestal though a major portion of it is buried in the ground. The visible portion shows three mouldings, which are richly carved. Similarly the Bada is Panchanga type i.e. consisting of five elements known respectively as Pabhaga (foot), lower Jangha (shin), Bandhana(bond), upper Jangha and Baranda. The Pabhaga consists of five usual mouldings and these mouldings are connected with vertical bands in each Paga of the Bada. These five mouldings are known in the architectural texts as Khura, Kumbha, Pata, Kani and Basanta in ascending order. 
The greatest attraction of Puri is the world famous temple of Jagannatha. It is known by many , names, viz., the Puri temple, the Srimandira, the Bada Deu1a or simply, the Jagannatha temple.The temple of Jagannatha is one of the tallest monuments in the entire. sub-continent of India and its height is about 214 feet from the ground (road) level. It stands on a ‘raised platform of stone, measuring about ten acres. It. is located in the hear! of the town and presents an imposing sight. The temple is bounded by two compound walls, the outer one known as Meghanada Pracira & the inner one known as Kurma Pracira. The present temple was built in the 12th century A.D. The temple structure is full of excellent carvings and lovely pieces of sculpture and is a fine specimen of Kalinga style of architecture. It is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Only orthodox Hindus are allowed to enter into the Temple. But the others can see portions of the enclosure from the top of the Emar Matha building, located near the east facing gate of the temple.
The largest crowd in Puri is seen during the Car Festival of Jagannatha which takes place every year some time in June-July.  Jagannatha of Puri is strikingly different from all other deities worshipped by the entire Hindu world, mainly for the reason that Jagannatha represents all the gods and goddesses known to the entire Hindu world, either directly or indirectly. He is considered to be the highest object of worship by the followers of all the religious cults that come within the purview of Hinduism. For example, he is Siva for a Saivite, Ganapati for a Ganapatya, Kalika for a Sakta and so on and so forth. This kind of integration of religious cults and creeds belonging to Hinduism is not to be seen anywhere else. 
Jagannatha represents an integration of all important Hindu cultures which flourished in India, namely, the Vedic, the Puranic, the Tantric, the Smarta and the Vaisnava, along with Jainism, Buddhism and that of the aboriginal tribes. The Vaisnavas of all schools, i.e., Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Caitanya or Mlidhva Goudiya, Radha Vallabhl, Atibadi Odisi – all have great faith in Jagannatha. The Mahaprasada (the offerings to the deities in the Puri temple) is a wonder of the Hindu world in as much as it is free from any kind of discrimination pertaining to the castes of India. Persons of all castes do partake Mahaprasada from the same plate without the least hesitation.
The main temple in Puri located on a gigantic raised platform. believed to be the base of a small hill known as Nilagiri or Blue hill is surrounded by about 30 other temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. The kitchen of the Puri temple evokes a sense of wonder in any body from any portion of the world, who come to know of it. Within a short notice of a few hours, the temple can lavishly feed with first-class boiled rice & dishes of different tastes to thousands of people at a time. It is perhaps the biggest hotel of the world.
Since the days of first Sankaracarya who visited Puri perhaps by 810 A.D. and founded the govardhana Matha, Puri has gained special significance as one of the four dhamas of India. It is the eastern dhama and one of the four Sankaracaryas of lndia stays here.It is believed that, there were 752 Mathas i.e., religious endowments, constituting institutions for the study and propagation of religious creeds in Puri. But now, about a dozen of them deserve mention. 
The second great attraction of Puri is the sea beach acclaimed to be one of the best sea beaches of the world. A number of beach complexes have developed on the sea at Puri & nearby. The sea at Puri is shallow and is therefore, highly suitable for sea-bath. But on particular days of the year, care should be taken to avoid a rush against the waves. The nolias (fisherman of the sea) will help in taking bath in the sea.
 To enable thousands of people to take bath at a time, there are four big sacred tanks in Puri. They are :-
    (i) Indradyumna
    (ii) Narendra
    (iii) Markanda
    (iv) Svetaganga
The Narendra in particular is associated with the famous Chandana Yatra of Jagannatha.Puri is an epitome of Indian philosophy,culture and religion known as Hinduism and a visit to this ancient city is a
rewarding experience.


Read Full Post »