Monday, 23 April 2012

Shri Jagannath Puri, 5th & 6th April 2012

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 with almost negligible success. The traditional authorities strongly hold that Jagannatha is perhaps as old as human civilization. There are a number of old works in Sanskrit which sing the glories 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 present elaborate accounts pertaining to the origin of Jagannatha in an atmosphere of mystery and divine inspiration. 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 (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.
The main temple in Puri is surrounded by about 30 small & big temples put up at different periods of history.
Though it is known as the 'Jagannatha Temple' two other deities 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 omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent 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 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 heart 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

(a) Narendra

(ai) 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.


The deities of the Puri temple are generally known as the Trimurti (trinity) and also as Chaturdhamurti, stated in Chap-3. Some scholars think that originally there was only image of Jagannatha as the object of worship called Nila Madhava and when Nila Madhava disappeared, king Indradyumna fabricated the body of Jagannatha out of a log of wood that was picked up from the sea, as per a divine direction. Scholars suggesting that originally there, were only two deities, cite the example of a temple found in the Cuttack district in Orissa belonging perhaps to the seventh century A.D., where the images only of Jagannatha and Balabhadra have been carved and Subhadra is not to be seen there.

It is, therefore, believed that when there was a great resurgence of Saktism from the 7th century onwards, there was a successful attempt to instal an image of the mother goddess (Durga or Sakti) in the Puri temple by the side of Jagannatha. According to some others, installation of the image of Durga or Sakti, who is also known as Bhadra, Mangala etc., might have taken place during the visit of Sankaracarya to Puri. In the Konarka temple built in the 13th century A.D. about a century later than the Puri temple, there is a panel of three images. Jagannatha is seen in the middle and to his left is Durga killing demon Mahisa, while to his rjght is A linga (phallus) representing Siva. From this, it is deduced by some scholars that this might have been the original trio of the Puri temple, indicating the equal importance to Vaisnavism, Saktism and Saivism. In such a case, it is deduced that originally there was one image representing Visnu or Madhava and Siva and Durga were added subsequently.

There is another theory that Bhadra or Mangala (Durga) came to be called Subhadra and at the time of Vaisnavite preponderance, she was introduced as Krisna's sister, whose name is also Subhadra. Similarly one of the names of Siva is Virabhadra. Somehow, at a time of Vaisnavic efflorescence, he was transformed into Balabhadra. The second half Of this name i.e., 'Bhadra' was retained and the first half was substituted by Bala.When he was thus called Balabhadra, he was introduced as the elder brother of Krisna.

The Puranic texts mention that the original images of Puri consisted of Laksmi and Visnu known as Purusottama. a twin figure. Some literary works, bear testimony to this view too.


Originally, Jagannatha was worshipped as Nila Madhava by an aboriginal chief secretly at this spot, while it was covered with dense forest. It was Indradyumna, who made him a public deity. The story goes, there was a king in Malwa in central India, Indradyumna by name. He was a great devotee to Visnu. For those who are not acquainted with the names of Hindu gods and goddesses, it may be stated here that the Hindus believe in the cosmic trio namely Brahma, Visnu and Siva. Brahma is the creator of the universe, Visnu is the sustainer and Siva is the destroyer. Indradyumna developed in him a rather queer and eccentric desire to see Visnu in his most perfect form on the face of the earth. He had a divine communication in dream that Visnu could be seen in his best form in Utkala (another name of ancient Orissa). So, he deputed Vidyapati, the brother of the royal priest, to spot out the place where Visnu had such a manifestation and to report his findings to him. Accordingly, Vidyapati visited Orissa and after laborious search, came to know that Visnu known by the highly connotative name of Nila Madhava, was being worshipped somewhere on a hill in a dense forest. This was also an image of extraordinary lusture. Vidyapati could also know that Nila Madhava was the family-deity of Visvavasu, a Savara (an aboriginal tribe) chief. So great was the secrecy maintained about the location of Nila Madhava that Visvavasu refused on request to show Vidyapati the place of his worship. Later still, this Brahmin married Lalita, the daughter of the aboriginal chief, but even then, he was not shown the deity. At last, at the request of his beloved daughter, he took his son-in-law blindfolded to a cave on a hillock where Nila Madhava was being worshipped. As Vidyapati was made to go through the forest on foot, he could somehow manage to drop mustard seeds on the ground. As the seeds germinated after a few days, Vidyapati could easily trace the way to the lonely cave of Nila Madhava.

Thereafter, Vidyapati returned to Malwa and described his experiences to Indradyumna who immediately set out on a pilgrimage to Orissa. But, lo ! when he reached this holy land, he found that Nila Madhava had miraculously disappeared. When he was thus in a state of deep sorrow, he received a divine direction to go to the sea-shore at Puri and to draw ashore a log of wood that would be floating on the waves. From this divine log, the body of Jagannatha, who is no other than Visnu himself, was to be fabricated in a befitting manner. All this came to pass as per the divine indication and a log of wood brought from the sea was ready for fabrication of the image of Jagannatha . out of it. But there was none to be entrusted with the work, since nobody could say that he had seen Visnu and could convince the king as to how Visnu could be fabricated in his best form out of a log of wood. At last, Visnu took pity on his great devotee an~ appeared before him as an old carpenter. After some discussion, he could evoke confidence in the king about his capabilities. As per his suggestion; it was decided that he should be allowed to remain in a closed room with the log of wood for long twenty one days to do the needful. He gave a severe warning that under no circumstances should he be disturbed or the door be opened within the specified date. The story goes, after fifteen days, Gundica, the queen, being very kind-hearted, could not resist the temptation to persuade the king to open the door as she apprehended that the carpenter might have died by then, as, no sound of any kind was heard from within. Thus, when the door was opened at the king's command, no trace of the carpenter could be found and all that could be seen was a set of four wooden images in incomplete form, i.e., the form in which we see and worship the images of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarsana at present.


Jagannatha is worshipped as Daru 'Brahma. 'Daru in Sankrit, means wood or timber and Brahma means the all pervading soul, the universal life force, the God of gods. It has been said earlier that the idol of Jagannatha is made of a log of wood. It is the margosa tree, the trunk of which is used to fabricate the body of Jagannatha. But it is not merely this log of wood or the image that is worshipped with so much of reverence. What is known as Brahma in Jagannatha is something unseen: that is there in his body. In that part of the log of wood which represents the substance of the image, there is a cavity wherein a casket containing something unknown has been kept. Thus, that Daru or the wooden image containing this Brahma is called Daru Brahma.

The Puri temple had been attacked many a time and the accounts may be read in the pages of history, the property of Jagannatha was looted. The images on most occasions were carried to distant places underground through forests. But the Brahma placed within the images remained untouched by the enemies and were thus saved from desecration.

There are many theories about this unseen thing called Brahma. Some say it is a tooth of Buddha. Others say, it is an image of Vishnu made of some precious Slone. Some others hold that it is a very rare variety of Salagrama Sila (a piece of stone generally black in color, worshipped as the representative image of Visnu). But the fourth view is very important. We are told on the basis of ,poetical works written in Orissa about five centuries ago, which again is based on popular traditions that a piece of the bone of Krisna incarnation, who was cremated by the Pandavas after he was killed by Jara Savara and some portions of whose body did not catch fire and therefore remained unburnt, is there in a casket in the body of Jagannatha. Those who want lo know more may contact the scholars on the subject.


The Jagannath Temple Administration, keeping in mind the needs of the devotees, has come up with “Nilachal Bhakta Nivas” a brand new guest house.

Right on the Grand Road and adjacent to the temple, the guest house has great locational advantages. It is only minutes away from the railway station, bus stop and the beach. The guesthouse offers 26 modern equipped A/C. Rooms and 2 nos. of VIP Suits, 24 hours hot & cold water, with TV. Other facilities include round the clock service, lift, banking, power backup and well managed security system.

The luxury of the guesthouse packed with advantages is available at an amazingly affordable price.

More over, when you stay here, you make a big contribution to the maintenance and development of the temple as a substantial portion from the earnings of the guesthouse will go to the temple as offering.

For Booking Details Please contact :

Sri Jagannath Temple Office, Grand Road, Puri - 752 001
Phone : 222053 / 220 501
Cell : 9861444677, 94372 84108, 9938213839
email :

How to Reach :
Puri is well connected by Air & Railways.
Nearest Airport is at Bhubaneshwar about 63 kms from the temple town. Bhubaneshwar is well connected by Air to all major cities.
Nearest Railhead is Puri (PURI)
Distance by Rail from Major cities

Distance (Kms)
New Delhi

Places to Visit

Chilka Lake

Sun Temple Konark


The Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, is devoted to the worship of Lord Lingaraja. Unison of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, the presiding Svayambhu linga makes the Lingaraja Temple a worship place for all Hindu sects. The influence of the 180 feet high main tower (deul) exerts its influence on all aspects of life in the city of Bhubaneswar just as the name of Lord Lingaraja (also known as Tribhubaneswar) resounds through the streets of Orissa.
Though open to Hindus only for its status as an active worshiping site, the stunning example of temple architecture in India can also be studied from the viewing platform next to the temple.
The Lingaraja Temple dates back to the 11th century but some of the remains within the complex suggest that a stone temple, dating back to the 7th century, stood on the same ground. There are nearly 150 exquisitely carved temples within the Lingaraja Temple complex.
The sculpted spire (deul) of the main temple in the Lingaraja Temple complex is replicated in the turrets of the temple. The Jagmohana (porch), Natya Mandira (dance hall) and Bhoga-Manda (offering hall) are other structures that have become a standard part of Orissa's temple architecture. On your tour to Lingaraja Temple, Orissa, you can see and admire these fabulous relics of Orissa's architectural style that are famous world over for its sculptures depicting religious activities of the temple lined along the temple walls.


Anonymous said...

Vineet, Great infromation; well done.

Vineet Tiwari said...

Thanks a lot.