Jagannath Temple – Of culture and legends
The Jagannath Temple in the quaint city of Puri in Odisha is one of the most sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The presiding deities of this temple are Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. This temple is an important place of pilgrimage for people who are devotees of Lord Krishna and Lord Vishnu, and is part of the significant Char Dham pilgrimage. While most Hindu deities are carved out of stone or metal, Lord Jagannath’s idol is carved out of wood. These idols are replaced every 12 or 19 years with exact replicas carved out of wood from sacred trees.
The history of the temple
Built in the 12th century by King Anantavarman, the Jagannath Temple is famous for its annual chariot festival called the Rath Yatra. Legend goes, the original image of Lord Jagannath appeared near a banyan tree in the form of a blue jewel. It was so striking that it was believed to grant instant redemption. This is why, the Gods Dharma and Yama wanted to bury it under the earth. Later, King Indradyumna of Malwa undertook a great penance to find that image and Lord Vishnu instructed him to go to the seashore of Puri and carve out an image out of a floating log.
The Jagannath Temple complex is huge and covers an area of 400,000 sq ft. Surrounded by a high fortified wall called Meghanada Pacheri, this temple is the epitome of grace and strength. The temple has four imposing sections – Deula or the sanctum sanctorum, Mukhashala or the frontal porch, Nata mandir or the audience hall, and Bhoga Mandapa or the offerings hall. The main temple is curved, and its top is crowned by the srichakra, or the eight spoked wheel of Vishnu.
There are several smaller temples in the temple complex and also many Mandapas for religious gatherings. You will find beautiful temples like the Vimala Temple, Mahalaxmi Temple, the Kanchi Ganesh Temple, and other smaller but equally important temples inside the main temple complex.
Worshipping Lord Jagannath
Daily food offerings are made to the Lord eight times a day. The presiding deities are worshipped in an elaborate and extravagant manner everyday and especially during festivals like the Rath Yatra. This splendid festival includes a procession of three chariots bearing the idols of the three presiding deities.
The Jagannath Temple is believed to be the most authentic reflection of Indian culture. This mighty temple is not only a centre for religion, but also a place where you get utmost peace of mind.