Jagannath Temple holds great importance among the Hindus and especially in those of the Vaishnava traditions. The site is located on the eastern coast of India, at Puri in the state of Odisha. Many great saints, such as Adi Shankaracharya, Ramananda and Ramanuja were closely associated with the temple. It is an extraordinarily mysterious temple with a huge followership also due to being one of the ‘Char’ Dham temples.
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The Rath Yatra
According to the legends, Shree Jagannath wishes to visit his birthplace Mathura for a few days, every year. To fulfill this desire of his, this Yatra is conducted each year from Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple. It is believed that during this festival, Lord Jagannath Temple Rath Yatra comes out of their holy abode and gives Darshana (holy view) to the people.One of the most-awaited festivals in the Orissa state as well as in India, Jagannath Rath Yatra is an annual event, which is celebrated in the month of June or July. It is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra. It is also called Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.
Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra are worshiped in this holy temple. The temple in Jagannath Puri is possibly the world’s only temple with the statues of three deities who are siblings – Sri Krishna, Balaram, and Subhadra.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.
Char Dhams are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri, and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime. The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of four Vaishnavite pilgrimages. Jagannath Temple is one of the four great ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimage sites.
The Titanic Chakra
Nobody knows the technique of how it was installed. The Sudarshan Chakra standing at the top of the temple is 20 feet in height and weighs a ton. It is said to be visible from every corner of the city and it is installed in such a way that it makes you feel that it is facing toward you irrespective of the place you are in. The chakra was brought all way up and installed on the Gopuram 2000 years ago. The engineering techniques used at that time remain a mystery today.
A complex with 120 Temples
The vast temple complex occupies an area of over 400000 square feet and is bounded by a 20 feet high fortified wall. This complex contains about 120 temples and shrines. The shikhara of the Jagannath temple towers to a height of 192 feet.
Structurally the temple has 4 chambers.The outermost is the Bhogmandir which is also Offerings Hall. The next is the Nata-mandir pillared hall which is also known as the Jaganmohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall) Then, the Jagamohana, the mandapa where devotees gather for worship and the last one is Deula, Vimana or Garba Sriha – Sanctum where the triad deities are lodged on the ‘Ratnavedi’ (Throne of Pearls).
Unlike the stone and metal icons found in most Hindu temples, the image of Jagannath is made of wood. Legend has it that the original image of Jagannath was found at the foot of a big tree, in the form of an Indranila (The Blue Jewel). It’s blinding brightness prompted Dharma to request it to be hidden in the earth. King Indradyumna, of Malwa intending to discover this image, performed severe penances, and was instructed by Vishnu to go to the Puri seashore, and look for a floating log, and fashion an image from its trunk. The King did discover the log of wood. Vishnu and Vishwakarma appeared in the form of artists and prepared images of Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra from the tree. Interestingly, the wooden images being worshipped are renewed during special occasions.
Char Dwars (4 Gates)
The Temple wall is surrounded by four gates, facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Singahdwara or The Lions Gate, which is also the main gate for the entrance. 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.