The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath (Vishnu) and located in the coastal town of Puri in the state of Orissa, India. The name Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) is a combination of the Sanskrit words Jagat (Universe) and Nath (Lord of).The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for many Hindu traditions, particularly worshippers of Krishna and Vishnu, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimages that a Hindu is expected to make in one's lifetime . The temple was built in the 11th century atop its ruins by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Since medieval times, it is also associated with intense religious fervour.
According to recently discovered copper plates from the Ganga dynasty, the construction of the current Jagannath Temple was initiated by the ruler of Kalinga, Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev.The Jagamohana and the Vimana portions of the temple were built during his reign (1078 - 1148 CE). However, it was only in the year 1174 CE that the Oriya ruler Ananga Bhima Deva rebuilt the temple to give a shape in which it stands today. Jagannath worship in the temple continued until 1558, when Orissa was attacked by the Afghan general Kalapahad. Subsequently, when Ramachandra Deb established an independent kingdom at Khurda in Orissa, the temple was consecrated and the deities reinstalled.
Chakra, idols of Madanmohan, Sridevi and Vishwadhatri are also placed on the Ratnavedi. The deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan Chakra are made from sacred Neem logs known as Daru Bramha. Depending on the season the deities are adorned in different garbs and jewels. Worship of the deities pre-date the temple structure and may have originated in an ancient tribal shrine. The traditional story concerning the origins of the temple is that here the original image of Jagannath (a deity form of Vishnu) at the end of Krita yuga manifested near a banyan tree, near seashore in the form of an Indranila nilamani or the Blue Jewel. It was so dazzling that it could grant instant moksha, so the god Dharma or Yama wanted to hide it in the earth,and was successful.In Dvapara Yuga King Indradyumna of Malwa wanted to find that mysterious image and to do so he performed harsh penances to obtain his goal. Vishnu then instructed him to go to the Puri seashore and find a floating log to make an image from its trunk. The King found the log of wood. He did a yajna from which god Yajna Nrisimha appeared and instructed that Narayana should be made as fourfold expansion, i.e. Paramatma as Vasudeva, his Vyuha as Samkarshana, Yogamaya as Subhadra, and his Vibhava asSudarsana. Vishwakarma appeared in the form of artist and prepared images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the tree.
The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2), and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. It contains at least 120 temples and shrines. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India.The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the 'srichakra' (a eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. Among the existing temples in Orissa, the temple of Shri Jagannath is the highest. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape. The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls, or mandapas, rise in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks. The main shrine is enclosed by a 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall. Another wall also surrounds the main temple called as "Meghanada pacheri'.
The Singahdwara, which in Sanskrit means The Lion Gate, is one of the four gates to the temple and forms the Main entrance. The Singhadwara is so named because two huge statues of crouching lions exist on either side of the entrance. The gate faces east opening on to the Bada Danda or the Grand Road.The Baisi Pahacha or the flight of twenty two steps leads into the temple complex. An idol of Jagannath known as Patitapavana, which in Sanskrit, means the "Saviour of the downtrodden and the fallen" is painted on the right side of the entrance.
The central forms of Jagannath, Balabhadra and the goddess Subhadra constitute the trinity of deities sitting on the bejewelled platform or the Ratnavedi in the inner sanctum. The Sudarshan Chakra, idols of Madanmohan, Sridevi and Vishwadhatri are also placed on the Ratnavedi. The deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan Chakra are made from sacred Neem logs known as Daru Bramha. Depending on the season the deities are adorned in different garbs and jewels. Worship of the deities pre-date the temple structure and may have originated in an ancient tribal shrine.Legendary account as found in the Skanda-Purana, Brahma Purana and other Puranas and later Oriya works state that Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped as Lord Neela Madhav by a Savar king ( tribal chief ) named Viswavasu.
Daily offerings are made to the Lord six times a day. These include:
The offering to the Lord in the Morning that forms His breakfast and is called The Gopala Vallabha Bhoga.
The Sakala Dhupa forms his next offering at about 10 O' clock in the morning Sakala Dhupa.This generally consists of 13 items including the Enduri cake & Mantha puli.
Bada Sankhudi Bhoga forms the next repast & the offering consists of Pakhala with dahi and Kanji payas. The offerings are made in the bhog mandapa, about 200 feet from the Ratna Vedi. This is called Chatra Bhog and was introduced by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century to help pilgrims share the temple food.
The Madhyanha dhupa forms the next offering at the noon.
The next offering to the Lord is made in the evening at around 8 o'clock it is Sandhya Dhupa.
The last offering to the Lord is called the Bada Simhara Dhupa. Breakfast is a seven item treat — Khua, Lahuni, sweetened coconut grating, coconut water, and puffed rice sweetened with sugar known as khai and curd and bananas.
The Mahaprasad of Lord Jagannath are distributed amongst the devotees near the Ratnavedi in side the frame of Phokaria which is being drawn by the Puja pandas using Murujexcept for the Gopal Ballav Bhog and Bhog Mandap Bhoga which are distributed in the Anabsar Pindi & Bhoga Mandap respectively.
There are elaborate daily worship services. There are many festivals each year attended by millions of people. The most important festival is the Rath Yatra or the Chariot festival in June. This spectacular festival includes a procession of three huge chariots bearing the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra through the Bada Danda meaning the Grand Avenue of Puri till their final destination the Gundicha Temple. On Akshaya Tritiya every year the Chandan Yatra festival marks the commencement of the construction of the Chariots of the Rath Yatra. On the Purnima of the month of Jyestha the Gods are ceremonially bathed and decorated every year on the occasion of Snana Yatra. Many other festivals like Dol Yatra in spring and Jhulan Yatra in monsoon are celebrated by temple every year.Pavitrotsava and Damanaka utsava are celebrated as per panchanga or panjika.There are special ceremonies in the month of Kartika and Pausha.
In a year that has two months of Ashadh which is usually once in twelve to nineteen years the wooden idols of the deities are replaced during the Nabakalevara ceremony. The annual shodasha dinatmaka, or 16 day puja beginning 8 days prior to Mahalaya of Ashwin month for goddess Vimala and ending on Vijayadashami,is of great importance,in which both the utsava murty of lord Madanmohan and Vimala take part.
Shrikshetra of Puri Jagannath, as is commonly known, can verily be said to be a truthful replica of Indian culture. To understand this culture, one has to have some idea of the history of this land, which again is different from that of other countries of the world. Starting from Lord Jagannath himself, history has it that he was a tribal deity, adorned by the Shabaras, as a symbol of Narayan. Another legend claims him to be Nilamadhava, an image of Narayana made of blue stone and worshipped by the aboriginals. He was brought to Nilagiri (blue mountain) or Nilachala and installed there as Shri Jagannath in company with Balabhadra and Subhadra.
The images made of wood are also claimed to have their distant linkage with the aboriginal system of worshipping wooden poles.To cap it all the Daitapatis, who have a fair share of responsibilities to perform rituals of the Temple, are claimed to be descendants of the aboriginals or hill tribes of Orissa. So we may safely claim that the beginning of the cultural history of Shrikshetra is found in the fusion of Hindu and Tribal Cultures. This has been accepted as a facet of our proud heritage. The three deities came to be claimed as the symbols of Samyak Darshan, Samyak Jnana and Samyak Charita usually regarded as Triratha (of the Jain cult), an assimilation of which leads to Moksha (salvation) or the ultimate bliss...
The temple's kitchen is considered as the largest kitchen in India. Tradition maintains that all food cooked in the temple kitchens are supervised by the Goddess Mahalakshmi,the empress of Srimandir herself. It is said that if the food prepared has any fault in it a shadow dog appears near the temple kitchen.The temple cooks or Mahasuaras take this as a sign of displeasure of Mahalakshmi with the food which is promptly buried and a new batch cooked. All food is cooked following rules as prescribed by Hindu religious texts. Cooking is done only in earthen pots with water drawn from two special wells near the kitchen called Ganges and Yamuna.
There are total 56 varieties of naivedhyas offered to the deities,near ratnavedi as well as in bhoga mandap on five particular muhurtas.The most awaited prasad is kotho bhoga or abadha,offered at mid-day at around 1 pm,depending upon temple rituals. The food after being offered to Jagannath is distributed at reasonable amount as Mahaprasad,which considered as divine to devotees in the Ananda Bazar located to the North-east of the Singhadwara inside the temple complex.