The name Jagannatha or Jagannath literally means "Lord
of the Universe". It is said that the present temple was begun by
King 'Chora Ganga Deva' and finished by his descendant, 'Anangabhima
Deva', in the 12th century.
The Main Temple Structure
The main temple structure is 65m (214 feet) high and is built on elevated ground, which makes it look even larger and adds to the imposing impression you get as you first come within sight of the temple. The temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer enclosure is called "Meghanada Prachira". The walls are 6m (20 feet) high. The inner wall is called "Kurmabedha". The walls were built during the 15th or 16th century.
This temple is said to have the largest kitchen in the world and feeds thousands of devotees every day. The kitchen can prepare food for 100,000 people on a festival day and 25,000 are not unusual for a normal day. There are 36 traditional communities ('Chatisha Niyaga') who render a specific hereditary service to the Deities. The temple has as many as 6,000 priests.
The Blue Wheel
There is a wheel on top of the Jagannatha Temple made of an alloy of eight different metals known as "Asta - Dhatu". It is known as the "Nila Chakra" (blue wheel). It is 11 feet 8 inches high and has a circumference of about 36 feet. A flag is tied every day on a mast attached to the Nila Chakra. On every 'Ekadasi' day a lamp is lit on top of the temple near the wheel.
The main temple is surrounded by 30 different smaller temples. The "Narasimha temple" adjacent to the western side of the 'Mukti-Mandapa' is said to have been constructed before the present temple.
In front of the main gate is an 11m pillar, called "Aruna Stambha", which used to be in front of the Sun Temple in Konark . It was brought to Puri during the 18th century. The figure on top of the pillar is Aruna, the charioteer of the Sun God. In the passage room of this gate is a Deity of Lord Jagannatha called "Patita Pavana" (Savior of the most fallen). This Deity is visible from the road so non Hindus can take 'Darshana' of the Lord.
The Four Gate Entrance
There are four gates- the Eastern "Singhadwara" (Lion Gate), the Southern "Ashwadwara" (Horse Gate), the Western "Vyaghradwara" (Tiger Gate), and the Northern "Hastidwara" (Elephant Gate). There is a carving of each form by the entrance of each gate. The lion Gate, which is the main gate, is located on Grand Road.
Lord 'Chaitanya' used to regularly visit the Jagannatha Temple. In front of the altar of Lord Jagannatha is a column on which the statue of 'Garuda' is situated. It is called the "Garuda Stambha" and is very revered and worshiped, as 'Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu' usually saw Lord Jagannatha from a distance behind this column. Behind that column is a moat-like 'Kunda', or ditch, which was sometimes filled with Lord Chaitanya's tear. Also an impression of Lord Chaitanya's own handprint is found imbedded in the column.
It has been said that "If one is not allowed to enter the temple, or if he thinks himself unfit to enter the temple, he can look at the 'Chakra' and wheel from outside, and that is as good as seeing the Deity." (Cc. M.11.195) Non-Hindus (non-Indians) cannot enter the temple. Only Indians are allowed in the vicinity of the temple the people only over here only speak in Hindi or Oriya.
A Simple And Sober Touch
Scholars, however, were long puzzled by the plain facade on this holiest of holy temples, and wondered why it was untouched by Orissa's rich sculptural heritage. The answer was found in 1975, when archaeologists first began removing the plaster, and found that the sculpture underneath indeed rivals that of the other masterpieces of Orissan temple art.
The best guess as to the reason for applying the plaster originally is that an 18th century ruler decided that this would be a way to protect the temple from the ravages of the salty sea air. Succeeding rulers continued the practice. As the old plaster is being removed, archaeologists are also repairing the corroded iron dowels in the original structure, and replacing broken stones with new ones. Finally, a clear, thin coating is being applied to the entire structure, to preserve it for the centuries to come.
Because of the temple's intense religious importance and hallowed traditions, entrance is forbidden to non-Hindus.
To have a good view of the temple and its compound, visitors are welcome to ascend to the roof of the Raghunandan Library, which is across the street.
Lord Jagannatha & Other Deities
The main Deities in the temple are Lord Jagannatha, his brother, Baladeva, and His sister, Lady Subhadra. Lord Jagannatha is another name for Lord Krishna.
According to popular saying - "Being absolute, Lord Jagannatha is identical with His name, form, picture, qualities, and pastimes. If one thinks that the form of Lord Jagannatha is an idol made of wood, he immediately brings ill fortune into his life. A pure devotee who knows the science of Krishna Consciousness makes no distinctions between Lord Jagannatha and the actual form of the Lord. He knows that they are identical, just as Lord Krishna and his soul are one and the same."
Some of the other temples within the walls of this temple house Deities of 'Satya Narayana', Lord 'Chaitanya', 'Ramachandra', 'Gopala', Hanuman, 'Narsimha', 'Varaha' and others.
TEMPLE COMPOUND SITES
Baisipahacha - Twenty-two steps that take one from Grand Road and connect the inner and outer wall. Great respect is given to these steps because many devotees pass here and the dust of their feet sanctifies the steps.
Kalpavata- Kalpa means a thousand years and 'Vata' means banyan tree. It is towards the south side of the temple. It is supposed to be able to fulfill all desires.
Muktimandapa- It is a 16-pillar hall known as "Brahmasava" (divine assembly).
Niladri Vihar- Approach from the western gate, it is situated between the outer and inner enclosure. It is an art gallery, which shows the pastimes of Lord Jagannatha as well as the 12 incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Sona Kua (Golden Well)- Near the northern gate. The water of this well is used to bath Lord Jagannatha during "Snana-Yatra".
Koila Vaikuntha - In the western portion of the temple between the outer and inner walls. It is approachable from the northern gate. During 'Nava-Kalevara' (new incarnation ceremony), when Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra are newly carved, the old images are buried here.
After you come up the 22 steps by the Lion (main) Gate, on the right is Ananda Bazaar, where 'Maha-Prasada' is purchased.
The main temple is the home of Their Lordships Balabhadra (white), Subhadra (yellow), and Jagannatha (black). They are seated on the "Ratna Singhasan". Devotees can circumambulate the Deities between 8.30 and 9.30 am.
Mukhasala - Next to the main temple in a straight line is the hall of audience, which can be entered through 4 audiences, which can be entered through 4 separate doors. The 'Kalaghata' door leads to the sanctum sanctorum. The southern door leads out of the temple and the northern to the 'Ratna Bhandar' (Treasury house).
Nata Mandira - This is a spacious hall, 21m (65 feet) in length and 20m (61 feet) wide. This is where the "Garuda Stambha" is located, where Lord Chaitanya used to stand. It is believed that the potency of a devotee's prayers to the Lord becomes increased while he stands near this sacred pillar.
Bhoga Mandap - Next to Nata Mandira, it is a spacious hall, 18m in length and 17m wide. There are sculptures and paintings about Lord Krishna's pastimes and other stories in this hall.
TEMPLE TOURS & TEMPLE PANDAS
When one first enters the viewing area to see Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra, one is at a good distance from the Deities. With the help of a temple 'Panda' (Brahmin guide) one can get a closer view of Lord Jagannatha. The visitor gets his help by giving a donation. When one gets fairly close to the altar one will be approached for a donation for the Deities.
HOW TO VIEW THE TEMPLE
One can get a view of the temple from the 'Jaya Balia' lodge or the roof of the "Raghunandan" Library on Grand Road, opposite the main entrance of the temple. One can also view some ancient leaf books in the library for a small donation. The library is open from 9 am to 8 pm. One can get a good photograph of the temple from the library.
Lord Jagannatha's 'Maha-Prasada' is pure vegetarian spiritual food offered to Lord Jagannatha. Just by honoring this Maha-Prasada one makes great spiritual advancement. Every day 56 varieties of Prasada are offered to lord Jagannatha. The main offering of the day becomes available anywhere from 3 to 5 pm. The offering times are not exact and change every day. Maha-Prasada should ideally be eaten while sitting on the floor, rather than standing or sitting at a table.
To get Maha-Prasada, one can go to the main gate of the temple on Grand Road. While ordering for the Maha-Prasada one should make it clear how much rice one wants.. Normally Maha-Prasada means a few small pots of 'Subji' (vegetable), 'Dahl' and a pot of rice ten times the size of the small Subji pots.
In the bazaar area surrounding the temple, dozens of shops display and sell images of the central temple deity, Lord Jagannath, presented in a trinity with his 'brother' Balbhadra and his 'sister' Subhadra. Even the non-Hindu visitor to Puri will feel some of the power of this throbbing pilgrimage center. The bazaar streets immediately surrounding the temple are filled with activity and bustle, but it is all infused with a palpable sense of gentleness and good spirit.