The focal point of Puri
is of course the temple and the sea. Still for those with the outdoor itch
several other interesting visits can be undertaken. They are generally
easily accessible by taxi, auto rickshaw and cycle rickshaw and guided
8-kms from Puri, away from the crowds and the bustle, fringed by beautiful casuarina trees, Balghai beach , at the mouth of the River Nuanai, is an often-visited picnic spot. It's a lovely place to sit and relax.
Only 14-kms from Puri, Raghurajpur is a craftsman's village famous for 'Patta Chitra' or Patta paintings. A living tradition followed by skilled craftsmen, it draws its inspiration from mythological themes, from the stories of the 'Mahabharata', the Ramayana, Radha Krishna and Lord Jagannatha. Those interested in collecting souvenirs will come across exquisite pieces and easy bargains.
Saksi Gopala Temple
This is an important Krishna temple that is dedicated to 'Saksi Gopala'. Saksi Gopala means the witness Gopala. This Deity was originally in 'Vrindavana' . Both Sri Chaitanya and 'Srila Prabhupada' visited this temple. Although Srila Prabhupada was accompanied by a group of western disciples, the current strictly enforced temple policy is that non-Hindus are not allowed inside. This temple is 10-km west of Jagannatha Puri. One can take a train to this spot, as it is a stop on the Puri-Bhubaneswar line. One can also take a bus or a taxi.
Ratha-Yatra (Car) Festival
During this festival the Deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra are carried out of the temple. It takes at least six big strongly built 'Pujaris' (priests) to carry these enormous forms of the Lord. The Deities are then placed upon three gigantic chariots, which are pulled with ropes by many thousands of devotees who come from all over India for this occasion.
This famous festival begins from the second day of the bright fortnight of 'Asadha' during June/July. The Deities are pulled on Their huge carts along the entire distance of Grand Road from the Jagannatha temple to the Gundicha temple, a distance of about 3-km. The Deities stay at Gundicha temple for 9 days and return to the main temple on the 10th day. This is called "Bahuda-Yatra", return cart festival. The festivals-cart and return cart-are the only opportunities in the year that non-Hindus have to see the Deity of Lord Jagannatha.
Chandana-Yatra is when the processional Deities are taken for a boat ride in the Narendra Tank after they are bathed in sandalwood ('Chandan') scented water. The festival lasts 42 days. The first 21 days are called "Baha Chandana". During these days Rama, Krishna, Madana Mohana, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are taken on boat rides. The last 21 days are called "Bhittara Chandana", and this festival takes place in the temple.
Snana-yatra is when the main Deities are bathed. This is done on 'Jyestha Purnima'. The main Deities along with 'Sudarsana' are bought to the 'Snana-Mandapa' in a procession called "Pahandi", and around mid-day 108 pots of water are poured on the Deities. The Deities go back into the temple in a procession and stay in seclusion for 15 days, as they are said to have caught a cold during this bathing ceremony and need the seclusion in order to recuperate.
The word Anavasar is used when Sri Jagannathaji cannot be seen in the temple. During His recovery and convalescence, he is removed to His private apartment and offered special healing foodstuffs. During the Anavasara festival it is said that Lord Jagannatha suffers from fever and is offered an infusion of "drugs in the form of soups and fruit juices.
The body of Lord Jagannatha, having been washed, is in need of yearly repainting. This is known as "Anga-Raga". It takes about two weeks to complete the repairs of Lord Jagannatha's body. The renovation festival is also called "Navayauvana", which indicates that the Jagannatha Deity is being fully restored to youth.
"Nava-Kalevara" is when Lord Jagannatha gets a new body. This takes place whenever a double 'Asarha' occurs in a year. This usually happens every 8, 11, or 19 years.