Jagannath Temple. Temple in India, Asia

Jagannath Temple

Temple in India, Asia

Jagannath Temple, Puri Photo © srinivasan narayanan

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Jagannath Temple

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Puri Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple
Puri Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple. Photo by Arvind Balaraman
The Jagannath Temple located in the coastal town of Puri in the Indian state of Odisha (Wikipedia Article), is one of the most prominent Hindu temples of India which attracts thousands of visitors regularly. A trinity of three Hindu Gods, Jagannath, Balaram and the Goddess Subhadra are worshiped in this temple. The three deities rest on a bejeweled rostrum within the inner sanctum of the temple known as Ratnadevi. Unlike other Hindu temples, the idol of Jagannath which is worshiped in this temple is made out of wood and is ritualistically replaced after every 12 years. The name ‘Jagannath’ derives from two Sanskrit words ‘Jagat’ meaning-the Universe and ‘Nath’ meaning the Lord and therefore the name of Jagannath, the principal deity in this temple, can be translated as- Lord of the Universe.

History, Myths and Legends

According to recent researches, the construction process of this present temple was undertaken by King Anantavarman Chodaganda Deva (Wikipedia Article), the founder of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The construction of the assembly hall known as the Jaga Mohan and the pyramidal roofs known as Vimana was complete during the reign of this king within 1148 AD. However, it was not until 1174 that the temple took its present form under the reign of King Ananga Bhima Deva.
There are many legends concerning the origins of this medieval temple. Mentions of Lord Jagannath can be found as early as the ‘Rig Veda’. The Pandava Brothers of Mahabharata has supposedly visited this temple to seek blessings. This temple is said to have been visited by Indian sages since antiquity and it has been suggested that Ramanujacharya, Kabir, Tulsidas among other illustrious figures have been here.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu the founder of the Bhakti Movement spent 24 years in Puri. Along with the Rameswaram temple in the South, Bardrinath (Wikipedia Article) temple in the North, and Dwarkadhish temple in the West, the Jagannath temple of the east also forms a part of the Char-Dham or four of the holiest Hindu sites.

According to the Hindu religious texts of Brahma Purana and Skanda Purana, Lord Jagannath was secretly worshiped by a tribal king, Vishwavasu as Neela Madhaba, in some remote forest in Orissa. King Indradyumna on hearing about the deity, in a desperate attempt to locate it gave his hand in marriage to Lalita, the daughter of Vishwavasu. After much pleading Vishwavasu took Vidyapati, the priest of the King Indradyumna, blindfolded to the secret shrine of Jagannath. However, Vidyapati scattered seeds of mustard on his way to the temple so that he could locate the temple in the future after the germination of the seeds. Thereafter, when King Indradyumna made a pilgrimage to the shrine to witness and worship the deity of Neela Madhaba he found the temple empty and without the idol of Neela Madhaba, which by then, did hide himself by his celestial powers inside the Puri beach’s sand. Nevertheless, the King was so determined not to leave without having seen the deity-Neela Madhaba, he started fasting unto death when at last his prayers were answered by a celestial voice which instructed him to build a temple on that site where the idol has remained hidden near the sea. It was then that King Indradyumna made a horse sacrifice and started building the largest shrine dedicated to Lord Jagannath. Lord Brahma, the creator of the cosmos, is said to have come to consecrate this temple.

Jagannath Temple -
	Jagannath Temple
Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple. Photo by Damien Roué


Sprawling over an area of 400,000 sq feet, the Jagannath temple houses more than 120 shrines and consists of 4 distinct structures – the inner sanctum known as Garba griha or Vimana, the porch in the front is known as Mukhashala, the dancing hall or the audience hall is known as Nata Mandir or Jaga Mohan and the hall of offerings is known as Bhoga Mandapa. Standing as the tallest of all the temples in Orissa, a wheel with eight spokes known as Nila Chakra is mounted on the top of this temple. The temple compound has 4 gates known as Singahdwara or the Lion Gate, the Tiger Gate or Vyaghradwara, the Elephant Gate known as Hathidwara, and the Horse Gate or the Ashwadrara. The Lion Gate or Singahdwara is the main entrance to the temple which is flanked with two huge stone lions on either side.

The temple compound has a large number of small shrines and temples where Puja or prayer is conducted regularly. The most prominent among them is the Vimala Temple (Wikipedia Article) where the feet of the dead Sati fell according to Hindu legends. The Kanchi Ganesh Temple, the Mahalakshmi Temple, and the temples dedicated to Narasimha, Hanuman, Rama, Surya, Saraswati are also notable inside this extensively big temple complex.

Roof Tops of
	Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple
Roof Tops of Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple. Photo by Daniel Roy


A number of festivals are celebrated in this temple throughout the year, the most important of them being the Rath Yatra (Wikipedia Article) or the Chariot Festival which is celebrated in the month of June when a spectacular procession of the three deities of this temple – Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra are mounted on three huge chariots which are taken to the Gundicha Temple via the Grand Avenue of the Puri city. Vivid descriptions of this festival can also be found in many of the Puranas (Wikipedia Article).

The Chandan Yatra festival which continues for 42 days starts on the day of the Akshaya Tritiya, usually in late April and early May which marks the beginning of the construction of the chariots.

The Gods are given a ritualistic bath on the full moon of the month of Jyestha which corresponds to May or June. This ritual is known as Snana Yatra.

Every year after the Snana Yatra, the three idols of this temple go for a vacation to a secret altar known as Anavasara Ghar or Vacation room which devotees are not allowed to visit and the event is known as Anasara or Anavasara.

The Nabakalevara (Wikipedia
	Article) is one of the most pompous events associated with this temple which takes place every 8, 12 or 18 years when the idols of the three deities are buried and replaced by new ones. This festival is attended by millions of both Indians and foreigners and the budget often exceeds $500,000. The next Nabakalevara will be celebrated in 2015.

The Niladri Bije is celebrated on the last day of the Ratha Yatra when the three deities return to the main temple.

The autumnal festival of Gupta Gundicha is celebrated for 16 days when an idol of the Goddess Durga along with the Jagannath idol is taken for a tour within the temple compound for the first eight days. On the remaining eight days, the idols are carried on a palanquin to the temple of Narayani.


The temple opens as early as 5:30 AM and closes at 10.30 PM. The temple is open every day and there is no entry fee to be paid for entering.

In front of the Jagannath Temple - Jagannath
In front of the Jagannath Temple - Jagannath Temple. Photo by Damien Roué

How to Reach the Temple

The temple is situated right in the heart of the town of Puri.
Puri is an important town of the state of Odisha and it is connected by numerous trains to other important cities and religious sites of India. One can also choose to go to the state capital of Bhubaneshwar, which is just 60 km from Puri. The Biju Patnaik International Airport of Bhubaneshwar operates regular flights to other Indian cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai etc.

This temple is located on the Grand Road, Puri.

Similar Landmarks

Visitors who enjoy spiritual places like Puri should definitely visit the holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. One can also go to the Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneshwar which is another medieval architectural wonder.

Interesting facts about this temple

  • The Jagannath Temple is one of the very few Hindu Temples, that is off-limits to all Foreigners and Non-Hindus (Even if he/she is a member or devotee of the ISKON (Wikipedia
  • It is a high risk category temple in India and is protected by nearly 100 armed police personnel, 80 unarmed cops, one ASP, one DSP, one inspector, three sub-inspectors and 26 assistant sub-inspectors and is also covered for surveillance by high frequency CCTV cameras.

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    Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 03, 2015

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