Jagannath Puri is a temple city in the Indian state of Odisha located 60 kms from Bubhaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha on the seashore of Bay of Bengal. Jagannath Puri is one of the four holy Dhamas of India along with Dwarka, Rameshwaram and Badrinath.
Jagannath Puri is the spiritual capital of Odisha and also known by other names such as Sri Purushottama Kshetra, Martya Vaikuntha or the abode of Lord Vishnu on Earth, Srikshetra, Nilachal, Nilagiri, Shankha Kshetra or Jagannatha Dhama. This holy city finds mention in various ancient texts such as Rig Veda, Kurma Purana, Narada Purana, Padma Purana and the Vishnu Khanda of the Skanda Purana.
The most significant aspect of Jagannath Puri is the Jagannath Temple which is famous for it’s huge Deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Devi Subhadra and Their annual Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) which is the largest religious gathering on the planet. The Puri Ratha Yatra attracts devotees from all over the world.
History of Jagannath Puri
Puri was the capital of the province of Odisha and the headquarters of the Collector till 1816. The ancient city of Purushottama Kshetra was established by King Indradyumna after the installation of the Deities of Lord Jagannath. Over the period of long years, the city has been looted and destroyed by Muslim rulers and rebuilt and reestablished by various Kings. The Jagannath Temple was invaded eighteen times during its history to loot the temple treasures. However, the Deities were taken to safe places by the head priests during the time of invasion.
Since the days of first Sankaracharya who visited Jagannath Puri perhaps by 810 A.D. and founded the Govardhana Matha, Puri has gained special significance as one of the four dhamas of India. It is the eastern dhama and one of the four Sankaracaryas of lndia stays here. It is believed that, there were 752 Mathas i.e., religious endowments, constituting institutions for the study and propagation of religious creeds in Puri. But now, about a dozen of them deserve mention. The arrival of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a great Gaudiya Vaishnava saint from Bengal in the 14th century increased the significance of the Bhakti movement with Puri as one of the major seats of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. As per the scriptures, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Places to visit in Jagannath Puri
Devotees can visit the following temples in Jagannath Puri:
Jagannath Temple, the main attraction of Puri dedicated to Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi
Alalanatha Temple, also known as Brahmagiri where there is a temple of Lord Jagannatha and a stone slab containing the imprint of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s body. The Deity here called as Alwarnatha is said to have been consecrated by one of the Alwars.
Narendra Sarovara, which is a large water tank with a temple in the middle dedicated to Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra Devi. Behind them, there is a Deity of Yashoda Devi, the mother of Lord Krishna. At the other end of the temple rooms is the Deity of Lakshmi Devi. A temple of Lord Shiva and Balakrishna are also present here.
Balagandhi, where Lord Jagannath’s chariot stops to accept Bhoga offerings.
Jagannath Vallabha Gardens, which resembles Vrindavana. There is a temple of Lord Jagannatha here.
Bhaktisiddhanta Swami’s birth place which is worth visiting. He is the founder of the Gaudiya Math. The Gaudiya Math temple houses the Deities of Lord Jagannath, Bhaktisiddhanta Swami as well as that of the Acharyas of the four sampradayas i.e. Vishnuswami, Madhvacharya, Nimbarka and Ramanuja.
Gundicha Temple, where Lord Jagannath stays for a week during the Ratha Yatra festival.
Narasimha Temple which stands next to the Gundicha Temple and houses two Deities of Lord Narasimha, one called as Santha Narasimha (Narasimha who is sober) and the other is Raga Narasimha (Narasimha who is angry). It is said that one who has darshan of Santha Narasimha will be able to free themselves from anger, anxiety and frustration.
Indradyumna Sarovara Kunda from which water is drawn to clean the Gundicha Temple.
Paramananda Puri’s well whose water is said to be non-different from the waters of river Ganga. It is said that the water of the well was bitter and hence, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prayed to Lord Jagannath to allow the water of river Ganga to flow into the well and make it sweet. The prayer was accepted and the water turned sweet.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s house contains a hidden tunnel which is said to lead in two directions i.e. one towards the sea and the other towards the Jagannath temple. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath.
Siddha Bakula is the bhajan kutir of Haridasa Thakura who was a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha inspite of being born into a Muslim family. He used to chant 300,000 holy names of the Lord everyday. The neem tooth stick of Lord Jagannath was planted here by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which grew into a tree in moment.
Kasi Misra’s house which used to be the residence of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There is a room seen through a small barred window called Sri Gambhira where the Lord lived. Here one can also have darshan of akhanda jyoti lit by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the slippers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Bhajan Kutir
Haridas Thakur’s Samadhi
Chakra Tirtha Temple
Geography of Jagannath Puri
Jagannath Puri lies over an area of 3051 sq km with a population of 1.5 million. Most of the rivers flowing through Puri are distributaries of the river Mahanadi. There are no hills within the boundaries of Puri.
How to reach Jagannath Puri
Puri is well connected to other parts of the country through bus, train and flights.
By Bus – there are buses from Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack and other cities by the state transport corporation. Odisha Tourism Development Corporation run buses for sightseeing in Puri.
By Train – trains connect Jagannath Puri city to other important railway stations in the country like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Raipur, etc
By Flight – the nearest airport is the Biju Patnaik airport in Bhubaneshwar at a distance of 60 kms. There are regular flights to Bhubaneshwar from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Vishakapatnam, Bengaluru and other cities.