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The abode of the Lord of the Universe
Shashank Chouhan

The sacred temple of Lord Jagannath stands on the hillock Blue Mountain in the heart of Puri. It represents a lovely picturesque scheme of great Orissan Architecture. Puri, on the east coast of India is a hoary pilgrimage center, enshrining Lord Jagannath, in a colossal temple. It is the forerunner of the Jagannath cult in Orissa, which saw the flowering of several temples dedicated to Jagannath all over the state

Puri was a center of Buddhist worship, before it became a center of Vaishnavism again. The Rath Yatra at Puri has its parallel with the chariot procession of the Buddha`s tooth at Dantapuri.

Puri is located on the gentle slope of the Nila hill, adjacent to the sea. A sacred banyan tree is revered as a manifestation of Vishnu, the ocean - Balarama and a pool- the king Indradyumna. Pilgrims are required to offere worship first at a Shiva temple, and then at the banyan tree and then at the shrine to Balarama before proceding to worship Jagannath. Subhadra is to be worshipped next.

The Jagannath trinity as known from the sculptural representation on the walls of the sub temple of Konark. It was regarded as the synthesis of Purusottama, Shiva and Durga during the Ganga Period. It was at the time of the rule of Bhanu Deva II the Purusottam was regarded as Jagannath by the Ganga rulers and the name become popular after Kapilendra Gajapati in 1435 A. D.

Within the Temple, Ratna Singhasana is enshrined with four Idols of Lords Jagannath, Balabhadra, Devi Subhdara and Chakraraj Sudarshan along with metal made Bhudevi and Sridevi. The Representative Idol of Lord Jagnnath named Madan Mohan is worshipped in the South side of Temple upon Mukti Mandap and in front of the Nursingha Temple. Besides, in and around the Lord Jagannath Temple Bedha (Boundary) houes the Lords Patitapaban, mahavir near Singhadwar and Lrod viswanath of the starting point of Baisi Pahacha (22 steps). According to belief, all sins of the pilgrims disappear who touch these steps even once.

The inner portion of the Temple is also enshrined with Idols of Lords Agnidev, Satyanaryan, Radhakrishna, Harisahadev, Jagannath, Ganesh, Kalpabata, Mangala, Markandeya, Kanchiganesh, in the western side Ananta Basudeva, Nursingh, Bimala, Gopinath, Kamala, Savitri, Sasthi, Saraswati, Nilamadhaba, Kali, Mahalakshmi, Nabagraha, Suryadev, Ram, Sita, Pataleswar, in the North side Sitala,

Temple Architecture

The vast temple complex occupies an area of over 400,000 sq ft, and is bounded by a 20 ft high fortified wall. This complex contains about 120 temples and shrines. The shikhara of the Jagannath temple towers to a height of 192 ft. The red flag denotes that Jagannath is within the building.

With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Orissan style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India. The monument stands on a high platform which is connected with the ground level by a height of 22 very very big steps.

History

According to recently discovered copper plates from the Ganga dynasty, the construction of the Jagannath temple was initiated by the ruler of Kalinga, Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev. Much of the present structure was built by King Ananga Bhima Deva in the year 1174 CE. It took 14 years to complete and was consecrated in 1198 CE. It is believed that the image of Jagannath was buried thrice in the Chilka lake for protection from invaders.

Puri represents one of the 4 peethas established by Sankaracharya, the other four being Sringeri in south India, Dwarka in Saurashtra, and Badrinath in the Himalayas. Ramananda of the 14th century - a follower of the Sri Vaishnava religious leader Ramanuja, is also associated with this temple. Chaitanya of the 15th - 16th centuries popularized the worship of Jagannath.

Features

Structurally the temple has 4 chambers. The outermost is the Bhogmandir, the next is the Nata-mandir pillared hall for music and dance, then comes the Jagamohana - or the mandapa where devotees gather for worship and the last is the sanctum or the Deul enshrining the deities.

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 high wall. Another wall surrounds the main temple. A magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic pillar sits in front of the main gate. The gate is guarded by two lions.

At present the thick coat of plaster which had covered the structure for centuries has been removed and the stone works on it are now, proof of the sculptural richness of that era.

Temple today

In modern times the temple is busy and functioning. It has a huge temple kitchen and feeds holy food called "Mahaprasad" to thousands of devotees daily. The temple has over 6000 priests, along with 14000 other employees serving as their assistants and attendants waiting on the Jagannath deity, as well as pilgrim guides.

The temple is selective regarding who is allowed entry into the grounds. Most non-Hindus are excluded from its premises, as are Hindus of non-Indian origin. Visitors not allowed entry may view the precincts from the roof of the nearby Raghunandan Library. There is some evidence that this came into force following a series of invasions by foreigners into the temple and surrounding area. Buddhist, Jain and Sikh groups are allowed into the temple compound if they are able to prove their Indian ancestry.

At present the worship of Lord Jagannath is being managed efficiently and systematically with regard to the religious traditions conducted with the Temple of Lord Jagannath. The Archeological Survey of Inda has taken up the conservatins of these magnificent architecture of Lord Purusottama. The peeling off the lime plaster has revealed beautiful sculpture on the walls of the Jagannath Temple and the Laxmi Temple. The Cultural Affairs Department, Orissa has been taking keen interest in the improvement of a running garden round the Temple and archeological conservation of the sacred monument - a treasure of Indian architecture.

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