abode of Sri Jagannath or the Lord of the Universe is famous all over the world. The
golden triangle of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar is too popular both with the domestic and
foreign tourists. One of the four holiest places (Dhams) of India, Puri has been a great
centre of pilgrimage for centuries Once on thickly wooded hills and inhabited by the
Sabaras, pre Aryan and pre-Dravidian tribes of the Austric linguistic family, Puri located
right on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, is today one of the finest sea resorts as well.
Its salubrious environs and sunny beach attract tourists from near and distant places.
Watching the sunrise here is an elevating and unforgettable experience.The place can be
visited any time throughout the year. Puri is always thronged with pilgrims and tourists
but it is nothing compared to the motley and seething humanity which sojourn here during
Rath Yatra or the Car Festival.
The main temple of Sri Jaggannath standing on
a raised platform and soaring to a height of 65 metres, dominates the landscapes for miles
around. Contemporaneous with the Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar, The Puri temple is the
result of the same mature Orissan style of architecture, but is greater in height. It was
built in the 12th century A.D by Chodaganga Deva. With all its sculptural
richness and plasticity of Orissan style of temple architecture; it becomes one of the
most magnificent monuments of India.
The shrine is surrounded by a 20 feet high
enclosure measuring 652 feet by 630 feet.Then there is another enclosure around the temple
. In front of the main gate is a majestic 16 sided monolithic pillar measuring 11 meters
in height .Originally it stood in front of the famous Sun Temple at Konark and was brought
here in the 18th century .The main gate is guarded by two lions and so it is
known as the Simha Dwara or the Lion Gate.
There is no caste distinction and all are
welcome before the Lord Jaggannath but non-hindus are not allowed inside the shrine. They
can have a fair view of the inside of the temple from the nearby roof of the Raghunandan
library, opposite the main gate of the shrine. The temple kitchen is said to be the
biggest in the world feeding thousands of devotees daily with, its holy food called the
Mahaprasad. The temple in itself is an extraordinary world consisting of thousands of
different categories of priests, their assistants attendants and pilgrim guides. This huge
army of over 6000 priests etc., and 14000 other employees waiting on Lord Jaggannath is
headed by the Raja of Puri. He alone has the privilege of sweeping before the, Chariots
and to carry Lord Jaggannath's umbrella. In the Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum there are
a strange archaic type of wooden images of Sri Jaggannath, his sister Subhadra and brother
Balbhadra. Sister Subhadra is in between the two brothers and smaller in size. There are
amny votive shrines and other temples such as Gundicha, Loknath, Sunar, Gauranga, Daria
Mahabir, Tota Gopinath and Patiarni.
Puri offers a number of colourful fairs and festivals such as Chandan Yatra, Snan Yatra
(Bath festival), Ganesh Puja, etc., but it is the Car Festival, an annual sojourn of the
three deities riding their lofty chariots to their respective huge cars--14 metres high,
10 metres square and supported on 16 giant wheels, each over two metres in diametre that
marks the climax. These chariots or Rathas are pulled along the Bada Danda or the Grand
Road by lakhs of devotees to Gundicha temple over a kilometre. At Gundicha the deities
take new apparels every day and after a lapse of 8 days return to the main shrine riding
the same Rathas. At the termination of the Yatra, the cars are broken up into pieces and
religious relics are made from them. Thus, every year new chariots are built. The images
of the dieties are also disposed of at intervals of 8 to 19 years, depending on
astrological calculations, and new images are installed as prescribed in the religious
text. The Rath Yatra symbolizes Krishna's departure to Mathura from Gokul.
The English word " Juggernaut " is
obviously derived from this Car Festival. In ancient days some devotees would throw
themselves beneath the wheels of the Chariot of Jagannath in the belief that such an act
of piety involving Lord's blessings would send them straight to heaven.
HOW TO GET THERE
Puri is 65 kms by road from Bhubaneswar and regular bus services both in public and
private sector operate to and from various places including Bhubaneswar. From Bhubaneswar
to Puri it takes roughly 1.30 hours . Taxis can also be hired. There are regular bus links
with Calcutta, Raipur, Tatanagar, Ranchi, Visakhapatnam and Durgapur. From konark and
Cuttack also there are frequent regular buses. Puri is a railway terminus on South-Eastern
Railway and Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a number of hotels, lodges, dharmashalas and youth hostel and Panthnivas, most
of them along the beach. The wide range of accommodation make it convenient for the
tourists to choose according to their pockets and likings. The budget class hotels are to
be found generally at the norther end of the beach. The Dharmshalas charge a nominal
tariff of Rs 2 to 3 per head per day. Some of the hotels include Panthanivas , Youth
Hostel , S E Rly Hotel, Chakrathirtha Road, Puri Hotel, Sagarika Hotel, Victoria Club
Hotel, Bay view Hotel. The Dharmashalas are on the Grand Road or at Dolavedi.