Puri the abode of Sri Jaggannath or the Lord of the Universe is famous all over the world. One of the four holiest places (Dhams) of India, Puri has been a great centre of pilgrimage for centuries.
Originally the temple had a Garbhagriha with a soaring curvilinear Shikhara, a jagmohan and a dancing hall and several subsidiary votive shrines, all enclosed within a huge compound of high walls. Till 1902 it remained obscure, buried and in oblivion under its debris as an impressive ruin of great magnitude. Only its jagmohan has come down to us fairly intact but dancing hall and the sanctum are almost in ruins and without roofs. Its shikhar must have been over 70 meters high when it was complete and intact. Part of the shikhar was intact till 1837 but then it collapsed in 1869. Both the sanctum and the jagmohan stand on an elevated platform which is in the form of a lavishly ornate gigantic chariot. Its 24 wheels represent the divisions of time and the seven horses, the seven days of the week and the seven colours of the sunlight. The wheels, the spokes and axle heads are embellished with intricate carved designs.
The intricate depiction of flora and fauna, human beings in various forms, the nymphs singing in gay abundance to the accompaniment of music and dance and magnificent mithuna sculptures, all lend to this monument a highly rhythmic quality, three dimensional grandeur and dynamism unparalleled in the annals of art and architecture. The size erotic figures and entwined couples form the most frank and most sensuous depiction of sex and love. As the sun rises from the blue bay waters closeby and the sanctum is illuminated with its mellow, golden rays. Then as the sun circles the temple during the course of the day the three superb images of the Sun-god in the three cardinal niches are illuminated at dawn, at noon and at sunset. The doorways are guarded by powerful animal figures such as rampant lions crushing the elephants, colossal war tuskers and the impetous horses with attendants, trampling down a fallen warrior. Formerly it was also known as the Black Pagoda because of its black tint, and also to distinguish it from the white temple of Lingaraj at Bhubaneswar.
The nearby Museum has a rare collection of sculptures from the ruins of the temple. It is open from 9 am to 5 pm. At a distance of 3 kms is one of the finest beaches with extensive sand stretch, cool breeze and rolling waves.
These temples epitomize a comprehensive history of the Orissan style of temple architecture from its very inception to perfection spreading almost to two thousand years from 3rd century B. C. to 16th Century A. D. These magnificent monuments dominating the city skyline, are within a reasonable walking distance from one another. The 46 metre high Lingaraj Temple marks the culmination of temple tradition of Bhubaneswar.
Other temples worth a visit include Laxmaneswar, Satrughaneswar and Bharteswar (6th century A. D.), Parsurameswar and Swarna Jaleswar (7th century), Vaital (8th century), Mukteswar (10th century), Brahmeswar (11th Century and Anant Basudeva (13th century).
The Anant Basudeva Temple, build in 1278, is the only temple dedicated to Vaishnava worship standing on an ornate platform, continues the decorative and mature Lingaraj temple tradition. Brahmeswar temple built in 1060, with its most elegant sculputers, is a miniature version of the great Lingaraj shrine. It is open to all including foreigners, and is a must for the visitors who care to have an idea of Orissan temple architecture.
Mukteswar Temple, with its elaborately ornate and famous torana or stone arch at the entrance, is profusely decorated on its outer walls. These embellishments include celestial beings, armed processions, and amorous figures. It is regarded a gem of Orissan architecture on account of its exquisite carved details and lavish sculptures. The nearby Parsurameswar Temple has equally excellent carvings and sculptures on its walls. It is most noted for its latticed windows, one of which is embellished with a relief of gay dancers and musicians of great charm. It is one of the earliest and the best preserved Orissan temples.