Jagannath Puri: A spectacle to Behold

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It is said that a complete Hindu pilgrimage is only fruitful when one has covered the four sacred religious sites or the Char Dham. My grandparents were on their Char Dham Yatra over the last few months and when they were about to make their last stop in Puri, my parents and I joined them. We booked a cab with reliable driver from Bhubaneswar to Puri. It took us about two hours to reach via NH316.

Reaching Puri

The road between the capital city and the coastal town passed through small towns and quiet villages of Orissa. The serene countryside and the rustic landscape made for a scenic drive. On our way, we also crossed some notable places like Pratapsasan, Pipili, Satasankha, Chandanpur, and Sakhigopal. Of these, Sakhigopal is an important religious site, where many pilgrims stop by before visiting the Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Jagannath Temple Overview

The ancient pilgrim town sits on the coast of Orissa, which also makes it an interesting beach destination. The only reason why Puri is recognized as a hallowed ground is because of the iconic Jagannath Temple. As soon as we reached the town, we made our way for the temple, which is also famous for its history. The temple complex was huge and was a world in itself. There is no documented history of when and how the temple came into being. Some say, that the idol of Jagannath appeared on the ground where the temple lies. It is considered to be an avatar of Vishnu. Historians documented its origin somewhere between 11th and 12th century, under the patronage of the Kalinga King Ananga Bhima Deva. Later, the idols of Vishnu’s siblings, Subhadra and Balbhadra, were added and since then the temple became a sacred sanctum, where the three gods have been worshipped for centuries.

The temple structure, as I observed, was also a marvel to look at. It was designed and constructed in the ancient Kalinga-style architecture and reflected divinity, power, and grandeur, at the same time. A 20 feet high wall enclosed the compound. The huge complex spread across at least 10 acres and comprised various sanctums, each dedicated to different religious activities. We made our way to the main sanctum, through a beeline of pilgrims. Fortunately, it was very early in the morning and it was not crowded yet. The main sanctum enshrined the triad of Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balbhadra, along with statues of Sudarshana Chakra, Madanmohan, Sridevi and Vishwadhatri. The idols were said to be made of logs from the neem tree and are believed to have been intact over the years. Inside the sanctum, it was darker with lights shining on the main shrine. More than the ethereal vibes the place exuded, I was in awe and struck by the visual effects of the place. The bejeweled idols, the echoes of chanting, the surreal atmosphere, made it look like a spectacle, I could not get enough of.

Mysteries of Puri Temple

For the next couple of hours, as we explored different areas of the temple complex, sat for prasad, and saw more, I was filled with wonder and allure. I observed many things, making me ask many questions but no one had the answers.

As I was clicking photos of the exteriors (cameras and phones are not allowed inside), I noticed that there wasn’t a single bird around. Usually, temple towers are favorite perching areas for crows and pigeons, but the entire complex of Puri Temple seemed like a no-fly zone.

Next, I observed that the temple defied wind direction. The festoon that adorned the spire fluttered in the opposite direction of the wind. My intrigue reached its height when we sat down to have the prasad that is offered to devotees. It is said that the food cooked in the temple kitchen for offerings is neither less nor surplus and is used up to the last morsel, every single day. Also, the way the food is cooked here is quite mysterious. Earthen pots are stacked and put on a wood fire. The contents of the topmost pot cook first and those at the bottom-most pot cook the last. By now, I was in absolute shock and awe of how everything here defied the laws of physics.

Another mysterious phenomenon that caught my attention was that the main sanctum of the temple was completely soundproof. The temple has four doors, one in each direction. When we stepped inside through the east door, it instantly blocked out the sound from the outside. Whether it was the sound of the ocean or the noise of the crowd on the threshold. As soon as we exited in the courtyard, the same noise could be heard and somehow, within a few steps, it was inaudible. Was this an engineering marvel or an unexplained phenomenon? I guess one would never know.

These mystical elements of Jagannath Puri made this a truly unique institution and added to its appeal.

Pilgrimage tips:

The Bhubaneswar Airport to Puri taxi fare is reasonable and you can easily opt for a tour package which will include your travel and local sightseeing.

Summers are harsh in Puri, so the best time to visit is during the winter months, or after the monsoon.

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