Sri Jagannatha Puri
Puri is one of the four holy dhamas of India (The others are Dvaraka, Badarinath and Ramesvaram). It is located 60 km from Bhubaneshwar, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
Puri is called Sri Purushottama Dhama, the abode of Lord Vishnu on earth. Other names are Sri-Kshetra, Nilachala and Jagannatha Dhama. Puri is about 2 km wide and 4 km long.
The Jagannatha temple here is one of the most important temples in India. The worship of Lord Jagannatha is so ancient that there is no idea how long it has been in existence and the present temple is only one in a long succession of previously built temples that have been destroyed by time.
Sankaracarya visited Puri and established one of his four main mathas here. Ramanujacarya also established a matha here named Embar math. Lord Chaitanya lived here after taking sannyasa. Many of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes with His most intimate associates took place at different sites in the Jagannatha Puri.
The Story of Jagannatha
King Indradyumna was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and was eager to meet him face to face. Once a brahmana came to the palace of King Indradyumna and told him about an incarnation of Lord Vishnu named Nila Madhava. The king then sent different brahmanas out to search for Lord Nila Madhava. They all returned unsuccessful except a priest named Vidyapati. After traveling for a while Vidyapati came to an area inhabited by non-Aryans called sabaras. He stayed at the house of a local chief, called Visvavasu. When he arrived Visvavasu was not there, but his daughter Lalita was. Vidyapati stayed there for some time and eventually married Lalita, the daughter of the sabara.
Vidyapati noticed some peculiar behaviors of his host. Visvavasu would go out each day around noon and would return back to the house scented with fragrances of sandalwood, camphor and musk. Vidyapati asked his wife about this and she informed him that his father would go daily to worship Nila Madhava. Lalita had been told by her father not to tell anyone about Nila Madhava, but she had overstepped that order by telling her husband. Vidyapati repeatedly requested to see Nila Madhava. Finally Visvavasu bound Vidyapati’s eyes and took him to see Nila Madhava. Vidyapati secretly carried some mustard seeds in his cloth and he dropped them onto the path as he was walking. When he reached Nila Madhava, the blind fold was removed and Vidyapati saw Nila Madhava. Visvavasu went out to collect some forest flowers for worship and Vidyapati stayed near the Deity. During this time a crow fell off the branch of a tree into a nearby lake and drowned. It immediately took a four-armed Vaikuntha form and started back to the spiritual world. Vidyapati then climbed up onto the tree and was about to jump into the lake. A voice came from the sky and said, “Since you have seen Nila Madhava, you should inform King Indradyumna.”
Visvavasu returned and started his daily worship of Nila Madhava. Suddenly the Lord spoke to him and said, “I have accepted for many days the simple forest flowers and roots offered to me by you. Now I desire the royal worship offered to me in devotion by Indradyumna.” Visvavasu felt cheated by his son-in-law, therefore, he bound him up and kept him in his house. After repeatedly being requested by his daughter he let him go.
The brahmana then went to King Indradyumna and told him about his discovery. By following the mustard seeds, which had grown into small plants, they were able to follow the path to Nila Madhava. When they reached the spot, they could not find him. King Indradyumna had the village besieged and arrested Visvavasu. Suddenly a voice came from the sky, “Release this sabara. On top of Nila hill you should construct a temple. There I will manifest as Daru-brahman (the Absolute Truth manifested in a wooden form). You will not see me as Nila Madhava.
The king constructed a temple. The King wanted Lord Brahma to consecrate the temple. So he traveled to Brahmaloka and waited there for him. During this time the temple became covered by sand. While he was gone, first Suradeva and then Galamadhava became king of the area. King Galamadhava uncovered the temple from the sand. Shortly afterwards, King Indradyumna return from Brahma’s abode. Indradyumna claimed that he had built the temple and Galamadhava also claimed the same thing. There was an old crow in the near by banyan tree who was constantly singing the glories of Lord Rama. The crow had seen the construction of the temple and he said that Indradyumna had built the temple and that Galamadhava had just uncovered it. Because he had not told the truth Galamadhava was ordered by Brahma to live outside the temple compound on the western side of Indradyumna Sarovara lake.
Indradyumna then asked Lord Brahma to consecrate the temple and the surrounding area, which was called Sri Kshetra and gives the highest type of liberation. Lord Brahma told him that Sri Kshetra is manifested by the Supreme Lord’s internal potency and that the Supreme Lord manifests Himself. Therefore he could not install the Lord here, but Lord Jagannatha and His abode are eternally situated in the material world. He said he would install the flag on the temple and that anyone who sees this flag and offers prostrated obeisances would easily be liberated.
After a while King Indradyumna became frustrated with not seeing Nila Madhava. He decided to lay on a bed of kusa grass and to fast until death. Lord Jagannatha came to him in a dream and told him I shall come floating from the sea in my wooden form as Daru-brahman at the place called Bakimuhan.
The king went to this place and saw a huge piece of wood which had the marks of a conch, club, disc and lotus on it. Many men and elephants tried to move Daru-brahman, but they could not move Him. That night Lord Jagannatha spoke to Indradyumna in a dream and told him to bring Visvavasu, who used to serve Nila Madhava and bring a golden chariot in front of Daru-brahman. The king did this and Daru-brahman easily was placed onto the chariot.
Lord Brahma then performed a sacrifice and established a Deity of Narasimhadeva on the raised platform of the sacrifice arena. It is said that the Deity of Narasimha in the present temple compound, that is on the western side of the Mukti-Mandapa, is this original Narasimha Deity.
King Indradyumna had the best sculptors come to carve the Deity of Lord Jagannatha from Daru-brahman. As soon as they started their chisels broke to pieces. The Supreme Lord Himself came in disguise as an old artist who called himself Ananta Maharana (According to the Narada Purana, Visvakarma, the architect of the demigods carved the Deities by the desire of Lord Vishnu, who took the form of an old brahmana.) He said that if he was able to work behind closed doors for 21 days then the Deities could be carved. The old sculptor then took Daru-brahman into the temple and the doors were closed. After 14 days passed, the king could not hear the sounds of the artist’s tools and he became full of anxiety.
The king then personally opened the door of the temple by force. The king did not see the sculptor, but instead he saw the three forms of Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama. Their fingers and toes were unfinished. Thinking himself a great offender the king decided to give up his life. He then laid on a bed of kusa grass and began to fast. Lord Jagannatha appeared to him in a dream. He told the king that He is eternally situated here in Nilacala in the form of Lord Jagannatha as Daru-brahman. In the material world, I descended in 24 Deity incarnations along with my abode. I have no material hands and feet, but with my transcendental senses I accept all the items offered by My devotees. The fact that you broke your promise is part of the pastime for me to manifest this form of Jagannatha. Those devotees whose eyes are smeared with the salve of love will always see Me as Syamasundara, holding a flute.
The king prayed to Lord Jagannatha that those in the family of the sculptor who manifested your form will continue to assist in constructing the three carts. He also told him that the descendants of Visvavasu, who served Me as Nila Madhava, should generations after generation serve Me. They shall be called My dayitas. The descendants of Vidyapati born from his brahmana wife should perform the Deity worship to Me. The descendants born from his sabari wife, Lalita, should cook My food. They shall be known as suyaras.
King Indradyumna then requested Lord Jagannatha, that the doors of the temple should be closed only three hours a day. The king also requested that he would not have any descendants, so that no one in the future would claim the temple of Lord Jagannatha as their own property.
It is said in the Narada Purana (Uttara Khanda 52.123), that the Supreme Lord Narayana told Laksmi Devi: “In that great abode known as Purushottama-kshetra, which is rarely achieved among all the three worlds, the Kesava Deity, who was fashioned by the Supreme Lord Himself is situated. If men simply see that Deity, they are easily able to come to My abode.”
The annual ratha yatra of Lord Jagannatha is held every year on ashada sukla dvitiya. Their Lordships Jagannatha,
Baladeva and Subhadra are taken on three massive chariots from the main Sri mandir to the Gundica temple. The event signifies the gopis and the residents of Vrindavana taking Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra to Vrindavana.
The scriptures state,
rathastham kesavam drstva punar janma na vidyate
If one sees Lord Jagannatha on His ratha, one is sure to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Bahuda Yatra And Suna Vesha:
Bahuda Yatra is the Return Journey of the three chariots to Jagannath Temple. After spending a week inside the Gundicha temple, the deities commence their Bahuda Yatra on the 10th day. The return journey follows the same protocol and schedule, as is found during the Ratha Yatra. During the return journey, the three chariots stop for awhile at the Mausima Temple, also known as Ardhasani Temple. This temple is dedicated to the aunt of Lord Jagannath. Here three deities are offered ‘Poda Pitha’, a special sweet made of rice, coconut, lentils and jaggery. After taking Poda Pitha, three deities start their journey to the main temple.The chariots of Balabhadra and Subhadra move forward and are parked at Lion’s gate (Singha dwara) of the temple where as the chariot of Jagannath again halts in front of the King's palace. In the meanwhile Goddess Lakshmi (wife of Lord Jagannath) steals a glimpse of the safe return of Jagannath's chariot from the Chaha ni Mandapa (Pavilion for view). Being pleased Goddess Lakshmi is carried to the chariot of Jagannath while sitting in the Palanquin. She is offered a loving garland which Lord Jagannath uses as loving
souvenir from her partner. After receiving the garland Goddess Lakshmi goes back to the Temple and awaits her partner. This event facilitates Lord Jagannath to make arrangement for his successful entry to the main Temple. On the day of Bahuda Yatra the Deities remain in their respective chariots parked in front of the main temple.
On the same day, during evening the three deities are dressed in glittering gold on their respective chariots. This day is also known as ‘Suna Vesha’. The gold is stored at the temple's bhandara ghar (treasury). The bhandara nikap priests (store in-charge), guarded by armed police men and temple officials, brought the required amount of gold from the bhandara ghar before 1 hour and handed them over to the puspalaka and daitapati priests on the chariots. The daitapati priests are responsible to decorate the Deities' body with gold jewelry. Devotees witnessed the Suna Besha from evening 5 pm till 11 pm.
All the three deities are decorated with gold ornaments. Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra appear with hands and feet made of gold. Lord Jagannath holds a gold Chakra(disc) in his right hand and a silver conch in the left hand. Lord Balabhadra appears holding a gold plough in the left hand and a gold mace in the right hand. The following ornaments are used to decorate the Deities
in Suna Vesha:
- Suna Hasta - Golden Hand
- Suna Payar - Golden feet
- Suna Mukuta - Golden Crown
- Suna Mayur Chandrika - A golden peacock feather used by Lord Jagannath as Sri Krishna head piece
- Suna Chulapati - A golden ornament worn traditionally on the forehead to increase the beauty of the face
- Suna Kundal - Golden earring of hanging round ball type
- Suna Rahurekha - A half square shaped golden aura around the face of the deities
- Suna Mala - Necklaces with Several Design made of gold.
o Padma Mala - Lotus Shaped
o Sevati Mala - Shaped Like Small Sun Flower
o Agasti Mala - Moon Shaped flower design
o Kadamba Mala - Kadamba Flower Design (Round ball shape)
o Kante Mala - Big Gold Beads Design
o Mayur Mala - Shaped in Peacock feathers
o Champa Mala - Shaped liked Yellow champa Flower
- Suna Chakra - Golden Wheel
- Suna Gada - Golden bludgeon
- Suna Padma - Golden lotus
- Rupa Sankha - A silver conch
Lord Chaitanya Dances before the Ratha
Lord Chaitanya would sing before the cart, “I have gotten that Lord of My life for whom I was burning in the fire of lusty desires, That very personality who stole away my heart during My youth is now again my master. These are the same moonlit nights of the month of Caitra. The same fragrance of malati flowers is there, and the same sweet breezes are blowing from the kadamba forest. In our intimate relationship, I am also the same lover, but I am not happy here. I am eager to go back to that place on the banks of the Reva under the Vetasi tree. That is my desire.” Chaitanya Caritamrita Madhya chap. 13.
When the Lord Himself wanted to dance, all seven kirtana parties joined together. Lord Jagannatha was very pleased by the sankirtana, and He brought His car to a standstill just to see the performance. Lord Chaitanya appeared like a circling firebrand, and while dancing and jumping the whole earth, with its hills and seas, appeared to tilt. Transcendental ecstatic love for Krishna caused blissful changes in the body of Sri Chaitanya; hairs standing on end, He perspired, cried, trembled and changed color. When Lord Chaitanya fell down with a crash while dancing, He would roll on the ground. At such times it appeared that a golden-mountain was rolling on the ground. With hands outstretched, Lord Nityananda would run behind the Lord, to catch Him.
As Lord Jagannatha’s chariot proceeded along the Temple Road toward the Gundica Temple, Lord Chaitanya became more and more ecstatic. To protect the Lord from the crowds, the devotees formed three circles around the Lord. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu danced and jumped high, eight wonderful transformations of divine ecstasy were seen in His body. All these symptoms were visible simultaneously. Experiencing deep ecstatic love, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would display further transformations including: goose pimples, chattering teeth, perspiration and blood oozing from His whole body. Indeed, the people became afraid just to see His teeth chatter, and they even thought that His teeth would fall out. He would make sounds like, “Jaja, gaga, jaja, gaga.” Tears shooting like a syringe would wet the onlookers. His complexion turned pink, and His hands and legs became hard like dry wood.
Sometimes He appeared stunned, and sometimes He rolled on the ground. Indeed sometime His legs and hands became as hard as dry wood, and He did not move. When the Lord fell on the ground, sometimes His breathing almost stopped. When the devotees saw this, their lives also became very feeble. Water flowed from His eyes and sometimes through His nostrils, and foam fell from His mouth.
The name Jagannatha literally means the Lord of the Universe. King Indradyumna first established the temple of Lord Jagannatha here on the Nilacala hill with the Deity being installed by Lord Brahma himself. There are wonderful accounts of the establishment of the temple by King Indradymna in the Puranas. The present temple was begun by King Chora Ganga deva and finished by his descendant Ananga Bhima Deva during the 12th century. The temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by 2 rectangular walls. The outer enclosure is called Meghanada Prachira. The walls are 20 ft high. The inner wall is called Kurma bheda. The walls were built during 15th or 16th century. This temple has the largest kitchen in the world, and feeds thousands of devotees daily. The kitchen can prepare food for 1,00,000 people on a festival day and 25,000 is not unusual on a normal day.
There are 36 traditional communities who render a specific hereditary service to the Deities. The temple has as many as 6000 priests. There is a wheel on the top of the Jagannatha temple made of an alloy of 8 metals. It is called the Nila-Chakra (blue wheel). Everyday a different flag is tied to a mast attached to the Nila Chakra. Every Ekadashi a lamp is lit on the top of the temple near the wheel. Thirty different smaller temples surround the main temple. The Narasimha temple adjacent to the western side of the Mukti-Mandapa, was constructed before the present temple. In front of the main gate is an 11 m pillar known as Aruna Sthambha. This pillar was once in front of the Sun Temple in Konark. It was bought to Puri during 18th century. The figure on top of the pillar is Aruna, the Sun god’s charioteer. In the passage room of this gate is a Deity of Lord Jagannatha Known as Patita Pavana (Saviour of the most Fallen). This deity is visible from the road, so non-Hindus may take His Darshan.
There are 4 gates:
• The Eastern Simhadwara (Lion Gate),
• The Southern Ashwadwara (Horse Gate),
• The Western Vyaghradwara (Tiger Gate) and
• The Northern Hastidwara (Elephant Gate).
There is a carving of each form by the entrance of each gate. The Lion gate, which is the main gate, is located on the Grand side of the road.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to daily visit the Jagannatha temple. In front of the altar of Lord Jaganntha is a column on which the deity of Garuda is situated called the Garuda Stambha. This column is revered because Sri Chaitanya usually saw Lord Jagannath from behind this column. Behind the column is also a moat-like kund or ditch which was sometimes filled with Sri Chaitanya’s tears. Also an impression of Sri Chaitany’s fingers is imbedded in the column.
The main Deities in the temple are Lord Jagannatha, his brother Baladeva, and his sister Subhadra. Some of the other temples within the walls of the temple house Deities of Sri Chaitanya, Lord Ramachandra, Sakshi Gopal, Hanuman, Narasimha, Varaha and others.
Other holy sites in the temple compound
Baisipahacha: 22 steps that take one from Grand road and connect the inner and outer walls.
Mukti-Mandapa: A 16 pillar hall known as Brahmasava.
Niladri Vihar: An art Gallery depicting the pastimes ofLord Jagannatha as well as the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Sona Kua (Golden Well): The water of this well is used to bath lord jagannath during snana-yatra.
Koila Vaikuntha: During Nava-kalevara (new incarnation ceremony) when Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra are newly carved, the old Deities are buried here.
Ananda bazaar: After you come up the 22 steps by the Lion Gate on the right is Ananda Bazaar, where mahaprasada is sold.