Jagannath Temple: A Major Pilgrimage Destination
The Jagannath Temple is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This temple is mentioned in the Rig Vedas.
The popularity of Puri is due to the presence of the Jagannath temple. It is considered to be one of the four most sacred sites in India. The temple sanctum houses idols of the divine siblings: Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. The divine discus Sudarshana is also enshrined here. In Vaishnava philosophy, the siblings and the chakra are the four most important aspects of Lord Vishnu.
There are many stories of the temple, the most popular of them being that of King Indradyumna, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. The Lord is said to have appeared in the king's dream and asked him to sculpt his image on a block of wood found on the seashore. The Lord himself, in the guise of a sculptor, arrived to carve the image. He specifically asked not to be disturbed until he had finished. Indradyumna’s queen, however, grew impatient, and opened the doors while work was in progress. The sculptor disappeared leaving behind the incomplete sculptures, which were eventually installed in the sanctum.
These idols are considered to be living deities that are cared for and fed. The temple kitchens are said to be the largest in the world. They cook a feast fit for the Gods, every single day. The Bhog or Prasad is an offering made to the deity and later all devotees who visit the temple get to share it.
Interestingly, the Lord is believed to die every 12 years. The old idols are replaced with new ones at a chosen time during the twelfth year.
During the Rath Yatra, which is the biggest annual festival during June and July, the idols are taken in a grand procession to the Gundicha temple. It is believed to be the house of the queen of Indradyumna. The story goes that the Lord assured her that he would visit her at her home every year since she was a great devotee. So it is a tradition that is followed to this day. It is one of the most significant religious events where the idols of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra are seated in three gigantic 'raths' or chariots. Thousands of devotees pull the ropes of the chariot and consider themselves to be blessed by the Lord.
Sterling Puri can assist with arranging the darshans at the Jagannath Temple and help make arrangements for guests to witness the Rath Yatra. However, during Rath Yatra, one should be prepared to walk extensively, since vehicles aren’t allowed on most of the roads.
Good to Know:
Location: 11 km from Sterling Puri
Timings: 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. Schedules change from day-to-day based on the festivals and the rituals of the day.
Also, Temple Darshan is traditionally not allowed a few weeks before the Rath Yatra. It is better to seek more information during the period.
Entry Fee: There is no entry fee to the temple. The priests charge separately.
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