11 October, 2018
This is the fourth and the last article in our series of the Char Dham Yatra coverage. After covering, Dwaraka, Rameshwaram and Badrinath, we get to Puri, in Orissa, the Eastern point. Puri is world famous for the Puri Jagannath temple and its Rath Yatra. Jagannath means, “The Lord of the world” and is none other Vishnu, in the Krishna avatar.
This temple, built in the Kalinga style of architecture, is situated on more than 10 acres of land and has four entrances. In the main gate, called as the Singhadwara, you can see the Arunastambha (Solar Pillar), shifted here from the Konark temple. This main gate is guarded by the usual Dwarapalakas, Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers. Currently, this temple complex also houses a huge kitchen, often called the “The biggest hotel in the world”.
This temple is believed to have been rebuilt as it is today, by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. Legend says that this temple was originally commissioned by King Indradyumna, a Malava king. The Lord was worshipped as Lord Neela Madhaba by a tribal king, Viswavasu. King Indradyumna sent Vidyapati, a Brahmin priest into the forest to locate this deity, who, however, could not do so and finally married Lalita, Viswavasu's daughter.
After repeated requests from Vidyapati, one day Viswavasu took him along with him to worship the Lord Neel Madhaba, in a cave. But he was taken blindfolded and hence the smart, Vidyapati, dropped mustard seeds along the way to ensure that he could later find the way. When these seeds germinated, he informed King Indradyumna to come and visit the Lord.
However, when the King came, the Lord disappeared and the King was disappointed. The disappointed King started a fast unto death to see the Lord and was told by a celestial voice that he would see him. The King proceeded to build a magnificent temple for Lord Vishnu. In his sleep, he had a vision that he should accept the log of wood washed up on the Puri seashore and carve three idols out of it and the King commissioned, Vishwakarma, in the guise of a Brahmin to do the same. Vishwakarma had put a condition that he would work in private, without any disturbance until it was completed.
However, the impatient King intruded, after a fortnight and found the three incomplete idols, as Vishwakarma was upset and left. The King prayed to Lord Brahma to help him, who asked him to go ahead install the incomplete idols, and Brahma also presided as the Chief priest and gave life to the idols and also fixed their eyes. Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are the three deities worshipped in this legendary temple.
This temple can be visited any time of the year, except in peak summer and monsoon as it is a coastal climate; even winter is only mildly cold. The temple is open from 5 am to 12 midnight and devotees are allowed Darshan during this time. During the 7 to 8 am in the morning, called as the Sahana Mela, public Darshan is free for all, to go near the deity and pray. Entry is free and on a normal day, it may take around 30 minutes to an hour to get Darshan, while on a busy day, it may take a little more. They also serve the Mahaprasad, which can be had, in the temple complex.
The Rath Yatra occurs every year around the month of July. About two to 6 weeks before this, the Lord becomes sick "Bhukaar", as per a ritual and there will be no Darshan during this period. This needs to be checked if you are planning a visit around that time. The temple is run under the guidance of, Gajapati Maharaj Shri Dibyasingha Deb, known as the "adhyasevak" (chief servitor) of the temple, who is the son of the earlier king of Puri. Normal clothes as suited to the climate are sufficient for the visit and there are many hotels around, which can be easily booked, online or otherwise as well. You may also plan to visit the beach.
How to Reach
Puri is well connected through rail and road network and can be easily reached via bus or train on those routes. By air, the nearest airport will be Biju Patnaik International Airport (BBI), Bhubaneshwar, around 49 kms away. It is easy to take a cab or bus from there.
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