Jagannatha in Puri – a medieval church that is worth seeing

Jagannath-puri-templeHistorians date this temple by the year of 1198 BC. Conical tower of the grand monument rises more than 170 feet and it is topped by traditional flag set after construction of a Hindu temple. On the dome of the temple (shikhara) there is a wheel of Lord Vishnu, which is clearly visible from afar by the sea ships. 18-foot wall surrounds a large square area, the length of each side of which is about 600 feet. On its territory, there is a white altar enclosed on all sides.

Jagannath_Temple_puri- at nightThis medieval church is much larger than the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar which is considered to be its predecessor and ancestor located in just 24 miles away. Jagannath was consecrated as a place of worship only in later years, so it is believed that originally it was built as a tower of victory of Chad Ganga Deva in 1030 AD As an architectural work, it is not any unusual or groundbreaking building, though it is embellished by lace thread, which is typical for the state of Oriss. It has a greater value for the pilgrims than tourists, JagannathTemple is open to all Hindus, irrespective of caste.

The entrance to the temple of Jagannath is allowed only for Hindus. Once the priests didn’t allow fair-skinned Indian to enter the temple. That man accompanied his friend from the west, and insisted that he was a foreigner. However, this fact didn’t prevent them from receiving his donation. The ordinary tourist, who isn’t an Hindu can see the main temple only from the site, similar to the same one in Bhubaneswar. From there you can see a great column of Garuda in front of the inner sanctum (deul) and small temples which are different in design and size, and have been built over the centuries by the rich pilgrims.

Jagannatha 4JagannathTemple consists of four rooms located on one, going from east to west axis. Rooms used for offerings (bhog) and dance (nat mandir-s) were built in 14-15 centuries, long after the vestibule (jagmohan) and sanctuary (deul). Both rooms, the halls of offerings and dance hall, are full of ornaments. The walls are covered with stylized images of well-known gods and their servants.

The lobby of the Jagannatha temple has 16 columns and this fact is considered to be a rarity. The temple is decorated with sculpted scenes from the life of Krishna. These pictures are telling the stories of many mischievous pranks of God. Its gates and walls are covered with marble figures of lions and guards. The statues in the sanctuary are very unusual with their strange, ape-like, simple-minded persons. The statue of Subhadra doesn’t have any hands. Its creator had to leave Puri so quickly that he didn’t have time to finish his work.

Jagannatha 3Jagannatha 2You can get to the temple complex, which is guarded by lions at the entrance, with the help of the the wide road leading to the Gundicha Mandir, located in a mile away, on the way to the Sun Temple in Konarak. Every June, crowds of pilgrims fill the city when the statues of Jagannath are prepared for the ceremony and ritual journey to the Gundicha temple, accompanied by about 6000 people. Here they stay for 7 days before returning to their habitual residence. Symbolic journey of the gods in the three 16-wheeled wooden carts glorify the legendary journey of Krishna from Gokula to Mathura.

It is rather interesting to mention that the obscure town of Maheshe in West Bengal has a huge ancient temple of Jagannath too. Each year, during the famous chariot festival in Puri in Maheshe there is a grandiose rath yatra god (deity chariot journey).