Puri

The land of Jagannath

Puri is located in the eastern part of India, in the state of Odisha (Orissa). It is situated at a distance of 57 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar. Located on the shores of Bay of Bengal, it is considered to be one of the holiest places for Hindus. It is famous for the 12th century temple of Lord Jagannath (Krishna) and is also the site for the Govardhan Peeth, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. It is an ancient town which finds its mention in the holy scriptures of Hindus, dating back to thousands of years. Shrikshetra, Shankhkshetra, Jagannath Puri are some of the other names with which Puri is being identified in the ancient Hindu scriptures. Since the ancient times, the land of Puri has always been blessed by the divine presence of illumined saints, who were pulled by its holy vibrations. It houses various ashrams and maths (Hindu monasteries), belonging to different sects of Hinduism. Apart from being a major religious centre, Puri is also known for its pristine beaches, which are extremely popular with the pilgrims and adventure tourists alike. Rath Yatra, the famous Car Festival is celebrated here with lot of pomp and vigour, which is attended by thousands of people from all over the world.

Places of Spiritual Significance

Jagannath Temple

Jagannath-Temple-Puri

The Jagannath Temple is located at the very heart of the Puri town. According to legend, the Jagannath Temple was built by King Indradyumna, who belonged to the lineage of Manu. The present-day temple was built in the 12th century AD, by the famous king of Ganga dynasty, Anantha Verma Chodaganga Deva. This astounding Vaishnava temple enshrines the images of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) and Balabhadra (Krishna’s elder brother). The temple has four parts: Bhoga mandap (offerings hall), Nata mandap (dance hall), Jagamohan (assembly hall), and Bada Deula (sanctum sanctorum) which is 65 meters tall. The main gate of the temple is called as Singhdwara. Lord Jagannath is worshipped here with strict observance of traditional Hindu rituals. Every year during the month of June-July, the famous Car Festival is celebrated. It is a 10 day long festival and devotees from all over the world gather in Puri to be a part of the celebrations. On the first day of the festival, the deities are taken out of the temple and placed in their respective chariots. These chariots are made of wood and are made every year, as per the age-old tradition. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as Nandighosh and is 45 feet in height. The deities, placed on their respective chariots are then taken to Gundicha Temple, 3 km away from Jagannath Temple. The chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees, using ropes, an act which they consider very pious. The deities stay there for next 7 days and on the 9th day they are brought back to Jagannath Temple in a similar procession like the first day.

Govardhan Peeth

Govardhan-Peeth-Puri

The Govardhan Peeth is one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankaracharya, in the 8th century AD, for the preservation and dissemination of the Vedic teachings. The other three Peeths are in Dwarka, Sringeri, and Badrikrashrama. Ardhnarishwara and Govardhan-nath are the presiding deities of the Peeth. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths dedicated to the worship of goddess Sati. The naval-part of goddess Sati is supposed to have fallen over here. There is a stone bed which was used by Adi Shankaracharya, during his stay.

Karar Ashram

Karar-Ashram-Puri

Karar Ashram was founded by Swami Yukteshwar Giri, for the dissemination of the ageless technique of Kriya Yoga. He was a direct disciple of Shyamcharan Lahiri Mahasaya, the famous saint of Varanasi, who was responsible for the revival of Kriya Yoga in the modern era. One of the chief and notable disciples of Swami Yukteshwar Giri was Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded Self-Realization Fellowship in the west and Yogoda Satsanga Society in India. Karar Ashram houses the Samadhi Shrine of Swami Yukteshwar, which is a major place of pilgrimage for the followers of Kriya Yoga. Swami Yogeshwarananda is the current head of the ashram.

Girnari Bant / Advaita Brahma Ashram

Girnari-Bant-Puri

Girnari Bant is the place where the revered saint Totapuri had lived the last 40 years of his life. He attained Mahasamadhi in August 1961. He was a saint of highest order and had mastery over all forms of sadhana. He had initiated Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in the higher technique of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. There is a banyan tree inside the ashram where he would spend a lot of time engrossed in meditation. Girnari Bant is an ideal place for spiritual seekers to engage themselves in meditation and contemplation.

Guru Dham

Guru-Dham-Puri

Guru Dham is an ashram in Puri which was founded by Bhupendranath Sanyal, a direct disciple of Shyamcharan Lahiri Mahasaya. Living here, he initiated sincere seekers in the sacred technique of Kriya Yoga. He was an illumined saint and has written commentaries on many Hindu scriptures including the one on the Bhagavad Gita.

Gaura Gambhira / Radhakant Math

Gaura-Gmabhira-Puri

Located in the Bali Sahi area of Puri, Gaura Gambhira, also called the Radhakant Math is a revered place where the renowned saint of the 16th century, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, had lived the last 18 years of his life. There is a shrine of Lord Krishna outside the room of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. References about his stay are found in the work of ‘Chaitanya Charitamrita’ which presents a detailed description of his life.

Siddha Bakul Math

Siddha-Bakula-Math-Puri

Located close to the Radhakant Math, Siddha Bakul Math is the place where Haridas Thakur, a great devotee of Lord Jagannath, would chant Jagannath’s name. As he was a born Muslim, he was not allowed to enter the Jagannath Temple. Seeing his devotion and longing for Lord Jagannath, Chaitanya Prabhu told him to sit at this place, with his face towards the temple and chant the name of Lord Jagannath. He planted a twig in the ground, which was used in the temple ritual. All of a sudden it grew up and appeared as a huge shade tree. Haridas Thakur sat under the tree and followed the instructions of Chaitanya Prabhu, and is believed to have attained realization in due time. According to legend, the King of Puri wanted to get the tree cut in order to build the chariot for the yearly Car Festival. The King’s service-men were told that following the instruction of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Haridas Thakur was performing his sadhana under the tree and so the tree should not be cut. They did not relent and decided to cut the tree on the next day. The next day, when the King’s service-men arrived to cut the tree, they found that the tree had become hollow. As it was unsuitable for the construction of chariot they did not cut it. Thus Haridas Thakur was able to continue his sadhana under the tree.

Tota Gopinath

Tota-Gopinath-Temple-Puri

Located in the Gaurbat Sahi area of Puri, Tota Gopinath is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. The idol of the temple was discovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, while digging a hole in the ground. He gave the responsibility of maintenance of the deity to his dear associate Gadadhara Pandit. The image of Krishna is black in colour and depicts him in a sitting position. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would spend a lot of time at this place, listening to the recitation of Bhagavatam (life story of Lord Krishna) by Gadhadhara Pandit.

Samadhi Shrine of Haridas Thakur

Samadhi-Shrine-of-Haridas-thakur-Puri

The Samadhi Shrine of Haridas Thakur is located close to the beach in the Swarga-dwara area of Puri. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, himself buried the dead body of Haridas Thakur, after the latter’s passing away. It is now a major place of pilgrimage for the Vaishnava sect (followers of Lord Vishnu) of the Hindus.

Gundicha Temple

Gundicha-Temple-Puri

The Gundicha Temple is located 3 km away from the Jagannath Temple. This temple was built by Queen Gundicha, wife of King Indradyumna, who built the first temple of Jagannath. It is significant for being the destination of celebrated annual Car Festival of Puri. While it remains vacant most of the year, the temple is occupied by the images of the deities Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balabhadra for one entire week during the Car Festival, which is celebrated in the month of June-July. The temple stands in the centre of a beautiful garden surrounded by compound walls. The temple is a beautiful example of Kalinga style of temple architecture.

Loknatha Temple

Loknatha-Temple-Puri

Loknatha Temple is situated at a distance of 3 km to the west of the Jagannath Temple. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. According to legend, when Lord Rama was on his way towards Sri Lanka, he stopped at this place to worship Lord Shiva. The sanctum along with the Shivalinga remains submerged in the water of a natural fountain. Three days before the festival of Shivaratri, all the water is bailed out and the Linga becomes visible for the devotees to have the darshan. According to the local beliefs, incurable diseases get cured by the blessings of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri is celebrated here with lot of pomp and fervour. The temple is made of sand stones and the main temple is 30 feet in height.

Alarnath Temple

Alarnath-Temple-Puri

Located in Brahmagiri, which is at a distance of 25 km from Puri, Alarnath Temple is another place associated with the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. According to the Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma had worshipped Lord Vishnu at this place. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu, who is worshipped as Lord Jagannath. The temple is believed to be built by the Alwar rulers of Rajasthan and that is how the temple is called Alarnath, which is distorted form of Alwarnath (the lord of Alwars). Another legend associated with this place is in relation with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He would visit the Jagannath temple in Puri every day, for the darshan of the deity. During the period of anavasra, he was not able to have the darshan of the deity. Anavasra is a period in which the deity is believed to be suffering with fever and thus rests in isolation. During this period, the devotees are not able to have the darshan of the deity. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu received a divine injunction, according to which he proceeded towards Alarnath temple in Brahmagiri. He stayed there in the temple during the period of anavasra and worshipped Lord Jagannath there. This became a custom and now every year during the period of anavasra, thousands of devotees, deprived of the darshan of Lord Jagannath at the Jagannath Temple, come to Alarnath Temple for his darshan.

Sun Temple, Konark

Konark-Sun-Temple-Puri

The Sun Temple is located at Konark, at a distance of 35 km from Puri. The word Konark is a combination of two words Kona and Arka. Kona means Corner and Arka means Sun. The Sun Temple was built in the 13th century by the King Narasimhadeva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple is a masterpiece of Orissa’s medieval architecture. The entire complex was designed in the form of a huge chariot of the Sun god, drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels. Seven horses represent seven days of a week and twelve pairs of wheels represent twelve months of a year. These wheels are 8 feet in diameter.

At the entrance of the temple is the Nata Mandir (dance hall). The main sanctum Deul which enshrined the presiding deity had fallen off. It was 229 feet high and was constructed along with the Jagmohan (audience hall). The 128 feet high Audience Hall survives in its entirety, but only small portions of the Nata Mandir and the Bhoga-Mandap (dining hall) have survived the vagaries of time. The three chlorite idols of the Sun god, on the three sides of the main sanctum, depict the rising, midday and the setting sun. The rays of the rising sun reach the Jagmohan through one of the three entrances of the Natya Mandir, according to the time of the year.

The Sun temple was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 and comes under the purview of Archaeological Survey of India.

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