Jagannath Temple is one of the most renowned as well as the biggest temples of Orissa. Established in the 12th century, the temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Lord of the Universe. Puri is one of the four holy dhamas of India (The otheres are Dvaraka, Badarinath and Rameshvaram). It is located 60km from Bhubaneshwar, on the coast of the Bay Of Bengal.
King Indradyumna first established the temple of Lord Jagannath here on the Nilacala hill with the Deity being installed by Lord Brahma himself.
The present temple was begun by King Chora Ganga deva and finised by his descendant Ananga Bhima Deva during 12th century.
The main temple structure of this architectural and cultural wonder is 65m (214 feet) high and is built on elevated ground, making it look more imposing. Comprising an area of 10.7 acres, the temple complex is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer enclosure is called Meghanada Prachira, 200m (665 ft) by 192m (640 ft). The inner wall is called Kurmabedha, 126m (420 ft) by 95m (315 ft). There are thirty-six traditional communities (Chatisha Niyaga) who render a specific hereditary service to the deities. The temple has as many as 6,000 priests.
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 a many as 6000 priests. There is a wheel on the top of the Jagannath temple made of an alloy of eight metals (asta-dhatu).. It is called the Nila Chakra (Blue Wheel), and is 3.5m (11 ft 8 in) high with a circumference of about 11m (36 ft). Every day, a different flag is tied to a mast attached to the Nila Chakra. Every Ekadasi, a lamp is lit on top of the temple near the wheel.
Thirty different smaller temples surround the main temple. The Lord Narasimha temple adjacent to western side of the Muki-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 the pillar is Aruna, the Sun god’s charioteer.
In the passage room of this gate is a Deity of Lord Jagannath known as Patita Pavana (Savior of the 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 (House Gate).
- The Western Vyaghradwara (The Tiger Gate).
- 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 road. Thirty different smaller temples surround the main temple. The Narasimha Temple, adjacent to the western side of the Mukti-mandapa, is said to have been constructed before this temple even.