Puri is an ancient shrine, enshrining Krishna - Jagannath in the form of a wooden image.There is a legend about the construction of the Jagannath temple and installation of three deities therein. According to this legend in the Satya Yuga there was a king Indradyumna, in Malava . He was a great devotee of Vishnu. Once he had vision of Nilamadhava Vishnu in his dream. Next day he sent emissaries in four direction to find out where the image, he dreamt of, was being worshipped. Brahmin Vidyapati was sent to the east. He came to Utkala and entered a Savara village.He took shelter in the house of the Savara King Visvavasu.His daughter Lalita fell in love with Vidyapati who had to marry her so that he might get information about Nilamadhava through his wife. Savara king Visvavasu used to go to the forest every morning to worship Nilamadhava installed in Niakandara (Blue cave). Vidyapati preesed his wife to request her father to allow him to see Nilamadhava. Visvavasu agreed on the condition that Vidyapati will be taken to the shrine and brought back therefrom with a blindfold.When Vidyapati heard this proposal he requested his wife to arrange something so that he may subsequently know the path. Lalitha gave him some sesame seeds to be scarred on the side of the road he followed so that he might know the path when sesame plants grew up during the rains.
Accordingly Vidyapati was taken to Nilakandara where he had the luck of witnessing Nilamadhava. But when Vasu Savara offered the food to the deity, he did not take it as usual. At this Vasu Savara was much dismayed. At this time he heard someone saying from the air, “we would no longer continued to be worshipped by you. Oh! Vasu, we will change the present Nilamadhava form and assume Daru form. We shall be worshipped in the temple by Raja Indradyumna.” Hearing this voice of God, Vasu Savara came back with Vidyapati with a heavy heart.Then Vidyapati bade farewell to his wife and father-in-law and started to convey the news to Raja Indradyumna. On hearing the news, Raja Indradyumna at once started with his retinue for Utkal tosee Nilamadhava. On reaching Nilakandara he found it vacant. But a voice from the air told him to construct atemple on Nilasaila (Blue mountain).Accordingly Raja started construction of a big temple. When it was completed he went to Brahmaloka to invite Brahma to consecrate the temple. He had to wait for nine yugas till Brahma finished his meditation. The temple became buried in sand in his absence. In the mean time a new dynasty ruled in Utkala. Galamadhva, a king of that dynasty, detected the presence of the temple buried under the sand. When he got the sand removed a beautiful temple was revealed. He was considering to install images in the temple when Indradyumna with Lord Brahma appeared before him. There was a tussle between Galamadhava and Indradyumna over the ownership of the temple. However, Lord Brahma decided in favour of Indradyumna and asked Raja to install deities in the temple.The raja was at loss where to find the deities. At night God told him in dream that He would be floating in the sea in form of log of wood. Then he employed thousands carpenters to make deities but they failed, as their instrument did not work against the wood. At last an old carpenter came and said he would make images in 21 days on the condition that he would remain completely shut up inside the temple for the period Raja consented, But on the expiry of two weeks the Queen became anxious since no sound came out of the temple. She thought that the carpenter was dead. She pressed the king to open the door. The king yielded and opened the door. He found three images in unfinished state. The Raja was sorry but the God told him that he wanted to assume that Bauddha form in Kali age. The King did discover the log of wood. Vishnu and Vishwakarma appeared in the form of artistes and prepared images of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra from the tree. The wooden images being worshipped are renewed during special occasions.Interestingly, the Rig Veda refers to Purushottama in the form of a wooden image, prepared from a log of wood floating on the ocean. Puri is also referred to in the Bhrama purana.
The celebrated Temple of Lord Jagannath now existent at Puri was constructed by Raja Ananta Varman Chodaganga Dev in 12th century A.D. The wooden images of Jagannath Balabhadra and Subhadra were installed in that temple. The management of the temple continued under the Hindu rulers till 1558, when the State of Orissa was conquered by the Afghan Nawab of Bengal and the temple was attacked by the Afgan General ‘Kalapahad’. Then, an independent Khurda kingdom was established by Ramachandra Deb, who assumed the management of the temple. He consecrated the temple and reinstalled the deities. Raja Mansingh, a General of the Mughal King Akbar, defeated the Afghans and annexed Orissa in to the Mughal dominion. It remained under the Mughals till 1751 A.D. Till 1760, the temple continued under the Khurda Raja, who was paying tribute to Mughals and Marhattas. Marhattas took up direct management of the temple till 1803. The Britishers annexed Orissa into British empire in 1803 and allowed Puri Raja to manage the temple. The position continued till 1947.
This temple is said to have the largest kitchen in the world, and feeds thousands of devotees daily. The kitchen can prepare food for 100,000 people on a festival day and 25,000 is not unusual on a normal day. 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. There is a wheel on 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.There are four gates: the eastern Singhadwara (Lion Gate), the southern Ashwadwara (Horse Gate), the western Vyaghradwara (Tiger Gate), and 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 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 the present temple.
The architecture of the temple follows the pattern of many Orissan temples of the classical period. The main shikhara, or tower, rises above the inner sanctum where the deities reside. Subsidiary shikharas rise above ante-halls. The temple complex is surrounded by a wall, on each side of which (that is, east, south, west, north) is a gopura or gate, over which rises a pyramid-shaped roof. The Jagannath temple is one of the largest in Orissa. The temple complex covers several square blocks and contains dozens of structures, including a mammoth kitchen. Truly, the Jagannath temple at Puri is an architectural and cultural wonder. The main temple structure is 65m (214 feet) high and is built on elevated ground, making it look more imposing. The temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer enclosure is called Meghanada Prachira, 200m (665 ft) by 192m (640 ft). The walls are 6m (20 feet) high. The inner wall is called Kurmabedha, 126m (420 ft) by 95m (315 ft). The walls were built during the 15th or 16th century.
Main AttractionA famous festival related to the Jagannath temple is the ratha yatra, or chariot festival, which occurs yearly in June or July. During the Rath Yatra Festival, the images of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are placed in mammoth chariots or 'raths', the largest of which is 14 meters (46 feet) high and has 16 wheels, each more than two meters (seven feet) in diameter, which are then drawn along Grand Road to the Gundecha temple, a few kilometers away. After they have stayed in that temple for seven days, the deities again ride the chariots back to their home temple.. This journey commemorates that of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura.
Maha-prasada is pure vegetarian spiritual food offered to Lord Jagannath. Just by eating this maha-prasada one makes great spiritual advancement. Everyday, fifty-six varieties of prasada are offered to Lord Jagannath. The preparations are made traditionally and no onion, garlic, chillies or many varieties of vegetables (considered alien) are not used. These Offerings after being made to Lord Jagannath are in turn again offered to Goddess Bimala Devi in the temple precincts and then becomes Mahaprasadam. This Mahaprasadam is considered very efficacious for spiritual liberation. One should respectfully honor the Mahaprasadam sitting on the floor. This Mahaprasadam is available daily after 3 -5 pm. This is sold outside the sanctorum area but within the temple premises. TheMahaprasadam remains hot for a long time as it is kept in the same earthen pots which are used to cook it. Most probabaly it may be rice, make it clear how much you want while ordering. Even if you say it ten times, you will probably be brought way too much the first time. Normally, maha-prasada means a few small pots of sabji (vegetables), dhal, and a pot of rice ten times the size of the small sabji pots.