Jagannath Puri Temple facts defy science. Right from the view of the Nila Chakra that appears at a 360-degree view from anywhere in the Puri town to the mammoth kitchen that cooks food where not even a single grain of cooked rice goes waste, everything related to Puri Jagannath temple seem to prove that there exists a superpower beyond human perception and modern science.
Puri Jagannath temple in Odisha is one of the most revered temples for Hindus. The town of Puri is also called Purushottama Kshetra. The temple is world-renowned for its Jagannath Rath Yatra, but it seems to hold more mysteries than we can comprehend. Read on to know more about Jagannath Puri temple facts.
The chakra or the disc on the top of the Puri Jagannath temple is called Nila Chakra. The chakra is made of AshtaDhatu or eight elements. Weighing around a ton, the positioning of the Nila chakra is so that it appears in a whole 360-degree view from any side of the town. If you don’t believe this one of the Jagannath Puri temple facts, ask anyone who visited the temple and witnessed this ancient engineering marvel.
Another surprising fact about the Puri Jagannath temple is no one could decode how the Chakra weighing around a tonne was installed atop the temple tower when no machines were available in those days!
Every day, a priest changes the flag hoisted on this Nila Chakra by climbing the 45-storey tall temple tower with bare hands! It is believed that if this flag is not changed even for a single day, it results in the closure of the temple for as long as 18 years. This flag contains the Patita Pavana, another form of Jagannatha.
Sighting the Nila Chakra and the flag with Patita Pavana is considered equal to witnessing the deities inside the sanctum sanctorum. This flag waves in the opposite direction of the airflow, which leaves modern science with no answer for this phenomenon.
Also, one cannot see any birds flying above the temple tower. Nor are any airplanes allowed to fly over the temple. It absolutely tells that nothing can go beyond God.
There lies another form of Lord Jagannadha near the main left-hand door of the main entrance. Also called Patita Pavana (the One who does good for the trodden), devotees who could not enter the temple for various reasons would take darshan of this Patita Pavana. Even during the recent COVID lockdown when the temple was closed for darshan, devotees were allowed only to look at the Patita Pavana at the main entrance.
Dance as an offering to God
Indian classical dances are one of the forms of displaying devotion to God. If you have visited the Puri Jagannath temple, you can no longer debate over this fact. The temple walls and panels are filled with sculptures of women in striking poses of Odissi.
In fact, Odissi finds an early mention in the ancient Indian scriptures like Vishnupurana, Vamadeva Samhita, and Srimad Bhagavatam. In the ancient times, specified women termed as Devadasis who dedicated their lives to God and temples used to perform Odissi as an offering to God. They were called Mahanaaris or Mahari in short. This culture continues even today.
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The Delicious and Heavenly Bhog
The Bhog or Mahaprasad is another fact that the temple is renowned for. The deities in the temple – Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Shri Jagannatha – are offered tens of varieties of food every single time in the day.
Right from their wake up in the morning to the night slumber which happens after the recitation of Gita Govinda, the brothers and sister trio enjoys varieties of food as offerings. The Maha Prasad consists of 56 vegetarian items cooked without garlic, onion, and chillies, as per traditional Vaishnava methods of cooking. Historians say that in 1910, this mid-day meal consisted of 435 dishes!
The Maha Prasada consists of items made from seasonal produce such as yam, brinjal, and red pumpkin. This Mahaprasad or Bhog is unique in the sense that unlike prasad in other Hindu temples which is served in small quantities, the Maha Prasad is a complete meal.
After cooking the celestial feast with tons of items for Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra, the priests offer it to Maa Lakshmi first. Only then it becomes the Maha Prasada and becomes eligible to be served to the devotees. This Prasada is sold at Ananda Bazaar near the temple premises for the devotees.
It is also believed that Maa Lakshmi watches the making of the Maha Prasada. Any misconduct or failure in adhering to traditions while cooking will cause the appearance of a mystical shadow near the kitchen entrance. Any sight of such shadow, the priests will bury the food so cooked and then start cooking the fresh batch again.
The cooking is done on firewood and in earthen pots using the water drawn from two wells inside the temple. The pots are arranged one over the other. The topmost pot gets cooked first, then the next one, and the pot near the fire gets cooked at last!
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The deity whose construction is left midway
The idols of Lord Balabhadra, Mayi Subhadra, and Lord Jagannadha are different from other traditional idols of Hinduism. They are half- sculpted and left in the middle of their completion.
According to the legends, King Indradyumna was the ruler of Puri hundreds of years ago. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. He comes to know that a tribal king in the outskirts of his kingdom worshipped a powerful deity called Neela Madhava. But to his misfortune, he could not get the darshan of God.
On that night, in his dream, Lord Vishnu appears and orders him to build a temple for him. The next day Indradyumna goes to the beach to think and meditate about how to proceed with the temple construction. Like a divine action, he finds a log glowing as high as a nilamani ( a precious blue gem).
As he wonders and takes the log into his hand, a mysterious old man appears on the beach. He tells the King to make the idols out of it. He volunteers to make the idols, under one condition – that he would carve the idols in solitude and secrecy, and no one should see the final idols till he opens the door and announces their completion. King Indradyumna agrees to this proposal and brings the man and the wooden log to his fort and arranges for a secluded room for this purpose.
After the 11th day, the King could not contain his curiosity and opened the door to peep in and take a look at how the idol is being turned up. Then he realizes that the old man is none other than Vishwakarma, the sculptor of the Universe!
Angered with the King’s breaking of a promise, Vishwakarma leaves the sculpting work in the middle and vanishes! The idols he made are devoid of hands. While the king was wondering what he should do, a divine voice orders him to install those idols in the temple and worship them.
Today the deity trio that we witness in the Puri Jagannath temple is the same form. For every 12 years or 18 years (where Adhika Aashada happens), the deities are made new and the old ones are buried. This process is called Nabakalebara (means New Body, Naba- new, kalebara- Body).
Millions of devotees witness this Nabakalebara event. It is another among the Jagannath Puri temple facts that creates curiosity to foreign tourists and orthodox devotees equally.
In contrast to many Hindu temples where idols are made of powerful stones, the deities of Puri are made of neem wood. And they are replaced for every 12 years approximately.
Temple with no shadow
The Gopura or the main Shikara of the temple is gigantic. It is one of the architectural marvels of ancient India. The Puri temple is one of the prominent places in India known for its sacrosanct architecture.
Due to the unique construction of the temple tower, it gets no shadow despite any time of the day. The shadow falls on itself and never on the ground!
Main entrance that shuns the gush of the ocean
Another surprising fact is that as soon as one steps into the temple, no gush of the ocean is heard!
The distance between the main entrance of the Puri Jagannadh temple and the Puri beach is 2km. But as soon as they step out of the Mahadwara, they can hear the noise of the ocean. Legends say that Subhadra Mayi requested her brothers to give some respite from the ocean gush, and hence the phenomenon.
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One of the Char Dham and immense significance in Hinduism
Puri is one of the Char Dham places considered sacred for Hindus. Dham is a sacred place for Hindus. They would visit once at least in their lifetime. Along with Puri Jagannath, Dwaraka, Rameswaram, and Badrinath are the other three places that are utmostly sacred for Hindus.
Puri has a deep association with the Vaishnava tradition. The greatest saints of Vaishnavism including Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Vallabhacharya, and Ramananda lived in this town and offered their contributions to the spread of Vaishnavism from here.
The Juggernaut Ratha
The very mention of Puri Jagannath temple facts brings to our mind the celestial event of Jagannath Rath Yatra. This annual event that takes place in June-July is participated by millions of devotees.
During this yatra, the main deities of the temple are brought out for the town visit. They are adorned on the two sets of temple chariots or the magnificent temple cars called Raths, which are made anew every single year. The Ratha used for Jagannath is 45 feet high and 35 square feet wide.
The Jagannath Rath is intricately and elaborately carved and painted. Bringing out the sibling trio for a town visit is an act that allows everyone in the town a darshan of the holy deities. Later, the deities stay at the Gundicha temple, a few kilometers away from the Jagannath Temple. After a 7-day stay, the deities again head back to the main temple in their temple car.
Millions of devotees participate in the pulling of the rath. In ancient times, orthodox devotees used to offer their lives to God by voluntarily lying down beneath the gigantic wheels of the Rath.
Even today, every Hindu feels it as a boon to pull the chariot of the Jagannath with the bare hands! In fact, Jagannath Rath yatra is the biggest and the oldest celebration of Hinduism as well as on the Earth.
In the olden days when Kings ruled Puri, it was a tradition for the King to clean the road ahead of the ratha with a golden handled broom and spray sandal mixed water with utmost devotion. Ratha yatra thus signifies that everyone is equal before God, be it a King or a normal man.
The temple that signifies the brother-sister bond
Many temples of Hinduism signify the bond between husband and wife. The deities are couples. In contrast to this tradition, the Puri Jagannath temple is a place that worships siblings. Subhadra Mayi, the beloved sister of Balarama and Krishna is protected by her brothers and worshipped by devotees with intense devotion. Puri is one of the very few temples in India that worship brothers and sisters. Every year during the Rakhi festival, huge rakhis are woven with devotion for this sibling trio.
Pattachitra and magnificent temple construction
Odisha is known for its Pattachitra paintings. The temple walls of Puri Jagannath display many Pattachitra paintings. They are made by talented sculptors who often are also experts in this art. Patta Chitra means painting on a leaf.
The base for this traditional Odissi art form is drawing intricate designs resembling the scenes from Hindu epics or Dashavatara.
Not just the Puri Jagannath temple, many temples around Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneswar display this art that captivates the tourists.
The temple construction of Puri is not just one construction of sanctum sanctorum. It is a conglomerate of many minor temples. Some of these minor temples include the Vimala Devi temple and the Goddess Lakshmi temple. The Puri Jagannath temple was termed as White Pagoda in the ancient days. However, now the temple is in its natural stunning color.
Vimala Devi temple is one of the Shakti peethas according to Hinduism. It is here that the navel of the Maa Sati while Lord Shiva was carrying her shattered body. Another famous temple of Goddess Lakshmi is known for its significance in the making of Maha Prasada.
Even while returning from Ratha yatra and their stay at Gundicha (none other than aunt of Sri Krishna), the deities offer Rasagulla to Maa Lakshmi in this temple to inform that they returned to the temple again.
All these Jagannath Puri Temple Facts prove that there lie many mysteries beyond our understanding. And the beauty lies if we leave them unexplored as we are too small to decode the Science of God. Faith and ancient traditions have always been the pillars for the sustenance of Hinduism for ages. Temples like Puri Jagannath demonstrate why respecting and passing on spiritual traditions and beliefs is good for humankind.