Puri Jagannath temple, Odisha - 20 astonishing facts

Puri Jagannath temple, Indiawww.myoksha.com

India is a land of mixed cultures, following different faiths, cults, rituals, etc., and is home to several huge Hindu temple complexes. The Hindus form the majority and they provide space for other faiths as well to interact. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, there are huge Hindu temples mainly made of hard stones (mostly granite related hard rocks) built by the dynasties of Cholas, Chera, Pandya and Pallava. The Nayaks of Andhra and their resident representatives made valuable contributions towards temple contsructions in Tamil Nadu - Madurai, Trichy, Thanjavur, Thriuvannmlai districts,etc.  The Srirangam temple complex near Trichy city is the largest functional temple complex in the world - covering a total area of more than 200 acres.  The Big temple at Thanjavur (a UNESCO Heritage Monument) built more than 1000 years ago is a well known structure for its unique design and architectural beauty. The entire temple is made of granite stone with artistically carved images of gods and goddesses on the tall tower. The temple Tank Kamalayalyam, part of  Thiruvarur  Sri Thiagarajar temple complex is, perhaps, is the largest temple tank in India. Like wise its chariot-rath is the tallest and heavest one in India.The temple at Rameswaram has the longest prakara (path way around the shrine) in the world made of hard stone.

The Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple at Thiruvanantha Puram, Kerala is a famous one and is the richest temple in the world (temple owns jewelry, etc., worth more than $ 25 billion (without adding antique value plus contents in the last safe not yet valued). Tirupati  Sri Balaji temple is the most famous and busiest one, besides being one of the richest temples in the world. Udipi temple in Karnataka is unique in its own way. So are the temples of Badrinath, Kedarnath in the north and Somnath temple of Gujarat. 

The sprawling Jagannath temple at Puri,Odisha (Orissa) is the busiest temple in India and has numerous small temples within the temple complex. It has the unique distinction of having the largest kitchen in the world, serving food to more than 80,000 devotees each day. Unlike other Hindu temples of India, here the Maha Prasada (divine food offering to god) is always  available for the visiting devotees. Without the help of a guide or temple priest it is difficult to visit this temple, considering its sheer size and a huge sea of humanity within the temple precincts. This temple is also more than 1000 years old. The tradition of yearly  Rath Yatra - Chariot procession of three deities - Lord Krishna (Jagannath), Balarama and Subhadra is being followed for centuries without a break. There is a replica of Jagannath temple in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Telengana. 

The Jagannath Temple at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad ,srisrilara.blogspot.com

Above image: The Jagannath Temple at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad with 70 feet high Gopuram / Shikhara, built as a replica of the Puri Jagannath Temple, Orissa .........

The following are the fascinating facts about this large functional temple in Orissa (Odisha):
01. Puri temple  was built by the ruler of Kalinga Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev. Part of temple Jaganmohna and the Vimana date back to (1078 – 1148). Ananga Bhima Dev in 1174 AD was responsible for the present structure and plan of Puri temple.

The vimana of the main temple.en.wikipedia.org

02. The images of Lord Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra are believed to have been  prepared by Lord Vishnu and Vishwakarma themselves from the log disguising as  artistes.

03. Un-touchability is not entertained on the temple premises. No caste, creed distinctions, etc.

04. The  common offering to the deities here is Kitchadi, a kind of food served only in the earthen pot. Any body can make the offering to the Gods here.

05. Puri Temple is spread over an area of approximately 400,000 square feet circled by a  high-fortified  20 feet high wall.

06. Three are as many as 120 shrines / mini temples within the huge temple complex. There are four parts in the complex : Bhogmandir, Natamandir, Jagamohana and Deul Jagamohana is meant for worshipping.

07. There are over  6,000 priests  with over 14,000 people serving as  assistants and attendants of the priests, besides temple guides.

08. June or July every year is the time of centuries old tradition-bound famous Rath Yatra procession of  Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra. The deities are taken to the Gundecha temple where they stay for 7 days. That place is said to be birth place of  lord Jagannath.

Rath Yatra in Puri Temple in the background. en.wikipedia.org

09. The three deities are  symbols of Samyak Darshan, Samyak Jnana and Samyak Charita usually called Triratha (of the Jain cult), the assimilation of which leads to Moksha (salvation) or the ultimate bliss.

10. Main  images of Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Balabhadra  are wooden, made of Neem logs (specially selected) known as Daru Bramha.

11. The images made of wood are believed  to have their distant link with the aboriginal system of worshiping wooden poles - practiced by the  hill tribes of Orissa. Likewise different tribes of native American Indians like Hopi, Navajo, Yakima, Anadarko et al adorn wooden poles called "Totem poles." 

12. Temple ritual called 'chhera pahara " is observed during Rath Yatra. The local ruler / king wearing the garb of a sweeper cleans the path of Rath Yatra with a broom, symbolizing the fact that 'before lord Jagannath every body is equal.'

13. Rath Yatra (3 km ride from the main temple to the Shri Gundicha Temple) was introduced during the  Ganga dynasty around 1150 AD. It was one of those earliest Hindu festivals reported to the western countries

14. Tradition has it that new wooden Rathas (chariots) are made every year and dismantled after the Rath Yatra.  The dismantled wood (about 13000 square feet) are used in the temple kitchen as fire-wood to prepare mahaprasad. 

15. The temple is a good example of fusion of Shivaism and Vaishnavism. Here,  Jagannath  represents Vishnu, Narayana and Sri Krishna and the deities are regarded as the Bhairava (Shiva, the formidable) with Vimala (the Bhairavi or the consort of Shiva) installed on the campus of the temple.

16. This temple shows the assimilation of various cults and also the tenets of Buddhism, Jainism as well as tribal worship. It is believed the temple could have been a Buddhist Stupa, containing the relics of Lord Buddha.

Thee deities of Jagannath temple. www.shreekhetra.com

Jagannath temple kitchen. use of earthern pots for cooking. puriwaves.nirmalya.in

17. This temple has the largest functional kitchen in the world 150 feet X 100 feet X 20 feet - height with 32 rooms, 250 earthen ovens (chulllahs), 600 cooks (Suaras) and 400 assistants. The kitchen fire called  Vaishnava Agni is never put out. Only earthen pots are used for cooking, etc. Yet another feature is they do not use modern kitchen electrical equipment for cooking, etc. Only water from the well on the kitchen premises is used for cooking.

largest kitchen in the world, Puri temple .www.flickr.

18. Sikh ruler Maharajah Ranjit Singh of Punjab donated massive amounts of gold to the  temple and he had a plan to donate the Kohinoor diamond to the temple. But the British took it away from him along with his kingdom. The Kohonoor diamond is in the Royal jewelers collections in the London tower building.

19. Every Ekadasi night, a lamp is lit  atop  the temple  tower near Sri Chakra-wheel.

 flags at the top shikhara of Puri temple.en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Ritual chakra and flags at the top shikhara
of Puri temple,  also related to Sudarsana chakra. The red flag (12 hand or 14 Feet denotes that Jagannath is within the building .......

20. The English word 'juggernaut' - unstoppable person or thing gets going - has roots in Jagannath temple's  giant raths (chariots).

 Jagannath Temple Odisha, Jagannath Temple Orissa". visitodisha.net. 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2012.

"The Prasad is prepared in a very traditional way, without using onion, garlic, chillies" "Jagannath
Temple Jat Puri". Retrieved 2006-09-20. 

"Festivals of lord jagannath, puri festivals". fullorissa.com. 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2012. "Pana Sankranti or Mahabishuba sankranti:"