Sri Jagannath Temple is one of the most revered and sacred pilgrimage sites in India. Its main deity is Lord Jagannath, who is said to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.


The majestic temple is said to have been built by king Anangabhimadeva, also known as Angangabhima III of the Ganga dynasty. Some historians say the construction of the temple began during the reign of king Chodagangadeva, the founder of the dynasty, in the 12th century. Built on a gigantic raised platform, the magnificent temple soars above all neighbouring buildings and dominates the skyline of Puri. Its 65-m-high spire is visible even from the outskirts of the city. The temple complex is enclosed within two concentric walls, the Kuruma Bheda (inner wall) and the Meghnad Pachira (wall). The main entrance to the temple is through the Singhadwar or the Lion Gate, which is guarded by two imposing stone lions in a crouching position. On the pilasters next to the door are a couple of statues of guards. There are three other gates facing the three of the cardinal directions and are known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate (also called the Khanja Gate). Inside the temple complex, there are 6,000 servitors and kitchens that feed around 10,000 people every day. Every year, the temple celebrates the Ratha Yatra (chariot) festival with great exuberance. It is one of the most widely-attended spiritual extravaganzas in the country.


The temple consists of four structures: Vimana or Bada Deula (sanctum sanctorum), Jagamohan or Mukhasala (the porch), Natamandir (the audience hall) and Bhogamandap (bhoga is the food offering made to gods). While the mysticism of Lord Jagannath may dwarf the architectural marvels of the temple structure, it does have several unique features. It is said the main temple has been constructed in such a way that no shadow of it falls on the ground at any time of the day. There are several other points of interest, like the Nilachakra or the blue wheel perched on top of the temple. Made of eight metals or asta dhatu, devotees believe that sighting the Nilachakra is as good as a sight of the lord Himself. Atop the Nilachakra is the Patitapabana or the flag that is changed every day at sunset. For believers, a sight of the fluttering flag is divine. Devotees also hold the mahaprasada or the offering of food to the lord, in great esteem. A serving of rice, vegetables and cereals, it is cooked in earthen pots on wood and charcoal fire. Also revered is the Aruna stambha or the Sun pillar, the 33-ft-high monolithic pillar of black chlorite in front of the Lion Gate. The capital of the pillar is surmounted by a squatting Garuda (the mythological bird mount of Lord Vishnu).

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