The waves pounding on the beach, the refreshing sea breezes, the colossal hand-carved 12thcentury stone temple, the relaxed and happy ambience of the local folk, the bright red, yellow and blue cloth appliqué, and that bewitching pair of big smiling eyes looking out from every wall, every billboard, every poster, every calendar, every wedding invitation, every sticker, every button, every bead bag, every taxi and rickshaw, every windshield, every t-shirt, every shoulder bag – “This is Jagannatha Puri Dhama”, one of India’s most popular pilgrimage sites located in Orissa, 300 miles south of Kolkata and 60km from Bhubaneswar.
In Skanda-Purana (Utkala-khanda) it is mentioned that this most beautiful Sri Ksetra is spread over 10 yojanas (128km or 80 miles) and surrounded by sands. Utkala is another name of Orissa. Utkala is described in scriptures as the most holy place on this planet. Utkala is divided into four parts which represent the weapons of Lord Visnu. These four ksetras are known as Sankha-ksetra (Puri town), Padma-ksetra (Konark), Cakra-ksetra (Bhubaneswar) and Gada-ksetra (Jajapura, where the Viraja Devi temple is). Within this area of 10 yojanas, Puri is known as Sankha-ksetra because its shape resembles a conch shell. This Puri-ksetra covers an area of 5 krosa, 3 of which are immersed under the ocean, and 2 on land. This land is covered with golden sands and decorated with a blue mountain. The Lord Himself in His arca-vigraha form is residing here on the bank of the ocean atop the blue mountain. Sankha-ksetra spreads from east to west. Its head is towards west where Lokanatha Mahadeva resides.
Puri-dhama is known by different names: Purusottama-ksetra, Sri Ksetra, Nilacala-dhama, Jagannatha-dhama, Yamanika-tirtha, Martya Vaikuntha, Nilagiri, Sankha-ksetra, Dasa-avatara-ksetra and Nrsimha-ksetra. Glories of Sri Purusottama-ksetra Jagannatha Puri Dhama are mentioned in different Puranas:Skanda Purana, Brahma Purana, Vamadeva Samhita, Kapila Samhita, Padma Purana and Niladri Purana.
“SRI MANDIRA” – LORD JAGANNATHA TEMPLE
Eternal abode of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra
Jagannathah swami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
“O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.”
Jagannatha means “Lord of the Universe”. Jagannatha Swami is a unique Deity form of Lord Sri Krishna, who has especially appeared in Kali-yuga to deliver the most fallen souls. Merciful Lord Jagannatha accepts worship from one and all. Padma Purana states:
Samudrasyottare tire, aste sri-purusottame
Purnananda-mayam brahma, daru-vyaja-sarira-bhrt
“At Sri Purusottama [Jagannatha Puri], on the northern shore of the ocean, resides the Supreme Absolute Truth. Full of ecstatic bliss, He has assumed a transcendental body that appears wooden.”
Jagannatha Svami is called daru-brahman because He is the Absolute Truth in wood (daru), and because He destroys (daranat) the miseries of material existence. Daru Brahman means the Deity form of God, the Supreme Brahman, Parabrahman. It means the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna who cuts away all sufferings and miserable material attachments, and then rewards one an eternal life of endless bliss in the spiritual world; He is Lord Jagannatha or Daru Brahman.
Being absolute, Lord Jagannatha is identical in person, form, picture, kirtana and all other circumstances. If one thinks that the form of Lord Jagannatha is an idol made of wood, he immediately brings ill fortune into his life. Lord Jagannatha is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, just as the body of Krishna is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. A pure devotee who knows the science of Krishna Consciousness makes no distinction between Lord Jagannatha and His body. Lord Jagannatha is identical with Sri Krishna (Krsnera ‘atma-svarupa). But in Jagannatha Puri, He appears as daru-brahma, a non-moving entity (sthavara-svarupa). Thus Lord Jagannatha and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, although appearing as two, are one because They are both Krishna, who is one alone. The supreme desire to deliver the entire world meets in both Mahaprabhu and Jagannatha, and for that reason also They are one and the same. To deliver all the materially contaminated people of the world, that same Krishna has descended in the moving form (jangama rupa) of Gaura. (Caitanya Caritamrta Antya Lila 5.148-151)
Beauty of Jagannatha Svami
Lord Jagannatha has extraordinary form. Pilgrims in Puri often ask, “Why does the Deity of Jagannatha Deva have such an unusual form?” Answer is simple: God wants to appear like this, in this most unusual form, to establish religion in this most unusual age of Kali. Vamadeva Samhita and Skanda Purana state that Lord Sri Krishna appears in this covered wooden form out of His independent will and due to prayer of Brahma Ji. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very thirsty to see the Deity of Lord Jagannatha. Gauranga’s eyes became like two bumblebees drinking the honey from the lotus-like eyes of Lord Jagannatha who is Krishna Himself.
- The eyes of Lord Jagannatha conquer the beauty of blossoming lotus flowers and His neck defeats the luster of a mirror made of blue sapphires.
- The chin of Jagannatha Svami, tinged with a buff color conquers the beauty of bandhuli flower. This increases the beauty of Jagannatha’s mild smiling, which is like lustrous waves of nectar.
- Luster of Jagannatha Deva’s beautiful face increases at every moment, and the eyes of 100’s and 1000’s of devotees drink its honey like bumblebees.
- Feeling such great pleasure upon seeing the face of Lord Jagannatha, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu forgot everything. (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 12.210-19)
Main temple of Jagannatha Svami soars 214 feet high. Temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by 2 rectangular walls. Outer enclosure is called Meghananda Prachira (665 x 640 feet). Walls are 6 meters high. Inner wall is called Kurmabedha (420 x 315 ft). This ancient temple combines two styles: South Indian (Dravidian) and North Indian (Nagara). King Anangabhima Deva completed the temple in 1200 AD. Within the boundary walls of the Jagannatha temple there are 30 different temples. Outer wall has opening in four directions. East and main gate, Lion Gate (Simha-dvara) has two crouching stone lions. South gate, Horse Gtae (Aswa-dvara) has a pair of galloping horses carrying Jagannatha and Baladeva on backs with all Their martial glory. West gate, Tiger Gate (Vyaghra-dvara) has two stone tigers, and north gate, Elephant Gate (Hasti-dvara) has a huge stone elephant.
Cakra & Flags
The cakra (Sudarsana disc) above Lord Jaganantha’s temple is called “Nila-Cakra” (blue wheel). Nila-cakra is made of an alloy of 8 different metals. It is 11 feet 8inch high and has circumference of 36 feet. On every Ekadasi a lamp is lit near the wheel. Daily around 6:30pm, the Garuda Sevaka (a pujari flag bearer) fearlessly climbs up 214 feet to the Nila-cakra and fastens a number of flags to the mast fixed to Nila-cakra. Flags, which are bright red, white or bright yellow in color, are embroidered with a crescent moon and a sun in the middle, signifying that Lord Jagannatha is our ever-watchful, loving guardian both in the day and night. It alsom means that Lord Jagannatha rules the universe wherever the sun and moon shine. Nila-cakra sevaits, begin this hereditary service from age of 8, get the ability to perform this very difficult service by the mercy of Garuda, whose name they chant while scaling the shikara.
In front of main gate is a pillar 11m high called Aruna Stambha. On top of this single-stone pillar is Aruna, the charioteer of the sun god. In passage room of main gate is a Deity of Lord Jagannatha called Patita Pavana (saviour of the most fallen). It is visible from the road. One can stand behind Aruna Stambha and respectively gaze at the Nila-Cakra, flags billowing atop Jagannatha’s temple and Patita Pavana Jagannatha in front, and then offer humble obeisances. Seeing Nila-Cakra, flags and Patita Pavana Jagannatha is equal to direct darshana of Lord Jagannatha in the temple. (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 11.195 purport)
Transcendental ambience within sacred space of the Supreme Lord Jagannatha: While approaching innermost sanctuary (Garbha Grha) of the Jagannatha Temple through the various halls and past many pillars and carved panels, a devotee is subtly influenced by sacredness of the architecture. He finds himself enclosed with the Supreme Lord in a dim, soothing atmosphere. His eyes find rest after fierce light of the day outside. Not only is lighting dim, but the air is filled with scent of flowers, burning oil lamps and incense coming from the sanctuary. Gradually his mood calms and his spiritual feelings are awakened as he approaches the Deities.
Garuda-stambha (pillar) stands along east back wall of the Jagamohana. It supports murti of Lord Narayana’s eagle carrier Garuda, who is admiring the Deity of Jagannatha Deva from this vintage point. Devotees regularly hug this pillar and offer prayers while seeing Lord Jagannatha. By doing this they feel blessings of Lord’s direct embrace. Gauranga Mahaprabhu used to stand here and offer obeisances and prayers while reeling in ecstatic bliss gazing upon saksatVrajendranandana Jagannatha Svami. Mahaprabhu’s divine finger prints are imprinted on the wall behind the Garuda-stambha. Srila Krishna dasa Kavriraj Goswami describes:
“Staying near the Garuda-stambha, Gaura-raya gazed upon the Lord Jagannatha. What can be said about the strength of that love? On the ground beneath the column of the Garuda-stambha was a deep ditch, which filled with the water of Gauranga’s tears.” (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 2.54)
Kitchen & Maha-Prasadam of Lord Jagannatha
- Temple has largest kitchen in the world and feeds thousands of devotees every day. Kitchen can prepare prasadam for 100,000 people one day, and 250,000 isnormal on a festival day.
- Kitchen has astounding 752 wood-burning stoves, each 3’x4’ spread over one acre in the south east corner, far left inside the Lion Gate.
- 600 cooks and 1,000 devotees work daily in the kitchen.
- Chillies, onion, garlic, carrots and widely available “new-world” ingredients such as cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflowers are not used in any preparation. Wide variety of locally available organic produce such as beans, tubers, squashes, melons, leafy greens, local spices like mace, cumin, fennel, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, mustard seed and black cumin is used.
- Without electricity or machines, skilled chefs work under oil lamps over open wood fires. Every day they prepare more than a 100 different dishes and offer them to the Deities. Given only 1 day notice the chefs can prepare a full meal for up to 10,000 guests at a sitting.
- Every day, a fire sacrifice is performed in the temple kitchen. Afterwards, the cooks take embers from that sacrificial fire to ignite their individual stoves.
- All bhoga is cooked in earthen pots. Nine clay pots full of bhoga are cooked simultaneously upon one oven with 9 burners. Every pot of bhoga is placed before Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, unlike most temples in India where only small portions of the entire meal are offered before the Deities.
- Everyday Lord Jagannatha is offered 56 items (chappana bhoga) for His pleasure: 9 rice preparations, 14 subjis & curries, 9 milk preparations, 11 sweets, 13 cakes, pancakes and patties.
- Jagannatha Temple kitchens are exemplary in many ways. Three things are of special significance: Preservation of ancient cooking standards, Training program for temple priests and Highly efficient system for distribution of temple prasadam.
Near the northeast corner, after climbing 22 stairs from Lion Gate on right side is where one can get Jagannatha maha-prasadam and experience the bliss (ananda) of tasting Lord’s unprecedented mercy remnants. There are 36 traditional communities (chatisha niyaga) who render a specific hereditary service to the Deities. Temple has as many as 6000 priests.
Deity Dresses (vesa) of Lord Jagannatha
Lord Jagannatha is regularly dressed in silk or cotton outfits enhanced with lots of pretty flowers, tulasi garlands and manjaris. Only sweet smelling flowers of white, yellow, gold, orange and pink colors are offered to Jagannatha Svami. Jasmines, marigolds and pink and white lotuses are Jagannatha’s favourites. Some devotees adore Jagannatha Svami as Sri Krishna, the majestic, opulent Lord of Dvaraka. Others see Him as Vrajendranandana, the simple, carefree cowherd of Vraja. This combination of simplicity and grandeur is prominently visible in the varieties of Lord Jagannatha’s outfits.
Nava-kalevara-yatra (or ritual of transformation)
Since the Deities are made from wood, each 12 years Nava-kalevara-yatra (or ritual of transformation) is held. After elaborate preliminary preparations, the right trees are found, Deities carved, transformation made and old Deities buried in the ground. Though as much as half million people attend the festival, most of the procedures are conducted in secret and no other than few appointed priests and servants can be present. First of all the special trees with the symbolic marks of chakra, conch shell, mace and lotus have to be found. The search party consists of exact numbers of man belonging to specific families and casts. After several stops they will reach village Kakatpur 80 km from Puri. The oldest member of Dayitapati family has to sleep in the temple of Goddess Vimala or Mangala, meaning “Auspicious One”. He must have a dream during this stay in which goddess tells him the exact location where the trees can be found. The tree for each of the four Deities will be in a different place (the fourth Deity is Sudarsan). When the search party locates the places, they may find many trees, but the sacred symbols will be found on only one of them. The Siva’s temple and pond has to be nearby. Very rare types of trees must be growing beside: The Varuna tree, which can protect you from snakes. It is said that this tree has the power to destroy all anger and pride. People today often carry a piece of Varuna bark with them if they must meet a bothersome person. The Sahada tree, which gives the power to forget oneself. The Vilua tree, which has the power to cure any disease, even heart disease, cancer and leprosy The cure is obtained by chewing its leaves. All three trees are very rare, whereas the Neem tree is very common. When the trees are found, they must construct a small hut nearby in which they will now reside. A great fire sacrifice is performed there to invite all demigods to give their blessings and cutting of the tree can start. First only the golden axe can touch the tree, then silver and after that iron axe can finish the work. 108 names of the Lord are chanted continuously. Neem wood will not decay for more than thirty years and it is one of the longest-lasting types of wood in India. Since “Neem” is called “daru” Jagannatha Deity is also called “daru-brahman”. Only members of the Dayitapati family have the right of carrying the huge log back to Puri and the descendant of the original carver can carve the Deity. Only few precisely designated servants can participate in the rites of transformation. Old Deities are placed in front of the new ones and three oldest members of Dayitapati family transfer “Daru-brahman” to the new Deities Not even the head priest can be there during this time. Nava-kalevara-yatra is actually this transformation ceremony during which all present have very intense experiences as they blindfolded transfer “life force” to the new Deities. Old Deities are buried in a place known as Koili Vaikuntha. Koili means “burial ground” and Vaikuntha means “Heaven”.
Non-Hindus tread the Humble Path
Although many western born convert to Hindu thought and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in particular visit Puri, they cannot enter temple to see Lord Jagannatha because temple law forbids entrance of “non-Hindus”. Srila Prabhupada speaks sympathetically, “We should not feel sorry about this, as long as we engage in chanting Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Krishna Himself associates with with devotees who are chanting His holy name, and there is no need to be unhappy over not being able to enter a certain temple. Such dogmatic prohibitions were not approved by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Those who were thought unfit to enter Jagannatha temple, Srila Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Haridasa Thakura, were daily visited by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and this indicates that Mahaprabhu did not approve of the prohibitions. To avoid unnecessary turmoil, however, these great personalities did not enter the Jagannatha temple.” (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 1.63)
Out of His infinite compassion, Jagannatha shows Himself in 3 wonderful forms:
- Patita Pavana Jagannatha, Nila-Cakra & flags:Everyday Lord Jagannatha sits just inside Lion Gate as Patita Pavana Jagannatha smiling and glancing lovingly toward anyone who peeks in from the street, and also gaze at Nila-Cakra & flagsatop Jagannatha’s Temple. Seeing Nila-Cakra, flags and Patita Pavana Jagannatha is equal to direct darshana of Lord Jagannatha in the temple. (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 11.195 purport)
- Jagannatha maha-prasadam: He arrears in His most relishable form as Jagannatha maha-prasadam for everyone to see by tasting. In the form of maha-prasadam He reciprocates very intimately with all His worshipers.
- Snana-yatra, Rathayatra & Ulta-Rathayatra: Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, Subhadra come out in full public three times a year – Snana-yatra, Rathayatra & Ulta-Rathayatra. At these times everyone can directly see their benevolent Lord, worship and pray to Him, pull Jagannatha’s chariot and relish His beautiful darshana to their heart’s content.
In addition, Sri Murari Gupta, an eternal associate of Lord Gauranga as confirmed in Sri Krishna Caitanya Carita Maha-kavya 3.4.39: “Whatever benefit is achieved by having direct darshan of Lord Jagannatha, the master of Purusottama Ksetra, one can obtain simply by regularly reciting the pastimes of Gaurahari.”
“SRI MANDIRA” – LORD JAGANNATHA TEMPLE
Eternal abode of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra
LORD JAGANNATHA RATHAYATRA
KHAJA – LORD JAGANNATHA’S FAVORITE SWEETS!