Spirituality and religion are a part of everyday life in India. The country, known for its cultural heritage and history, is home to several magnificent religious sites. Each dynasty or ruler has left its mark on the country in the form of a dazzling architectural monument. These marvels are nothing less than a phenomenon of witness to the great Indian history for the world to see.
India is a land of unravelled and intriguing mysteries. Jagannath Puri Temple is cloaked with several fascinating stories. If you are a fan of mysteries, a camera, sunglasses, and a car rental in Bhubaneswar might be the perfect escapade for you!
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The Jagannath Puri temple is located around 69 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Odisha, in Puri. For Hindus, the temple is a very historic and sacred destination of pilgrimage. It is well-known for its one-of-a-kind Rath Yatra, the world’s largest celebration.
However, Rath Yatra is not exclusive to The Jagannath Puri Temple. You can see it in various temples throughout India. Rath Yatras are done in Odisha in Konark in honour of the Sun God and in Bhubaneshwar to worship Lord Lingaraj at the Lingaraj temple.
A legend goes that after Krishna had vanquished Kansa and killed him, fulfilling a holy prophecy. He and Balram mounted a chariot and travelled around Mathura, cheered on by the people of Mathura. The yearly Rath yatra commemorates this occasion. Another story says that while Lord Krishna was ruling over the lovely city of Dwarka, he took Subhadra and Balarama on a chariot to show them the splendours of Dwarka. The yearly Rath Yatra is thought to recreate this event.
The Shree Gundicha Yatra is the most significant of the Lord’s celebrations, as per the Skanda Purana. Accounts of a grand chariot event in which people drew a chariot holding the figure of a Hindu deity reached Europe in the 14th century. This was, of course, the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra. The western world was so enamoured with this spectacular event that a new word gradually entered the English language- Juggernaut, a term coined from Jagannath!
The Puri Jagannath temple is a historic and influential Hindu temple. Adi Shankaracharya, the famous Indian poet, saint, and philosopher, built one of his Amnaya Mathas at Puri. The Jagannath Puri temple is thought to be established between 1078 and 1148 CE. However, the construction is said to have been completed in 1174 CE by the Oriya ruler Ananga Bhima Deva.
The Jagannath Puri temple, however, is recognized in the Puranas, notably the Skanda Purana and the Brahma Purana. According to legend, the original Jagannath temple at Puri was built by King Indrayumna, the son of Bharata, an ancestor of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata.
It is said that the idols of Jagannath, Balarama, and Subhadra were constructed by King Indrayumna from the wood of a Daru (Neem) tree that floated to the shoreline. He erected a beautiful temple for the idols. Moreover, it is believed that Lord Brahma himself sanctified them. Every year, the deities are still fashioned from the wood of the Neem tree.
The Hindus regard the Puri Jagannath temple as one of the Char Dhams or divine abodes. Adi Shankaracharya proclaimed these four sacred sites to be holy. Every Hindu is expected to visit these four sacred locations at least once in a lifetime. Visiting these locations is said to lead to salvation or Moksha. Besides Puri, the other three destinations are Badrinath, Rameswaram, and Dwarka.
To sum up
It is nearly impossible to distinguish reality from myth and folklore. Yet it contributes to the air of mystery and intrigue enveloping the Jagannath Puri temple narrative and the Rath Yatra. When you visit Odisha next, remember to book a taxi from Bhubaneswar to Puri to check off this wonderful temple from your must-to visit destinations.