Visiting Jagannath Temple: Here’s a look at the festivals when tourists can visit the temple, the things to keep in mind and what to expect.
Puri Jagannath Temple: Located in Odisha’s Puri, the Jagannath Temple is a very important Hindu temple, especially for Vaishnavites. It is one of the Char Dhams, and is among the most visited shrines in the country. Based on the Eastern Coast, the temple has three principal deities – Lord Jagannath (meaning Lord of the Universe), Lord Balabhadra who is the elder brother, and Lordess Subhadra who is the sister. The temple comes under the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India, and as per Odisha Tourism, is considered the abode of the Lord of Odisha.
As per the temple administration, Lord Jagannath is the Supreme God from whom all the avatars or incarnations emerge and with whom, all incarnations merge again. Since this is based on several scriptures of Sanatan Dharma and coincides with the role of Lord Vishnu, the temple gains importance among Vaishnavites. Jagannath Temple, however, is most known for its Rath Yatra, when the tourist attraction is at its peak. However, there are several other festivals that are celebrated with much fervour at the temple, during which the tourists can visit the temple. Here’s a look at the festivals when tourists can visit the temple, the things to keep in mind and what to expect.
Jagannath Temple: Best times to visit
The most famous festival at the temple is the annual Rath Yatra, also known as the Gundicha Yatra. During the Yatra, which is carried out on the second day of the Shukla Paksha in Asadha month as per the Hindu almanac, the three principal deities are taken from the main temple in three specially constructed chariots to a temple called Gundicha ghar located 3 kilometers from the Jagannath Temple. Numerous devotees throng to the city during this yatra, and the excitement is palpable. This is a great time for tourists to visit. Fun fact! Did you know that each of the deities Rath has a different name? This is one of the many things that tourists can find out while visiting the temple town of Puri.
Snana Yatra is another one of the popular annual rituals that take place at the temple. The auspicious annual bathing ritual is carried out on the full moon of Jyestha month, which usually falls in June. This is believed to be the birth anniversary of Lord Jagannath. For this ritual, a grand procession is carried to bring out the deities from the sanctum sanctorum to the bathing platform, also called Snana Bedi. Devotees also make a pilgrimage to see the deities on the day of the snana yatra because as per local belief, a person can be absolved of their sins if they get to see the deities on this day.
Once the elaborate bathing ritual is completed however, the deities are moved to a place called “ansara”, where the deities are kept for a fortnight. No devotees are allowed to visit the deities in the ansara, though, because traditional belief says that after the snana, the deities fall ill, and it is the Raj Vaidya’s treatment that nurses them back to health during the fortnight. There is however an alternative place where devotees head to for praying during this time, the story of which is also based on one of the many local legends that tourists can get to hear once in Puri.
Apart from this, there are several other festivals like Sayana Yatra, Daksinayana, Parshwa Parivartana, Deva Utthapana, Pravarana Sasthi and Dola Yatra which are celebrated with much fervour at the temple.
Lord Jagannath Temple: Structure and architecture
The temple spreads across an area of more than 4 lakh square feet or 37,000 square metres. The complex, which is surrounded by huge, fortified walls, houses at least 120 temples and shrines. Built in the Oriya architectural style, the temple tower above the inner sanctum of the main temple is the tallest among all the temples in the state, while the pyramidal roofs of the other temples and halls surrounding the main shrine rise up to the temple tower in steps to make it seem like a ridge of mountain peaks.
The Jagannath temple is also a treat for architecture enthusiasts because four distinct sectional structures have been built in the temple for the four key aspects – the sanctum sanctorum, the frontal porch, the audience hall or the dancing hall, and the offerings hall. Notably, the temple tower of the main shrine rises to 214 feet or 65 metres above the inner sanctum and it has been built on a raised stone platform.
Things to keep in mind while visiting the Jagannath Temple
While inside the temple, absolute silence needs to be observed by the visitors, and ancient customs and usages need to be respected. The visitors are also advised to only deposit any offerings either in the Hundi (donation box) or at the Branch Office located in the temple premises. Before entering the shrine, the visitors must take a bath and wear clean clothes. Another thing that visitors must be aware of are the monkeys that can be present there. During the Darshan, visitors must not consume liquor or any intoxicants, and eating non-vegetarian food is also not allowed. Carrying cooked food is prohibited inside the temple, and electronic gadgets including mobile phones and leather items are not allowed.