About Puri

Puri, situated in the eastern part of the state of Orissa, is one of the four holy dhams of Hinduism and the hallowed seat of Lord Jagannath. Washed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal and embraced by causarina-fringed beaches, it is located at a distance of 60 km from the state capital Bhubaneshwar. It is a famous beach on the eastern coastline of peninsular India. The famous Rath Yatra is held every year as a part of the festival of the great Jagannath temple; it draws good number of pilgrims from all over the world. Puri has the Bay of Bengal and the rice-growing alluvial plain on its east, Khurda district on its west, Sambalpur on its south and the state capital Bhubaneshwar on its northern side. The forest area lying to the west of Puri provides bamboo and sal. The district of Puri encompasses most of the Chilika Lake, Asia's largest freshwater lake. The city has moderate and tropical climate. Humidity is fairly high throughout the year. The temperature during summer touches a maximum of 36 °C (97 °F) and during winter it is 17 °C (63 °F). The average annual rainfall is 1,337 millimetres (52.6 in) and the average annual temperature is 26.9 °C (80.4 °F).

History

Puri was once part of the kingdom of Kalinga, formed by Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire in 260 BC. The Sabaras, a tribe belonging to pre-Aryan and pre-Dravidian Austric linguistic group, inhabited the region. The region came under British rule in 1803. The Raja of Khurda rebelled in 1804, and there was a peasant uprising in 1817-18. The Orissa famine of 1866 claimed many lives in Puri. Today it is the most famous tourist address of the State, Odisha.

Economy

The economy of Puri is dependent on tourism to the extent of about 80 percent. The temple is the focal point of the city and provides employment to the people of the town. Agricultural production of rice, ghee, vegetables and so forth of the region meet the large requirements of the temple. Many settlements around the town exclusively cater to the other religious requirements of the temple. The temple administration employs 6,000 men to perform the rituals. The temple also provides economic sustenance to 20,000 people. The temple kitchen has 400 cooks serving food to as many as 100,000 people.

Art & Craft

Puri is famous for its sand art and applique work. Sand art is a special art form that is created on the beaches of Puri. The art form is attributed to Balaram Das, a poet who lived in the 14th century. Sculptures of various gods and famous people are now created in sand by amateur artists. Appliqué art, which is a stitching-based craft unlike embroidery, was pioneered by Hatta Maharana of Pipili. It is widely used in Puri, both for decoration of the deities and for sale. The appliqué works are brightly coloured and patterned fabric in the form of canopies, umbrellas, drapery, carry bags, flags, coverings of dummy horses and cows, and other household textiles; these are marketed in Puri. The cloth used is made in dark colours of red, black, yellow, green, blue and turquoise blue.

Cultural Heritage

  

Cultural activities, including the annual religious festivals, in Puri are: The Puri Beach Festival held from 5 to 9 November every year, and the Shreekshetra Utsav held from 20 December to 2 January every year. The cultural programmes include unique sand art, display of local and traditional handicrafts and food festival. Odissi dance is the cultural heritage of Puri. This dance form originated in Puri from the dances performed by Devadasis (Maharis) attached to the Jagannatha Temple who performed dances in the Nata mandapa of the temple to please the deities. Though the devadasi practice has been discontinued, the dance form has become modern and classical and is widely popular; many of the Odissi virtuoso artists and gurus (teachers) are from Puri. Some of the famous Odissi dancers are Kelucharan Mohapatra, Mayadhar Raut, Sonal Mansingh, Sanjukta Panigrahi and many more.

Rath Yatra at Puri

The Jagannatha Temple triad are normally worshipped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (rainy season of Orissa, usually in June or July), they are brought out on the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and taken over a distance of (3 kilometres (1.9 mi)) to the Shri Gundicha Temple in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (holy view). This festival is known as the Ratha Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots. The yatra starts every year according to the Hindu calendar on the Asadha Sukla Dwitiya day, the second day of bright fortnight of Asadha (June–July). The Rathas are huge wooden structures provided with large wheels, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Lord Jagannatha is about 45 feet (14 m) high and 35 square feet (3.3 m2) and takes about 2 months for its construction. The chariot is mounted with 16 wheels, each of 7 feet (2.1 m) diameters. The carving in the front face of the chariot has four wooden horses drawn by Maruti. On its other three faces, the wooden carvings are of Rama, Surya and Vishnu. The chariot is known as Nandi Ghosha. The roof of the chariot is covered with yellow and red coloured cloth. The next chariot is of Balabhadra which is 44 feet (13 m) in height fitted with 14 wheels. The chariot is carved with Satyaki as the charioteer, roof covered in red and green coloured cloth, and the chariot is known as Taladhwaja. The carvings on this chariot include images of Narasimha and Rudra as Jagannatha's companions. The next chariot in the order is of Subhadra, which is 43 feet (13 m) in height supported on 12 wheels, roof covered in black and red colour cloth, and the chariot is known as Darpa Dalaan and the charioteer carved is Arjuna. Other images carved on the chariot are of Vana Durga, Tara Devi and Chandi Devi. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The Ratha Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra and Ghosha yatra.


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Jagannath Temple

Belonging to the 11th century and enjoying the honor of being one of the 'char dhams', the pilgrimage that every Hindu intend to visit; Jagannath Temple is the honor of Puri and Odisha (Orissa). The holy sight of Lord Jagannath, accompanied by Subhadra and Balabhadra raises loads of joy among the devotees. The two gods and the goddess of the temple are ornamented in accordance with the occasion and seasonal change. The mysticism associated with the cult of Lord Jagannath overshadows the architectural brilliance of this magnificent temple.  Built on a raised platform, the gigantic temple is an architectural marvel in its own right. The structural design of the temple can be found to be in pyramid shape. The temple is built on an elevated platform (of about 420,000 square feet (39,000 m2) area), 20 feet (6.1 m) above the adjacent area. The temple rises to a height of 214 feet (65 m) above the road level. The temple complex covers an area of 10.7 acres (4.3 ha). There are four entry gates in four cardinal directions of the temple, each gate located at the central part of the walls. These gates are: the eastern gate called the Singhadwara (Lions Gate), the southern gate known as Ashwa Dwara (Horse Gate), the western gate called the Vyaghra Dwara (Tigers Gate) or the Khanja Gate, and the northern gate called the Hathi Dwara or (elephant gate). These four gates symbolize the four fundamental principles of Dharma (right conduct), Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (renunciation) and Aishwarya (prosperity). The gates are crowned with pyramid shaped structures. There is a stone pillar in front of the Singhadwara, called the Aruna Stambha {Solar Pillar}, 11 metres (36 ft) in height with 16 faces, made of chlorite stone; at the top of the stamba an elegant statue of Aruṇa (Sun) in a prayer mode is mounted. This pillar was shifted from the Konarak Sun Temple. The four gates are decorated with guardian statues in the form of lion, horse mounted men, tigers, and elephants in the name and order of the gates. After entering the temple, on the left side, there is a large kitchen where food is prepared in hygienic conditions in huge quantities; the kitchen is called as "the biggest hotel of the world".

The main temple is constructed in such a way that no shadow of the temple falls on the ground at any time of the day.The Nilachakra – Or the Blue wheel perched on top of the temple is made of eight metals or asta dhatu. It is believed that if you see the Nilachakra it is as good as seeing the Lord himself. The flag or the Patitapabana flows in the opposite direction of the wind and is changed every day at sunset and is changed every day. The feet of changing the flag’s rests with a family appointed by the King. They have been doing this ritual for over 800 years, climbing 165 meters, bare feet without any support. The Mahaprasad or the offering to the Lord is prepared on fire lit by wood charcoal and rice and vegetables, cereals etc. are put in earthen pots and placed on the fire one on top of the other. The pot on the top cooks first. The Aruna stambha- the 33 ft monolith structure pillar in front of the Singhadwar or the main entrance of the temple was originally located at the Sun Temple, Konark. Another unique feature of the temple is that the idols of the holy trinity are carved out of wood rather than stone or metal idols. They are also the only deity with the trappings of mortality.

According to a legend King Indradyumma was directed by Lord Jagannatha in a dream to build a temple for him which he did as directed. However, according to historical records the temple was started some time during the 12th century by King Chodaganga of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. It was completed by his descendant, Anangabhima Deva, in the 12th century. The triad of images in the temple are of Jagannatha, personifying Lord Krishna, Balabhadra, His older brother, and Subhadra, His younger sister. The images are made of neem wood in an unfinished form. The stumps of wood which form the images of the brothers have human arms, while that of Subhadra does not have any arms. The heads are large, painted and non-carved. The faces are marked with distinctive large circular eyes.                                              

Other Attractions

Gundicha Temple

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The Gundicha temple at Jagannath Puri in the state of Odisha is also referred to as the Garden House of Lord Jagannath. It stands in the middle of a beautiful garden, with walls on all the sides. It is situated about 3 km from the main temple of Jagannath which is known as the Shrimandira. Both these temples are located at either end of the Bada Danda (Grand Road) which is the route of the famous Puri Ratha Yatra. Architecturally the Gundicha temple exemplifies a typical Kalinga temple and is built using light-grey sandstone in the Deula style. The temple complex has 4 constituents: vimana (tower housing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), nata mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga mandapa (offerings hall). The kitchen is connected via a small passage. The Gundicha temple has no activity throughout the year except for the nine-day period when the Ratha Yatra takes place when Lord Jagannath is worshipped here. It is the holy abode of Lord Krishna's aunt 'Gundicha. As per beliefs, Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra spend 7 days at the venerated place. The idols of the three are royally taken in bountifully designed wooden chariot (Rath) from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha Ghar. Here, their aunt welcomes and offers them the chena poda. The two gates namely western and eastern gate serve as the entry and exit points of the deities during the Rath Yatra. Hera Panchami, Dakshina Moda, Rasa Lila, Sandhya Darshan and Mahaprasad and Bahuda Yatra are the important events that are celebrated with great zeal. Foreigners who are prohibited from entering the Jagannath temple are however allowed inside this temple during this time. The Gundicha temple is under the Jagannath Temple Administration which is the governing body of the main Jagannath temple. A day before the world-famous Ratha Yatra in Jagannath Puri is Gundicha marjana. Gundicha marjana is the cleaning of the Gundicha temple to welcome Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra. They stay here for seven days during the Ratha Yatra celebrations in Puri.


Konark

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The Sun Temple at Konark is the pinnacle of Odisha Temple Architecture and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 12th Century AD by King Narasimha Deva I and dedicated to the Sun God, the Sun Temple at Konark continues to leave us spellbound with its massive structure, symmetry, precision and intricate detailing. The word 'Konark' is a combination of two words 'Kona' and 'Arka'. 'Kona' means 'Corner' and 'Arka' means 'Sun', so when combines it becomes 'Sun of the Corner'. Konark Sun Temple is situated on the north eastern corner of Puri and is dedicated to Sun God. Konark is also known as Arka khetra. There are three images of the Sun God at three different sides of the temple, positioned in proper direction to catch the rays of the sun at morning, noon and evening. According to Archeologists the height of the Sun Temple at Konark is estimated to be around 227 feet, making it as one of the tallest temples ever built in the country. However what remains today is the impressive Jagamohana (Entrance Hall) with the sanctum sanctorum has but almost collapsed. The other structure that still stands amidst the ruins is the Natya Mandap minus the roof. The temple was designed as a chariot of Sun God driven by twenty four beautifully carved wheels and pulled by seven horses. Apart from its beauty what captivates historians are the scientific precision. For eg- the wheels are designed in such a way that one can gauge the time of the day by looking at the shadow cast on the spoke of the wheels by the sun. Not only that the carvings of the spoke and axesls denote the activities that one normally does at that time of the day. The temple was constructed using three types of stones – the laterite stone for the boundary walls, flooring and staircase, Khondalite for the structure and Chlorite stone for the door jams and lintel. The use of iron strips to hold the structure together can be seen amongst the ruins of the temple. Some experts are of the opinion that the Sun Temple was built in the sea, giving an impression of the Sun God emerging out of the water at day break. Celebrated poet Pt. Rabindranath Tagore uttered these famous words on seeing the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark – “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man”.


Pipili Village

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Together with Pattachitra and stone craft, the Applique work at the heritage craft village Pipili are Odisha’s most famous art exports to the world. The applique work of the village was recently showcased in the popular movie Sui Dhaaga starring Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma. Pipili is also used to adorn the chariots of Lord Jagannath and his siblings during the annual Ratha Yatra. It is also used in other rituals associated with the Lord. Pipili was set up as an artisan’s village during the Somavamsi dynasty rule in Odisha somewhere in the 10th Century AD. The applique work comes in many variants right from wall hangings to lanterns to umbrellas to bag’s, pouches , bedspreads and are perfect souvenir’s to relive the memories of Odisha. 

In the town of Pipli, Odisha (Orissa), with a population of approximately 16,000, almost each and every family are immersed in the art of applique. These artisans are the descendants of professional Pipli applique tailors, known as darjis. Usually, female members of the family are the designers while male family members cut and shape the fabrics to create motifs. Applique artisans from Pipli and their creations became the most exquisite through historical patronisation by royalty and nobility, leading to its association with religion. Due to this, the textile art continues to be held in high regard. Today, Pipli applique is kept alive by the demands of tourists and the export industry. Modern urban communities are recognising the traditions and techniques of age-old Indian arts and crafts - Pipli applique is but one. Foreign tourists and local pilgrims flock to Pipli, particularly during the annual Chariot Festival known as Rath Yatra, where they purchase colourful appliqued souvenirs to adorn their homes. Hotels, wedding venues and decorators around the world perpetuate Pipli applique’s exportation as these businesses strive to awe their customers with exquisite authentic textile decorations. Pipli applique is hugely supported by the Indian government and has been GI registered due to its exquisite history and craftsmanship.


Chandrabhaga Beach

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Chandrabhaga Beach is located at a distance of 3 km from the World Heritage Site – Konark Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to historians, the ships took the Sun Temple as a reference point in the sea during the maritime trade between Odisha (Kalinga), Bali, Java and Sumatra, Later, a lighthouse was constructed on Marine Road in 1967 to guide the ships. A week-long Chandrabhaga Mela is organised here every year to honour the Sun god. During December and January, the Tourism Department of the Government of Odisha hosts an annual International Sand Art Festival on the sidelines of the popular Konark Dance Festival at the World Heritage Site. Chandrabhaga Beach derived its name from the sacred River Chandrabhaga. According to a legend, Chandrabhaga, the daughter of a sage, killed herself by drowning in the river to protect her chastity from Surya, the Sun God. It is believed that Lord Surya, in repentance, blessed the river with medicinal properties and named it as ‘Chandrabhaga’. It is believed that a dip in River Chandrabhaga can cure leprosy. Prince Shambha, the son of Lord Krishna, was cured of leprosy by Lord Surya on the river mouth of Chandrabhaga. People of Orissa visit Chandrabhaga Beach on Magha Saptami day to take a holy dip in the confluence of River Chandrabhaga and the Bay of Bengal and offer special prayers to Lord Surya. 

Puri Beach

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Located on the exotic coastline of Odisha (Orissa), Puri Beach is one of the wonderful destinations for holidaying where sun kissed beaches wet your feet and gentle wind simply elevates you from the earthy odour to the clouds. This beach will make you feel as if you are in dream world. Beach lovers extremely relish holidaying here as the beach offers a bewitching opportunity to undergo its wild sea waves and enjoy water sports activities. Puri beach is a thrilling place to view romantic sunrises and sunsets. The golden sands and the thunder of the breakers appearing from the Bay of Bengal have mesmerized tourists throughout the years and are the synonyms to the beach. The beach has continued to be a sacred venue for an endless number of pilgrims coming to pay homage to Lord Jagannath. The beach hosts sand art displays, including work by international award-winning local sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik. The beach is also home to the annual Puri Beach Festival. Taking place for five days every November, this event sees locals and tourists alike flood to the picturesque scene for lively celebrations and amazing displays of talent.

Swargdwar

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The Swargadwar Beach is one of the most beautiful and sacred places within Puri district. This place is very popular among the Hindu devotees. It is always crowded with tourists each year. The word Swargadwar is made up of two words- one is 'Swarga,' which stands for heaven and another one is 'Dwar,' which means Gateway. Hence, the meaning of Swargadwar is the gateway to heaven. Swargdwar beach is known to be the bathing area of Sri Chaitanyadev, a well-known sage of the Vaishnava cult. It is believed that he attained the state of Lord Brahma due to his divine soul. It is believed that the people who dip in the water of this beach attain redemption. Hence, most of the people visit this place each year in order to get Moksha. ‘Mahadadhi’ is a famous spot to take a bath here. They offer prayers so that they and their loved ones go to heaven after death. The beach has been blessed by peaceful and surreal ambiance. Close to the beach is Swargdwar cremation ground. Except all the spiritual beliefs, Swargadwar Beach is known for the beautiful and amazing beach side view. There are many small shopping centers near Swargadwar Beach, where you can shop at reasonable prices.