Jagannath Puri, on the east coast of India, in the state of Orissa is a hoary pilgrimage center, enshrining Jagannath, in a colossal temple. Puri is well connected by rail and road with Calcutta and with Bhubaneshwar. Bhubaneshwar, Konark and Jagannath Puri constitute the Golden triangle of Orissa, visited in large numbers by pilgrims and tourists.
Puri is the forerunner of the Jagannath cult in Orissa, which saw the flowering of several temples dedicated to Jagannath all over the state.
Jagannath Puri is an ancient shrine, enshrining Krishna – Jagannath in the form of a wooden image. Also enshrined are wooden images of Balabhadra (Balarama) and Subhadra brother and sister of Krishna respectively. Interestingly, the Rig Veda refers to Purushottama in the form of a wooden image, prepared from a log of wood floating on the ocean. Puri is also referred to in the Bhrama purana.
Orissa has Konark as the Surya Kshetra, Puri as the Vishnu kshetra, Bhubaneshwar as the Hara Kshetra and Jaipur as the Parvati Kshetra.
The main temple of Jaggannathji is vast by any standards. Made of solid stone, the temple has been added to over the years by numerous kings and devotees. Visitors pass through a series of 3 halls to obtain darshan of the Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and their beloved sister Subhadra (wife of the heroic Arjun). The solid mass of the main spire of the temple is crowned by an enormous flag. Fluttering high above the town, the flag beckons pilgrims from all corners of the town to come and visit the shrine of the Lord of the Universe.
The rest of the temple complex consists of various shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Narashimha, goddess Vimala etc. A number of halls have been built over the centuries, where people can gather for bhajans and religious discourses. The kitchen of the Lord provides the enormous amount of food consumed by the pilgrims. A beautiful garden is also attached to the temple, providing fresh flowers for the Lord everyday. This sea side town has numerous other shrines and temples, belonging to various Hindu sects.
Nearby villages are a treasure trove for the lovers of arts and crafts. Craftsmen of all sorts live within a computable distance from Puri and Bhubeneshwara (capital of Orissa). These villages house the master painters, masons, carvers, weavers, tailors etc. who service the numerous temples in the region. Tourists and pilgrims are their other great source of income.
Orissa is an ideal place to shop for raw silks, paintings (on silk, cloth, local handmade paper), appliqué work (of cloth as well as mirror work), festival umbrellas, gold filigree work, silver jewellery, traditional “bidari” ware etc.
Orissa is also an ideal holiday destination and as yet, undiscovered by majority of the Western tourists. It’s long deserted beaches (an average Indian is not in need of a sun tan), picturesque villages and wildlife is the stuff books and post-cards are made of. It has pleasant climate all year round and is cheaper than some of the more popular destinations destination. It has great deal of history and architecture.
Bada Danda » This is the Grand Road and is as wide as a modern freeway. It extends from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, and is the scene of the great Festival of the Chariots or Ratha Yatra.
Chilka Lake » Situated southwest of Puri, Chilka is the largest fresh water lake in Asia (65 kms long, 8-20 kms wide, about 2 m deep). One can enjoy boating on the shimmering blue waters and in leisure one can enjoy fishing.
Ramgarh Lake » A huge artificial lake created by constructing a high bund amidst tree-covered hills. While the temple of Jamwa Mata and the ruins of the old fort are some of its antiquities, its beautiful landscape makes it an idyllic picnic spot.
The Beach » The fine white sands of Puri beach and the roar of the breakers rolling in from the Bay of Bengal have fascinated visitors throughout the years. The local fishermen, with their catamarans and wide-brimmed cane hats, are also expert masseurs. With excellent hotels and guesthouses, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot.