Jagannatha Puri is approximately 60km from Orissa's state capital,
Bhubaneswar. It is considered by many Hindus to be one of the four
holiest places (dhamas) and is particularly revered by Vaisnavas
as the home of Krishna in His form of Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe,
as well as being the site of many of the pastimes of Sri Caitanya
Puri is also known as 'Sri Purusottama Dhama' or 'Martya Vaikuntha',
the abode of Lord Visnu on earth. Other names are Sriksetra (best
of all sacred centres), Purusottama Ksetra (the abode of the supreme
being), Nilachal, Nalagiri, Sankha Ksetra, and Jagannatha Dhama.
The Temple of Lord Jagannatha is one of the major temples in India.
The worship of Lord Jagannatha is so ancient that there is no accurate
record of how long it has been going on. It is strictly forbidden
for non-Hindus to enter the Jagannatha temple.
Sri Ramanuja visited Puri between 1107 and 1117 AD and stayed for
some time. Visnuswami visited Puri in the second half of the 12th
century and established a matha near Markandeswar Tank, called
Vishnuswami Matha. Nimbarka Acarya also made a pilgrimage to Puri,
and Srila Prabhupada visited in January 1977.
A major reason that Puri is so important to Gaudiya Vaisnavas is
because Lord Caitanya spent so much time here. Many of His pastimes
with His most intimate associates took place at in this area.
Lord Jagannatha Temple
The present temple structure was built in the 12th century by King
Choda Ganga Deva, replacing an earlier structure, which probably
dated to the 10th century. There were other temples prior to these.
Once a year Lord Jagannatha, along with His brother, Baladeva,
and sister, Subhadra, are taken out of the temple and pulled on
huge chariots through the streets of Puri. It is from these huge
chariots that the English word 'juggernaut' comes. Millions of devotees
attend this festival every year, including the King of Puri, who
sweeps the path in front of Lord Jagganatha's cart.
Until recently, almost the entire temple was covered in white plaster,
so much so that European sailors in previous centuries used it as
a navigation point, referring to it as the 'White Pagoda' in contrast
to the 'Black Pagoda' of Konarak, further up the coast.
Gundicha Mandir (Temple)
This temple, about 3km northeast of the Jagannatha temple, is the
home of Lord Jagannatha for one week a year during the Ratha-Yatra
festival. After this week He returns to His original temple. It
is said that the wife of Indradyumna, the king who originally established
the temple of Jagannatha, was known as Gundicha. The cleansing of
the Gundicha temple takes place the day before the Ratha-Yatra festival
and is elaborately described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
Non-Hindus can walk within the walls and see the beautiful garden,
but they are not allowed in the temple building.
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