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Puri

To travel to Puri is to experience a holy, healing retreat. A resting point on India’s long eastern coastline and a seaside resort whose cleansing Bay of Bengal waters soothe the weariness of traveling souls, Puri is also a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site, dominated since the 12th century by the powerful temple of Lord Jagannath, which rises above the crowded old town.

Three varieties of visitor come here – International travelers, tourists from other parts of India, and the pilgrims from various aspects of Hindudom. These delegations infuse Puri with its two primary identities of resort and religious center. Most foreign travelers typically escape the eastern edge of town, where relative calm and simplicity of day-to-day beach life and hotels and restaurants devoted to fulfilling their needs make for a comfortable holiday, while the western part of the town in and around the Swargadwar area is crowded with Indian tourists with mostly middle class Bengalis crowding the area. The third contingent consists of thousands of focused Jagannath worshipers who fill the dharamshalas that line the busy Grand Avenue leading directly to the temple.

Puri is a good place to relax, to walk sandy beaches and temples. It is not a town that many pass through; most come to Puri very deliberately and in one way or another find themselves moved by its healing intensity.

Puri’s busiest area is on Grand Avenue, which runs east-west through the northern part of town, arching southwest near the Jagannath Temple to become Swargadwar Road. On its southern side, Puri is washed by the Bay of Bengal. Along the shore runs Chakratirtha Road, concentrated with hotels, as it moves west CT Road become VIP Road and then Marine Parade Road.

Sights

The beaches are all the entertainment most travelers need. Since much of the water is now filtered with chemical protectants, the beaches are becoming more populated. The other attraction of town is the Jagannath Temple. Tourists visiting Puri also take full day sightseeing tour to visit the other attractions around including Konark temple. 

Every pilgrim’s entrance into Puri is initiated by a short devotional stop in front of the main Simhadwara, the eastern and most important entrance to the spectacular Jagannath Temple. His temple rises to an overwhelming 65 meter – it’s the feature of the Puri skyline – and it’s obvious that this pilgrimage town is ruled by the ‘Lord of the Universe’, the charcoal-black Jagannath. Constructed in the early 12th century by the Ganga king anantavaram Chodaganga, the temple illustrates the might of Odishan temple architecture.

The three roughly hewn but divine inhabitants of the temple look almost abstract. Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and his sister Subhadra. It is said that Lord Jagannath does not have eyelids because he wishes to continually look after the well-being of the world. Some say he never sleeps. His small arms project outwards in a gesture of unconditional love for all his devotees. Yatripandas and other temple priests cite ancient myths to explain the shape and form of the deities whereas academics suggest that the forms have tribal origins.

Pattered on the same architectural principles as the older Ligaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, the abode of Jagannath is structurally aligned from east to west. The Bhog Mandir and Nata Mandir lie nearest to the entrance and were 15th and 16th additions to the original Jagamohana and deul, crowned by a 65 meter pyramidal roof, signifies the presence of the divine family trio. Surrounded by a 6 meter wall, the massive temple compound hosts darshan and treats worshippers to devotional and sacred dances at night. The complex employs approximately 6000 temple servants – specially trained temple priests who care to the daily needs of the deity, artist communities who produce ritual materials, and thousands who work throughout the days to prepare the Prasad for Jagannath himself. The kitchen of the temple serves meals to 10000 people daily and up to 25000 during festival times, such as the Rath yatra.

The temple is close to non-Hindus. A comprehensive view of the eastern gate, the Jagannath Temple, and the surrounding smaller temples can be had atop the roof of the Raghunandan Library across the street.

Map of Puri

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