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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Jai Jagannatha !! - worshiping Lord of Universe at Puri Jagannatham

                          Gangesvara Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva,  an Eastern Ganga monarch who reigned between 1077 CE to 1150 CE was associated with this temple. He ruled  Kalinga region from river Ganga to Godavari. 

The beautiful state of Odisha (Orissa) itself is known as ‘land of Lord Jagannatha’ [the lord of Universe].  The present temple dates back to at least 12th century – the mysticism associated with the cult of Jagannatha simply over runs the architectural brilliance of the big magnificent temple standing majestically on a raised platform – an engineering marvel.  

Lord Jagannatha temple at Puri in Orissa in eastern coast attracts lakhs of people.  King Indradyumna of Avanti built the main temple of Jagannath at Puri; the present temple was rebuilt from the tenth century onwards, on the site of the pre-existing temples in the compound, but not the main Jagannath temple, and begun by Anantavarman Chodaganga, the first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. Many of the temple rituals are based on Oddiyana Tantras which are the refined versions of Mahayana tantras. 

Just like our Kovil Ozhugu, there is Madala  Panji, a chronicle describing the historical events of Odisha Jagannath Temple.     The moolavar idols of Northern India are different than the ones in South India, mostly in white marble.  Puri Jagannath is different – Perumal is made of sacred wood, which are ceremoniously replaced after few years.  The  Navakalevara  ceremony is an intricate set of rituals that accompany the renewal of the wooden statues.  

Puri Jagannatha temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Lakhs of devotees descend here at this holy temple town for this festival.  Inside the huge temple, the presiding deities are : Sri  Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Balabhadra (Balarama)  and the Goddess Subhadra constituting  trinity of deities worshiped at the temple.   Lord  Jagannatha is  the supreme God and the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire. The Deities are adorned with cotton and silk fabrics, Gold Ornaments studded with precious stones, flowers of different varieties, Tulsi leaves, sandal paste, camphor. These articles are used in the daily and periodical rituals.  

The annual Rath Yatra is celebrated in the month of Ashada [June-July] whence the Presiding deities Lord Jagannatha along with Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra – come out of the main temple for an annual sojourn on decorated chariots, travel to Gundicha temple about two and half miles to the northeast.  

Lord Jagannath temple at Puri  is built on a gigantic raised platform.   The temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates, facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Simha dwara [Lions Gate]. The north, south and west facing gates are similarly known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate.  As one stands at the Simha dwara,  there is a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha,  associated with Aruna, charioteer of the Sun-god.  

The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning glory  is the 'Sudarshana chakra / Ssrichakra' (an eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. The vimana or tower is 215ft high, and in the evening, a temple sevaka  called Garuda sevaka climbs up to the tower to tie pieces of cloth on the flagpole. This chakra is visible from almost all parts of Puri and would appear to be facing you from wherever you are.  The flag atop is believed to flap in the opposite direction of the breeze.  Every day priests climb atop to change the flag, which is a glorious spectacle. 

Eastern Gate or Lion’s Gate (Singha Dwara) is the main entrance to Jagannatha, the Simha is  special incarnation of the Supreme Lord to preach virtues in the world. The eastern gate of the shrine is known as Lion’s gate because the Sun rises from the east.  The Western one is Vyaghra (tiger), the symbol of desire. The one in North is Hasti dwara (Elephant gate), the carrier of Goddess of wealth Mahalakshmi.  This gate for long had on each side a colossal figure of an elephant, disfigured during the Mughal invasion. Subsequently, these figures were repaired and plastered with the mortar and placed at the northern gate of the inner enclosure.  The Southern gate is Aswara dwara (Horse) – and has two galloping horses with Jagannath and Balabhadra on their back in the martial glory. The emperors used to enter the temple through this gate seeking the Lord’s blessing to win the battles.  

Significantly, now all four gates of Jagannatha temple are open to devotees from June 13, 2024,  a day after Odisha’s new BJP Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi took oath. “With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, the BJP formed a government in Odisha. As promised by our party, the first proposal which we approved in our cabinet was to open all four entrance gates of the temple,” Majhi told the media. This comes four years after three of the four entrances to the 12th century shrine were closed by the previous Biju Janata Dal government under Naveen Patnaik.    

The Jagannath temple was closed for devotees after the pandemic-induced lockdown began on March 25, 2020. It was opened nine months later, on December 23. But only the main entrance was kept operational. The state government under Patnaik cited the ‘Srimandir Parikrama’ project as the reason for the gates’ closure. Inaugurated earlier this year, the ambitious Rs 800-crore project involved the development of a 75-metre-long heritage corridor around the temple, and aims at providing improved amenities for devotees.  

But even after the corridor’s inauguration, the three gates remained firmly shut, leading to massive queues at the Singhadwara, and calls for their opening.  Bharatiya Janata Party that   wrested control of Odisha from the 24-years long incumbent BJD, has been demanding that all four gates be reopened for some time now. They accused the BJD government of becoming a ‘barrier’ between the temple gods and their devotees, and even linked the gates’ closure to Odia asmita (Odia pride).  

This came as the BJP was trying to corner the BJD over the growing influence of V K Pandian, a Tamil Nadu-born ex-IAS officer, in the BJD, also invoking rhetoric surrounding Odia pride.  As elections drew nearer, Union Home Minister Amit Shah repeatedly said in public meetings that the BJP would open all four entrances “within hours” of assuming power. The party even included this in its manifesto and the party made good on this promise. Majhi visited the temple on Thursday early morning, along with all his ministers, a number of MLAs, Puri MP Sambit Patra, and other senior BJP leaders. He has also announced the creation of a Rs 500-crore corpus for the safety, security and beautification of the Jagannath temple. 

Jai Jagannatha !! – hail Puri Jagannath

adiyen Srinivasa dhasan
Mamandur Veeravalli Srinivasan Sampathkumar

Lion’s Gate (Singha Dwara) ~ the main entrance

Vyaghra (tiger) gate

Hasti dwara (Elephant gate)

Aswaradwara (Horse gate)

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