Ever wondered where the word "Juganaut" comes from?
It actually relates to the giant chariots of Lord Jagannath of Puri, in the state of Orrisa on the East coast of India. Lord Jagannath spends His annual summer holiday at His Garden Temple, just out-side Puri. The Lord travels in great style and pomp as His enormous wooden chariot is pulled by thousands of devotees. Three large chariots are pulled along a very wide road as Lord Jagannath, His elder brother Balarama and younger sister Subhadra travel to their summer residence.
(To read more about the Rath-Yatra festival, please click here.)
In a society ruled by a rigid caste system, Puri remains a historical enigma. The chief deities of Puri, Lord Jagannath, His brother and sister, are officially related to the local tribal people! Normally, tribals are considered to be outside the caste system and no high caste Hindu would eat any thing cooked by them. At Puri however, all the consecrated food is prepared by the Lord's relatives (tribals), and all Hindus eat this with great deference. This is probably the oldest attempt to reform the caste system. For it to transcend the caste rules is brave and a sign of hope for the rest of India.
Puri is regarded as one of the most important shrines in India, seat of the Guardian Reagent of the East. This sea side town has numerous shrines, temples and monasteries belonging to various Hindu sects. The main temple of Jaggannathji is vast by any standards. Made of solid stone, the temple has been built, rebuilt and extended over the centuries by numerous kings and devotees. Attacked and looted 18 times (mainly by by non-Hindus), the temple town has been seen huge changes over the centuries. Fortunately, the kings of Orissa have manged to liberate the temple every time and stopped it from being totally demolished and replaced by a mosque as at Mathura, Kashi, Ayodhya and many other cities. Temple servants have kept the deities secure during these times and always managed to preserve the 'Brahma Padarth' (soul / relics inside the wooden deity).
Today visitors pass through a series of 3 halls to obtain darshan of the Lord Jaggannath, 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 Lakshmiji, Lord Shiva, Narashimha, goddess Bimala (Vimala) etc. A number of halls have been built over the centuries, where people can gather for bhajans, festivals and religious discourses. The kitchen of the Lord provides the enormous amount of food consumed by Gods that is than distributed to the pilgrims as "mahaprasad". A beautiful garden is also attached to the temple, providing fresh flowers for the Lord everyday.
Nearby villages are a treasure trove for the lovers of arts and crafts. Craftsmen of all sorts live within a comutable distance from Puri and Bhubeneshwara (capital of Orrisa). 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. Orrisa is an ideal place to shop for raw silks, paintings (on silk, cloth, local handmade paper), saris, appliqu� work (of cloth as well as mirror work), festival umbrellas, gold filigree work, silver jewellery, traditional "bidari" ware etc.
Orrisa 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. It has pleasant climate all year round and is cheaper than some of the more popular destinations. It has great deal of history and architecture.
For more info on the temples of Lord Jaggan-Nathji, Tirupati, Dwarikadhishji, Ranchodraiji, Shri Nathji etc please click here.
Some interesting videos -
Yatra Vesha of Jaggan-Nathji
Gaja Vesha of Shri Jaggan Nathji
Ratha Yatra of the Lord of Puri
Suvarna Vesh of Shri Jaggan-Nathji � on the last day of the Ratha Yatra (commentary in Oriya)
Ratha Yatra and Suvarna-Vesh (golden attire) of the Lord on His return to the inner temple (commentary in Hindi)
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