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For other uses, see Puri (disambiguation).
City/Tourist Attractions
Montage of Puri City
Montage of Puri City
Puri is located in Odisha
Coordinates: 19°48′38″N 85°49′53″E / 19.81056°N 85.83139°E / 19.81056; 85.83139Coordinates: 19°48′38″N 85°49′53″E / 19.81056°N 85.83139°E / 19.81056; 85.83139
Country  India
State Odisha
District Puri
 • Body Puri Municipality
 • Total 16.3268 km2 (6.3038 sq mi)
Elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 201,026
 • Density 12,000/km2 (32,000/sq mi)
 • Official Odia
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 75200x
Telephone code 06752
Vehicle registration OD-13

Puri (About this sound listen ) is a city and a Municipality of Odisha. It is the district headquarters of Puri district, Odisha, eastern India. It is situated on the Bay of Bengal, 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of the state capital of Bhubaneswar. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the 12th-century Jagannath Temple located in the city. It is one of the original Char Dham pilgrimage sites for Indian Hindus.

Puri was known by several names from the ancient times to the present, and locally called as Badadeula. Puri and the Jagannath Temple were invaded 18 times by Hindu and Muslim rulers, starting from 4th century to the start of the 19th century with the objective of looting the treasures of the temple. Odisha, including Puri and its temple, were under the British Raj from 1803 till India attained independence in August 1947. Even though princely states do not exist in independent India, the heirs of the Gajapati Dynasty of Khurda still perform the ritual duties of the temple. The temple town has many Hindu religious maths or monasteries.

The economy of Puri town is dependent on the religious importance of the Jagannath Temple to the extent of nearly 80%. The festivals which contribute to the economy are the 24 held every yea in the temple complex, including 13 major festivals; Ratha Yatra and its related festivals are the most important which are attended by millions of people every year. Sand art and applique art are some of the important crafts of the city. Puri is one of the 12 heritage cities chosen by the Government of India for holistic development.

Geography and climate[edit]


The Atharanala Bridge dating back to the 16th century at the entrance of Puri

Puri, located on the east coast of India on the Bay of Bengal, is in the center of the district of the same name. It is delimited by the Bay of Bengal on the south east, the Mauza Sipaurubilla on the west, Mauz Gopinathpur in the north and Mauza Balukhand in the east. It is within the 67 kilometres (42 mi) coastal stretch of sandy beaches that extends between Chilika Lake and the south of Puri city. However, the administrative jurisdiction of the Puri Municipality extends over an area of 16.3268 square kilometres (6.3038 sq mi) spread over 30 wards, which includes a shore line of 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).[1]

Puri is in the coastal delta of the Mahanadi River on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. In the ancient days it was near to Sisupalgarh (Ashokan Tosali) when the land was drained by a tributary of the River Bhargavi, a branch of the Mahanadi River, which underwent a meandering course creating many arteries altering the estuary, and formed many sand hills. These sand hills could not be "cut through" by the streams. Because of the sand hills, the Bhargavi River flowing to the south of Puri, moved away towards the Chilika Lake. This shift also resulted in the creation of two lagoons known as Sar and Samang on the eastern and northern parts of Puri respectively. Sar lagoon has a length of 5 miles (8.0 km) in an east-west direction and has a width of 2 miles (3.2 km) in north-south direction. The river estuary has a shallow depth of 5 feet (1.5 m) only and the process of siltation is continuing. According to a 15th-century chronicle the stream that flowed at the base of the Blue Mountain or Neelachal was used as the foundation or high plinth of the present temple which was then known as Purushottama, the Supreme Being. A 16th century chronicle attributes filling up of the bed of the river which flowed through the present Grand Road, during the reign of King Narasimha II (1278–1308).[2]


According to the Köppen and Geiger the climate of Puri is classified Aw. The city has moderate and tropical climate. Humidity is fairly high throughout the year. The temperature during summer touches a maximum of 36 °C (97 °F) and during winter it is 17 °C (63 °F). The average annual rainfall is 1,337 millimetres (52.6 in) and the average annual temperature is 26.9 °C (80.4 °F). The weather data is given in the table.[3][4]

Climate data for Puri
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 26.8
Average low °C (°F) 17.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 9
Source: [4]


Names in history[edit]

Puri, the holy land of Lord Jaganath, also known popularly as Badadeula in local usage, has many ancient names in the Hindu scriptures such as the Rigveda, Matsya purana, Brahma Purana, Narada Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, Kapila samhita and Niladrimahodaya. In the Rigveda, in particular, it is mentioned as a place called Purushamandama-grama meaning the place where the Creator deity of the world – Supreme Divinity deified on altar or mandapa was venerated near the coast and prayers offered with vedic hymns. Over time the name got changed to Purushottama Puri and further shortened to Puri and the Purusha became Jagannatha. Close to this place sages like Bhrigu, Atri and Markandeya had their hermitage.[5] Its name is mentioned, conforming to the deity worshipped, as Srikshetra, Purusottama Dhāma, Purusottama Kshetra, Purusottama Puri and Jagannath Puri. Puri is however, a common usage now. It is also known the geographical features of its siting as Shankhakshetra (layout of the town is in the form of a conch shell.[6]), Neelāchala ("blue mountain" a terminology used to name very large sand lagoon over which the temple was built but this name is not in vogue), Neelāchalakshetra, Neelādri, [7] The word 'Puri' in Sanskrit means "town", or 'city'[8] and is cognate with polis in Greek.[9]

Another ancient name is Charita as identified by Cunningham which was later spelled as Che-li-ta-lo by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang.When the present temple was built by the Ganga king Chodangadev in the 11th and 12th centuries it was called Purushottamkshetra. However, the Moghuls, the Marathas and early British rulers called it Purushottama-chhatar or just Chhatar. In Akbar's Ain-i-Akbari and subsequent Muslim historical records it was known as Purushottama. In the Sanskrit drama authored by Murari Mishra in the 8th century it is referred as Purushottama only.[6] It was only after twelfth century Puri came to be known by the shortened form of Jagannatha Puri, named after the deity or in a short form as Puri.[7] In some records pertaining to the British rule, the word 'Jagannath' was used for Puri.[10] It is the only shrine in India, where Radha, along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga, Bhudevi, Sati, Parvati, and Shakti abodes with Krishna, also known as Jagannath.[11]

Ancient period[edit]

king Indradyumna of Ujjayani credited with building the original temple in 318 AD

According to the chronicle Madala Panji, in 318 the priests and servitors of the temple spirited away the idols to escape the wrath of the Rashtrakuta King Rakatavahu.[12] The temple's ancient historical records also finds mention in the Brahma Purana and Skanda Purana as having been built by the king Indradyumna of Ujjayani.[13]

According to W.J. Wilkinson, in Puri, Buddhism was once a well established practice but later Buddhists were persecuted and Brahmanism became the order of the religious practice in the town; the Buddha deity in now worshipped by the Hindus as Jagannatha. It is also said that some relics of Buddha were placed inside the idol of Jagannath which the Brahmins claimed were the bones of Krishna. Even during Ashoka’s reign in 240 BC Odisha was a Buddhist center and that a tribe known as Lohabahu (barabarians from outside Odisha) converted to Buddhism and built a temple with an idol of Buddha which is now worshipped as Jagannatha. It is also said that Lohabahu deposited some Buddha relics in the precincts of the temple.[14]

Construction of the Jagannatha Temple started in 1136 and completed towards the later part of the 12th century. The King of the Ganga dynasty, Anangabhima dedicated his kingdom to the God, then known as the Purushottam-Jagannatha and resolved that from then on he and his descendants would rule under "divine order as Jagannatha's sons and vassals". Even though princely states do not exist in independent India, the heirs of the Gajapati dynasty of Khurda still perform the ritual duties of the temple; the king formally sweeps the road in front of the chariots before the start of the Rathayatra.[15]

Medieval and early modern periods[edit]

History of the temple is the history of the town of Puri, which was invaded 18 times during its history to plunder the treasures of the Jagannath Puri temple. The first invasion was in the 8th century by Rastrakuta king Govinda-III (AD 798–814) and the last was in 1881 by the followers of Alekh Religion who did not recognize Jagannath worship.[16] In between, from the 1205 onward [15] there were many invasions of the city and its temple by Muslims of the Afghans and Moghuls descent, known as Yavanas or foreigners; they had mounted attacks to ransack the wealth of the temple rather than for religious reasons. In most of these invasions the idols were taken to safe places by the priests and the servitors of the temple. Destruction of the temple was prevented by timely resistance or surrender by the kings of the region. However, the treasures of the temple were repeatedly looted. [17] The table lists all the 18 invasions.[16]

Invasion number Invader (s), year (s) AD Local rulers Status of the three images of the Jagannath temple
1 Raktabahu or Govinda III (798–814) of the Rashtrakuta Empire King Subhanadeva of Bhaumakara dynasty Idols shifted to Gopali near Sonepur. Was brought back to Puri by Yayati I after 146 years and re-consecrated after performing Nabakalebara[18]
2 Illias Shah, Sultan of Bengal, 1340 Narasinghadeva III Images shifted to a secret location.[19]
3 Feroz Shah Tughlaq, 1360 Ganga King Bhanudeva III Images not found though rumored that they were thrown into the Mahodadhi Arabian Sea[19]
4 Ismail Ghazi commander of Alauddin Hussain Shah of Bengal, 1509 King Prataprudradeva Images shifted to Chandhei Guha Pahada near Chilika Lake.[19]
5 Kalapahara, army assistant general of Sulaiman Karrani of the Afghan Sultan of Bengal, 1568 Mukundadeva Harichandan Images initially hidden in an island in Chilika Lake. However, the invader took the idols from here to the banks of the Ganges River and burnt them. A Brahmin priest, who had followed the images, retrieved the Brahmas and hid it in a drum at Khurdagada in 1575 and finally re-installed in the deities. Deities were brought back to Puri and consecrated in the Jagannath Temple.[20]
6 Suleman, the son of Kuthu Khan and Osman, the son of Isha (ruler of Orissa), 1592 Ramachandradeva, the Bhoi dynasty ruler of Khurda Revolt was by local Muslim rulers who desecrated the images[21]
7 Mirza Khurum, the commander of Islam Khan, the Nawab of Bengal, 1601 Purushottamadeva of Bhoi Dynasty Image moved Kapileswarpur village by boat through the river Bhargavee and kept in the Panchamukhi Gosani temple. Thereafter the deities were kept in Dobandha—Pentha[21]
8 Hasim Khan, the Subedar of Orissa, 1608 Purushottam Deva, the King of Khurda Images shifted to the Gopal temple at Khurda and brought back in 1608[21]
9 Hindu Rajput Jagirdar Kesodasmaru, 1610 Purusottamdeva, the king of Khurda Images kept at the Gundicha temple and brought back to Puri after eight months.[21]
10 Kalyan Malla, 1611 Purushottamadeva, the King of Khurda Images moved to ‘Mahisanasi’ also known as‘Brahmapura’ or ‘Chakanasi’ in the Chilika Lake where they remained for one year.[22]
11 Kalyan Malla, 1612 Paiks of Purushottamadeva, the King of Khurda Images placed on a fleet of boats at Gurubai Gada and hidden under the ‘Lotani Baragachha’ or Baniyan tree) and then at ‘Dadhibaman Temple’.[23]
12 Mukarram Khan, 1617 Purushottama Deva, the King of Khurda Images moved to the Bankanidhi temple, Gobapadar and brought back to Puri in 1620[23]
13 Mirza Ahmad Beg, 1621 Narasingha Deva Images shifted to ‘Andharigada’ in the mouth of the river Shalia across the Chilika lake. Moved back to Puri in 1624[24]
14 Amir Mutaquad Khan alias Mirza Makki, 1645 Narasingha Deva and Gangadhar Not known[25]
15 Amir Fateh Khan, 1647 Not known Not known[25]
16 Ekram Khan and Mastram Khan on behalf of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, 1692 Divyasingha Deva, the king of Khurda Images moved to ‘Maa Bhagabati Temple’ and then to Bada Hantuada in Banpur across the Chilika Lake, and finally brought back to Puri in 1699[25]
17 Muhammad Taqi Khan, 1731 and 1733 Birakishore Deva and Birakishore Deva of Athagada Images moved to Hariswar in Banpur, Chikili in Khalikote, Rumagarh in Kodala, Athagada in Ganjam and lastly to Marda in Kodala. Shifted back to Puri after 2.5 years.[25]
18 Followers of Alekh Religion, 1881 Birakishore Deva and Birakishore Deva of Athagada Images burnt in the streets [26]

Puri is the site of the Govardhana matha, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankaracharya, when he visited Puri in 810 and since then it has become an important dham (divine centre) for the Hindus; the others being those at Sringeri, Dwaraka and Jyotirmath. The matha is headed by Jagatguru Shankarachrya. The significance of the four dhams is that the Lord Vishnu takes his dinner at Puri, has his bath at Rameshwaram, spends the night at Dwarka and does penance at Badrinath.[13][27]

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal who established the Bhakti movements of India in the sixteenth century, now known by the name the Hare Krishna movement, spent many years as a devotee of Jagannatha at Puri; he is said to have merged his "corporal self" with the deity.[28] There is also a matha of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu here.[13]

In the 17th century for the sailors sailing on the east coast of India, the landmark was the temple located in a plaza in the centre of the town which they called the "White Pagoda" while the Konark Sun Temple, 60 kilometres (37 mi) away to the east of Puri, was known as the "Black Pagoda".[28]

The iconographic representation of the images in the Jagannath temple are believed to be the forms derived from the worship made by the tribal groups of Sabaras belonging to northern Odisha. These images are replaced at regular intervals as the wood deteriorates. This replacement is a special event carried out ritulistically by special group of carpenters.[28]

Govardhana matha main gate

The town has many Mathas (Monasteries of the various Hindu sects). Among the important mathas is the Emar Matha founded by the Tamil Vaishnav Saint Ramanujacharya in the 12th century AD. At present this matha is located in front of Simhadvara across the eastern corner of the Jagannath Temple is reported to have been built in the 16th century during the reign of Suryavamsi Gajapati. The matha was in the news recently for the large cache of 522 silver slabs unearthded from a closed room.[29][30]

The British conquered Orissa in 1803 and recognizing the importance of the Jagannatha Temple in the life of the people of the state they initially placed an official to look after the temple's affairs and later declared it a district with the same name.[15]

Modern history[edit]

In 1906, Sri Yukteswar an exponent of Kriya Yoga, a resident of Puri, established an ashram in the sea-side town of Puri, naming it "Kararashram" as a spiritual training center. He died in 9 March 1935 and his body is buried in the garden of the ashram.[31][32]

The city is the site of the former summer residence of British Raj built in 1913–14 during the era of governors, the Raj Bhavan.[33]

For the people of Puri Lord Jagannath, visualized as Lord Krishna, is synonymous with their city. They believe that the Jagannatha looks after the welfare of the state. However, after the incident of the partial collapse of the Jagannatha Temple, the Amalaka part of the tower on 14 June 1990 people became apprehensive and thought it was not a good omen for the welfare of the State of Odisha. The replacement of the fallen stone by another of the same size and weight (seven tons) had to be done only in the an early morning hours after the gods had woken up after a good nights sleep which was done on 28 February 1991.[28]

Puri has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of the Indian Government. It is one of 12 the heritage cities chosen with "focus on holistic development" to be implemented in 27 months by end of March 2017.[34]

Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the shrines but are allowed to view the temple and the proceedings from the roof of the Raghunandan library within the precincts of the temple for a small donation.[35]


As of 2001 India census, Puri city, an urban Agglomeration governed by Municipal Corporation in Orissa state, had a population of 157,610[36] which increased to 200,564 in 2011. Males, 104,086, females, 96,478, children under 6 years of age, 18,471. The sex ratio is 927 females to 1000 males. Puri has an average literacy rate of 88.03 percent (91.38 percent males and 84.43 percent females). Religion-wise data is not reported.[37]


The economy of Puri is dependent on tourism to the extent of about 80%. The temple is the focal point of the entire area of the town and provides major employment to the people of the town. Agricultural production of rice, ghee, vegetables and so forth of the region meets the huge requirements of the temple, with many settlements aroiund the town exclusively catering to the other religious paraphernalia of the temple.[38] The temple administration employs 6,000 men to perform the rituals. The temple also provides economic sustenance to 20,000 people belonging to 36 orders and 97 classes. The kitchen of the temple which is said to be the largest in the world employs 400 cooks.[35]

City Management and Governance[edit]

Puri Municipality, Puri Konark Development Authority, Public Health Engineering Organisastion, Orissa Water Supply Sewerage Board are some of the principal organizations that are devolved with the responsibility of providing for all the urban needs of civic amenities such as water supply, sewerage, waste management, street lighting, and infrastructure of roads. The major activity which puts maximum presuure on these organizations is the annual event of the Ratha Yatra held for 10 days during July when more than a million people attend the grand event. This event involves to a very large extent the development activities such as infrastructure and amenities to the pilgrims, apart from security to the pilgrims.[39]

The civic administration of Puri is the responsibility of the Puri Municipality which came into existence in 1864 in the name of Puri Improvement Trust which got converted into Puri Municipality in 1881. After India's independence in 1947, Orissa Municipal Act-1950 was promulgated entrusting the administration of the city to the Puri Municipality. This body is represented by elected representative with a Chairperson and councilors representing the 30 wards within the municipal limits.[40]


Jagannath Temple at Puri[edit]

Left: Jagannath Temple at Puri Right: View of the temple at night

The Temple of Jagannath at Puri is one of the major Hindu temples built in the Kalinga style of architecture, in respect of its plan, front view and structural detailing. It is one of the Pancharatha (Five chariots) type consisting of two anurathas, two konakas and one ratha with well-developed pagas. Vimana or Deula is the sanctum sanctorum where the triad (three) deities are deified on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls), and over which is the temple tower, known as the rekha deula; the latter is built over a rectangular base of the pidha temples as its roof is made up of pidhas that are sequentially arranged horizontal platforms built in descending order forming a pyramidal shape. The mandapa in front of the sanctum sanctorum is known as Jagamohana where devotees assemble to offer worship.[41] The temple tower with a spire rises to a height of 58 m in height and a flag is unfurled above it fixed over a wheel (chakra).[35][42] Within the temple complex is the Nata Mandir, a large hall where Garuda stamba (pillar). Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to stand here and pray. In the interior of the Bhoga Mantap, adjoining the Nata mandir, there is profusion of decorations of sculptures and paintings which narrate the story of Lord Krishna.[43]

Left:Ritual chakra and flags at the top shikhara of Puri temple of Jagannatha also related to Sudarsana chakra. The red flag (12 hand or 14 feet (4.3 m) denotes that Jagannath is within the temple.
Right: Statue of Aruna the charioteer of the Sun God on top of the Aruna Stambha in front of the Singhadwara

The temple is built on an elevated platform (of about 420,000 square feet (39,000 m2) area[44]), 20 ft above the adjoining area. The temple rises to a height of 214 ft above the road level. The temple complex covers an area of 10.7 acres (4.3 ha).[39] There is double walled enclosure, rectangular in shape (rising to a height of 20 ft) surrounding the temple complex of which the outer wall is known as Meghanada Prachira, measuring 200 by 192 metres (656 ft × 630 ft). The inner walled enclosure, known as Kurmabedha. measures 126m x 95m.[45] There are four entry gates (in four cardinal directions to the temple located at the center of the walls in the four directions of the outer circle. These are: the eastern gate called Singhadwara (Lions Gate), the southern gate known as Ashwa Dwara (Horse Gate), the western gate called the Vyaghra Dwara (Tigers Gate) or the Khanja Gate, and the northern gate called the Hathi Dwara or (elephant gate). The four gates symbolize the four fundamental principles of Dharma (right conduct), Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (renunciation) and Aishwarya (prosperity). The gates are crowned with pyramid shapes structures. There is stone pillar in front of the Singhadwara called the Aruna Stambha {Solar Pillar}, 11 metres (36 ft) in height with 16 faces, made of chlorite stone, at the top of which is mounted an elegant statue of Arun (Sun) in a prayer mode. This pillar was shifted from the Konarak Sun temple. [46] All the gates are decorated with guardian statues in the form of lion, horse mounted men, tigers and elephants in the name and order of the gates.[35] A pillar made of fossilized wood is used for placing lamps as offering. The Lion Gate (Singhadwara) is the main gate to the temple, which guarded by two guardian deities Jaya and Vijaya.[44][46][47] The main gates is ascended through 22 steps known as Baisi Pahaca which are revered as it is said to possess "spiritual animation". Children are made to roll down these steps from top to bottom to bring them spiritual happiness. After entering the temple on the left hand side there is huge kitchen where food is prepared in hygienic conditions in huge quantities that it is termed as "the biggest hotel of the world".[44]

The main entrance of the Jagannath Temple

The legend says that King Indradyumma was directed by Lord Jagannath in a dream to build a temple for him and he built it as directed. However, according to historical records the temple was started some time during the 12th century by King Chodaganga of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. It was however completed by his descendant, Anangabhima Deva, in the 12th century. The wooden images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were then deified here. The temple was under the control of the Hindu rulers up to 1558. Then, when Orissa was occupied by the Afghan Nawab of Bengal, it was brought under the control of the Afghan General Kalapahad. Following the defeat of the Afghan king by Raja Mansingh, the General of Mughal emperor Akbar, the temple became a part of the Mughal empire till 1751 AD. Subsequently it was under the control of the Marathas till 1803. Then, when British Raj took over Orissa, the Puri Raja was entrusted with its to management until 1947.[42]

The triad of images in the temple are of Jagannatha, personifying Lord Krishna, Balabhadra, his older brother, and Subhadra his younger sister, which are made of wood (neem) in an unfinished form. The stumps of wood which form the images of the brothers have human arms and that of Subhadra does not have any arms. The heads are large and un-carved and are painted. The faces are made distinct with the large circular shaped eyes.[28]

The Pancha Tirtha of Puri[edit]

Main article: Pancha Tirtha of Puri
Markandeshwar Tank

Hindus consider it essential to bathe in the Pancha Tirtha or the five sacred bathing spots of Puri, India, to complete a pilgrimage to Puri. The five sacred water bodies are the Indradyumana Tank, the Rohini Kunda, the Markandeya Tank, Swetaganga Tank, and the The Sea also called the Mahodadhi is considered a sacred bathing spot in the Swargadwar area.[48][49][50] These tanks have perennial sources of supply in the form of rain water and ground water.[51]

Gundicha Temple[edit]

Main article: Gundicha Temple
The Main Gate of the Gundicha Temple

Known as the Garden House of Jagannath, the Gundicha temple stands in the centre of a beautiful garden, surrounded by compound walls on all sides. It lies at a distance of about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the north east of the Jagannath Temple. The two temples are located at the two ends of the Bada Danda (Grand Avenue) which is the pathway for the Rath Yatra. According to a legend, Gundicha was the wife of King Indradyumna who originally built the Jagannath temple.[43]

The temple is built using light-grey sandstone and architecturally, it exemplifies typical Kalinga temple architecture in the Deula style. The complex comprises four components: vimana (tower structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), nata-mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). There is also a kitchen connected by a small passage. The temple is set within a garden, and is known as "God's Summer Garden Retreat" or garden house of Jagannath. The entire complex, including garden, is surrounded by a wall which measures 430 by 320 feet (131 m × 98 m) with height of 20 feet (6.1 m).[52]

Except for the 9-day Rath Yatra when triad images are worshipped in Gundicha Temple, the the rest of the year it remains unoccupied. Tourists can visit the temple after paying an entry fee. Foreigners (prohibited entry in the main temple) are allowed inside this temple during this period.[53] The temple is under the Jagannath Temple Administration, Puri – the governing body of the main temple. A small band of servitors maintain the temple.[52]


The Sea at Swargadwar of Puri

Swargadwara is the name given to the cremation ground or burning ghat which is located on the shores of the sea were thousands of dead bodies of Hindus are brought from faraway places to cremate. It is a belief that the Chitanya Mahaparabhu disppaeread from this Swargadwar about 500 years back.[54]


Puri Sea Beach viewed from the light house

The beach at Puri known as the "Ballighai beach} is 8 km away at the mouth of Nunai River from the town and is fringed by casurian trees.[13] It has golden yellow sand and has pleasant sunshine. Sunrise and sunset are pleasant scenic attractions here.[55] Waves break in at the beach which is long and wide.[28]

District museum[edit]

The Puri district museum is located on the station road where the exhibits are of different types of garments worn by Lord Jagannath, local sculptures, patachitra (traditional, cloth-based scroll painting) and ancient Palm-leaf manuscripts and local craft work.[56]

Raghunandana Library[edit]

Raghunandana Library is located in the Emmra matha complex (opposite Simhadwara or Lion gate, the main entrance gate). The Jagannatha Aitihasika Gavesana Samiti (Jagannatha Historical Center) is also located here. The library contains ancient palm leaf manuscripts of Jagannatha, His cult and the history of the city. From the roof of the library one gets a picturesque view of the temple complex.[56]

Festivals of Puri[edit]

The Grand Road near the Jagannath Temple

Puri witnesses 24 festivals every year, of which 13 are major festivals. The most important of these is the Rath Yatra or the Car festival held in the month June–July which is attended by more than 1 million people.[57]

Rath Yatra at Puri[edit]

Main article: Ratha-Yatra (Puri)
The Rath Yatra in Puri in modern times showing the three chariots of the deities with the Temple in the background

The Jagannath triad are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Orissa, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 kilometres (1.9 mi)) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha).[58] The yatra starts, according to Hindu calendar Asadha Sukla Dwitiya )the second day of bright fortnight of Asadha (June–July) every year.[59]

Historically, the ruling Ganga dynasty instituted the Rath Yatra at the completion of the great temple around 1150 AD. This festival was one of those Hindu festivals that was reported to the Western world very early.[60] In his own account of 1321, Odoric reported how the people put the "idols" on chariots, and the King and Queen and all the people drew them from the "church" with song and music.[61][62]

The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is about 45 feet (14 m) high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct.[63] Th chariot is mounted with 16 wheels, each of 7 feet (2.1 m) diameter. The carvings in the front of the chariot has four wooden horses drawn by Maruti. On its other three faces the wooden carvings are Rama, Surya and Vishnu. The chariot is known as Nandi Ghosha. The roof of the chariot is covered with yellow and golden coloured cloth. The next chariot is that of Balabhadra which is 44 feet (13 m) in height fitted with 14 wheels. The chariot is carved with Satyaki as the charioteer. The carvings on this chariot also include images of Narasimha and Rudra as Jagannath's companions. The next chariot in the order is that of Subhadra, which is 43 feet (13 m) in height supported on 12 wheels, roof covered in black and red colour cloth and the chariot is known as Darpa-Dalaan. The charioteer carved is Arjuna. Other images carved on the chariot are that of Vana Durga, Tara Devi and Chandi Devi.[59][64] The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne.[58] The huge chariots of Jagannath pulled during Rath Yatra is the etymological origin of the English word Juggernaut.[65] The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra and Ghosha yatra[59]

Pahandi bije during Ratha Yatra at Puri

Chhera Pahara[edit]

The Chhera Pahara is a significant ritual associated with the Ratha-Yatra. During the festival, the Gajapati King wears the outfit of a sweeper and sweeps all around the deities and chariots in the Chera Pahara (sweeping with water) ritual. The Gajapati King cleanses the road before the chariots with a gold-handled broom and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder with utmost devotion. As per the custom, although the Gajapati King has been considered the most exalted person in the Kalingan kingdom, he still renders the menial service to Jagannath. This ritual signified that under the lordship of Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign Gajapati King and the most humble devotee.[66]

Chandan Yatra[edit]

The Narendra Tirtha tank where ceremonies of Chandan Yatra are performed
Main article: Chandan Yatra

In Akshaya Tritiya every year the Chandan Yatra festival marks the commencement of the construction of the Chariots of the Rath Yatra. It also marks the celebration of the Hindu new year.[13]

Snana Yatra[edit]

Main article: Snana Yatra

On the Purnima day in the month of Jyestha (June) the triad images of the Jagannath temple are ceremonially bathed and decorated every year on the occasion of Snana Yatra. Water for the bath is taken in 108 pots from the Suna kuan (meaning: "golden well") located near the northern gate of the temple. Water is drawn from this well only once in a year for the sole purpose of this religious bath of the deities. After the bath the triad images are dressed in the fashion of the elephant god, Ganesha. Later during the night the original triad images are taken out in a procession back to the main temple but kept at a place known as Anasara pindi.[59] After this the Jhulana Yatra is when proxy images of the deities are taken out in a grand procession for 21 days, cruised over boats in the Narmada tank.[13]

Anavasara or Anasara[edit]

Images during the Snana Yatra.

Anasara literally means vacation. Every year, the triad images without the Sudarshan after the holy Snana Yatra are taken to a secret altar named Anavasara Ghar Palso known as "Anasara pindi} where they remain for the next dark fortnight (Krishna paksha). Hence devotees are not allowed to view them. Instead of this devotees go to nearby place Brahmagiri to see their beloved lord in the form of four handed form Alarnath a form of Vishnu.[59][67] Then people get the first glimpse of lord on the day before Rath Yatra, which is called Navayouvana. It is said that the gods suffer from fever after taking ritual detailed bath and they are treated by the special servants named, Daitapatis for 15 days. Daitapatis perform special niti (rite) known as Netrotchhaba (a rite of painting the eyes of the triad). During this period cooked food is not offered to the deities.[68]

Nava Kalevara[edit]

Main article: Nabakalevara
Main article: Nabakalebara 2015

One of the most grandiloquent events associated with the Lord Jagannath, Naba Kalabera takes place when one lunar month of Ashadha is followed by another lunar month of Aashadha, called Adhika Masa (extra month). This can take place in 8, 12 or even 18 years. Literally meaning the "New Body" (Nava = New, Kalevar = Body), the festival is witnessed by as millions of people and the budget for this event exceeds $500,000. The event involves installation of new images in the temple and burial of the old ones in the temple premises at Koili Vaikuntha. The idols that were worshipped in the temple, installed in the year 1996, were replaced by specially made new images made of neem wood during Nabakalebara 2015 ceremony held during July 2015.[69][70] More than 3 million devotees were expected to visit the temple during the Nabakalebara 2015 held in July.[71]

Suna Besha[edit]

Main article: Suna Besha
Suna Besha or Golden Attire of Lord Jagannath

Suna Bhesha also known as Raja or Rajadhiraja bhesha [72] or Raja Bhesha, is an event when the triad images of the Jagannath Temple are adorned with gold jewelry. This event is observed 5 times during a year. It is commonly observed on Magha Purnima (January), Bahuda Ekadashi also known as Asadha Ekadashi (July), Dashahara (Vijyadashami) (October), Karthik Purnima (November), and Pousa Purnima (December).[73][74] While one such Suna Bhesha event is observed on Bahuda Ekadashi during the Rath Yatra on the chariots placed at the lion's gate or the Singhdwar; the other four Bheshas' are observed inside the temple on the Ratna Singhasana (gem studded altar). On this occasion gold plates are decorated over the hands and feet of Jagannath and Balabhadra; Jagannath is also adorned with a Chakra (disc) made of gold on the right hand while a silver conch adorns the left hand. However, Balabhadra is decorated with a plough made of gold on the left hand while a golden mace adorns his right hand.[73]

Niladri Bije[edit]

Celebrated on Asadha Trayodashi.[75] It marks the end of the 12 days Ratha yatra. The large wooden images of the triad of gods are moved from the chariots and then carried to the sanctum sanctorum, swaying rhythmically, a ritual which is known as pahandi.[70]

Sahi Yatra[edit]

A scene from a play being enacted during the Sahi Yatra

Considered the world's biggest open-air theatre,[76] the Sahi yatra is an 11 day long traditional cultural theatre festival or folk drama which begins on Ram Navami and ending in Rama avishke (Sanskrit:anointing) every year. The festival includes plays depicting various scenes from the Ramayan. The residents of various localities or Sahis are entrusted the task of performing the drama at the street corners.[77]


Earlier when roads did not exist people walked or travelled by animal drawn vehicles or carriages along beaten tracks. Up to Calcutta travel was by riverine craft along the Ganges and then by foot or carriages to Puri. It was only during the Maratha rule that the popular Jagannath Sadak (Road) was built around 1790. The East India Company laid the rail track from Calcutta to Puri which became operational in 1898.[78] Puri is now well connected by rail, road and air services. A broad gauge railway line of the South Eastern Railways connects with Puri and Khurda is an important Railway junction. By rail it is about 499 kilometres (310 mi) away from Calcutta and 468 kilometres (291 mi) from Vishakhapatnam. Road network includes NH 203 that links the town with Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha which is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) away. NH 203 B connects the town with Satapada via Brahmagiri. Marine drive which is part of NH 203 A connects Puri with Konark. The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) away from Puri.[57] Puri railway station is among the top hundred booking stations of Indian Railways.[79]

Arts and crafts[edit]

Sand art[edit]

Sand art is a special art form that is created on the beaches of the sea coast of Puri. The art form is attributed to Balaram Das, a poet who lived in the 14th century. He started crafting the sand art forms of the triad deities of the Jagannath Temple at the Puri beach. Now sculptures in sand of various gods and famous people are created by amateur artists which are temporal in nature as they get washed away by waves. This is an art form which has gained international fame in recent years. One of the well known sand artist is Sudarshan Patnaik. He has established the Golden Sand Art Institute in 1995 at the beach to provide training to students interested in this art form.[80][77]

Applique art[edit]

An applique art work

Applique art work, which is a stitching based craft, unlike embroidery, which was pioneered by the Hatta Maharana of Pipili is widely used in Puri, both for decoration of the deities but also for sale. His family members are employed as darjis or tailors or sebaks by the Maharaja of Puri who prepare articles for decorating the deities in the temple for various festivals and religious ceremonies. These applique works are brightly coloured and patterned fabric in the form of canopies, umbrellas, drapery, carry bags, flags, coberings of dummy horses and cows, and other household textiles which are marketed in Puri. The cloth used are in dark colours of red, black, yellow, green, blue and turquoise blue.[81]


Odissi dancer

Cultural activities, apart from religiuos festivals, held annually are: The Puri Beach Festival held between 5 and 9 November and the Shreeksherta Utsav held from 20 December to 2 January where cultural programmes include unique sand art, display of local and traditional handicrafts and food festival.[82] In addition cultural programmes are held every Saturday for two hours on in second Saturday of the moth at the district Collector's Conference Hall near Sea Beach Polic Station. Apart from Odissi dance, Odiya music, folk dances, and cultural programmes are part of this event.[82] Odishi dance is the cultural heritage of Puri. This dance form originated in Puri in the dances performed Devadasis (Maharis) attached to the Jagannath temple who performed dances in the Natamantapa of the temple to please the deities. Though the devadadsi practice has been discontinued, the dance form has become modern and classical and is widely popular, and many of the Odishi virtuoso artists and gurus (teachers) are from Puri.[83]


Some of the educational institutions in Puri are:

  • Ghanashyama Hemalata Institute of Technology and Management
  • Gangadhar Mohapatra Law College, established in 1981[84]
  • Extension Unit of Regional Research Institute of Homoeopathy; Puri under Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), New Delhi established in March 2006 [85]
  • Sri Jagannath Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, established in July 1981[86]
  • The Industrial Training Institute, a Premier Technical Institution to provide education in skilled, committed & talented technicians, established in 1966 of the Government of India[87]

Puri people[edit]


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External links[edit]