Located in the coastal district of Puri, the Jagannath temple is one of the most renowned places of interest that is enjoying the honor of being one of the ‘char dhams’ (sacred places), along with Dwarka, Rameshwaram, and Badrinath, that every Hindu intend to visit. The city of Puri, occupies a distinct place in the tourist map of India. It is situated at a distance of about 62 km from the capital city Bhubaneswar on the coast on Bay of Bengal.
The Jagannath Temple, Puri was built in the 12 th century A. D by Chodaganga Deva. The sculptural richness and plasticity of the typical Odishan style of temple architecture has made it one of the most maginficent monuments odf the country.
The name of the holy shrine is basically derived from two different words namely ‘jag’ and ‘nath’. While the first word means ‘universe’ and the second word refers to ‘lord’. The temple was basically established to pay homage to the Lord of the Universe. Surrounded by a 20 feet high enclosure measuring 652 feet by 630 feet, the holy shrine also has another enclosure around the temple. In front of the main gate of the temple is placed a majestic 16 sided monolithic pillar measuring 11 meters in height. The pillar originally stood in front of the famous Sun Temple at Konark. But it was brought here in the 18th century. The main gate of the temple is guarded by two huge statues of crouching lions on either side and hence is known as the Simha Dwara or the Lion’s Gate.
As one enters, the temple one can find the Baaisi Pahachas (22 steps) that lead to the Lord’s abode.
Apart from the Simha Dwara, there are three other entrances namely Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate that are named after the sculptures of animals guarding them.
One of the remarkable thing noticed in the temple is that there is no caste distinction and all are welcome before the Lord. However the Hindus are not allowed inside the shrine.
The temple kitchen is said to be the biggest in the world. According to tradition all the food prepared in the temple kitchen is supervised by the Goddess Mahalakshmi, the empress of Srimandir herself. A total of 56 varieties of dishes are cooked and offered to the deities. The food which is considered to be divine is then available at a reasonable price as Mahaprasad. Thousands of devotees feed on it everyday.