As the home of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Puri on the Bay of Bengal in the state of Orissa is one of four dhams, or holiest Hindu pilgrimage places in India. It is also one of the oldest cities in the eastern part of the country.
Religious life in Puri revolves around the great Jagannath Temple and its famous Rath Yatra, or ‘Festival of Chariots’ when the deities Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra are brought out of the temple, and placed in a chariot procession. This festival occurs on various dates of the Gregorian calendar, typically in the month of July. It is thought that Puri was the hiding place for Buddha’s tooth before it was spirited away to Kandy in neighbouring Sri Lanka. Indeed, there are similarities between the Rath Yatra and Kandy’s annual Esala Perahera (procession).
The town is also famous for its many Mathas (monasteries of the various Hindu sects). It also houses the relics of many Hindu saints as traditionally it is seen as a holy place to die or to be cremated. As a result, it has allegedly a disproportionate number of widows.
Jagannath Temple is dedicated to Jagannath, lord of the universe, who is an incarnation of Vishnu. It was built in its present form in 1198 by Raja Ananta Varman Chodaganga Dev. The temple is closed to non-Hindus, but observation is possible from the roof of the library opposite.
SEE ALSO: Nearby site of interest - Pipli
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