Shri Jagannath Temple


Lord Jagannatha, as His very name signi􀀁es, is the Lord of the Universe (Jagat = Universe; Natha = Lord). He is also popularly known as Mahaprabhu (Maha = Great; Prabhu = Lord). The sacred scriptures of Sanatana Vaidika Dharma (popularly known as Hinduism) also refer to Him as Purushottama, The Supreme Divine Being (Purusha = Divine Being; Uttama = Supreme). The glory of Lord Jagannatha has been narrated in innumerable scriptures – from the Vedas (the earliest scriptures of mankind) to the Puranas and later literary compositions in Sanskrit and Odia languages. These scriptures leave no doubt that Lord Jagannatha is the One Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient Supreme God referred to as Paramatma (Supreme Self), Parameshwara (Supreme Lord) and Param-Brahman (Supreme Omnipresent God) in the scriptures of Sanatana Vaidika Dharma and invoked in in􀀁nite names and forms in and through diverse religious traditions and beliefs around the world. The philosophy and tradition of Lord Shree Jagannatha emphatically propound the fundamental principles of Hinduism: Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti (There is only one TRUTH, the Learned Ones speak about the same TRUTH in various ways) and Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (Entire humanity is the family of the One God).

According to Skanda-Purana (Vaishnava Khanda), which extensively narrates the tradition and heritage of Lord Jagannatha in the Section entitled Purushottama-kshetra Mahatmya or Utkala Khanda containing 60 chapters (3863 verses), the One Supreme Lord manifested in Shree Purushottama-kshetra (modern Puri) in four wooden (Daru) forms as Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannatha, Devi Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshana in the Satya-yuga of the second Chatur-yuga during the 􀀁rst Manvantara (the time period of Manu Swayambhuva) in the 􀀁rst day


(Svetavaraha Kalpa) of the 􀀁fty-􀀁rst year of Lord Brahma. We are now in the Kali-yuga of the 28th Chatur-yuga of the seventh Manu (Manu Vaivaswata). Thus, a period of more than six Manvantaras and 27 Chatur-yugas have gone by since the manifestation of the Lord in Purushottama-kshetra in His present (Daru) forms. According to the sacred scriptures, such as Shreemad Bhagavata Mahapurana, there are 71 Chatur-yugas in each Manvantara and in these Yugas, various Avataras (Divine Incarnations) of the Supreme Lord emanate from Him and, after performing Their Divine Leela for re-establishing Dharma,they merge back in Him. Lord Shree Jagannatha, therefore, eternally present in Purushottama-kshetra through all these Yugas, is not an Avatara. He is the Avatari – the Supreme Omnipresent God from whom all Divine Incarnations manifest in different ages according to His Divine Will. In the 28th Chapter of Skanda-Purana Purushottama-kshetra Mahatmya, Lord Brahma Himself reveals the true identity of Lord Shree Jagannatha when He instructs King Indradyumna with these words:

“Thinking it is a wooden image, O pre-eminent King, let there not be the idea in you that this is a mere image; this is verily the form of Supreme Brahman (Supreme Omnipresent God). As Param-Brahman takes away all sorrows and confers eternal bliss, He is known as Daru. According to the four Vedas therefore, the Lord is manifest in the form of Daru (sacred wood). He is the Creator of the entire Universe. He has also created Himself.” (Chapter 28, verses 39-41)

The Skanda-Purana further states that the Supreme Lord will remain in this Daru form from this the 􀀁fty-􀀁rst year of Lord Brahma till the completion of Lord Brahma’s life-time of 100 years (that is,for the entire period of second Parardha). The scripture also states that during the 􀀁rst Parardha of Lord Brahma (that is, during the 􀀁rst 50 years of Lord Brahma’s life-time), the very same Supreme Lord was present in Shree Purushottama-kshetra in the Divine Neelamani Vigraha (Blue-sapphire gem-stone) Form of Lord Madhava (Lord Narayana-Vishnu-Jagannatha), Devi Mahalakshmi (Devi Subhadra), Lord Sesha Ananta (Lord Balabhadra)and Lord Sudarshana (Chakra Sudarshana).Similar narration is also found in other sacred scriptures. In a nutshell, therefore, the scriptures make it amply clear that Lord Jagannatha is none other than the One Supreme God on this earthly plane.

In His eternal Abode in Shree Jagannatha Temple in Puri, the Supreme Lord in His Four Daru Forms of Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannatha, Devi Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan (Chaturdha Daru-Vigraha) are invoked and worshipped in a myriad of different ways. His rituals and festivals contain a syncretic blend of diverse modes of worship – from the Vedic and Tantric to the rituals of ancient tribal communities…

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The great Acharyas and founders of the various Vedic Sampradayas (religious and philosophical traditions), namely, Bhagvatapada Adi Shankaracharya, Shree Ramanujacharya, Shree Madhvacharya, Shree Nimbarkacharya, Shree Vishnu Swami and Shree Chaitanya – all of them visited Puri and invoked the Lords in the tradition of their own Sampradayas. In the worship of the Lords, there is thus a harmonious con􀀂uence of the various schools of Vedanta, namely, Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, Dvaita, Shuddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintyabhedabheda. The Lords are invoked as Saguna-Sakara (God with form and attributes), Nirguna Sakara (God with form but without attributes) and also as Nirguna Nirakara (God without form or attributes) depending upon the religious belief and faith of the devotee. The founder of Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, and Su􀀁 Saint Kabir also visited Puri and invoked Lord Jagannatha in their own tradition. Some


scholars are of the view that Jesus Christ also visited Puri. Buddhist scholars and saints have accepted the Lords as the Buddhist Tri-Ratna: Lord Jagannatha as Buddha, Lord Balabhadra as Dharma and Devi Subhadra as Sangha. Likewise, the Lords have been identi􀀁ed with the Jain Tri-Ratna: Lord Jagannatha as Samyak-drishti (Perfect Vision), Lord Balabhadra as Samyak-jnana (Perfect Knowledge) and Devi Subhadra as Samyak-charitra (Perfect Conduct).

We thus 􀀁nd that Lord Jagannatha is invoked and worshipped by devotees belonging to diverse religious faiths and traditions, each in their own way. This universal and all-inclusive all-encompassing dimension of Lord Jagannatha is pointed out by Lord Brahma at the time of the first installation of the Lords in the magnicent Temple built by King Indrad yumna in Shree Purushottama-kshetra in the Satya-yuga of the 􀀁rst Manvantara when He enlightens the King with the following words:

“This Lord pervades all forms and permeates all mantras. In whatever way He is worshipped by anyone, accordingly does He confer fruits on him. O King, just as well-puri ed gold when shaped according to one’s choice gets this or that name in this world and brings about this or that satisfaction, O King, with such glory the Lord has become manifest here.” (Skanda-Purana, Purushottama-kshetra Mahatmya, Chapter 28, verses 47-50).

It is a well-established principle of Sanatana Vaidika Dharma followed in every Temple that the Presiding Deity never leaves His throne or the Temple and that it is the Utsava-Vigraha or Chalanti-Pratima (smaller Deity representing the Presiding Deity) who is taken out of the Temple in traditional procession during annual festivals. Lord Jagannatha, however,Himself created an exception to this general rule. Being the Lord of all beings in the Universe, He desired to leave His Ratna-singhasana (bejewelledThrone) and come out of the Temple once in every year during the sacred festival of Ratha-yatra so that all beings (human and non-human) may have His darshan and receive His Grace without any distinction whatsoever. Once again, on the occasion of Snana-yatra, commemorating the 􀀁rst Divine manifestation of the Lords in Daru Forms, the Lords come out of the Temple and are enthroned on the Snana-vedi within the Temple precincts so that one and all, without any distinction, may have His darshan. Similarly, there is no distinction made of caste, creed, colour, religion or nationality when partaking Mahaprasada, the sacred bhoga offerings made to Lord Jagannatha which are considered as sacred as the Lord Himself.

While narrating the 􀀁rst manifestation of the Lords in Daru forms in the first Manvantara, Skanda-Purana reveals that it was a sacred Particle of the Divine Form of Supreme Lord Vishnu which manifested as the Celestial Tree mysteriously 􀀂oating upon the sea in Shree Purusottama-kshetra and that the old carpenter who carved the images of the Lords out of that Celestial Tree was none other than the Supreme Lord Himself. The images of the Lords carved out by the Divine Carpenter are indeedquite inexplicable, open to an in􀀁nite variety of interpretations depending upon the belief and devotion of the seeker. The truth is however revealed in the profound declarations of the Upanishads which throw light upon this incomprehensible appearance of the Lords in Daru Forms. Shvetasvetara Upanishad proclaims the Vedic conception of Purusham Mahantam (The Supreme Divine Being) in these words:

“He (The Supreme Divine Being) is without hands, feet (and yet) moves and grasps; He sees(though) without eyes; He hears (though) without ears. He knows whatever is to be known; and of Him there is no knower. They speak of Him as the First, the Purusha and the Great.” (Chapter 3, verse 19).


The daily and periodical rituals observed and performed in His service and worship since time immemorial, bear the dignity and grandeur which a supreme person is entitled to.

The ritual system of the temple is very elaborate and complex involving a multitude of functionaries. The rituals of Lord Shree Jagannatha can broadly be divided into three categories i.e. the daily, the occasional (periodical) and the festive. In Shree Jagannatha temple, these rituals assure the term “Niti”. The xed nitis that are observed daily are a matter of routine. Each Sevaka or Servitor of the temple has his speci c role to play in these nitis with terms and times already speci ed. The various nitis, that are observed daily in the temple commence at about 5 am and continue till late night. The following is a brief account of the daily rituals of Lord Shree Jagannatha.


The rst niti or ritual begins in the early morning with the opening of the doors of the Temple. The doors of the sanctum are to be opened by 4.30 A.M in the morning, as stated in the Record of Rights of the temple; in-presence of ve sevakas (servitors) as is necessary for performance of ‘Dwaraphita’ niti. They are Bhitarchha Mahapatra, Pratihari, Muduli, Akhanda Mekap and Palia Mekap. The doors are opened after Bhitarchha Mahapatra examines the seal, placed on the padlocks on the previous night by another sevaka known as Talichha Mahapatra. If the seal is intact, he breaks it, unlocks the padlock and opens the door. In the same way the door of the inner sanctuary (Kalahat dwara) is also opened.


The subsequent ritual after Dwaraphita is Mangala Alati at 5.30 A.M Bhitarchha Mahapatra and two other palia Puspalaka sevakas perform Mangala Alati, standing below the pedestal

(Ratnasinghashan). There are three type of Alati known as “Karpura alati”, “Bati alati” and “Pithau alati”.


The scheduled time for Mailam is 6 A.M. Mailam or removal of dress and oral decoration etc. performed after Mangal Alati. The clothing’s & oral decoration of the deities from the previous right is removed and Tadap & Uttariya (a kind of cotton cloth) is supplied to make the deities ready for the succeeding niti of Abakas i.e. cleaning of teeth & bathing etc.


The time speci ed is 6.30 A.M. These rituals are performed by Bhitarchha, palia Puspalakas, Suarbadu, Paniapata, Mukhapakhala, Pratihari, Ghatuary, Bhandar Mekap, Mahabhoi and Khuri Nayak (Astrologer). The sevakas clean the teeth of deities by sitting in front of the brass mirrors in which the images are re ected and then bathe them by sprinkling water mixed with camphor, curd, amla, sandal paste & scented owers on the three mirrors. During Abakash ritual, the temple astrologer (Jyotisha) reads out the tithi and other astrological details of the day in front of Abakash Puja. This puja is performed with Pancha Upachara.


After the bathing rituals have been completed, the Deities change their clothes and wear another set of clothes with oral ornaments and garlands etc. The sevakas associated with this ritual are Puspalaka, Changada Mekap, Akhanda Mekap, Suarbadu, Khuntia etc.


Rosha homa or re sacri ce is done in the kitchen before cooking of the Lords food is started. Rosha homa performed by puja panda sevakas.


Surya Puja is performed in the inner enclosure near the Muktimandap by a Pujapanda sevaka. The prescribed time is 7.45 A.M.


Next follows Dwarapala Puja at the Jaya Vijaya gate in the main temple by a Pujapanda sevaka.


The prescribed time is 8.30 A.M. This is the time for breakfast of the deities. Gopal Ballav Bhoga consisting of coconut sweets (kora), khua, fauits, sweet popcorn (khai), ripe banana, curd and chipped-coconut, green coconut etc are offered to the deities by way of early breakfast. The offerings are made at a place called Anasara Pindi (known as Ballava Pindi) the place between the Kalahat door and the rst wooden door. Three palia Pujapanda sevakas perform the puja in ‘Pancha Upachara bidhi’.


The most important niti is Sakala Dhupa or Raj Bhoga served at 9 A.M to 10 A.M in which various preparations of black gram like Kanti, Enduri, Jhilli, Mathapuli, Hansakeli, Ada pachedi, saga, Bhaja, Khechedi, Kanika etc are offered to the deities. The Pujapandas perform the puja of the Bhoga with 16 (sixteen) ‘Upacharas’. Rice, wheat, ghee, sugar cane, fuel, earthern pots, vegetables etc are supplied for the cooking purpose by the temple administration. The Pujapanda who worshipsShree Jagannatha also worships SreeDevi, Bhubevi, Sudarsana and Madhaba. After bhoga puja offering of lamps to the Deities is made.


After morning dhupa puja, the deities change their clothes. The palia Pushpalaka put up new dress materials with silken clothes & oral ornaments etc.


The prescribed time is 11.30 A.M. Bhoga Mandap Puja takes place in Bhoga Mandap hall a place behind the Garuda pillar of Natamandap. Pujapandas offer this bhoga with Pancha Upacharas. It is traditionally done in order to facilitate the pilgrims, the various mathas and institutions, private individuals as well as the Suaras (temple cooks) who sell Mahaprasad to offer Anna bhoga in larger quantities. This bhoga is mainly prepared to meet the requirement of general public and other institutions.

Like Sakala Dhupa, this puja is also performed with sixteen Upacharas in the afternoon. Madhyahna dhupa bhog is offered in the sanctum sanctorum (near Ratnasinghashan). The bhoga times are more in number such as cooked rice, curries, sweets, cakes of different kinds are offered in this dhupa. The Pujapandas and other servitors, as in the morning dhupa are engaged in this ritual. Lamp offering is also made after the bhog.


The prescribed time is 6 P.M. In the evening again sacred lamps are offered to the deities. If there is no afternoon Pahuda, this lamp offering takes place after Madhyahna Dhupa and after change of cloth, garland etc.


After “Sandhya Alati” again Raj bhoga (Sandhya Dhupa) is offered to the Deities in the same manner as Sakala and Madhyahna Dhupa. The time for Sandhya Dhupa is between 6.30 P.M. to 8 P.M. During Dhupa ritual camphor alati is offered to the Deities. Besides these two more alaties are offered which known as “Jaya Mangal Alati’. The bhoga items are mostly watered rice, cakes like puli and amalu etc.


After completion of Sandhya Dhupa, the deities change their clothes and are anointed with sandal paste mixed with camphor and keshar. The Puspalaka sevakas do this function.


The prescribed time is between 9 P.M. to 10 P.M. After Chandan lagi, the deities are dressed in Baralagi Patta (some portions of Geeta Govinda of Jayadev are worn into the texture of these silken robes), ower crests, garlands, Tulsi (holy basil), Dayana etc in the late night, which is known as Badasinghara Besha. Palia Puspalakas decorate the Lord with various types of oral ornaments. This besha is very attractive to look at.



The time for this dhupa is between 10.30 P.M to 11 P.M. This is the last bhoga in which Pakhala (watered rice), Kadalibada, Khiri, Kanjc etc are offered to the deities. The Pujapandas worship the deities with ‘Pancha Upacharas’ sitting on the oor down the Ratnasinghashan.


The last rituals are Khata seja lagi, Pusparjali, Pahuda, Muda and Sodha. The time is 11.30 in the night. The “Sayan Thakura” is carried from Bhandar ghar to Ratnavedi and placed near Lord Shree Jagannatha. The bedsteads of the deities are arranged. Then follows offering of green coconut, betels and camphor alati and then the deities retire to their beds. The doors like Kalahat, Jaya Vijaya and Beherana (south side) are then sealed by Talichha Mahapatra. All persons excepting those sevaks and temple staff required to watch the temple are cleared out of the temple precincts.

There are 85 to 90 sevakas are engaged in daily rituals of the Deities. It is generally not possible to follow the time prescribed for each ritual on account of certain practical dif culties. On speci c festive days, additional rituals are performed. As a result, changes in timing and attractions in the routine rituals are made.