Puri as known to the Hindus all over the world as a religious center and for the good stretch of the white sand beaches on the banks of Bay of Bengal. The easy accessibility of the city, wide beaches that offer breathtaking view of sunrise and sunset, fishing farms where the traditional methods of fishing are still used by the local fishermen and fabulous resorts make it an important tourist destination. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the place to visit the famous temple of Lord Jagannath and the annual Rath yatra festival. The Jagannath Temple is one of the four most important Hindu pilgrimage sites or the Char Dham, the other three being Dwarka, Badrinath, and Rameshwaram.
Puri was once a part of Kalinga kingdom that was taken over by Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire. After passing through the hands of various dynasties, the entire Puri region came under the British rule in the year 1803. The history of the Jagannath temple itself is quite interesting too. The temple was completed in the later part of the 12th century. The original temple was built in the Kalinga style. The temple consists of Jagmohan (hall) and the Deul (main shrine) in its front. The Nata Mandir and the Bhoga Mandir were built later in the 14th and 15th century in the typical Orissa style
Jagannath temple is one of the four sacred Dhams of the Hindu religion. It is dedicated to the Lord of the Universe and its name is actually a combination of two words - Jag meaning universe and Nath meaning lord. Built in the 12th century, it is considered one of the tallest temples in India. Built in the Kalinga style of architecture, the temple consists of Jagmohan (hall) and the Deul (main shrine) in its front. The Nata Mandir was built in the 14th century and the Bhoga Mandir was built in the 15th century in the typical Orissa style. The provision of having meal made of the ingredients donated to the temple is a unique feature of this temple.
The Gundicha Ghar or Gundicha temple is regarded as holy as the Jagannath temple itself. It is considered to be the place of Lord's aunt Gundicha. According to the popular local belief, it is here that Lord stays for 9 days during the time of the famous Rath yatra or Chariot pulling festival of Puri. On the day of the Rath Yatra, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra (the brother-sister trio) are ceremoniously taken in attractively caparisoned wooden rath (chariot) from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple. At the garden house, their aunt welcomes them by feeding them padoapitha (specially baked rice cakes). This event is an important part of the famous Rath yatra festival of Puri.
Perhaps the only beach worth a visit on the eastern coast of India, Puri has soft white sands, simple people, the sweets and snacks hawkers and widespread waters of Bay of Bengal continuously washing your feet as you walk. A stroll on the seashore and few sips of hot tea or tender coconut and perhaps a boat ride makes up for a pleasurable evening.
Temple of Child Krishna at Indradyumna Tank :
Located on the northwestern part of the Gundicha Ghar, this Indradyumna lake is one of the five sacred tanks of Puri. It is renowned for its spiritual significance and its relation to Lord Krishna. The temple has a Child Krishna temple nearby and a small shrine dedicated to King Indradyumna of Orissa.
Atharnala Bridge was built in the 13th century over the Mandupur stream. The bridge is located at the entrance of the town and is considered to be an marvel in architecture marvel. This massive bridge of around 85x11 metre is still in use by the natives of the city.
Puri is famous for its Rath Yatra festival held once a year. In June-July every year, Lord Jagannath's legendary return to his kingdom on earth is the occasion for the famous Rath Yatra at Puri. The proceedings commence with the installation of Lord Jagannath, his sister Subhadra, and brother Balabhadra in massive, lavishly decorated chariots and thousands of devotees throng in to pull the three gigantic chariots through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha Mandir, accompanied by the chanting of sacred mantras (incantations) and music. The bejewelled deities, clad in resplendent silk, remain in the Gundicha Mandir for nine days, after which they are carried back to be re-installed in the Sri Jagannath Mandir. To have a glimpse of the Lord as he rides in ceremonial procession and to get a chance to pull the ropes of his chariot is considered a good omen and symbol of divine blessings to the person.
Celebrated in the later part of March or early April, it showcases the best of Orissa's folk and classical dance forms, music and handicrafts. Quite popular among the tourists, it is the best place to witness the cultural riches of the entire state at one place.