Jagannath Puri is the abode of Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the universe. It is one of the most important holy places. Whenever I get a chance, I always try to be in Puri. So, when devotees were planning to visit this sacred place then I was excited. I too wanted to go.
You can visit the temple an unlimited number of times but still, you want to be there again and again.
We decided to go by Howrah Puri express. We boarded the train from Kolkata on Friday night at 8:55 pm and reached Puri the next day, Saturday, at around 6 am. We had booked our accommodation in Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math.
The math is around 3 km from the railway station. We took a 10-seater vehicle to Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. It cost us Rs 220. It was a prepaid auto.
We decided to stay there because of two reasons and both the reasons are equally important. This math is near to the Jagannath Temple and it is also the birthplace of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of Iskcon. The Jagannath temple is just 5 minutes’ walking distance from the math. And from the terrace of the math, the famous Chakra of Lord Jagannath is clearly visible.
The temple has three altars. The middle altar has the deity of Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani along with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The deity name is Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Radha Nayanmani. The left altar has the deity of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi. And in the right altar deity of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura is present.
Once we reached the math, we decided to get ready as soon as possible so that we can immediately go to the temple.
As we were going to the temple, we saw a huge security arrangement. It looked like some important dignitary is present there or is going to come.
And soon we saw Amit Shah, the Home Minister of India, and other members of Narendra Modi Cabinet like Dharmendra Pradhan and few others.
Amit Shah was sitting in an SUV and we were standing very close to his vehicle. Some devotees greeted him, and he responded too.
Similarly, other cabinet ministers passed. It seems they all had come to take darshan of the Lord.
Entering the temple from Simha Dwara:
We entered the temple from Simha Dwara. It is also called Lion’s Gate or Eastern Gate. It was around 9 am when we went inside the temple. Already hundreds of devotees were there inside the temple hall. But the darshan was closed. Some said it will open at 9:30 am. We had to wait. I somehow managed to get near the Garuda stambh.
The Garuda stambh
Anyone who comes to take darshan of the Lord should bow to Garuda stambh first. If one stands near Garuda stambh then one can see the three Lord’s directly from there.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would always take darshan of the Lord from Garuda stambh. He thought himself to be too fallen to go near the Lord. By his own example, the Lord is teaching us that we should never have any superiority complex. But we should think that we are unworthy, and it is because of the Lord’s causeless mercy he is giving us his darshan and in fact even allowing us to come inside his temple. So, Garuda stambh is very dear to the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
I bowed to Garuda Stambh and embraced it with both my hands. Other devotees were also reverentially touching it and embracing it.
The lamps at Garuda stambh is always lit. I saw Pujaris pouring ghee (or it could be oil) into the big lamp so that it continues to burn. Above the stamb are many metallic lamps. At that time, one lamp was lit. May be during the festival time all the lamps are lit.
Inside the temple hall of Lord Jagannath
I stood beside the Garuda stambh. The darshan was to open after 30 min. In between someone from the crowd would shout ‘Jay Jagannath’. And everyone would respond by chanting ‘Jay Jagannath.’ Sometime someone would say ‘Haribol’ and the entire crowd would say ‘Haribol.’ As soon as anyone heard ‘Jay Jagannath’ and ‘Haribol’ everyone would look expectedly thinking that the darshan has opened.
We waited for around 40 minutes and I liked it. Because this gave an opportunity to be in the temple hall of Lord Jagannath and chant the holy names of Krishna standing beside the Garuda stambh. Many people were standing, and many were sitting waiting for darshan to open.
Taking darshan of Lord Jagannath
And finally, the darshan opened. One young boy lifted one young girl (I am not sure about their relationship), so that she could see the Lord. And they both were asked not to do so. In fact, the Pujaris got angry too. It’s a traditional temple and the expectation is that everyone follows the traditional code of conduct and not the one which is shown in Bollywood movies.
Several hundred devotees were there. The crowd was moving slowly but steadily. Finally, I got near to the place where I could see the Lord. I was apprehensive that I may be pushed by the people and will not be able to properly see the Lord. So, I was praying to the Lord.
And finally, I saw a glimpse of Lord Jagannath, then Subhadra Devi and then Lord Baladeva.
I wanted to go near to the barricade so that I can closely see the Lord. Also, I wanted to offer some Lakshmi (money) to the three deities.
I came near the Pujari. Since he was in front of Lord Jagannath, so I believe he was the priest of Lord Jagannath. I offered Rs 100. And then I came to the Pujari who was in front of Subhadra Devi. I gave Rs 100.
And the Pujari started putting a yellow cloth of the Lord around my neck.
He asked me to give Rs 100 more which I happily gave. He gave me offered Tulasi of the Lord. I stood there for a few minutes. Then moved back in such a way that I continue taking darshan of the Lord. Fortunately, by Lord Jagannath’s grace even security was not asking me to move. I was able to take darshan for several minutes and then decided to come out. I thought I should not take undue advantage of the security personnel’s leniency. Then I came out of the Lord Jagannath temple hall.
Other devotees of our group had already taken darshan and were outside.
Lord Narasimhadeva temple
From there we went to the temple of Lord Narasimhadeva. One has to climb flights of stairs to reach the temple of Lord Narasimhadeva. Already many devotees were in queue. I also stood in the queue. When I was allowed to go, I was able to properly take darshan of the Lord.
Earlier times the pujari of Lord Narasimhadeva would not allow to touch the lotus feet of the Lord. This time the Pujari had come out. And I was the only person in front of the Lord.
I not just touched the lotus feet of the Lord but also put my head on the Lord’s lotus feet. I also touched the lotus feet of Prahlad Maharaj.
While standing in the queue and during taking the darshan of the Lord I sang Namaste Narasimhaya prayers.
Anand Bazar – the pleasure market
It was already 10 am. We had not taken breakfast. So, we decided to go to Anand Bazar to take breakfast and after breakfast we thought to return back to again take darshan of other deities within the temple premise.
In Anand Bazar the Mahaprasad of Lord Jagannath is always available. In this market you get only prasad and nothing else. No outside food is allowed.
We got full plate prasadam for Rs 50. Rice, Dal and three different sabzis were there. It was mixture of sweet and sour taste. Some also enjoyed Malpua. But it was night prasadam.
The morning prasadam which is offered to the Lord comes in Anand Bazaar around 12 noon. So those who want hot rice, hot dal and everything hot should try to take prasad around 12 or 1 pm.
But the prasad of the Lord is transcendental so we relished it.
Snana Bedi – The place where Snana Yatra is celebrated
We then went to Snana Bedi. It is the place where Snana Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi is performed. This is just beside Anand Bazaar. After Snana Yatra i.e. the bathing ceremony, the Lord gets sick and remains confined in sick room for 15 days. During this period there is no darshan of the Lord. The Lord is given special food preparation to cure his sickness. After Lord recuperates, we have the world-famous Rath Yatra festival.
Lord Chaitanya’s footprints
We came out of Anand Bazar. Little ahead from Anand Bazar is the temple where the footprints of Lord Chaitanya are present. We paid obeisances there. Lord Chaitanya during his stay in Puri would always visit Jagannath Puri temple.
From there we went to the temple of Goddess Lakshmi. Where the Supreme Lord Jagannath is there, there will be his eternal consort, Lakshmidevi. There is always a big queue in front of Lakshmidevi temple. Priests inside the temple generally ask for some donation to worship Goddess Lakshmi who provides wealth.
But if we serve the Supreme Lord Jagannath with love then it will automatically please Lakshmidevi and she will happily provide lots of wealth to the devotees of Lord Jagannath. We prayed to her and sought her blessings.
Pure devotees of the Lord teach us that we should not pray for wealth, but we should always pray to the Lord to always engage us in his service.
Bimala (Vimala) Devi Temple
Then we went to the temple of Bimala (Vimala) Devi.
Bimala Devi is another name of Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.
There is a famous pastime associate with her. Once Parvati had become extremely angry because she did not get Mahaprasad of Lord Vishnu. So, to pacify her Lord Vishnu declared that “In Jagannath Puri the bhoga which will be offered to me will first go to Bimala Devi and then only it will be distributed to others.”
This instruction of the Lord is still followed. The bhoga which is offered to Lord Jagannath first goes to Bimala Devi and then after being offered to Bimala Devi it goes to Anand Bazaar for distribution to the devotees.
Then we took darshan of Rohini Kund. This kund is near Bimala Devi temple. It’s a very small kund but it has great spiritual significance.
The Purushottama Kshetra Mahatmya of Skanda Purana tells the story of a crow who fell in the Rohini Kund and immediately got four-handed forms similar to Lord Vishnu and went to the spiritual world.
This kind of liberation is called sarupya mukti i.e. the devotees have form similar to Lord Narayana and live with the Lord in the Vaikuntha planets.
Kalpabata – The desire fulfilling tree
From there we went to take darshan of the famous Kalpabata – The desire fulfilling tree.
This banyan tree is existing since time immemorial.
It is a very sacred tree. It is said that during the devastation of the material universe this tree remains unaffected.
It was on the leaf of this Kalpabata tree that sage Markandeya saw the beautiful child form of Krishna.
Little Krishna was licking his own toe and relishing it. The tree fulfills all the desires if asked with a pure heart. But the devotees never ask for any material desire but they only desire to love and serve Krishna. We bowed to the tree and tried to embrace it. Many devotees were there praying to the tree for their desires.
Around this sacred tree are the deities of Bata Krishna, Bata Balamukunda, Bata Madhava, Bata Jagannath, Bateswar Mahadeva, Bata Ganesh, Bata Mangala, and Bata Markandeya.
There are many other small temples within the temple premise. We took darshan of Sakshi Gopal, Kshira Chor Gopinath, and Kanchi Ganesh. Deities of many demigods are also inside the temple. If one wants to take darshan of each one of them then it will take several hours, almost the entire day.
If one wants, then one can see all the places inside the temple complex but the places we visited are the most important places inside the temple and one must always visit these places.
The most important activity in the Jagannath temple is to pray to the Lord again and again to remove all impurities from our hearts so that we develop unmotivated and unconditional love for him.
We spent around 4-5 hours inside the temple. In fact, one can spend an entire day inside the temple. The temple is always crowded with thousands of devotees who are very eager to see the Lord.
They continuously pray to the Lord, sing devotional songs, chant his beautiful names, meditate on his beautiful form and enjoy discussing various pastimes of the Lord.
And when they feel hungry, they go to Anand Bazar to relish delicious prasad of Lord Jagannath!
One should visit this temple again and again.