The Puri temple is built on a gigantic raised platform in the heart of the city, The temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high -including the 0 height of the platform. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates ,facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Lions Gate. The north, south and west facing gates are similarly known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate (also called the Khanja Gate) respectively. The north gate is mainly meant for the God himself in as much as, the logs of wood out of which, the images are fabricated, make their entry into the temple premises through this gate, when the Navakelevara ceremony takes place. The east-facing Lions Gate is the main gate. There are pyramidal structures over the four gates, which are not very old.
As we arrive at the vast open area in front of the Lions Gate (eastern gate), we see a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology Aruna is the the charioteer of the Sun-god, The world famous Konarka temple was designed in the form of a stupendous chariot and this monolithic pillar with the beautifully carved Aruna seated on its top was installed right in front of the porch of that temple. When the temple was abandoned and there was no presiding deity in it, this pillar was removed from Konarka to Puri and was fixed in front of Jagannatha temple where we see it now.
Immediately after we get into the main gate and proceed forward, we find ourselves on a flight of steps. Locally, they are called Baisi Pahaca, which literally means, twenty-two steps. The history or rather the mystery of this flight of steps has not been unveiled. It is interesting to note that great reverence is shown to this flight of twenty-two steps. The parents bring their children & make them slowly roll over the steps from the top to the bottom ones in expectation of spiritual bliss in as much as countless devotees have walked on the steps which are believed to be throbbing with spiritual animation.
As we cross the main entrance on the east and ascend the flight of steps leading to the main temple, we find on the left-hand side, a vast kitchen area of the temple. Some tourists rightly observe that on account of this kitchen, the Puri temple may be described as the biggest hotel of the world. It can feed even one lakh persons with only two to three hours’ notice. The method of preparation is most hygienic and the traditional process of preparation of food for so many people in so short a time, takes many by surprise. To the right, we have the Ananda Bajara which is the popular name of the food selling market within the enclosure. Ananda Bajara literally means, the pleasure market.
Four hallowed shrines located at cardinal points of the Indian sub-continent i.e. Puri,Rameswar,Dwarika and Badrinath are believed to have been liked by Lord Vishnu intimately. It is said and believed that He takes His bath at Rameswaram, meditates at Badrinath,dines at Puri and retires at Dwarika.It is therefore,a lot of importance is given to the temple food “Mahaprasad” (not simply prasad) here at Puri. According to ” Skanda Purana” Lord Jagannath redeems the devotees by permitting them to partake his Mahaprasad,to have His darshan and to worship him by observing rituals and by offering of gifts .Mahaprasad is treated here as ‘Anna Brahma’.
The world famous Car Festival of Lord Jagannath is held on’ AshadhaSukla Dwitiya’ -i.e. the 2nd day of the bright fort-night of Ashadha (June- July) every year. This festival is popularly known as Ratha Yatra, Gundicha Yatra and also Ghosha Yatra. On the Car Festival day, the deities are taken out of the temple and placed in their respective chariots, kept near the Singhadwar. The deities are carried to the chariots in a traditional ceremonial manner-first Sudarshana, followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath. Balabhadra and Jagannath are made to swing forward and backward in a manner called ‘Pahandi’.
The Sun Temple at Konarak was built in about 1250 AD by the East Ganga king Narasimhadeva. It is thought he built the temple to commemorate military successes against Muslim invaders.
According to local legend, the temple has a great aura of power that comes from two very powerful magnets said to have been built into the tower – magnets that allowed the king’s throne to hover in mid-air.
European mariners sailing off the coast used the temple’s tower for navigation, but dubbed it the Black Pagoda for the frequent shipwrecks that occurred along the coast. They attributed the disasters to the legendary magnets’ effect on the tidal pattern.
Konarak was sacked by the Muslim Yavana army in the 15th century. The central statue enshrined in the temple was smuggled away to Puri by priests, but the Sun Temple was badly damaged in the attack.
Nature took over the destruction from there. Over the centuries, the sea receded, sand engulfed the building and salty breezes eroded the stone. It remained buried under a huge mound of sand until the early 20th century, when restoration began under the British.
British archaeologists uncovered the lower parts of the temple that had remained well preserved beneath the sand and restored what they could of the rest of the ruins. Trees were planted to shelter the temple from the damaging winds and a museum was opened to display whatever sculpture wasn’t left in situ or sent to Delhi, Calcutta and London.
In 1924, the Earl of Ronaldshay proclaimed the newly-revealed temple to be “one of the most stupendous buildings in India which rears itself aloft, a pile of overwhelming grandeur even in its decay.”
Symbol of pure tranquillity, sheer natural beauty and above all peace over non-violence, Dhauli is 8km south of today’s Bhubaneswar. Spread across the bank of lively river Daya, this peaceful travel destination is known to be the home of notorious battle of Kalinga. Known mainly for the pristine white Buddhist Stupa, Dhauli is dotted with rock edicts inscribed with the quotations of Buddha. History states that Ashoka engraved these messages of peace on a mass of rock. Vishwa Shanti Stupa or the Peace Pagoda, at the top of Dhauli Hill is the most attractive element in Dhauli.
Essentially the dwelling retreats or cells for the Jain ascetics, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves are a glorious element of Odisha tourism. Around 6km east of Bhubaneswar, the twin caves rise abruptly from the coastal plain. Partly natural and partly artificial, these caves are comprised of small blocks which were once used by the mendicants for meditation. While Udayagiri has 18 caves, the Khandagiri has 15. The most significant of these caves group is Ranigumpha in Udayagiri part of the cave and is a double-storeyed monastery. There are certain blocks in these caves where one can see Brahmi inscriptions
Perhaps the most magnificent religious structure in Bhubaneswar, Lingaraj Temple is an 11th century construction commissioned by the King Jajati Keshari of Soma Vansh. The remarkable edifice resembles the Kalinga Architectural style and is built in red sandstone. The 55 m elevated spire of the temple dominates the contours of Lingaraj Temple. The temple complex comprises around 50 shrines of different sizes dedicated to prominent Hindu deities. To the surprise of the devotees, in Lingaraja Temple 22 services are offered in a day to the deity. The image of Lingaraja is taken out of the temple to the Jalmandir which is found at the heart of Bindu Sagar Lake.
Located at a distance of around 20 km from the main city of Bhubaneswar, Nandankanan is a zoo and botanical garden. Surrounded by plush green forest, the zoo protects several exotic species of animals, birds, and especially the white tigers. Nandankanan is also famous in Odisha for breeding various endangered species. Nandankanan is situated on the bank of Kanjia Lake. The zoo has 54 cages and 47 open moated enclosures. There are around 634 mammals, 134 reptiles and 812 birds in Nandankanan.