PURI TOURISM GUIDE:
Location: 60-km from Bhubaneswar, Orissa
Reigning Deity: Lord Jagannatha
Main Attractions: Lord Jagannatha Temple, Puri Beach & Gundicha Mandir
Significance: One of the four holiest points of pilgrimage for Hindus
The holy city of Puri is located 60-km from Bhubaneswar on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the four holy dhamas of India – Puri, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Badrinath . It is considered that a pilgrimage of the temples of India is not complete without making the journey to Puri.
Popularly Known As:
Puri is called “Sri Purusottama Dham” or “Tourism”, the abode of Lord Vishnu on earth. Other names are “Sriksetra” (best of all sacred centers), “Purusottama Ksetra” (the abode of the supreme being), “Nilachal”, “Nalagiri”, “Sankha Ksetra”, and “Jagannatha Dhama”. Puri is about 2-km wide and 4-km long.
The Jagannatha Temple or Jagannath temple here is one of the major temples in India. The worship of Lord Jagannatha is so ancient that there is no idea how long. He has been worshiped. The Lord has had many temples before the present one.
Sri Ramanuja visited Puri between 1107 and 1117 century AD and stayed for some time. Vishnu Swami visited Puri in the second half of the 12th century and established a ‘Matha’ near ‘Markandeswar’ Tank, called “Vishnuswami Matha”. Nimbarka Acharya also made a pilgrimage to Puri, and Srila Prabhupada visited in January 1977.
A major reason that Puri is so important to the “Gaudiya Vaishnavas” is because Lord Chaitanya spent so much time here. Many of His pastimes with His most intimate associateds took place at different sites in this area.
Besides being an important holy town Puri also has one of the best beaches for swimming in India. It is one of the most visited places in India by young foreign tourist. It is a very pleasant place.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS IN PURI:
Lord Jagannatha Temple: The temple of Lord Jagannatha or Jagannath temple (‘Lord of the Universe’) at Puri is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots in India, one of the four abodes (‘Dhamas’) of the divine that lie on the four directions of the compass. The present temple structure was built in the 12th century by the ‘Ganga’ King ‘Choda Ganga Deva’, replacing an earlier structure, which probably dated to the 10th century.
Until recently, almost the entire temple was covered in white plaster, so much so that European sailors in previous centuries used it as a navigation point, referring to it as the “White Pagoda” in contrast to the “Black Pagoda” of Konark , further up the coast.
Gundicha Mandir (Temple): This temple is located at the end of Grad road (the main road) about 3-km northeast of the Jagannatha temple . At the time of the ‘Ratha-Yatra’ festival , Lord Jagannatha goes to the Gundicha temple and stays there for one week. After one week He returns to His original temple. It is said that the wife of ‘Indradyumna’, the king who originally established the temple of Jagannatha, was known as “Gundicha”. The cleansing of the Gundicha temple takes place the day before the Ratha-Yatra festival as mentioned in “Chaitanya-Caritamrita”.
Narasimha Temple: This temple is located next to the Gundicha Temple. There are two Deities of Lord Narasimha, one behind the other. The Deity in front is called “Santa Narasimha” (sober). Anyone who sees this Deity will be cooled down; all his anger, frustration and anxiety will vanish.
The Deity in the back is called “Raga Narasimha” (anger) he is the internal mood of Narasimha. When the Muslim ‘Kalapahad’ attacked Puri and was breaking the Deities, he saw Santa Narasimhadeva and his anger subsided; hence he could not break the Deity as he had planned. Santa Narasimha’s features are human-like. He has a sharp human nose, large, curly mustache, and an outstretched tongue.
Lord Chaitanya took ‘darsana’ here during his Gundicha pastimes. Lord Chaitanya rested near this temple after cleaning the Gundicha Temple. Non-Hindus are not allowed in the temple, but one can see the Deities standing by the door.
Haridasa Thakura’s Samadhi: The Samadhi temple of Haridasa Thakura, the Nama-Acharya (teacher of the chanting the holy names) is located by the beach in the “Swarga Dwara” area near the “Purusottama Gaudiya Math”. Within the temple, the chapel structure is Haridasa Thakura’s samadhi. There is a very nice painting of Haridasa Thakura in the samadhi. On the center alter is a wooden Deity of Lord Chaitanya, on the right altar, Lord ‘Nityananda’ and on the left, Advaita Acarya.
Sri Chaitanya gave a benediction saying, “Anyone who has chated and danced here at Haridasa Thakura’s samadhi will achieve the favor of Krishna very soon. There is such wonderful power in seeing Haridasa Thakura.”
Residence of Haridasa Thakura: Siddha Bakula is the “Bhajan-Kutir” of Haridasa Thakura, where he chanted 300,000 names of God daily. In order to provide shade for Thakura Haridasa, Sri Chaitanya planted a toothpick used by Lord Jagannatha. All of a sudden it grew up and appeared as a great shade tree. Rupa Goswami recited “Lalita Madhava” and “Vidagdha Madhava” before Sri Chaitanya and his followers under the tree here. During his stay in Puri, Santana Goswami lived here with Haridasa Thakura. This is considered a very holy spot for the “Gaudiya Vaisnavas”, as this where left his body and where, after his departure, Sri Chaitanya carried his body while dancing in ecstasy.
Sri Haridasa-Sadbhuj Temple: About a hundred feet away in the same compound of the residence of Haridasa Thakura is the Sri Haridasa-Sadbhuj Temple. There is a “Sadbhuj-Murti” (six-armed form) of Lord Chaitanya on the altar. Beside this Deity is Lord Nityananda on one side and on the other side a shorter Advaita Acharya. A ‘Murti’ of Haridasa Thakura is in front, to the side of the main altar. There is also a Deity of Lord ‘Narasimhadeva’.
Gambhira: Gambhira is located close to Siddha Bakula. There is a sign over the door that says “Shri Radhakanta Math, Gambhira.” It is about half a km from the Lion Gate going toward Swarga Dwara or the ocean. On the left of the entrance is a small temple with Deities of ‘Radhakanta’ (Krishna), ‘Lalita’ and ‘Vishaka’. Radhakanta were worshiped by Gopalaguru Goswami, the disciple of Vakreswara Pandita. On the far right is Lord ‘Gauranga’ and on the far left is Nityananda.
This is the former house of ‘Kasi Misra’. One can look through a small barred window into the room called “Sri Gambhira”. This is the room where Sri Chaitanya lived. There is a lamp here that remains always lit and never goes out. One can see Sri Chaitanya’s original wooden sandals, His quilt, water pot, and bed. Sri Chaitanya lived for 12 years in this room. On a marble throne, a cloth encircles the ‘Murti’ of Sri Chaitanya, so that just His face is visible. Upstairs there are dioramas of the life of Sri Chaitanya.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s House: This house is about one-half kilometre south of the “Simha-Dwara” (main gate) of the Jagannatha Temple. If one walks out of the Jagannatha Temple, turn right and follow the road toward Swarga-Dwara. Go past the first right, which goes around the temple, and then walk about another 100m and make the next right to Sweta Ganga Tank.
“Sarvabhauma’s House”, better known as “Gangamata Math”, is on the left. There are Radha-Krishna Deities called “Radha-Rasikaraja” in this house, which are said to have been worshiped by ‘Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’. Inside there are paintings of devotional scenes all over the walls. The black wooden sandals are said to have belonged to Sarvabhauma. There is a hidden tunnel in the house, which is said to lead in two directions- to the sea and to the Jagannatha Temple. It is said that Sri Chaitanya used this tunnel.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s Birthplace: It is located about 1-km from the Jagannatha Temple on Grand Road. There is a Gaudiya Math temple here with Jagannatha Deities and a Murti of Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja. There are also Murtis of the heads of the four “Vaishnava Sampradayas” – ‘Vishnuswami’, ‘Madhvacharya’, ‘Nimbarka’, and ‘Ramanuja’.
Jagannatha Vallabha Gardens: Sri Chaitanya used to meet here with ‘Ramananda Raya’. Ramananda Raya used to train girls here to dance for the pleasure of Lord Jagannatha. There are three altars in the ‘Jagannatha Vallabha temple’. On one altar there are large Deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra. On the middle altar there are Deities of Lord Chaitanya (in saffron) and Ramananda Raya (in white). On the third altar are Radha-Krishna.
This place is about one km from the Jagannatha temple on Grand Road. Non-Hindus cannot enter the temple, but can walk around some of the gardens. There is also a small lake here.
Tota Gopinatha Temple: Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ended His manifested pastimes in Jagannatha Puri by entering into the knee of the Tota Gopinatha Deity. On the far left altar is Lord Balarama and His two wives, ‘Revati’ and ‘Varuni’. On the middle altar is Tota Gopinatha, accompanied by black Deities of ‘Radha’ and ‘Lalita’. Tota Gopinatha is in a sitting position. On the right altar are the Deities of ‘Radha-Madana Mohan’ and ‘Gaura Gadadhar’ used to worship Tota Gopinatha regularly as per Sri Chaitanya’s personal instructions.
This temple is located by a large white water tower in the Gaurbat Sahi area. It is five minutes walk from the ‘Chatak Parbat Purushottam Gaudiya Math temple’. The sign on the door says “Shree Tota Gopinathjee,” and there are two stone lions by the door.
Chatak Parbat Gaudiya Math: This temple is in the area where Sri Chaitanya mistook the sand dune hills to be ‘Goverdhana’ Hill. The Bhajana-Kutir of ‘Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’ Maharaja is here, as well as his bed. One will also find a Murti of ‘Veda-Vyasa’ in the Bhajana-Kutir.
This temple is by a big white water tower, about a 10-minute walk from Haridasa Thakura’s samadhi.
Narendra Sarovara: This is a large tank. There is a small temple, on an island about a hundred feet into the tank, with Deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baldeva, and Subhadra. Directly behind Lord Jagannatha is a deitty of ‘Yasoda’, the mother of Krishna. At the other end of the temple room is a Deity of Lakshmi. Also on the island is a ‘Shiva-Linga’ temple and a Deity of Bala Krishna.
This is where the boat festival called “Chandana-Yatra” is held during which Lord Jagannatha goes for a boat ride. Since Lord Jagannatha is very heavy, the ‘Vijaya Vigraha’ (festival deity), known as ‘Govinda’, rides in the boat. Sri Chaitanya and His devotees took part in this festival. It is located off Grand Road, on the same side as the Jagannatha Temple .
Paramananda Puri’s Well: Sri Chaitanya told all the devotees that this well water is the same as Ganges water and a person who drinks it or bathes in it would certainly develop pure love of Godhead. It is a five-minute walk behind the West gate of the Jagannatha Temple. It is located on Lokanatha Rasta, inside the gate of the Baselisahi Out Post (policemen’s residence).
Indradyumna Sarovara: This water tank is about a half-km from the Gundicha Temple. Water to clean the Gundicha Temple is brought from this ‘Kunda’. Sri Chaitanya engaged in water sports with his intimate associates in this tank.
Balagandhi: This is the place where Lord Jagannatha stops His chariot to accept a massive ‘bhoga’ offering. There is a temple on the right side of the main road marking the spot, about a km down from the Lion Gate (Main Gate) on the way to Gundicha Temple.
Alalantha: Alalantha is also known as Brahmagiri. It is about 25-km from Jagannatha Puri, close to the beach. There is a temple of Lord Jagannatha here and a large stone slab marked with the impression of Sri Chaitanya’s transcendental body. The stone melted while the Lord lay there in ecstasy. Anyone can view the stone, but non-Hindus cannot enter the temple.
Sri Chaitanya would often come here during the two weeks when Lord Jagannatha remains in seclusion before the Ratha-Yatra festival. At the rear of the dome of the temple is an inset sculpture of Narasimha, with ‘Hiranyakashipu’ on His lap. There is also a sculpture of Lord ‘Vamana’ piercing the outer shell of the universe.
When one comes here one can also visit Ramananda Raya’s house in a place called “Benta Pura”, which is a few km away, near a rice mill. It is in a small village on the way back to Puri. There is a Deity of Lord Chaitanya with a shaven head, with Ramananda Raya seated beside Him in saffron robes.
One can get to the Alalantha temple by catching a mini-bus at the back of Narendra-Sarovara, to Brahmagiri. It takes about an hour to get there.
Atharanala Bridge: This bridge is at the entrance of Puri. It has 18 arches. “Athara” means 18. ” When all the devotees coming from Bengal arrived at the bridge, Lord Chaitanya sent two garlands with Govinda to offer to Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acharya.” This bridge is symbolic of the emotion of arriving or departing from Jagannatha Puri.
The present bridge is an addition, constructed directly on top of the original brick bridge. One can see the temple ‘Chakra’ from it.
ISKCON: There are two ISKCON centers in Jagannatha Puri. One is located in the Swarga Dwara area by Haridasa Thakura’s samadhi. This is where Bhaktivinode Thakura’s had his Bhajana Kutir. A temple and a guesthouse are being built there.
There is another ISKON center, located about 5-km from the Swarga Dwara area past the Hans Coco Palms Hotel. The land itself is very nice and “Gaura-Nitai” Deities are installed there. However, there are very few facilities available for pilgrims as of January 1996.
The focal point of Puri is of course the temple and the sea. Still for those with the outdoor itch several other interesting visits can be undertaken. They are generally easily accessible by taxi, auto rickshaw and cycle rickshaw and guided tours.
Balighai: 8-kms from Puri, away from the crowds and the bustle, fringed by beautiful casuarina trees, Balghai beach , at the mouth of the River Nuanai, is an often-visited picnic spot. It’s a lovely place to sit and relax.
Raghurajpur: Only 14-kms from Puri, Raghurajpur is a craftsman’s village famous for ‘Patta Chitra’ or Patta paintings. A living tradition followed by skilled craftsmen, it draws its inspiration from mythological themes, from the stories of the ‘Mahabharata’, the Ramayana, Radha Krishna and Lord Jagannatha. Those interested in collecting souvenirs will come across exquisite pieces and easy bargains.
Saksi Gopala Temple: This is an important Krishna temple that is dedicated to ‘Saksi Gopala’. Saksi Gopala means the witness Gopala. This Deity was originally in ‘Vrindavana’ . Both Sri Chaitanya and ‘Srila Prabhupada’ visited this temple. Although Srila Prabhupada was accompanied by a group of western disciples, the current strictly enforced temple policy is that non-Hindus are not allowed inside. This temple is 10-km west of Jagannatha Puri. One can take a train to this spot, as it is a stop on the Puri-Bhubaneswar line. One can also take a bus or a taxi.
Ratha-Yatra (Car) Festival: During this festival the Deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra are carried out of the temple. It takes at least six big strongly built ‘Pujaris’ (priests) to carry these enormous forms of the Lord. The Deities are then placed upon three gigantic chariots, which are pulled with ropes by many thousands of devotees who come from all over India for this occasion.
This famous festival begins from the second day of the bright fortnight of ‘Asadha’ during June/July. The Deities are pulled on Their huge carts along the entire distance of Grand Road from the Jagannatha temple to the Gundicha temple, a distance of about 3-km. The Deities stay at Gundicha temple for 9 days and return to the main temple on the 10th day. This is called “Bahuda-Yatra”, return cart festival. The festivals-cart and return cart-are the only opportunities in the year that non-Hindus have to see the Deity of Lord Jagannatha.
Chandana-Yatra (April): Chandana-Yatra is when the processional Deities are taken for a boat ride in the Narendra Tank after they are bathed in sandalwood (‘Chandan’) scented water. The festival lasts 42 days. The first 21 days are called “Baha Chandana”. During these days Rama, Krishna, Madana Mohana, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are taken on boat rides. The last 21 days are called “Bhittara Chandana”, and this festival takes place in the temple.
Snana-Yatra: Snana-yatra is when the main Deities are bathed. This is done on ‘Jyestha Purnima’. The main Deities along with ‘Sudarsana’ are bought to the ‘Snana-Mandapa’ in a procession called “Pahandi”, and around mid-day 108 pots of water are poured on the Deities. The Deities go back into the temple in a procession and stay in seclusion for 15 days, as they are said to have caught a cold during this bathing ceremony and need the seclusion in order to recuperate.
Anavasara Festival: The word Anavasar is used when Sri Jagannathaji cannot be seen in the temple. During His recovery and convalescence, he is removed to His private apartment and offered special healing foodstuffs. During the Anavasara festival it is said that Lord Jagannatha suffers from fever and is offered an infusion of “drugs in the form of soups and fruit juices.
The body of Lord Jagannatha, having been washed, is in need of yearly repainting. This is known as “Anga-Raga”. It takes about two weeks to complete the repairs of Lord Jagannatha’s body. The renovation festival is also called “Navayauvana”, which indicates that the Jagannatha Deity is being fully restored to youth.
“Nava-Kalevara” is when Lord Jagannatha gets a new body. This takes place whenever a double ‘Asarha’ occurs in a year. This usually happens every 8, 11, or 19 years.
GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION ABOUT PURI
SHOPPING IN PURI
Sun Craft has a good collection of Jagannatha Deities, stickers, and paintings. One can also get an excellent variety of ‘Jagannatha Prasada’, if one arranges it a day in advance. It is located on Armstrong Road not far from the railroad station in the Tini Konia Bagicha area.
The small town of Pipli has many shops that sell appliqué works, including fancy colorful wall hangings and mirror work umbrellas. This is where most of the appliqué items one sees all over Puri are made. It is located halfway between Puri and Bhubaneswar.
Raghurajpur, which is 14-km from Puri, is famous for Patta Chitra , or leaf paintings. You can get the paintings much cheaper here then anywhere else, but most likely you will need a translator.
PLACES TO EAT IN PURI
There are few pure vegetarian places in Puri, as most of the residents are sustained by a diet of seafood. At the Birla Guest House they serve vegetarian meals with no onion or garlic. It is a good place to stay and eat, but if you are going to eat there you have to let them know in advance so they can prepare everything properly. You can also order meals in advance at some of the Gaudiya Math Temples for a donation.
WHERE TO EAT BHUBANESWAR
The Hare Krishna Restaurant, at Lal Chand Market Complex, Station Square, has excellent food. It is the most highly recommended place in town. Initiated ISKCON devotees manage it.
The Venus Inn, 217 Bapuji Nagar, is a good South Indian vegetarian restaurant. There is a vegetarian restaurant at the ISKCON temple too.
GETTING YOUR BEARINGS IN PURI
The Jagannatha Temple is in the middle of town at one end of Grand Road, which is a wide road that runs to the Gundicha Temple, 3-km northeast. The Jagannatha Temple is about 1-km from the beach, where most of the hotels are located. The spiritual places in town are spread out and it is best to have some kind of transportation to get around.
WHERE TO STAY IN PURI
There are a few main areas where there are hotels along the beach. The northeast part, near the fishing village, on or just off Chakra Tirtha Road, is where most of the budget hotels are located and is a popular area for western tourists. Another area is the main Indian tourist area, which is by the Puri Hotel, near Beach Sea Road. Most of the people staying in this area are Indians. There are also a few hotels in the southwest part of town. It is quiet there and the seawater is clean too.
Hotels, Ashramsand & Guest Houses at Low End:
Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Gaudiya Math Temple Guesthouse, Gourbar Sahi
The Purushottama Gaudiya Math, Swarga Dwara
The Bharatsevashram Sanga, near Swarga Dwara
The Vagla Dharamsala, Grand Road
Hotel Subhadra on Grand Road
Hotels and Lodges at Chakra Tirtha Road:
The Bay View Hotel
Hotel Shankar International
Hotel Sri Balaji
Hotels and Resorts at Middle:
The Birla Guesthouse, Gourbar Sahi
Vijoya International, on Chakra Tirtha Road
The Hotel Samudra
OTDC Panthanivas Tourist Bungalow
The Puri Hotel, on Marine Parade,
Hotel Holiday Resort, Chakra Tirtha Road
Hotel Golden Palace
Hotels and Resorts at High End:
The Mayfair Beach Resort
The Southeastern Railway Hotel, Chakra Tirtha Road
Hans Coco Palms
MORE TRAVEL INFORMATION OF PURI:
The OTDC tourist office, open from Monday-Saturday, 10am to 5pm, is on Station Road and there is a 24-hour tourist counter at the railway station. The post office is on Temple Road. One can change money at the State Bank of India, open from Monday-Friday 10am to 2pm, Saturday 10am to noon, and Sunday 11.30am to 1.30 pm. Changing money here can take an hour or more.
Two good detailed books about Puri are “A Visit to Jagannatha Puri” by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami and “Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu In Jagannatha Puri” compiled by Mahanidhi Swami.
One can also rent a bike at different shops for a day on Chakra Tirtha Road.
CLIMATE IN PURI
The temperature of Puri reaches a low of 17 C (62 F) in the winter and a high of up to 32 C (90 F) in the summer. One needs to wear light cotton clothing in the summer and light woolens for winter mornings. One can swim in the ocean or sun bathe all year round. It is comfortable to swim even in December, though less so in January. The generally temperature weather is good all year round, which makes Puri an ideal place to visit most seasons.
LOCAL PURI EXCURSIONS TOURS:
There is a daily OTDC Luxury Coach that goes to Konark , Dhauli , the temples of Bhubaneswar, Khandagiri , Udayagiri , Nandankanan Zoo , and Saksi Gopal Temple. It starts at 6.30am and ends around 7pm. It is a long trip (over 12 hours). This tour can be arranged by the many travel agents in Puri.
Tours go to Chilika Lake on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6.30am to 6.30pm by OTDC Luxury Coach. It is the biggest inland lake in the country and attracts a large number of migratory birds in the winter.
Medical and Dentist: SCB Medical College is supposed to be the best in Orissa .
NEARBY CITIES OF PURI:
Konark : 33-km
Balighai : 8-km
HOW TO REACH PURI
Air: The nearest airport is 62-km away at Bhubaneswar. There are Indian Airlines flights from there to Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Madras, and Bombay. Indian Airlines, Bhubaneswar city, Airport, Reservations.
Rail: Puri has direct train service to and from Calcutta, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada, and Tirupati.
Road: The bus stand is by the Gundicha Mandira on Grand Road. The canter minibuses to and from Bhubaneswar are quicker than the larger buses. Minibuses from Bhubaneswar to Puri leave regularly from the Baramunda Bus stand, the Old Bus Stand, and from by the petrol station opposite the Ashok Hotel from 5.30am to 9.30pm. To get to Bhubaneswar it takes at least two hours by train, and only an hour and a half by bus. The non-stop buses, which stop once or twice, are the quickest. There are regular hourly buses to Konark. Some of the private buses leave from the junction of Grand Road and Hospital Road.