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Jagannath Temple: A Shrine with Incomplete Idols

Posted By ServDharm


Posted on May 09 2022

India is primarily a land of Hindus that makes it home to a large number of big and small temples across the country. There are multiple shrines dedicated to various deities that have gained popularity over the years. The Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha is one of them and has also become world famous as a UNESCO declared world heritage site.

This shrine is an important and must-visit religious destination for the Vaishnavite community as it is the home to Lord Jagannath, who is considered to be a form of Lord Krishna. Krishna is in turn represented as an avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver among the Trinity. The temple also houses the idols of the lord’s brother Balarama and sister Subhadra.

The inner sanctum of the temple houses the idols of Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra carved from neem logs and placed on a bejewelled platform. They are decorated with jewels and clothes based on the season.

The origin of the temple dates back to as early as the 12th century. The Jagannath shrine has a height of 65m and portrays true Kalinga style architecture. Today, the temple is listed as one of the four Char Dhams in the country and visited by devotees as one step closer towards attaining moksha.

Story Behind the Incomplete Idols

It is said that king Indradyumn, an ardent devotee of the lord constructed the shrine after he was blessed by the lord and given instructions in his dreams on how to find find Nila Madhava. Once the temple came up, the king started searching for the perfect raw material to carve the idols. The lord appeared in his dreams once again and told him that he would find a golden coloured wooden log on the banks of a river that would be just perfect. As instructed, the king had the log brought over but he could not find the perfect sculptor to carve the idols.

The next day, Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods appeared before the king and agreed to carve the idols for him in a span of three weeks. However, he had a condition that he wanted a room for himself and he should not be disturbed during this period. Food and drink were to be left outside the closed doors.

The king agreed and the old man started working on the idols. Initially, there was a lot of sound from the room where the old man was at work. As the period came to an end, there seemed to be no sign of life inside the room and the food also remained untouched outside the room. The queen worried and asked the king to check on the old man. The king refused a few times as he did not want to go back on his word to the old man. However, he soon gave in to the queen’s request and opened the door.

The king was surprised by what he saw. There was no sign of the old man or any of his tools. The only things that were in the room were three partly carved idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings. All the idols had neither limbs nor eyes. The king realised his folly and repented for his action. That night, the lord appeared before him and asked him to install the incomplete idols in the shrine.

Interesting Facts about the Jagannath Temple

There are some interesting facts about this shrine apart from the fact that it is the only temple with incomplete idols.

  • The temple has a unique engineering architecture. You will not be able to see the shadow of the key dome of the shrine at any point of time.
  • The temple flag on the topmost dome of the shrine does not wave in the direction of the breeze as you would expect. It always waves in the opposite direction.
  • The Sudarshan Chakra just below the temple flag is clearly visible regardless of where you are in Puri. Wherever you stand, it appears as if the chakra is facing you always.
  • It is impossible to find any bird flying over the dome of the shrine. There is no explanation for this to this day.
  • Once you enter the shrine through the entrance of the Singha Dwara, you will not hear the sound of the nearby ocean after you take the first step. On the other had, as soon as you cross the first step to exit the shrine, the sound can be heard loud and clear.

Important Festivals in the Jagannath Temple

The temple hosts several festivals throughout the year. Some of them are Snana Yatra, Dussehra, Krishna Jayanti, Sayan Ekadashi and Ratha Yatra. The Ratha Yatra or Car Festival is the most important festival and is celebrated on a grand scale.

The Rath Yatra is a 11-day festival in July in the Indian calendar month of Ashadha on the second day. During this procession, the idols are beautifully dressed and are taken out in a procession on three huge chariots, each of which have several wheels. The chariots are drawn by devotees and is a spectacular sight.

Every year, new chariots are made from different types of wood for the procession. However, Lord Jagannath’s chariot always has 16 wheels. Lord Balarama’s chariot is designed with 14 wheels while Goddess Shubadra’s chariot comes with 14 wheels.

On the way back to their abode after the yatra, they take a break and stay in the nearby Gundicha temple that is around three kilometres away. It is believed that the deities relish on their favourite poda pitha dessert during their stay here.

Lord Jagannath’s chariot refuses to move initially when the procession begins on the first day despite the huge number of people pushing and pulling it from the back and front. The chariot starts moving on its own after a few hours.

Even if there is no rain on the day before Rath Yatra, it always rains on the first day of the festival. The Jagannath temple is closed for a brief period of seven days before the commencement of the Rath Yatra. It is said that Lord Jagannath has high fever during this period and is taking rest to get ready for the festival. The shrine is closed so that the lord will not be disturbed by the devotees during this period.

Devotees believe that taking part in the Rath Yatra with utmost devotion helps them to get relief from the vicious birth and death life cycle.

The Jagannath Temple is open to its devotees from the early morning hours around 5:30AM to midnight. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the premises. Non-Hindus can pay their obeisance to the lord at the temple entrance from the roof of the library nearby.


Written by -Deepthi K



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