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Puri is a city and a Municipality in the state of Odisha in eastern India. It is the district headquarters of Puri district and is situated on the Bay of Bengal, 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of the state capital of Bhubaneswar. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the 12th-century Jagannath Temple located in the city. It is one of the original Char Dham pilgrimage sites for Hindus.

Puri is known by several names since the ancient times, and was locally known as "Shrikhetra" and Lord Jagannath temple is known as "Badadeula". Puri and the Jagannath Temple were invaded 18 times by Hindu and Muslim rulers, from the 4th century AD till the early 19th century with the objective of looting the treasures of the temple. Odisha, including Puri and its temple, were under the British Raj from 1803 till India attained independence in August 1947. Even though princely states do not exist in India today the heirs of the Gajapati Dynasty of Khurda still perform the ritual duties of the temple. The temple town has many Hindu religious maths or monasteries. The economy of Puri town is dependent on the religious importance of the Jagannath Temple to the extent of nearly 80 percent. The 24 festivals, including 13 major ones, held every year in the temple complex contribute to the economy; Ratha Yatra and its related festivals are the most important which are attended by millions of people every year. Sand art and applique art are some of the important crafts of the city. Puri is one of the 12 heritage cities chosen by the Government of India for holistic development. The Jagannatha Temple at Puri is one of the major Hindu temples built in the Kalinga style of architecture.The temple tower, with a spire, rises to a height of 58 metres (190 ft), and a flag is unfurled above it, fixed over a wheel (chakra).Left:Ritual chakra and flags at the top shikhara of Puri temple of Jagannatha also related to Sudarsana chakra. The red flag (12 hand or 14 feet (4.3 m) denotes that Jagannath is within the temple.Right: Statue of Aruna the charioteer of the Sun God on top of the Aruna Stambha in front of the Singhadwara

The temple is built on an elevated platform (of about 420,000 square feet (39,000 m2) area),20 feet (6.1 m) above the adjacent area. The temple rises to a height of 214 feet (65 m) above the road level. The temple complex covers an area of 10.7 acres (4.3 ha).There are four entry gates in four cardinal directions of the temple, each gate located at the central part of the walls. These gates are: the eastern gate called the Singhadwara (Lions Gate), the southern gate known as Ashwa Dwara (Horse Gate), the western gate called the Vyaghra Dwara (Tigers Gate) or the Khanja Gate, and the northern gate called the Hathi Dwara or (elephant gate). These four gates symbolize the four fundamental principles of Dharma (right conduct), Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (renunciation) and Aishwarya (prosperity). The gates are crowned with pyramid shaped structures. There is a stone pillar in front of the Singhadwara, called the Aruna Stambha {Solar Pillar}, 11 metres (36 ft) in height with 16 faces, made of chlorite stone; at the top of the stamba an elegant statue of Arun (Sun) in a prayer mode is mounted. This pillar was shifted from the Konarak Sun Temple. The four gates are decorated with guardian statues in the form of lion, horse mounted men, tigers, and elephants in the name and order of the gates.A pillar made of fossilized wood is used for placing lamps as offering. The Lion Gate (Singhadwara) is the main gate to the temple, which is guarded by two guardian deities Jaya and Vijaya.The main gate is ascended through 22 steps known as Baisi Pahaca, which are revered, as it is believed to possess "spiritual animation". Children are made to roll down these steps, from top to bottom, to bring them spiritual happiness. After entering the temple, on the left side, there is a large kitchen where food is prepared in hygienic conditions in huge quantities; the kitchen is called as "the biggest hotel of the world".

The main entrance of the Jagannath Temple

According to a legend King Indradyumma was directed by Lord Jagannath in a dream to build a temple for him which he did as directed. However, according to historical records the temple was started some time during the 12th century by King Chodaganga of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. It was completed by his descendant, Anangabhima Deva, in the 12th century. The wooden images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were then deified here. The temple was under the control of the Hindu rulers up to 1558. Then, when Orissa was occupied by the Afghan Nawab of Bengal, it was brought under the control of the Afghan General Kalapahad. Following the defeat of the Afghan king by Raja Mansingh, the General of Mughal emperor Akbar, the temple became part of the Mughal empire till 1751. Subsequently, it was under the control of the Marathas till 1803. During the British Raj, the Puri Raja was entrusted with its management until 1947.

The triad of images in the temple are of Jagannatha, personifying Lord Krishna, Balabhadra, His older brother, and Subhadra, His younger sister. The images are made of neem wood in an unfinished form. The stumps of wood which form the images of the brothers have human arms, while that of Subhadra does not have any arms. The heads are large, painted and non-carved. The faces are marked with distinctive large circular eyes.

The Pancha Tirtha of Puri

Main article: Pancha Tirtha of Puri

Markandeshwar Tank

Hindus consider it essential to bathe in the Pancha Tirtha or the five sacred bathing spots of Puri, to complete a pilgrimage to Puri. The five sacred water bodies are the Indradyumana Tank, the Rohini Kunda, the Markandeya Tank, the Swetaganga Tank, and the Bay of Bengal also called the Mahodadhi, in Sanskrit 'Mahodadhi' means a "great ocean";all are considered sacred bathing spots in the Swargadwar area.These tanks have perennial sources of supply from rainfall and ground water.

Gundicha Temple

Main article: Gundicha Temple

The Main Gate of the Gundicha Temple

The Gundicha Temple, known as the Garden House of Jagannatha, stands in the centre of a beautiful garden, bounded by compound walls on all sides. It lies at a distance of about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the northeast of the Jagannatha Temple. The two temples are located at the two ends of the Bada Danda (Grand Avenue), which is the pathway for the Rath Yatra. According to a legend, Gundicha was the wife of King Indradyumna who originally built the Jagannath temple.

The temple is built using light-grey sandstone, and, architecturally, it exemplifies typical Kalinga temple architecture in the Deula style. The complex comprises four components: vimana (tower structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), nata-mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). There is also a kitchen connected by a small passage. The temple is set within a garden, and is known as "God's Summer Garden Retreat" or garden house of Jagannatha. The entire complex, including the garden, is surrounded by a wall which measures 430 by 320 feet (131 m × 98 m) with height of 20 feet (6.1 m).

Except for the 9-day Rath Yatra, when the triad images are worshipped in the Gundicha Temple, otherwise it remains unoccupied for the rest of the year. Tourists can visit the temple after paying an entry fee. Foreigners (generally prohibited entry in the main temple) are allowed inside this temple during this period.The temple is under the Jagannath Temple Administration, Puri, the governing body of the main temple. A small band of servitors maintain the temple.

Swargadwar

The Sea at Swargadwar of Puri

Swargadwar is the name given to the cremation ground or burning ghat which is located on the shores of the sea. Here thousands of dead bodies of Hindus brought from faraway places are cremated. It is a belief that the Chitanya Mahaparabhu disappeared from this Swargadwar about 500 years back.

Beach

Puri Sea Beach viewed from the light house

The beach at Puri, known as the "Ballighai beach, at the mouth of Nunai River, is 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) away from the town and is fringed by casurina trees. It has golden yellow sand. Sunrise and sunset are pleasant scenic attractions here. Waves break in at the beach which is long and wide.

District museum

The Puri district museum is located on the station road where the exhibits in display are the different types of garments worn by Lord Jagannath, local sculptures, patachitra (traditional, cloth-based scroll painting), ancient Palm-leaf manuscripts, and local craft work.

Raghunandana library

Raghunandana Library is located in the Emara Matha complex (opposite Simhadwara or lion gate, the main entrance gate). The Jagannatha Aitihasika Gavesana Samiti (Jagannatha Historical Centre) is also located here. The library houses ancient palm leaf manuscripts on Jagannatha, His cult and the history of the city.

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