The temple consists of four edifices in one alignment from east to west, the Bhogmandir, the Natmandir, the Jagamohan and the Deul or the inner sanctuary, which is surmounted by a conical tower 192 feet high. The Natmandir, with its ceiling of iron beams, and the Bhogmandir, however, are believed to have been added in the 14th or 15th century, long after the original structure was completed. The former, with its 16 pillars, is the only real example of a hypostyle hall in Odishan architecture. A significant feature of the inner enclosure is that, as in the Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, it stands in a large courtyard, 652 feet by 630 feet surrounded by a 20 feet high wall. In the inner sanctuary are the three holy images of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra, and his sister Subhadra. The entrance to the shrine is decorated with scenes from the life of Krishna, and the gates and walls are heavily ornamented with marble figures of lions and sentries. The profuse decoration on the walls of the Natmandir and Bhogmandir is, however, stylized and comparatively lifeless. This clearly indicates that when these structures were erected, the Odishan style of architecture had entered a period of decline.
To preserve the temple from the corroding effects of sea breezes, parts of the stone masonry and the elaborate carvings have been covered with thick plaster. Crowned with Vishnu’s flag and wheel, the tower, however, retains its commanding appearance in spite of the heavy cement overlay. Distributed around the main building are some 30 to 40 shrines of various dimensions and designs, as in the case of the Lingaraj Temple, but here these secondary structures are grouped on higher ground.
The Jagannath Temple is an extraordinary world. More than 6,000 male adults serve here as priests, warders of the temple, or pilgrim guides, and some 20,000 people altogether are dependent on the temple whose vast riches and seemingly inexhaustible pilgrim’s offerings are sufficient to support them.Jagannath Temple can be considered as a large institution with numerous religious activities and rituals to be performed routinely. The temple is served by a huge establishment consisting of pandas (priests), attendants of the most varied duties, decorators of the images, cooks, grooms, nautch-girls, and artisans. This hierarchical world of priests is divided into 36 orders and 97 classes with the Raja of Puri presiding over all: he is the “moving deity” and alone has the right to carry Lord Jagannath’s umbrella and other paraphernalia. The local Raja of Khurdah, belonging to a very old Odishan family, as the lay-head of the whole temple and exemplifying the principle of noblesse obliges by holding in his hereditary capacity the meanest of all offices, that of sweeper to the lord of the world. The others divide among themselves such tasks as preparing the god’s bed, attending to his bath, etc. Every minute detail of the temple’s life is strictly ordered according to prescription. The outstanding feature of the temple is that since its early beginnings all castes were here equal. Jagannath Temple is the only temple where the idol of God is taken out of the temple. Poda Peetha is the main dessert of Jagannath temple which is very famous. Lord Jagannath is offered this dessert daily.
Lord Jagannath is the preserver god Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is the most benign and All-Loving Divnity. He is the God of the people and hence his undying hold upon the Hindu race. Here in the city and temple of Jagannath there is no distinction of high or low, priest or peasant, rich or poor, Brahmin or outcaste. They all stand together, worship and pray in common. In the courts of the temple and outside the Lion Gate, thousands of pilgrims join every year in the sacrament of eating the holy food (prasada), the sanctity of which overleaps all barriers of caste, and a Puri priest will receive food even from a low-caste Hindu. Jagannath stands for ever as the symbol of Divine Love and the embodiment of the Gospel of Equality which has been preached by hundreds of Hindu saints and missionaries to the wretched and down-trodden in the villages of India. Hence the never-ceasing pilgrimage to Puri and the great devotion and worship of its deity evokes in the hearts of the people. As long as Jagannath’s towers rise on Puri sands, so long will there be in India a perpetual and visible protest of the equality of man before God. His apostles penetrate to every hamlet of Hindustan preaching the sacrament of the Holy Food.
Jagannath Temple surprises every one with following facts……..
- The flag at the summit of the Jagannath Temple always waves in the opposite direction of the wind’s flow.
- The Sudarshan Chakra above the temple is visible from every side.
- Seven pots are placed on top of each other to cook prasad in the kitchen of the temple. This prasad is cooked only in wooden pottery. The material on the top-most pot gets cooked first; then the second one from the top and so on. Hence, the Prasad in the last pot, at the bottom, gets cooked in the last.
- One doesn’t hear the sound of the sea waves as soon as one puts in the first step inside the premises from the temple’s main gate. The surprising thing is that as soon as you step out of the temple, the sound of the sea can be heard. This experience seems even more unusual in the evening.
- Neither a bird nor an aeroplane flies over the Jagannath Temple.
- The prasad is prepared and distributed every day in the temple. It never diminishes for the devotees but ends as the temple closes.
- On the beach, in the daytime the wind comes towards the ground, and vice versa in the evening, but in Puri the wind flows in the daytime towards the sea and at night towards the temple.
- One cannot find any shadow of the “shikhar’ of the Jagannath Temple. It is the most magnificent and tallest temple in the world. Its height is about 214 feet. The shadow of the main shikhar remains invisible at any time of the day.
- A priest changes the flag on the 45-storey summit of the temple daily. It is believed that if the flag is not changed on a single day, the temple will be closed for 18 years.