The exact geographical location of the Temple of Shri Jagannath is latitude 19' 18' 17", and longitude 58°51' 39". According to traditions of the temple was originally built by Maharaja Yayati Kesari (Yayati-ll of Somavamsi dynasty) on the site of the present shrine. Another tradition attributes the construction of the temple to Anangabhima Deva, grandson of Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. But the epigraphical records fully support that it was Maharaja Chodaganga Deva ( 1112- 1148 A.D.) who built the present temple.
Among the existing temples in orissa, the temple of Shri Jagannath is the highest. The temple (214 ft 8 inches high from the road level) is on a perfect pancharatha plan. All the paraphrenalia of feudal pomp and splendour observed.
In the daily life of the emperors or potentates of old can be noticed in the daily worship of Shri Jagannath. By a statute, the temple has been placed under a Managing Committee since 1960 with the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri as the ex-officio chairman. The members of the committee are appointed by the state government.
The following is a description of the temple and its accessory structures.
The Arun Sthambh ( ଅରୁଣ ସ୍ତମ୍ଭ ) :-
In front of the entrance to the eastern gateway there is the beautiful Sun pillar (Aruna stambha)which originally stood before-the Temple of the Sun at Konark and was shifted here by the Marathas. The Sun pillar is a monolithic shaft of chlorite with sixteen sides. It is 25 feet and 2 inches in height, 2 feet in diametre, and 6 feet and 31/2 inches in circumference. It stands on an exquisitely carved pedestal (Made of chlorite) of 7 feet 9 inches square and 6 feet high, and has a capital on the top 2 1/2 feet high, over which squats the praying Aruna. The capital is formed of two rings surmounted by a series of lotus petals. The measurements thus give a total height of 33 feet 8 inches from the ground to the top of the capital. In its present situation the pillar is about two centuries old but its execution dates from the early part of the 13th Century.
The temple has two big concentric walls and four gates both in outer and inner walls. The outer wall of the temple is known as Meghanada Prachira (665 ft. X 640 ft. ) and the inner wall is known as. Kurma Bedha (420 ft. x 315 ft.). The height of the outer wall varies from 20 ft to 24 ft. with serrated battlement on its top. The loftiness of the walls proves that the temple had served the purpose of a fort. This is corroborated by the fact that at the time of the muslim invasion the civilians as well as the soldiers took shelter inside the compound when certain portions of it were damaged. There is no historical evidence to prove when the outer and the inner walls were constructed. But from the Madala Panji and the local tradition it is known that these were built not earlier than the l5th century A.D.
The four Gates :-
In the temple of Shri Jagannath there are four gates both in outer and inner enclosures. The eastern entrance of the outer enclosure is called Singhadwara or the Lions’ Gate. The entrance on the southern, western and northern sides of the outer enclosure is called Aswadwara, Vyaghradwara and Hastidwara respectively. They are also called as Purbadwara, Dakhinadwara, Paschinadwara, and Uttaradwara according to their directions. Worshipping the gates also forms a part of the daily ritualistic service of the temple. The eastern gate is beautifully ornamented. Navagraha reliefs are carved on the architraves of all the gates.
Singhadwara and the Baisipahacha ( ସିଂହ ଦ୍ଵାର ଓ ବାଇଶି ପାହାଚ ):-
The Singhadwara or the Lion’s Gate has on each side a colossal crouching lion of the usual Orissan make with a crown on its head, which gives the gate its name. In the propylacum at the lion’s Gate on the northern side there is the image of Patitapavana. In front of Patitapavana a small image of Garuda has been installed. The idols of Phatya Hanumana, Radha-krushna, and Nrushingha have been installed in the niches of the side walls. Formerly the untouchables who were not allowed to go inside the temple used to offer their prayers to Patitapavana (Jagannath) remaining outside the Singhadwara. Inside the outer enclosure is the inner enclosure, approached by 22 flights of steps (Baisipahacha) from the eastern gateway of the outer enclosure. The width of the middle 15 steps varies from 5 feet and 10 1/2 inches to 6 feet and 3 inches and the rise is 6 inches to 7 inches. The size of the remaining 7 steps are smaller both in length and width. The steps are made of felspar and Khondolite. The idols of Kasi-Biswanath, Ramachandra, Nrushingha and Ganesh have been installed on the southern side of the Baisipahacha.
Aswadwara (ଦକ୍ଷିଣ ଦ୍ଵାର) and the Rosha Ghar : - The Aswadwara or the Horse Gate has on each side a galloping stallion of masonry work with the figures of Jagannath and Balabhadra on their back in full military array. These sculptures depict the legendary Kanchi expedition of Jagannath and Balabhadra, and have been installed recently. The inner enclosure is approached by ten flights of steps, made of khondolite, from the southern gateway of the outer enclosure.
The images of Sadhabhuja Gouranga, Ramachandra, Gopala, Barabhai Hanuman and Nrusingha have been installed in small shrines in the outer enclosure. Towards the eastern direction of it is the kitchen of Shri Jagannath which can feed thousands of people at a time. The process of cooking done in the kitchen has some peculiarities. In the same oven wide earthen pots are placed and cooking is done simultaneously. There are 200 hearths in the kitchen and 400 supakars work here daily. The present kitchen building dates from the reign of Divyasingha Deva (A.D. 1690-1713) and was built by a private person. The colossal image of Mahabir Hanuman is installed outside the temple enclosure to the east of Aswadwara.
The Vyaghradwara (ପଶ୍ଚିମ ଦ୍ଵାର) or the Tiger Gate has on each side a figure of a tiger made of mortar, The inner enclosure is approached by seven flights of steps, made of khondolite, from the western gateway of the outer enclosure. The deities of Rameswar -Mahadeva, Shri Jagannath, Dwarakanath, and Badrinath are installed in the outer enclosure in a shrine known as Chaturdham. Flower gardens have been setup on both the sides from which flowers are collected for the daily worship of the deities. The shrines of Chakranarayana, Sidheswara, Mahabir Hanuman and Dhabaleswar Mahadev are located in this area. On the northern side, the Niladri vihar has been constructed which depicts the popular legends of Jagannath through models and paintings.
Hastidwara(ଉତ୍ତର ଦ୍ଵାର) :- The Hastidwara or the Elephant Gate had on each side a colossal figure of elephant, which is said to have been disfigured during the muslim inroads, subsequently, these figures were repaired and plastered with mortar and placed at the nothern gate of the inner enclosure (Kurma Bedha).
The inner enclosure is approached by thirteen flights , 79 of steps made of khondolite, from the northern gateway of the outer enclosure. The deities of Lokanath, Uttarani,Lakshmi -Nrusingha, Baraha and Sitala have been istalled in the outer enclosure. There is also the sacred suna-kuan (gold well) from which lO8 pitctchers of water are taken for the ceremonial bath of Lord Jaganath during the Snana Yatra.
On the western side of the outer enclosure, near the gate of the Kurma Bedha, stands a banyan tree; and on a raised platform, the famous Koili Baikuntha or Kaivalya Baikuntha. During the Nabakalebar, the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are being constructed here.
Kurma Bedha (କୂର୍ମ ବେଢା ):- In the inner enclosure, i.e. the Kurma Bedha, Several deities have been installed surrounding the main temple. Towards the eastern side there is a covered path leading to the Bhogamandapa from the kitchen through which the suaras bring bhoga to the temple. At the south- east portion of the covered path there is the shrine of the Agniswara Mahadeva who is supposed to guard and supervise the kitchen. In the eastern and southern side of the inner enclosure are the shrines of Satyanarayan, Batagopala, Sarbamangala, Balamukunda, Bata-bihari -Jagannath, Sweta Ganga and the famous big tree 'Kalpabata ( କଳ୍ପ ବଟ).'
In front of the southern side of the main temple stands the structure ca1led muktimandap, which is also known as Brahmasana. It is a rectangular building, 38 feet square, with a plain high plinth and a pyramidal roof supported on sixteen massive chlorite pillars. It is said to have been erected by Prataparudra Deva in 1525 A.D. Its roof was renewed about the middle of I8th century by Sridhara Pattnayak in the reign of Virakishore Deva. On the floor of this Mandapa, the Sanyas is of Sankara Matha and sixteen pandits belonging to sixteen sasans established by the kings of Orissa, are allowed to sit and take part in learned discourses. Any dispute arising out of religious matters with regards to the worship of Shri Jagannath is referred to this council of learned men, and their verdict is final.
A little further west to Muktimandapa is the Rohini kunda with the images of Sudarsan Chakra and Bhusunda Kaka. To the faithful these are objects of great interest and to the priests a source of a steady income. Close to the Muktimandap is temple of Nrusingha which is regarded to be one of the earliest shrines in the compound of the temple of Shri Jagannath. To the west of Rohini kunda is the shrine of Bimala. Mention of this temple is found in the Matsya purana and the Kapila sanhita once in a year, on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the month of Aswina (Mahastami day) a goat is sacrificed before the goddess at midnight.
Towards the north of the temple of Bimala there are smaller temples containing the images of Benumadhaba, Rama, Sakhigopal, Kanchi Ganesha, Bhubaneswari and Nilamadhaba. The temple at the north-west corner is an old one and contains beautiful carvings. It is dedicated to Lakshmi, the immaculate consort of Jagannath. The conservation work of this temple has been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India.
To the left of the Lakshmi temple is the shrine of the Nava grahas. Adjacent to it is the temple of Surya. Next follow the shrines of Lakshmi Narayan, Dadhivaman , Rama-sita, Pataleswara, etc. Ananda Bazar, where mahaprasada is sold daily, is Situated in the north-east corner of the outer-enclosure. On the eastern side of the Ananda Bazar there is the Devasnana Mandapa where the deities are ceremonially bathed on the full-moon day of Jyestha (May-June). Close by it is a small pavilion where the goddess Lakshmi takes her seat to see the Ratha yatra. There is a corresponding pavilion on the other side of the eastern gate way to which Lakshmi resorts to welcome Jagannath on his return from Gundicha Ghara during the car -festival.
The Temple Tower :- The tower is pancharatha in plan. The ground plan is a square of 80 feet and the height is 192 feet from upana. The tower starts from a plinth of 5 feet 2 inches in height. The height of the Jangha is 11 feet. The sardula between the Konarka and anuratha pagas is a figure of lion standing over a crouching elephant with its head turned back.
The spiral structure (Vimana) consists of several sections superimposed one over the other tapering to the top where the great amalakasila and kalasa are placed. The amalakasila is meant to keep the structure properly balanced. The huge lions and other deities which occur below the amalakasila serve as the support, so that it will remain in its proper position. The outer faces of the tower are carved with the figures of the deities of the Hindu pantheon. The heads of Asuras are met with on the vertical bands of the jangha of the tower. On the three sides -north, south and west of the tower are three two-storeyed pidha temples meant as Jagamohanas to the niches of the rahapagas containing the figures of the parswa- devatas, Bamana, Baraha and Nrusimha respectively. Above the spire the famous Nilachakra is placed which is supposed to be made of Astadhatu (alloy of eight different meta1s)
In the garbhagruha there is a raised platform known as Ratnavedi or Mahavedi. It is 16 feet long, 13 feet wide and 4 feet high. On this raised platform the images of Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath are seated from left to right. The emblem Sudarsan is placed on the left of Shri Jagannath. Nilamadhaba (a small image of Jagannath), Sri Devi (a golden images of Lakshmi) and Bhudevi (a silver image of goddess earth) have also taken their seats on the Ratnavedi (Sri Devi on the left side and Bhudevi on the right side of Jagannath, Nilamadhaba is one of the back side of Sri Devi). So this is also known as Sapta Barna pitha, Sufficient space has been left around. The Ratnavedi for the devotees to perform circumambulation.
Nata Mandapa :- The Natamandap is of a much later date than the sanctury and its porch, and architecturally of quite a distinct character. It is a square room, measuring 69 feet by 67 feet in the inside, the outside measurement being a square of 80 feet. At the eastern side of it there is the famous Garuda pillar placed inside and from this position a front view of the deities can be observed. In the Natamandapa the Devadasis used to dance at the time of Sakala Dhupa, till about 1958. Close by, on the eastern wall, there are sculptures of latter addition representing the scene of Kanchi-kaveri expedition. The scene represents two mounted cavaliers (Balabhadra and Jagananth) with a milkmaid (Manika )standing before them carrying a pitcher on her head. There are also a few other paintings of recent date including the picture of Sankaracharya offering obeisance to God Nrusingha.
Bhoga Mandapa :- The Refectory Hall stands immediately to the east of the Natamandapa. it is square building like the other three, It is a made of yellowish standstone rendered red by ochre painting. It measures 58 feet by 56 feet on the ground -plan and is profusely carved in the most finished style of Orissan art.