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A Guide for Puri Jagannath Ji Temple and Other Sightseeing Places

The Jagannath Puri Temple, located in the coastal town of Puri in Odisha, India, is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus. It is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. A visit to this temple is considered highly auspicious and spiritually fulfilling. We were blessed to be able to visit the revered deity during the Independence Day Weekend in 2023. It is simply a fulfilling and devout feeling after visiting the temple. In this article, we provide a guide for visiting the Jagannath Puri temple and also some of the other sightseeing places around it. 

Here is the 5-point guide to help you with your preparations. We aim to answer some of the questions on top of your mind when you are planning a trip to Jagannath Puri.

For additional information, the official website of the temple is at - Jagannath Puri Temple

1. How to Reach Puri?

Puri is located about 65 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar, the Capital City of Odisha, and is connected to it via expressway. The road is very good and the traffic is decent making it about an hour-and-a-half long drive. The best way to reach Puri is by traveling to Bhubaneshwar and then taking the road to Puri. Bhubaneshwar is well connected with the rest of the country through air and train routes. From Bhubaneshwar, you have many options to reach Puri. Taxis or Self Drive Rentals are a convenient way to travel. There are frequent bus services as well. If you try a bit, you could land with a shared cab too. Puri is also a train head and some trains connect Puri to cities in Eastern India.  

Take the Roads to Devotion

2. Where to Stay in Puri?

Puri has a number of stay options for all budget ranges. There are rooms for less than 1000 Rs to over 15,000 Rs on average. This number could go up during the busy season, especially around the Rath Yatra or long weekends. The most sought-after accommodations are the beachfront hotels that offer stunning views of the Bay of Bengal. These hotels provide top-notch facilities such as swimming pools, spa services, and multi-cuisine restaurants. For those on a tighter budget, there are numerous guesthouses and lodges available in the town. These establishments provide basic amenities at affordable prices and are often located near popular tourist spots.

Another unique accommodation option in Puri is staying at one of the many ashrams or religious retreats. These places not only offer comfortable lodging but also provide an opportunity for spiritual growth and self-reflection. There are two or three major settlements for hotels in the city. One is around the Jagannath Ji temple and the other is by the beach. There are few hotels towards the far end of the city along the newly developed by-pass "New Marine Drive Road". 

Unwind on the Blue Flag Beach

We recommend that you find something close to Golden Beach - something around the Lighthouse or the Beach Market. This places you close to the beach and at a reasonable distance from the temple. Rooms with a sea view could be obnoxiously priced so we recommend booking something with a city view and then requesting a change/upgrade when you land at the property. Of course, that is if you are happily ready for the city view if change is not possible. 

3. How to Visit the Temple?

Some Logistics Related to Visiting Lord Jagannath Puri Temple

First of all, it is important to appreciate that all major temples in India are centers of devotion and attract devotees and tourists in large numbers. Hence it is logical to assume that these temples will be rushed and you need to be prepared to "rub your shoulders" with strangers. However, everyone is there to offer prayers and get a glimpse of their deity. If you visiting as a tourist, we recommend choosing a time which would have lesser crowds. Weekdays are generally fine and so are the late hours on Weekends. The temple is open for the most part of the 24-hour cycle and hence you could choose your timing with ease. Based on our experience, it is prudent to assume that your visit to the Jagannath Puri temple could take about 2-3 hours in all. If you are able to spend this visit during the evening, you could also witness the famous "Flag Change" ceremony. 

Also, if you can afford it (both ethically and monetarily), we recommend engaging a priest to help you get around the temple. This helps in one, making the movement smoother with some help, and secondly, providing guidance and stories as you go. You could easily get a number for a priest from your hotel's reception. Also, these are not exorbitantly demanding but we recommend fixing the expectations in the beginning. Of course, this is not a mandate and you are welcome to visit the temple on your own. 

It can become quite busy in alleys around Jagannath Puri Temple

We also recommend that if you have a self-driven vehicle, it is better to leave it at the hotel and travel to the temple by Auto or Uber (yes Puri has some Uber cars for now). There is limited parking space available around the temple and sometimes the narrow lanes get stuck with crazy traffic. Autos are very easy to find across the city and are the fastest way to travel in the alleys. 

Temple Darshan - A Fulfilling Experience

The darshan at Jagannath Puri Temple is a satiating and humbling experience. Stepping into the temple premises, one is immediately struck by its grandeur and architectural beauty. The towering spires and intricate carvings on the walls are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of ancient times. There are four gates to the temple, each in one of the four directions and representing one of the human wants. You enter through the West Gate and exit from the South Gate. Between these two gates, you visit the vast temple premises. 

Besides the main deity, you have a number of other deities and shrines within the premises. The temple truly is a living soul of devotional spirit. One of the interesting shrines is of the Sun and the Moon God. These were initially established in the Konark Sun Temple (which we visit later in the trip). But there were transferred to the Puri Jagannath temple by the then-king when the Sun Temple came under attack. 

Posing is Unavoidable

Another interesting this to see is the kitchen where the prasad (holy food) is prepared. These have large stoves which carry big bowls. These bowls or handis are kept one over the other in a formation of four columns. The bowl at the top is cooked first and the trend continues towards lower bowls. There is a storehouse for groceries and a large platform for cutting vegetables, both outside the kitchen. These groceries are passed into the kitchen through dedicated openings in the walls as only a specific family is allowed to enter the kitchen premise. 

The Flag Changing Ceremony

If you visit the temple in the evening around sunset, you could witness this interesting ritual. The Puri Flag Changing Ceremony is an age-old tradition that has been observed for centuries and holds great cultural and religious importance. The ceremony marks the changing of the flag atop the Jagannath Ji Temple, one of the most revered Hindu temples in India. The flag is changed every day before sunset by a group of specially trained priests known as "Daitapatis." 

The process involves climbing to the top of the temple's 214-foot-high spire using a long bamboo ladder. The ritual begins with prayers and offerings made to Lord Jagannath, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The old flag is carefully lowered while chants and hymns fill the air. Simultaneously, a new flag is raised amidst great fanfare and celebration. Devotees gather in large numbers to witness this sacred event, which symbolizes purity, renewal, and divine blessings. 

Flag is Down for Changing Ceremony in Jagannath Puri Temple

We were fortunate to be at the temple at the time of flag changing and hence witnessed the ceremony. It is a great experience seeing how an entire setup of flags is changed every day without a miss.

The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra

The famous Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival is an annual event when Lord Jagannath along with his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in beautifully decorated chariots through the streets of Puri. The festival commemorates Lord Jagannath's journey from his temple to his aunt's temple in a grand procession in three gigantic chariots are constructed for this purpose, each dedicated to a different deity - Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra. The atmosphere is filled with joyous chants and religious hymns as people come together to witness this divine event. It is believed that pulling these chariots brings good fortune and blessings to those who participate. The Rath Yatra usually happens in June-July timeframe every year and if you are planning a visit around then, make your bookings well in advance and be ready for rush and surge - both in visitors and pricing. We were not visiting during the yatra so missed the ceremony.

For additional details, refer to https://currentaffairs.adda247.com/jagannath-puri-rath-yatra-history-significance-and-timing/

View of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
courtesy https://currentaffairs.adda247.com

4. Where to Eat in Puri

Puri has a number of restaurants catering to all budgets and tastes. It is easy to find a place close to wherever you are. However, we have two specific recommendations. One is to try the traditional Odiya thali at Dalma. Another is to try some fast food or "junk" at Cookies Cafe on the Marine Drive road by the beach. It is a nicely put-together cafe with impeccable service. We enjoyed an evening there and were pleasantly surprised by the decor and standards. 

Take a Bite at Cookies Cafe

5. What Other Things to Explore in Puri and Around

The Beach and the Beach Market

Puri has a great beach called Golden Beach or Puri Beach which also has a Blue Flag (more about the blue flag) status. Status aside, do not expect it to be similar to Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Islands with the same status as people can get easy with the clutter. However, it is a good beach to unwind in the evenings and enjoy some cool moments. There is a beach market on one end of the beach where you could pick some souvenirs. The beach is also a great place to capture the sunrise over the majestic Bay of Bengal. Given, this is the eastern part of the country, the sun rises very early so you may have to compromise your morning laziness.

The Champ at the Beach Market

Puri Lighthouse 

Across the beach is the Puri Lighthouse, standing tall and narrating the story of the trade routes that passed through the region. The lighthouse opens for only one hour every day for visitors to climb up to the top and enjoy mesmerizing views of the Bay of Bengal. We did not go up the lighthouse but did pay a visit to the base. 

Puri Light House 

Day Tours - Konark Sun Temple, Bhubaneshwar, or Chillika Lake

There are a number of options for taking day tours from Puri and each has a different flavor. One of the most popular day tours is the Konark Sun Temple which is about an hour's drive and 60 kilometers away from Puri. You could also cover this on your way to Bhubaneshwar if you are visiting or traveling further from there. We covered Konark as our third destination on the Odisha Trip (Read more at Odisha Tourist Places & Itinerary including Jagannath Puri Temple)and will cover it in a separate article. 

Konark Sun Temple

If you traveled directly to Puri then you may want to sneak out once to Bhubaneshwar, the Capital of the state you are in. Also, there are many temples where you could seek blessings particularly the Lingraj Temple (one of the corners of the Golden Triangle). We actually had Bhubaneshwar as our first city of arrival on the trip and spent a day exploring the sister cities of Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack. Read more of our experience at Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack - One Day Plan to Explore the Historical Sister Cities

An interesting and popular day tour (on almost all tourist itineraries) is a visit to Chillka Lake. Located about 70 kilometers (a one-and-a-half-hour drive) it is popular for an opportunity to see the River Mouth (where a river meets the sea) and dolphin sightings. The boat ride there takes about 2 - 3 hours and with the travel time, it almost is a complete day activity. Also, it does not fall en route on your Golden Triangle so you need to have a day extra on your trip. We only had three days and hence could not fit it into our plan. However, we have heard good things about this.

On the Way to Puri

If you are traveling to Puri from Bhubaneshwar, then there are two major things to do on the way. One is the Dhauli Shanti Stupa which stands as a live testimony of the importance of peace. A valiant emperor gave up his arms and adopted peace as a way of life. There are also some of his edicts (writings on rock) at this location. 

Dhauli Shanti Stupa

Another location to stop by on the way is Pipli Appliqué Village where most families are involved in the work of art. The roads are lined up with shops full of beautiful artwork.

In Conclusion

Jagannath Puri is a revered destination and one of the four major Dhams (religious seats of power) for Hinduism. Visiting the city itself is auspicious and darshan in the temple is fulfilling. Not only your religious aspirations are met, but it is also a great beach destination to come and spend some time in the lap of nature.

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