Puri Jagannath temple is an ancient and famous Hindu temple of Lord Vishnu, located in the coastal town of Puri, Orissa, India. Here Lord Vishnu resides in the form of a deity made of wood. The most important festival of Puri is the Rath Yatra or the Chariot festival which is celebrated in the month of June – July. The festival involves the procession of three huge chariots bearing the idols of Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra through the streets of Puri. It is believed that one who visits this Purushottama Kshetra gets the benefit of traveling to all of the holy tirthas.
Here is a story that tells us how the Lord came to Puri kshetra.
There once lived a king named Indradyumna who ruled the kingdom of Malava. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Once he had a vision of Lord Neelamadhav. From that moment he became curious to know more about ‘Neelamadhav’, so he sent his representatives in all directions.
A brahmana, Vidyapati, was sent in the eastern direction. He reached Savara village in Utkala. The chief of Savara was Viswavasu. Viswavasu secretly worshiped the Lord NeelaMadhav in the Nilachala (Blue Mountain). His daughter Lalita was eventually married to Vidyapati.
Viswavasu did not want to show anyone the location of Neelamadhav. But later, under repeated requests made by Lalitha, Viswavasu blindfolded his son-in-law (Vidyapati) and took him to the “blue cave”. Vidyapati wanted to know the path so he dropped few mustard seeds throughout the way.
After few days as the seeds germinated, and he was able to locate the blue cave. He conveyed the news to King Indradyumna. The king was pleased and reached the place immediately but couldn’t find the deity. The king was determined to see the deity and went on hunger fast. Just then a divine voice asked the king to construct a temple on the Blue Mountain. The king was happy and started constructing the temple for Lord Jagannath.
After few days, the king again had a dream in which Lord Vishnu appeared and asked him to make the deity with the wood from a log that would come floating down the sea. Then Sage Narada advised the king to make three idols, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother, Balabhadra and their sister, Subhadra.
The Lord himself came in the form of a carpenter to carve the idols. He asked them not to disturb him till he completed his work. But the curious queen sneaked into the room. She was shocked to discover that the carpenter had disappeared, leaving the idols unfinished.
The king was worried about the mistake. But again the divine voice instructed the king to install the unfinished idols in the temple. Even today we can see these three unfinished wooden deity in the Jagannath temple. The wooden idols being worshipped are renewed during special occasions.
Shalini Kelappan, Doha, Qatar