Jagannath Temple Puri

Jagannath Temple Puri

Situated in Puri, Odisha, India, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is a very famous religious site for followers of Hinduism and scores of devotees make a pilgrimage to Jagannath every year. Jagannath is also famous for a "Rath Yatra" (a chariot ride).

There are 2 very interesting observations about the Jagannath Temple

  1. Inside the temple of Jagannath, there are idols of Lord Jagannath along with brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The idols are made of wood and do not have hands and legs.
  2. Less than 2 kms away on the coast is another temple called Kabir Chaura Math, Puri which is dedicated to Saint Kabir (Kabir Das).

The following questions arise here.

  1. Why do the wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra not have hands and feet? In other words, why is it that the idols have amputated limbs?
  2. Is there is any connection between Kabir Chaura or in other words Saint Kabir and the Jagannath Temple?

To get answers to the above two questions, one has to know how the temple of Jagannath Puri was built.

How was the Temple of Jagannath, Puri built?

Jagannath Temple Puri

King Indradyumna built the Jagannath Temple 5 times but the sea destroyed it

King Indradyumna was the ruler of the region including the current day Odisha state. King Indradyumna was the one who initiated the construction of Jagannath Temple in Puri. Lord Vishnu appeared to King Indradyumna in his dream and asked him to construct a temple by the name of Jagannath. On getting the orders from Lord Vishnu, King Indradyumna started the construction of Jagannath temple. When the temple was nearly built, a cyclone appeared and razed the temple to the ground. This happened five times. Each time the temple construction was complete, the sea arose and demolished the temple. By now king Indradyumna's treasury was empty and he abandoned his plan of constructing the Jagannath Temple.

Visit to King Indradyumna by Saint Kabir

One day Saint Kabir visited King Indradyumna and asked him to resume the construction of Jagannath Temple and reassured the king that He will not let the sea destroy the temple on this occasion. However King Indradyumna had lost all hope and therefore did not pay heed to what Saint Kabir was saying. Saint Kabir gave King Indradyumna the knowledge of his whereabouts in case he changed his mind and left. That very night, Lord Vishnu appeared in the dream of King Indradyumna and asked him to seek assistance of Saint Kabir to finish the construction of Jagannath Temple.

Final attempt by King Indradyumna at building the Jagannath Temple

King Indradyumna for one last time started the construction of Jagannath Temple under the aegis of Saint Kabir. Saint Kabir asked King Indradyumna to also construct a platform in front of the sea from where the sea used to rise and said that I will sit here and contemplate the name of God and stop the sea from destroying the temple. This platform is the place which is today known as the Kabir Chaura in Puri. 

Confrontation between Sea and Saint Kabir

Jagannath Temple Puri

Once the Temple of Jagannath Puri was almost complete, the sea arose again for one final time and moved towards the temple. Saint Kabir sitting on his platform raised his hand as if giving a blessing, and as a result the sea could not advance any further. Realising his inability to advance, the sea appeared as a Brahmin in front on Saint Kabir and expressed his desire to advance further and sought the permission of Saint Kabir to allow him to proceed to demolish the temple. Saint Kabir denied the request of sea and asked him to retreat. The sea then narrated his reasoning for destroying the temple. Sea said that in Treta Yuga, Lord Rama (incarnation of Vishnu) had threatened him with destroying the ocean at the time of building a sea bridge to Lanka. So in order to take revenge, he (sea) was not allowing a temple of Lord Vishnu to be built here. Saint Kabir said to sea that I will not allow you to destroy the temple anymore. Sea then asked Saint Kabir to allow him to take his revenge in some possible way. On this Saint Kabir said that he may drown dwarika (the place of Lord Krishna during Dwapar Yuga). As a result the sea retreated from Jagannath Puri but drowned Dwarika instead. 

This clarifies the connection and importance of Saint Kabir and Kabir Chaura, Puri in the construction of Jagannath Puri Temple.

Kabir Chaura in Puri

Kabir Chaura Jagannath PuriImg source

Why do the wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra have amputated limbs?

During the construction of Jagannath Temple in Puri, Gorakhnath Ji visited King Indradyumna and asked for idols of Lord Vishnu to be installed in the temple. On this King Indradyumna mentioned that Lord Vishnu had said that no idols should be installed in the temple. Despite hearing this Gorakhnath insisted that idols should be installed as a temple is empty if there no idols inside it. The King finally agreed and ordered for the idols to be made. But once the idols used to get completed, they used to shatter. This happened a few times. Again Saint Kabir disguised as an old man visited King Indradyumna and offered him to make the idols provided no one disturbed him. King Indradyumna agreed. 15 days passed and Gorakhnath again visited King Indradyumna. King Indradyumna narrated the whole incident to Gorakhnath. Gorakhnath insisted on seeing the idols on which King Indradyumna said that the craftsman had said that no one should disturb him otherwise the idols will not be completed. Gorakhnath still insisted and therefore the door of the room where the craftsman was sculpting the idols was prised open. By that time the construction of limbs was still pending. This is the reason why wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra do not have formed limbs. 

Jagannath Temple Puri History - Video


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