The holy city of Puri, 60 km from Bhubaneswar, is one of the four holiest points of pilgrimage for Hindus.The reigning deity of the city, Lord Jagannath, whose temple was built way back in the 12th century, is not only of great religious significance to the people of Orissa but is revered by thousands of pilgrims who seek His blessings from every part of the country.
This intense veneration of Jagannath, or the Lord of the Universe, reaches its zenith during the annual rites of the Rath Yatra in the months of June July, when the images of Lord Jagannath, His sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are transported through the Grand Road (Bada Danda) of Puri in traditionally decorated massive chariots that are dragged by thousands of devotees to the Gundicha Ghar where they sojourn for a week. The process is repeated when they are returned amidst intense religious fervor to the temple.
Though the temple is closed to non-Hindus, the activities of the Jagannath Temple are so immense that they create enough colour and interest for tourists to participate in the bazar element of the proceedings outside the temple precincts. The other important feature of the town is its beautiful beach which, for centuries, has offered pleasure to both pilgrims and swimmers. This picturesque beach is one of the most delightful white beaches in the country and is becoming a pleasure haunt for tourists from all over the globe.
Though the surf here is pretty exciting, the under-current can be a bit tricky, so tread carefully... The areas both within and outside Puri offer excellent shopping and the nearby artist villages of Pipli (for the famous applique work), Raghurajpur (for pata and palm-leaf paintings) and Balakati (for bell-metal work) bring shoppers directly in contact with the craftsmen at work. It can be quite an experience.
The Gundicha Ghar or Gundicha temple is an important part of the famous Rath Yatra festival of Puri. It has some interesting legends related to it. According to one the Gundicha Ghar is the house of Lord Krishna's loving aunt. On the day of the Rath Yatra, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken in gorgeously caparisoned wooden rath (chariots) from the main gate of the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple.
At the garden house, their aunt greets them by feeding them padoapitha (specially baked rice cakes). This place is regarded as equally holy as Lord stays here for nine days during the festival.
The shrine of Lord Sakshigopal is only 20 kms away from Puri. The sacred feet of Shri Radha can however be only seen on 'Anala nawami' day.
(25 kms from Puri) is known for the living shrine of Alarnath. Pilgrims visit Alarnath during Anabasara of Lord Jagannath. Nearby is the shrine of Baliharachandi on the solitary sand dunes.
27 km to the south-west of Puri is the temple of Baliharachandi. Situated on a sandy hill near the sea and adjacent to the mouth of the river Bhargavi, Goddess Durga is worshipped here as Baliharachandi.
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