The Jagannath Mandira of Puri is an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of lord Vishnu, located on the eastern coast of India, at Puri in the state of Odisha. The temple is an important pilgrimage destination and one of the four great 'Char Dham' pilgrimage sites, found at India's four cardinal points.
The construction of the Jagannath temple was commissioned by King Indradyumna. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three principal deities are pulled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Unlike the stone and metal icons found in most Hindu temples, the image of Jagannath is made of wood and is ceremoniously replaced every twelve or nineteen years by an exact replica.
The temple is sacred to all Hindus and especially in those of the Vaishnava traditions. Many great saints, such as Adi Shankaracharya , Ramananda & Ramanuja were closely associated with the temple. Ramanuja established the Emar Mutt near the temple and the Govardhan Mutt, which is the seat of one of the four Shankaracharyas is also located here. It is also of particular significance to the followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism whose founder, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was attracted to the deity, Jagannath, and lived in Puri for many years.
The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2), and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. This 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri. Another wall known as kurma bedha surrounds the main temple. It contains at least 120 temples and shrines. With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India. The temple has four distinct sectional structures, namely -
The main temple is a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the 'srichakra' (an eight spoked wheel) of Vishnu. Also known as the "Nilachakra", it is made out of Ashtadhatu and is considered sacrosanct. Among the existing temples in Orissa, the temple of Shri Jagannath is the highest. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone and, rising to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside, dominates the surrounding landscape. The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls, or mandapas, rise in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks.