Gundicha Temple is a Hindu temple, situated in the temple town of Puri in the state of Odisha, India. It is significant for being the destination of the celebrated annual Rath Yatra of Puri. While it remains vacant most of the year, the temple is occupied by images of the deities of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra for seven complete days (total 9 days including the start and concluding day of Ratha Yatra) every year during the annual Rath Yatra festival.
Known as the Garden House of Jagannath, the Gundicha temple stands in the centre of a beautiful garden, surrounded by compound walls on all sides. It lies at a distance of about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the Shrimandira, the main temple of Jagannath. The two temples are located at the two ends of the Bada Danda (Grand Avenue) which is the pathway for the Rath Yatra.
The temple is built using light-grey sandstone and architecturally, it exemplifies typical Kalinga temple architecture in the Deula style. The complex comprises four components: vimana (tower structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), nata-mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). There is also a kitchen connected by a small passage. The temple is set within a garden, and is known as "God's Summer Garden Retreat" or garden house of Jagannath. The entire complex, including garden, is surrounded by a wall.
The sanctum features a plain raised platform (4 feet (1.2 m) high and 19 feet (5.8 m) long) made of chlorite called Ratnavedi, where the deities are placed during the annual festivities. The temple has two gates. The western gate is the main temple gate, through which the deities enter the temple during Ratha Yatra. The eastern gate, known as Nakachana gate, is used for the departure of the deities.
Except for the 9-day Rath Yatra when Jagannath is worshipped in Gundicha temple, the temple remains empty the rest of the year. Tourists can visit the temple after paying an entry fee. Foreigners (prohibited entry in the main temple) are allowed inside this temple during this period. The temple is under the Jagannath Temple Administration, Puri - the governing body of the main temple. A small band of servitors maintain the temple.
The Rath Yatra
The Rath Yatra starts on the second lunar day (dwitiya) the bright fortnight (shukla paksha) of the Hindu month of Ashadha. One day before the Ratha Yatra, the Gundicha Temple is religiously cleansed for housing the gods.
On the first day of the yatra, the deities are transported in chariots from the main temple to Gundicha temple. This is the famous Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival of Jagannath Puri. The three deities are transported in three magnificent chariots, drawn by the numerous devotees gathered there. The three chariots involved in the chariot procession are: one for each deity with central chariot called the Nandighosha, carrying the main deity of Jagannath and the second chariot known as Taladhwaja carrying Balabhadra, and the third chariot called the Darpadalana carrying Subhadra. The procession progresses down the 3 km long "Bada Danda" (long avenue) and reaches the gates of the Gundicha temple before nightfall. The deities remain in the chariots on the first day and enter the Gundicha Temple on the second day. They reside at the Gundicha temple for the subsequent seven days.