Shankha-kshetra: Srimandir's Architectural Features, Part Two


BY: SUN STAFF - 9.11 2020

Jagannath Puri Temple

A seventeen-part series on Sri Jagannath Puri Dham - from an architectural survey by Padmanabha Mahapatra.

Continuing with our description of the architectural features of the ancient Jagannath Temple at Puri, the height of the main temple is 65 meters (214 feet) and it appears like a temple on a descent hill. The area covered by the temple is 10.7 acres.

The temple is surrounded by two rectangular walls, the outer enclosure is called Meghanad Prachir, 200 meters x 192 meters (665 x 640 feet), the thickness of the wall is called Chaturarsa, and its height varies from 6 to 7 meters (20 to 24 feet). The inner wall is called Kurma Bedha, measuring 126 meters x 95 meters (420 x 315 feet), with a height of 6 meters (20 feet).

The construction of Meghanad wall was undertaken during the period of Suryavansi Gajapati Kapilendra Dev, during the 15th year of his reign, as seen from the Madala Panji. There are 4 big doors in four sides of the wall. The main gate in the east is the Lion's Gate (Mokhya Dwar), in the west is the Tiger Gate (Dharma Dwar), in the south is the Horse Gate (Karma Dwar), and in the north is the Elephant Gate (Artha Dwar). Another interpretation depicts the four doors as Dharma (lion), Vairagya (west), Jnana (south) and Aiswarya (north) gates.

At the Lion's Gate, the door is the entrance to a Gumuta, just a small temple. The door has two parts: one is the big gate itself and the other is a small gate fixed within the principal gate. The small one is for use of the servitors and the main one is for public use. Two big lions are sitting on both the sides of the door, on the frame of the door in both sides Jaya and Vijaya, two strong and stout dwarpals have been placed. On the top there are images of the Dasavatars and above them, Mahalaxmi is seen. The lion is a symbol of victory, so the devotee going for darshan of Lord Jagannath through the Lion's Gate is always victorious.

The Tiger Gate is the gate through which the saints and Tantrics enter into the temple. The tiger is a tantric symbol; it always moves alone and is not afraid of anyone within the forest.

At the Horse Gate there are two horses on both sides of the gate, and the warriors sitting on them are Jagannath and Balabhadra. This is a symbol of 'Kanchi Abhijan'. A great Hanuman image is found on the southern side of this gate.

At the Elephant Gate there are two elephants on either side of the gate. Some say that this is an influence of Buddhism on Jagannath Chetana, because the elephant is the symbol of Buddhism.

Kurma Bedha is the inner compound wall, where there are four parallel gates like that of Meghanad wall and two more additional gates. One extra gate in the northeast (aisanya) corner connects Pat Agana to Ananda Bazar and the other extra gate in southeast (agneya) corner is the passage from temple kitchen to Bhoga Mandap.

On top of the temple Anlashri there is a wheel made of an alloy of eight metals (astadhatu); it is Nilchakra or the Blue wheel, and the flag on it is Patitapavan Bana. The color of the flag is either red or yellow and it is triangular in size. In the middle part of the flag there is the symbol of a moon and star, painted in white. This is the emblem of Brahmabad and Omkar. Every day the flags are changed.

On each Ekadashi an earthen lamp is lit on the top of the temple alongside of Nilachakra. The height of the Nilachakra is 3.5 meters (11.6 feet), with a circumference of about 11 meters (36 feet). It has 8 spokes, and the length of each spoke is one foot, ten inches. Its weight is slightly more than one and a half quintals. The Chakra is the emblem of motion, as its duty is to rotate and slash. Nilachakra is the weapon of Lord Jagannath -- he colloquial image of Sri Sudarshan Chakra.

Shankha-kshetra is Purusottam Khetra, best out of all the Kshetras throughout the country. The Deity of the Lord is Bada Thakur, the chief of all the Gods; the temple is Bada Deula, the major temple of India; the sea by its side is Mahodadhi, the great ocean; the cremation ground is Swargadwar, the entrance gate to heaven; the main road to reach The Lordships is Badadanda, a broad road on which the Gods go and come back during the Car festival; here prasad is Mahaprasad, the most tasty prasad cooked by Divine mother Laxmi, which can be taken by chandala and brahman, together in one plate.


Padmanabha Mahapatra, Sri Mandira Purohita lives at Pratihari Lane, Matimandap Sahi, Puri. Source: Orissa Review. Edited slightly for readabililty.