Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Postcard From Puri: Jagannath Dham, Odisha

A replica of Jagannath temple deities in Ahemdabad
Replica of Jagannath Dham deities in a temple in Ahmedabad.

Happiness is...
finding an old family album.

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A lot can happen over a photo album.

Photo albums often act as the wifi connection to a part of our past which has been left untouched since many long years.

Connections… which often translate into memories captured by the heart, sometimes shy of renown, and yet full of joy, reflection and wonder.

I recently dusted and pulled out an old photo album from my closet and as I browsed through its dog eared pages, I was instantly transported to a couple of decades back in time.

The album had 'Puri' written on it in a neat, carefully penned cursive writing, my brother's, who must have been around 12 at that time. I rolled my fingers on the words before thumbing through several faded pictures sticking to the plastic cover, trying to bring the memories to life.

So, there were pictures of the four of us posing in front of the Jagannath Puri temple with the Lord of the Universe, Lord Jagannath presiding over us and the gorgeous architecture towering behind us. In another, we were seen laughing, playing with the waves and splashing water on each other on the Puri beach and ah, here was me and my brother posing in the balcony of our hotel room fighting for frame space and there we went again! This time in front of the famous stone wheel engraved in the walls of the 13th century beauty carved in sandstone, the Konark Sun temple!

Jagannath Puri Photo from the Konark Sun Temple
The boy with a know-it-all kinda mischievous glint in his eyes and this petite girl, awww!
but I honestly don’t have a clue as to why was I smirking?

(Edit: My brother tells me it was because I wasn’t been given the camera to click pictures!!) 

For the next two hours, I found myself enjoying a parade of sweet memories conjured by the humble pictures revolving around our yatra to Shree Jagannath Dham, one of the four sacred 'chaar dhams' (four vital Vaishnava pilgrimage points set by Guru Shankaracharya) that lie in the four directions of the Indian compass viz. Badrinath Temple in the north, Jagannath Puri in the east, Dwarka in the west and Rameshwaram Temple in the south.

I reminisced of the times when we, as a family, were fonder of all of us posing in the picture frame as unlike now when I prefer taking pictures minus any member of the family in it.

A wisp of nostalgia was here, for company.

Out of the plethora of Puri hotels, my parents had chosen one from where we enjoyed a wonderfully spectacular unobstructed view of the mighty health-giving ocean from the balcony and a private access to the beach.

Interestingly, I realized, how vaguely I remembered the place itself – the intricacies of the many small but nevertheless significant temples dotting the vibrant and living Puri temple, the image of the Jagannath Mahaprabhu along with His sibling Balabhadra and Subhadra, the forts, palaces, stupas, beauties in ruins – I didn’t remember much of any of it except that the hallowed grounds of Jagannath Mandir, which draws millions of devouts from all over the world throughout the year, was a massive huge place.

Perhaps, the reason behind such forgetfulness was because I had not captured these moments … even though I was travelling and could be seen in most of the pictures, I wasn’t really present from a place where I could allow life to touch me, surprise me, wash me, nourish me, and transform me. There was this all important pilgrimage to Jagannath Dham and quite a few pictures captured in pixels but hardly one that I could pick and call to be really really mine.

However, one thing that was purely for mine to keep, and cherish, was the joy that sprang in my heart as I kept savoring the beautiful love palpable between the people in focus … the kind that could only be felt beyond the roll of the photo film … the kind that could only be seen within the pixels of the photo album.

As I proceeded to keep the album back in the cabinet, I felt my heart, full in gratitude and my lips beaming in joy.  How time had flown! ... meandering through the realms of the past, connecting to the abyss of memories, watching moments play through the reel of time. 

A lot can happen over a photo album.

Photo Albums can take you to places from your past and then, before you know it, in your own heart as well so that you can dig out a fresh pale of joy from the well of happiness. 


Jagannath Puri Dham, Orrisa, Pinterest

Why not go, and grab one of your old photo albums from the closet today?!!
And oh, please DO come back to tell me about it!
I'd love to hear all the interesting tales you found in your antique!

A Few Fast Facts From Jagannath Puri Temple, Odisha!

  • One of the chaar dhams located in Odisha, a small state in East India, Jagannath Puri temple (Shrimandira) is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (a form of Vishnu) and was built in the year 1078.
  • Apparently, the flag atop the temple is said to flutter in the opposite direction of the breeze but this claim has not yet been fully verified by all.
  • The images of the deities are carved in wood unlike the common tradition followed in other temples where deities are generally worshipped in stone or metal.
  • The engineering structure of the temple is such that the shadow of the main dome does not fall on the ground at any time.
  • The wheel of time, the ultimate weapon of Lord Vishnu, Sudarshana Chakra, installed 2000 years ago on top of the temple, can be seen to always face towards you, irrespective of where you stand.
  • Usually in coastal areas during the day-time, the breeze blows from the sea towards the land and during evening hours it blows from the land towards the sea. But Puri does not follow the status quo – here, this scenario is reversed
  • The one of its kind Jagannath Rath Yatra meaning the festival of the chariots is perhaps the most popular and unique chariot festivals of the world dating back to the puranas. It’s a time when the Lord Himself, in His original Self, steps out of the temple to meet His devotees during the month of Asadha allowing everyone an equal opportunity for a holy view or darshan. Seated alongside are His siblings Subhadra and Balabhadra, ad together the three deities are taken from the Jagannath Temple in the chariots amid interesting rituals and much fanfare to the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for seven days.

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16 comments:

  1. Arti, Just beautiful, Great to read.
    ~da

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  2. Nice post and what timing Arti. Today is Snana Purnima- the day when the 3 deities take a bath. They then fall sick and no more darshan happens until the day of the Rath Yatra.
    Amazing stories and myths surround the temple. Do read about the Nabakalebara- the changing of the idols- that happens once every 13-16 years.

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  3. As always, a pleasure to read your post Arti. Photographs, and albums are special because of the memories they hold in them.

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  4. A lot can indeed happen over a photo. The memories (and joy as you mentioned) it brings back, how it reminds us of how life used to be back then, and the feelings and emotions we relive. When I check out photo albums, I sometimes wonder why we all had to grow up.

    Lovely facts about Jagannath Puri. I'm off to open a couple of photo albums now :)

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  5. I visited Jagannath temple few month back but didn't notice the point regarding the Shadow and Sudarshana Chakra....and not allowing camera inside made me disappoint

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  6. This is such a wonderful read, made us think about our childhood travels and the pictures we had taken! One of our favourite thing to do when we visit our parents is go through the old photo albums and reminisce over the sweet memories... A lot can happen over a photo album, so true :)

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  7. interesting religious post thanks to sharing

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  8. Very well written post 👍 Arti.
    I liked the way you conveyed the importance of old photos and our memories attached to the same.It was a great read 👍 Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  9. Surprisingly just yesterday i was watching some old videos and pictures and the same thought knocked into mind...."how time had flown !!!! "
    Its always a mind soothing feelings to go through your post.

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  10. How wonderful to be transported back in time, Arti :)
    Your Konark Sun Temple pic is great.
    Cameras are not allowed inside the Lord Jagnnath Temple Puri. During Ratha Jatra, he comes out to give everyone darshan!
    There's so much associated with Lord Jagannath! You must visit Odisha soon.

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  11. Beautiful images and informative narration.

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  12. Lovely post filled with love and good memories, Arti. When our children were teens, I made each of them albums covering the span of their lives til then. They tell me those albums are still cherished (our sons turned 50 this spring so they've had the albums a long time). Part of what I love about photos old and new is that they hold our stories so we can look back on them and still feel some of the magic of that time and place. Blessings to you.

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  13. Memories and old photos are our very own personal time machine. I loved reading your memories associated with Puri back then. And the girl in the photo near the Konark Sun Temple's wheel, aww! :-) Arti, thanks for more facts from Puri temple. Pranam to Lord Jagannath!

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  14. A sweet Yatra into the past, eh. :)
    Lovely reading it, Arti.
    I love looking at old pics an re-living old trips, too. :)

    I hope you are doing well, Arti. :)

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  15. Sweetly written .I have been thinking of taking out my old photographs (nondigital) out someday :)

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