The great temple of Sri Jagannath at Puri stands as a brilliant monument in the artistic vigor and prosperity of Odisha during the reign of Chodaganga. During his life time Chodaganga caused many temples dedicated to Vishnu to be built, such as temple at Mukhalingam, Srikakulam and Simachalam.
But the greatest religious, cultural and architectural achievement of Chodaganga is the temple of Sri Jagannatha in Puri. This mighty monument great not because of its huge structure alone which have stood the ravages of time and men for centuries mocking at the futile attempts of man and nature to destroy it but because of its having being the centre for culture, civilization and religion of Odisha for all these centuries. Sri Jagannatha occupies a unique position in the cultural and religious life of Oriya people.
According to traditions, the original temple of Sri Jagannatha having been old and dilapidated, it was built again by Yajati Keshari in the ninth century. This new temple too grew old in the course of three centuries and this too needed re-construction and finally the present huge temple was built under the patronage of Chodaganga Deva.
As far as we know from various historical sources Chodaganga Deva began the construction of the temple of Sri Jagannath about or after the year 1135 AD and the work was completed under the King Ananga Bhima Deva towards the end of the 12th century.
The institute of Sri Jagannath was there from the immemorial past and there was always a temple for the deity long before Chodaganga Deva began the construction of the existing one.
The faith in Sri Jagannath had been established throughout the length and breadth of this sub-continent of India long before the rise of Ganga Dynasty in Odisha. In the 9th century it attracted Sri Sankaracharya, one of the greatest Hindu philosophers and teachers to Puri.
The temple of Sri Jagannath known as white pagoda, the citadel of supremely catholic and cosmopolitan cult stands as an epitome of almost all religions of India. Many schools of philosophy have gone to its making and it occupies a unique position among the different religions of India.
This temple enshrines the three images – Sri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, the sacred trinity of Hindu religion. The spirit of the great temple expresses itself in the prevailing religions, faiths and beliefs, spiritual conceptions and emotions.
To understand and appreciate it properly one must have a thorough understanding of the different phases of religious evolution. It exhibits not only grace, refinement and beauty but technical skill and patient industry of a very high order and sublime height that dominated the mind of the then Odishas.
It shows as the natural ideal, the subordination of ideas of physical beauties and material comfort to ethical conceptions and spiritual bliss. The temple bears the stamp of spiritual ideas and ideals in all its sublimity, purity and serenity.
To understand and appreciate the elegant sculptures and graceful profile of the great temple which bears testimony to the architectural and artistic skills, the material well-being and spiritual outlook of the age in which it was built one has to reevaluate the values as have been assessed by Manmohan Ganguli who says “The Greeks never exercised any influence over Odishan architecture.
In Odisha Indo-Aryan style prevails. The Dravidian style crept into Dharwar but Odisha is still with native purity and unfettered by conventional formulae of other styles. Odisha towers above all in solitary grandeur. The sense of affecting permanency was so deep rooted in the minds of Oriyas as to make them ignore the arch altogether as an essential principle of construction.
The Odishan architects were superior to their Greek or Roman brothers in their different types of ornaments and the Greek ornament was neither constructive or symbolical or representative, but it was purely decorative one.
Also See – Mystery behind the image of Lord Jagannath
Odishan artists did not think it worth their while to copy from the life, art was to them a means of removing veil surrounding nature or apparent reality”, with this in the background one has to look to the temple of Sri Jagannatha which stands on elevated ground being surrounded by two enclosure walls.
It has four gates on each of the four sides. The main gate facing the east is flanked by a lion on either side and is called the Lion’s gate. In front of this gate stands a superb 10 meters high monolithic pillar called Aruna Stambha which formerly stood before the Sun Temple of Konark.
Inside the enclosure are innumerable shrines ranging from niches in the walls to large temples dedicated to different deities of the Hindu Pantheon. The serene majesty of the Temple of Sri Jagannatha is the presiding deity who is silently eloquent of the epigrammatic truth that lies in Unity in Diversity.
It consists of four interconnected chambers. From east to west there are the halls of offerings, the dance hall, the assembly hall and the sanctum sanctorum which is surrounded by conical tower.
The tower is 68 meters (214 ft, 8 inches) high above the road level. On a large stone pedestal in the sanctum stand the wooden images of Sri Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.