Jagannath Temple, Puri

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This girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!
Dola Mandap.jpg
Puri Rath Yatra by Fergusson.jpg

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 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.

Quotes from pre-19th century sources[edit]

  • In this year also Sulaiman Kirrãnî, ruler of Bengal, who gave himself the tide of Hazrati Ãla, and had conquered die city of Katak-u-Banãras, that mine of heathenism, and having made the stronghold of Jagannãth into the home of Islãm, held sway from Kãmru to Orissa, attained the mercy of God.
    • About Sultãn Sulaimãn Karrãnî of Bengal in Puri: Muntakhãbut-Tawãrikh, by Mullã Abdul Qãdir Badãunî, translated into English by George S.A. Ranking, Patna Reprint 1973, Vol. I, pp. 166-67.
  • After Tãj Khãn, his brother Sulaimãn Karrãni took possession of the province of Gaur and proclaimed his independence' He also made up his mind to demolish all the temples and idol-houses of the infidels. As the biggest temple of the Hindûs was in Orissa and known as Jagannãth, he decided to destroy it and set out in that direction with a well-equipped force. Reaching there, he demolished the idol-house and laid it waste. There was an idol in it known as that of Kishan' Sulaimãn ordered that it be broken into pieces and thrown into the drain. In like manner, he took out seven hundred golden idols from idol-temples in the neighbouring areas' and broke them....
    When the armies of Islãm entered that city, the women of the Brahmans, dressed in costly robes, wearing necklaces, covering their heads with colourful scarves and beautifying themselves in every way, took shelter at the back of the temple of Jagannãth. They were told again and again that a Muslim army that had entered the city would capture and take them away, and that those people would desecrate the temple after laying it waste. But the women did not believe it at all. They kept on saying. 'How could it happen? How could the soldiers of the Muslim army cause any injury to the idols?
    When the army of Islãm arrived near the temple, it made prisoners of those Hindû women. That is what surprised them most.
    • About Sultãn Sulaimãn Karrãnî of Bengal in Puri: Tãrîkh-i-Khãn Jahãn Lodî, in Elliot and Dowson,History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. V, p. 305-6
  • The Sultan left Banarasi [Cuttack] with the intention of pursuing the Rai of Jajnagar, who had fled to an island in the river News was then brought that in the jangal were seven elephants, and one old she-elephant, which was very fierce. The Sultan resolved upon endeavouring to capture these elephants before continuing the pursuit of the Rai.... After the hunt was over, the Sultan directed his attention to the Rai of Jajnagar, and entering the palace where he dwelt he found many fine buildings. It is reported that inside the Rais fort, there was a stone idol which the infidels called Jagannath, and to which they paid their devotions. Sultan Firoz, in emulation of Mahmud Subuktigin, having rooted up the idol, carried it away to Delhi where he placed it in an ignominious position.
  • Allah, who is the only true God and has no other emanation, endowed the king of Islam with the strength to destroy this ancient shrine on the eastern sea-coast and to plunge it into the sea, and after its destruction, he ordered the nose of the image of Jagannath to be perforated and disgraced it by casting it down on the ground. They dug out other idols, which were worshipped by the polytheists in the kingdom of Jajnagar, and overthrew them as they did the image of Jagannath, for being laid in front of the mosques along the path of the Sunnis and way of the musallis (the multitude who offer prayers) and stretched them in front of the portals of every mosque, so that the body and sides of the images may be trampled at the time of ascent and descent, entrance and exit, by the shoes on the feet of the Muslims.
    • Puri (Orissa). Sirat-Firuz Shahi, quoted in R.C. Majumdar (ed.), Vol. VI, The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, Majumdar, R.C. (ed.), The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume VI: The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, 1960.


  • It was formerly believed that devotees had offered themselves as sacrifices, as in the case of fanatics supposed to have thrown themselves under the wheels of the Juggernaut (Indian Jagannath) car; but it is now held that the rare cases of such apparent self-sacrifice may have been accidents.
  • This girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!
  • Every Afghãn, who took part in the campaign, obtained as booty one or two gold images. Kãlã Pahãr destroyed the temple of Jagannãth in Puri which contained 700 idols made of gold, the biggest of which weighed 30 mãns.
    • About the exploits of Sultãn Sulaimãn Karrãnî of Bengal in Puri: Cited in The Cult of Jagannath and the Regional Tradition of Orrisa by Anncharotte Eschmann et al, New Delhi, second printing. 1981, p. 322. footnote 7. (The History of the Afghans in India AD 1545-1631 by M.A. Rahim (Karachi, 1961) quoting Makhzan-i-Afghãna)
  • An example will serve to illustrate the spiteful spirit of the Christian missionaries at that time. They spread a canard in India and abroad that many Hindus voluntarily rushed under the wheels of the great chariot during the annual rathayãtrã at Puri, and got themselves crushed to death in order to attain salvation. The great chariot, according to them, was always accompanied by droves of dancing girls who sang lascivious songs and made obscene gestures towards crowds on both sides of the broad street. The “great” William Wilberforce, who ruled the circle of Christian crusaders in Britain and who adamantly advocated the Christianization of India by an unstinted use of state power, demanded immediately that the temple of Jagannath be demolished to stop this “devil-dance” for good. The British Commissioner of Puri at that time saved the situation by writing a long letter to a liberal British M.P. in which he stated that he along with many other British civilians in the district had been a regular witness of the rathayãtrã for twenty years but had never witnessed a single victim under the wheels nor found anything immodest in the songs and symbolic gestures of the dancing girls. The English word “Juggernaut”, which according to the Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary means “any relentless destroying force”, is a living witness to the inventive imagination of the early Christian missionaries.
    • Goel, S. R. (2015). Hindu society under siege. (Ch. 3. The Residue of Christianism)
  • The Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar, built in the eleventh century, has two classes of priests: Brahmins and a class called Badus who are ranked as Sudras and are said to be of tribal origin. Not only are Badus priests of this important temple; they also remain in the most intimate contact with the deity whose personal attendants they are. Only they are allowed to bathe the Lingaraja and adorn him and at festival time (...) only Badus may carry this movable image (...) the deity was originally under a mango tree (...) The Badus are described by the legend as tribals (sabaras) who originally inhabited the place and worshipped the linga under the tree.'
    • Girilal Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p. 24, with reference to Eschmann, Kulke and Tripathi, eds.: Cult of Jagannath, p.97. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The archaic iconography of the cult images on the one hand and their highest Hindu iconology on the other as well as the existence of former tribals (daitas) and Vedic Brahmins amongst its priests are by no means an antithesis, but a splendid regional synthesis of the local and the all-Indian tradition.' (...) 'The uninterrupted tribal-Hindu continuum finds its lasting manifestation in the Jagannath cult of Puri.'
    • A. Eschmann, H. Kulke and G.C. Tripathi, eds.: The Cult of Jagannath, p.xv, quoted in Girilal Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p.23. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • A number of people including William Wilberforce, sought to refute these arguments by painting in black colors the horrible customs of the Hindus such as sati, infanticide, throwing the children into the Ganga, religious suicides, and above all idolatry. Vivid descriptions were given of the massacre of the innocent resulting from the car procession of Lord Jagannath at Puri, and the Baptists put down the number of annual victims at not less than 120,000. When challenged they had to admit that they did not actually count the dead bodies but arrived at the figure by an ingenious calculation.
    • R.C. Majumdar (ed.) The History and Culture of the Indian people, Volume X: British Paramountcy And Indian Renaissance, Part II, 2nd Edition, Bombay, 1981, pp. 152-153.
  • When Firuz Tughluq invaded Orissa in 1359 and learned that the region's most important temple was that of Jagannath located inside the raja's fortress in Puri, he carried off the stone image of the god and installed it in Delhi 'in an ignominious position'.
    • Richard Eaton: "Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states, Essays on Islam and Indian History." And: "Temple desecration in pre-modern India"
  • Muslim power again suffered a setback after the death of Alauddin Khalji in 1316 AD. But it was soon revived by the Tughlaqs. By now most of the famous temples over the length and breadth of the Islamic empire in India had been demolished, except in Orissa and Rajasthan which had retained their independence. By now most of the rich treasuries had been plundered and shared between the Islamic state and its swordsmen. Firuz Shah Tughlaq led an expedition to Orissa in 1360 AD. He destroyed the temple of Jagannath at Puri, and desecrated many other Hindu shrines....
    After the sack of the temples in Orissa, Firuz Shah Tughlaq attacked an island on the sea-coast where 'nearly 100,000 men of Jajnagar had taken refuge with their women, children, kinsmen and relations'. The swordsmen of Islam turned 'the island into a basin of blood by the massacre of the unbelievers'. A worse fate overtook the Hindu women. Sirat-i-Firuz Shahi records: 'Women with babies and pregnant ladies were haltered, manacled, fettered and enchained, and pressed as slaves into service in the house of every soldier.' Still more horrible scenes were enacted by Firuz Shah Tughlaq at Nagarkot (Kangra) where he sacked the shrine of Jvalamukhi. Firishta records that the Sultan 'broke the idols of Jvalamukhi, mixed their fragments with the flesh of cows and hung them in nosebags round the necks of Brahmins. He sent the principal idol as trophy to Medina.'
    • S.R. Goel, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India
  • By any standard, Ranjit Singh was a Hindu ruler: 'He worshipped as much in Hindu temples as he did in gurudwaras. When he was sick and about to die, he gave away cows for charity. What did he do with the diamond Kohi-noor? He did not want to give it to the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar which he built in marble and gold, but to Jagannath Puri as his farewell gift.... Why should he be making all these Hindu demands? Whatever the breakaway that had been achieved from Hinduism, this greatest of our monarchs bridged in 40 years.
    • Khushwant Singh and Kuldip Nayar: Tragedy of Punjab, p.20-21, V.P. Bhatia: 'Secularisation of a Martyrdom', quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743

See also[edit]

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