Shree Jagannatha Temple at Puri


BY: SUN STAFF - 8.6 2018

Shree Jagannatha Temple at Puri: Light on Meghanada Prachira, Kurma Bedha and Koili Baikuntha

"Temple of Juggernaut" 
Steel engraving by Vickers and Barber, 1844

By Dr. Benudhar Patra for Orissa Review.

Jagannath Dham is one of the char dhamas (four sacred most places of the Hindus). The main temple (the sanctuary and the porch) was built by the Ganga king Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva (c.1078-1147 CE) during c. 12th century CE while its other constituent parts were constructed by the subsequent Ganga as well as Suryavamshi Gajapati rulers. The Jagannath temple has four gates in four directions i.e. in the east simha dwara or the lion gate, in the south ashwa dwara or the horse gate, in the west vyaghra dwara or the tiger gate and in the north hasti dwara or the elephant gate which are said to represent dharma (right conduct), jnana (knowledge), vairagya (renunciation) and aishwarya (prosperity) respectively.

In other words, they represent four important concepts of the Hindu philosophy (chaturvargaor four vargas) i.e. dharma (east/ lion gate), artha (north/elephant gate), kama (south/horse gate) and moksha (west/tiger gate). These are the four ways by which one can reach the Lord. The navagraha reliefs are carved on the architraves of all the gates. The temple has two very big concentric stone walls known as Meghanada prachira (outer wall) and Kurma prachira or Kurma bedha (inner enclosure). The above mentioned four gates are located in the mid-points of the outer wall (Meghanada prachira) on four directions. It is interesting to mention that it is the only temple in the entire state which has four gates each in inner and outer walls. The whole temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres.

The outer compound wall of the Jagannatha temple is known as Meghanada prachira or bahar bedha and the inner compound wall is known as Kurma prachira or Kurma bedha. The Meghanada pacheri has a length of 665 ft from east to west and breadth of 640 ft from north to south direction. The height of the Meghanada pacheri varies from 20 ft to 24 ft and thickness of 6 ft. The wall is decorated with serrated battlement designs on its top which not only increased the beauty of the wall but also attracts the attention of the devotees and visitors. The height of the wall is not uniform because of its dissimilar construction. It is made of laterite and sand stone blocks. The loftiness of the walls proves that the temple had served the purpose of a fort. This is corroborated by the fact that at the time of the Muslim invasion the civilians as well as the soldiers took shelter inside the temple compound when certain portions of it were damaged.[1]

It is believed that due to constant Muslim attacks, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, there was the need of a high wall surrounding the temple complex. Harihara Bahinipati[2], however, says that the walls are not only constructed to protect the temple from Muslim invasions, rather it was a normal practice to build the boundary walls surrounding the temple like other temples. He emphasized that the Kurma bedha was constructed first along with the main temple complex before the construction of the Meghanada pacheri though it is recorded that the Meghanada pacheri was constructed first.

The length of Kurma pacheri or Kurma bedha is 420 ft from east to west and 315 ft from north to south direction with serrated battlements at the top. [3] Its height is almost equal to the height of Meghanada pacheri. However, the thickness of the Kurma pacheri is less than the thickness of the Meghanada pacheri and is of 5ft. It is believed that this inner enclosure (Kurma prachira) stood as a second line of defense against any possible invasion by enemy.[4]

One has to climb 22 steps through the lion gate, ten steps of khondalite stone through south gate, eleven steps through the western gate and thirteen steps through the north gate to reach the inner compound (Kurma pacheri) of the temple. The 22 steps through the eastern gate known as the baisipahacha are considered so sacred that pilgrims touch these steps in hand with reverence and allow their children to roll on. The inner wall, besides four gates, which connect the gates on the outer wall, has two other additional gates/ openings - one leading to the ananda bazaar (the temple market area where mahaprasad is being sold) in the north-east corner and the other to the covered passage of the kitchen in the east –south corner.

The space between the Jagannatha temple complex and the inner enclosure goes by the name bhitara bedha or Kurma bedha, owing to its shape resembling a tortoise. Similarly, the space between the Meghanada prachira and Kurma prachira is known as bahara bedha.[5]

Regarding the construction of these two pacheris (walls) different views are there. In fact, there is no historical evidence to prove when these walls were constructed. As per the records, in the 11th century CE, it was during the reign of King Chodaganga Deva that to safeguard and protect Puri from the invaders many kotas (forts), bastions and jagagharas(gymnasiums) were constructed. At that time the Meghanaa pacheri the massive boundary wall which surrounds Shree Jagannatha temple now, was not built. It was then the duty of thejagagharas to protect the temple from enemies. From the Madala Panji and other local traditions, it is known that these were built not earlier than the 15th century CE.[6]

Balaram Das, a Panchsakha age poet, in his Lakshmi Purana wrote that Meghanada pacheri had built around the temple to escape the noise and roaring of Varuna, the sea god or the sea, the father of Goddess Lakshmi.[7] It is a fact that during the calm hours of night when there is the reign of silence and tranquility, interestingly the roaring of the samudra (Bay of Bengal) is not audible inside the temple while even in distance place it is audible. It is believed that it happens or the sound is not audible inside the temple due to the Meghanada pacheri. It is also believed that it will never be heard inside the temple.[8]

It is said that the Meghanada pacheri was constructed during the reign of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva (1435-1460) while the kurma pacheri (inner compound wall) was constructed during the reign of Purushottama Deva, the son and successor of Kapilendra Deva (1467-1497). According to R.C.Mishra[9] the outer wall (Meghanada prachira) was constructed in c. 1448 by Kapilendra Deva and after 22 years of its construction the inner wall (Kurma prachira) was constructed in 1470 by Gajapati Purushottama Deva.

Koili Baikuntha or Kaibalya Baikuntha (the Heaven of Vishnu) constitutes an important part of the Jagannatha temple. It is situated in the north-western corner of the temple between the Kurma prachira and the Meghanada prachira. It is considered to be the most ancient place of Nilachala or Niladri i.e. Puri. It is believed that here the Pandavas set fire to the dead body of Lord Krishna after his death by Jara Sabara. Legend says that it was at this place that Neelamadhava (believed to be the ancient form of Lord Jagannath) was worshipped by a Sabara (tribal) king named Vishwavasu, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.

Regarding its nomenclature different views are there. Some interpreted the word koili as jiba or jibatma and further believed that jibatma used to meet paramatma at Baikuntha, the place of Lord Vishnu. The word koili may be interpreted as kaibalya. In south India, koili or kovil stands for the temple. According to a legend Krishna once appeared here before Radha in the shape of a koili (koel) or cuckoo.

At present, however, it is known as the burial ground for the Trinity. During the nabakalebara ceremony (new body ceremony) the old images of Balabhadra, Subhadra, Jagannath and Sudarshan are buried here. It is also the place where the new images of the deities are constructed/ carved. The nabakalebara rituals are also performed in this place. The ground where the images are buried is a place which is 9 feet deep and covered by malati tree (a creeper flower which covered the entire place). Besides, there is also a big flower garden in the campus of Koili Baikuntha for meeting the requirement of flowers and leaves of the temple. It is believed that Baikuntheswar Mahadeva, whose shrine is located just at the entrance to Koili or Kabalya Baikuntha is in charge of guarding this place.[10]

To sum up, we can say that the Meghanada pacheri, Kurma bedha and the Koili Baikuntha, as integral parts of the Jagannatha Temple have played a significant role in its day to day rituals and ceremonies. Many of the rituals of the Jagannatha temple like the nabakalebaraceremony are incomplete without Koili Baikuntha. The Meghanada pacheri through the ages is providing protection to the temple from invaders, intruders and from the public nuisance. The Kurma pacheri is not only providing extra security to the inner complex but also make the temple unique and attractive.



1. N.Senapati (ed.), Orissa District Gazetteers: Puri, Cuttack: Government Press, 1977, p.780: R.C.Pradhan (ed.), Puri: The Land of Lord Jagannath, Bhubaneswar, 2015, p.23; R.C.Mishra, Purusottama Ksetra, Puri, 2005, p.90.

2. Harihara Bahinipati, Sri Jagannath Mahatmya (in Odia), Cuttack: Students Store, 2001, pp.22-23.

3. Narayan Mishra, Annals and Antiquities of the Temple of Jagannatha, New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2007, p.23.

4. Suryanarayana Das, Lord Jagannath Through the Ages, New Delhi: Sanbun Publishers, 2010, p.53; S.K.Patnaik, Puri: The Divine Destination, Puri: Trac Publications, 2008, p.65.

5. Harihara Bahinipati, op.cit, 2001, p.22.

6. N. Senapati, op.cit, p.780.

7. Balaram Das, Manabasa Lakshmi Purana (Odia), Cuttack, Binapani Pustak Bhandar, n.d, p.13.

8. Harihara Bahinipati, op.cit, p.24.

9. R.C.Mishra, op.cit, p.90.

10. S.K.Mohapatra, Lord Shree Jagannath Temple Manual, New Delhi: Satyam Law International, 2016, p.38.