Let’s all admit this. Even though Physics is an important aspect of everyday life and nothing can exist without it; we all hate it. But this temple in Puri, India simply refuses to follow any of the laws set forth by it. The Puri Jagannath Temple is well known around the world for Rath Yatra (Read more about it here). During Rath Yatra, the main deities of the temple embark on a massive journey to visit their aunt’s place in Gundicha Temple. During the 14th century, a British dude from the Order of Friar Minor carried the story of Rath Yatra all the way to Europe. He exaggerated the story to describe the event as having ginormous chariots carrying idols of Gods and Goddesses crushing people on its path. The British anglicized the word to ‘Juggernaut’ and added it to the English Lexicon. Today, the word means an unstoppable and overwhelming force which obliterates everything in its wake.
This temple is nothing like any other Hindu temple you might have visited or read about. It is brimming with mysteries. I will discuss some of it here.
NO FLY ZONE:
If you look up at the temple from anywhere on the ground, you will notice something strange. Puri is full of winged creatures like crows, sparrows, pigeons etc., but not a single one flies over the temple. At any given time, not a single bird flies over or around the temple. As if some magical force-field is keeping the birds out. Or maybe the gods and goddesses don’t want their homes covered in bird poop. We will never know. But go ahead, Google the temple’s name and check out the images. There’s not a single picture with birds (if there is, then it’s probably photo-shopped for that perfect gram photo. Don’t come here whining).
WIND DEFYING POWER
The Shikhara (top) of the temple has colorful flags hoisted from it. You can see beautiful yellow and red flags flapping in the wind. Interesting fact here. Every day for the past 1800 years, a priest scales the entire height of the temple and changes the flags. The total distance he covers is about the height of a 45 level building. And he does so, barefoot and without any safety equipment including gloves.
Now returning to our mystery. The flags on top of the Shikhara flap in the opposite direction of the wind. Why you ask? Well, obviously no one knows.
If you happen to visit this incredible temple, do wait till the evening rolls in. When the sun is on its return path in the horizon and the darkness creeps in, the world of shadows awakens. But there’s just one thing on the planet which is exempted from it. The main structure of the temple does not cast a shadow. Ever.
The temple’s kitchen is also not your average cooking spot. It is one of the largest kitchens in the world with 250 earthen ovens spread over 32 rooms. Hundreds of cooks and volunteers serve in the kitchen making the multiple dishes that is offered as the mahaprasad. From rice, lentils, curries and more, the kitchen serves some of the best vegetarian meals out there. But the mysteries fact is that the kitchen prepares tons of food each day, but there has never been a shortage or surplus of food ever! The temple prepares the same quantity of food each day no matter the number of visitors. If there are 100 people or 100,000 the food is just enough. Nothing ever goes to waste.
Another mystery is the way the food is cooked in the kitchen. The mahaprasad is prepared in earthen pots kept over open wood-fire flames. Seven pots are filled with the ingredients and stacked one over the other. One would think that the pot directly in contact with the flame cooks first. But nope! The one on the very top does.
If you were even remotely awake for one minute during your geography class in high school (honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you were snoring away), you would remember your teacher babbling about land and sea breeze. Sea breeze is when the sea gets heated up during the day and the hot wind over it blows towards the land. Land breeze is when the hot wind over the land (which was heating up all through the day) flows towards the now cool sea. Well, this phenomenon is reversed on the shores of Puri. If you decide to stay over at night, do check out the Puri beach. It gets breezy.
The temple has four entrances. One facing each of the four-cardinal direction. But the main entrance is the one facing eastwards called the “Singhadwara” (in the local Odia language ‘Singha’ means lion and ‘Dwara’ meaning door) or lion-gate. It is believed that during ancient times, when there were no automobiles and people still walked to places, you could hear the waves crashing from the nearby Puri beach when you stood on the threshold of the lion gate. But the moment you step one foot inside the threshold, the crashing of the waves stops as if you just stepped into a soundproof room.
It is believed that this is still true today. But who can listen to the crashing of the waves over the annoying sounds of cars honking, and people screaming?
There is a metal wheel on top of the Jagannath Temple’s Shikhara called ‘Nila Chakra’ (in Odia, ‘Nila’ means blue and ‘Chakra’ means wheel) or the blue wheel. It made from the combination of eight metal alloys fused together. The wheel is about 36 feet in diameter. The mysterious thing about the wheel is that it seems to stare at you no matter which part of the city you’re at. Even if you stand on one side of the temple and look up, the wheel will be facing you!
The Puri Jagannath Temple is an enigma. Do you think there is some supernatural forces at play who seems to defy any logic and reasoning? We might never know. But we sure can visit this exciting place and witness the unfolding on so many mysteries at once.