Puri, the holiest place in Orissa and one of the biggest pilgrimage centers in India which is situated on the eastern coast and just 60 km away from the state capital Bhubaneswar. It is one of the four duly worshiped holy dhams of Hinduism in India – Puri, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Badrinath. It is also known as the hallowed seat of Lord Jagannath. Among four celebrated religious centers of India, Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath needs no introduction. It is also known as one of the famous beach on the eastern coastline of peninsular India.
A place, known by many names over the centuries – Nilgiri, Niladri, Nilachal, Purushottam, Sankhakshetra, Srikshetra, Jagannath Dham, Jagannath Puri.
The famous Rath Yatra or the Car Festival is held every year as a part of the festival of the great Jagannath temple; it draws good number of pilgrims from all over the world. The yatra forms an integral part of the India’s images. According to tradition, Puri was once a thickly wooded hill inhabited by the Sabaras (Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian tribes of the Austric linguistic family).
The celebrated Temple of Lord Jagannath now existent at Puri was constructed by Raja Ananta Varman Chodaganga Dev in 12th century A.D. The wooden images of Jagannath Balabhadra and Subhadra were installed in that temple. The management of the temple continued under the Hindu rulers till 1558, when the State of Orissa was conquered by the Afghan Nawab of Bengal and the temple was attacked by the Afgan General ‘Kalapahad’. Then, an independent Khurda kingdom was established by Ramachandra Deb, who assumed the management of the temple. He consecrated the temple and reinstalled the deities. Raja Mansingh, a General of the Mughal King Akbar, defeated the Afghans and annexed Orissa in to the Mughal dominion. It remained under the Mughals till 1751 A.D. Till 1760, the temple continued under the Khurda Raja, who was paying tribute to Mughals and Marhattas. Marhattas took up direct management of the temple till 1803.