The Gundicha temple stands beautiful and amazing in the temple town of Puri in Odisha. The temple stands in the center of a beautiful garden and thus is popularly known as the ‘Garden House of Jagannath’. It is significant for being the destination of the most grand and wonderful festival celebrated in India i.e. the ‘Rath Yatra’. According to legend Lord Jagannath comes to rest at his aunt’s place i.e. the Gundicha Temple while on the Yatra. He stays there for seven days and he is also served with his favourite sweet.
More about the Gundicha Temple
Gundicha temple is vacant through the major part of the year except the Rath Yatra. During the ‘Rath Yatra’ or the ‘Festival of Chariots’ the temple is adorned with the images of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra for a span of seven days. The functional temple board in here is the Shri Jagannath Temple Administration. It looks after the whereabouts of the temple especially during the festival of Rath Yatra. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show here and thousands of devotees take part in this very festival.
The Gundicha Temple is surrounded by huge compound walls on all sides. The festival of Rath Yatra starts from the Puri Jagannath Temple. The deities halt at the Gundicha Temple for seven days and then they go back to the Jagannath Temple. The path between the Jagannath Temple and the Gundicha Temple is known as the Bada Danda or the Grand Avenue. These two temples are at the two ends of this very path. Gundicha Temple is at a distance of 3km from the main temple of Jagannath known as the Shrimandira. Unlike Jagannath temple which houses a number of shrines in its complex, the Gundicha Temple is the sole temple in its temple complex.
Gundicha Temple Architecture
Like most of the temples in Odisha, the Gundicha Temple is also built in the Duela style. This is a typical architectural style seen in the Kalinga style of architecture. The duela style of architecture comprises of four basic components namely vimana, jagamohana, nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa.
The vimana is a structure over the inner sanctum. In the Kalinga style of architecture a vimana is the tallest structure of the temple complex.
The jagamohana is basically an assembly hall. The structure is decorated and showcases the sculptures of gods and goddesses. It is decorated with ornaments. The best example of the depiction of a jagamohana can be seen in the Sun Temple at Konark. Due to destruction and calamities only the jagamohana of the temple is visible which appears to be the main building of the temple.
The natamandapa as the named suggests is designated for the cultural practices taking place in a temple or one can say that it is more of a festival hall. Dance and music related to deities used to be performed here. It is a part of the basic structure of the temple. It is a porch like structure which leads to the main sanctum of the temple. The bhogamandapa is the hall of offerings.
The temple is made using light-grey sandstone. The temple houses deities only during the Rath Yatra. The deities are placed in a sanctum made of chlorite called Ratnavedi. The deities’ enter the temple during the festival from the western gate which is the main gate of the temple. They depart from the eastern gate known as the Nakachana gate. The temple is a beautiful architectural work. It is one of the major tourist destinations in Odisha. The temple isn’t extravagant or showy but is modest and petite and yet doesn’t fail to entrap the devotees in its divine power.
Various Legends associated with the Gundicha Temple
There are several legends associated with the temple of Gundicha. One such legend tells that Gundicha, the wife of Indradyumna had insisted on building the temple after peeping at the divine image of Lord Jagannath. She was so impressed by the diving of the lord that she made the king make this temple and started the rath yatra.
Another legend suggests that while Lord Jagannath’s stay at Gundicha temple he leaves behind his consort i.e. goddess Laxmi. When on the other hand he is taken care of by his gopis during his stay at Gundicha.
Another popular legend suggests that the temple is dedicated to the local Goddess Gundicha. She is worshipped to cure chicken-pox. Gundicha is considered as Krishna’s aunt whom he visits with his siblings during the annual festival of chariots. This is the most popular legend of them all. Lord is said to halt here for a span of 7 days and rest and snack at his aunt’s place along with his siblings. The temple has a rich cultural and traditional background.
Gundicha Temple Rituals
The temple is thoroughly and religiously cleaned one day prior to the Rath Yatra. The three deities cover a route of 3km via the Grand Avenue to reach the temple of Gundicha. They travel in three different chariots. They stay in their respective chariots on the first day and enter the temple on the second day. There they are housed in their respective places. The deities here are worshipped by Brahmin temple servants unlike the traditional non-brahmin temple servants in the Jagannath temple of Puri. The deities are dressed in beautiful clothes on every day of their stay in here and are smeared with sandalwood paste two times in a day.
A Tourist’s Guide to Gundicha Temple
The temple is situated in the heart of Puri. It is just 1km away from Puri Railway Station. The nearest airport is in the capital city of Odisha i.e. Bhubaneswar. The temple is open on all days of the week from 6am to 3pm and from 4pm to 10pm. One can find a range of hotels in Puri. Puri is a famous tourist spot. It is known for its temples, beaches, lakes and lagoons. So, finding a good place to live and amazing food isn’t a very big deal. The temple is well connected to the nearby tourist spots.
The Gundicha temple is crowded during the festival of Rath Yatra. Entry is ticketed here.
The temple is a one of the most famous tourist destinations in Puri. It has a rich historical, cultural and traditional background. It is a hotspot of divinity and spirituality.