Since ancient times Puri has held sway as the most powerful seat of spiritual sanctity. The temples that proliferate are reminiscent of Bali where I did a similar temple journey. A tout at Jagannath temple was telling me the number of annual religious festivities that take place here in Puri is unrelenting, practically every month!
The Jagannath temple holds 13-14 annual festivities of which the Rath Yatra is the most important of festivals. Millions of people congregate to witness the route taken and for the devout, it’s not to be missed. Puri has always stood its ground against several Muslim attacks since the 4th cent AD to plunder its wealth which was well known, today this temple town of innumerable Hindu Monasteries is a great source of revenue to the State exchequer.
The temple rounds in Puri left me searching for answers on a higher plain! What is it that makes people go in search of God, can one pray without asking for favours! Does a pilgrim Centre wake up that inert apathy to piety? The Russian lady in Puri alleged I lack Krishna consciousness! The temples that I visited next were undeniably overwhelming, it aroused my curiosity and the peace that we all are constantly searching for.
The next big temple is very significant, as this was the temporary abode of Lord Jagannath’s Aunt Subadhra Devi dotingly called Maussi Maa. (Grand road not too far from Jagannath temple). According to legends, when Goddess Lakshmi Devi returned to her father’s abode, Lord Jagannath had to leave his residence with Balabhadra to fend for himself.
In his absence, his Aunt (Maussi Maa) held fort and even prevented a catastrophic storm by swallowing water of the sea thus saving the dwelling of Lord Jagannath! To this day most locals claim that Puri has never been inundated and suffered from floods. The famous Rath Yatra stops here on its return journey and offerings of Podha Pitha (baked rice cake) to the presiding deity is conducted in a grand way befitting the Maussi (Aunty) of the Lord.
Beware of several stops by the priests at this temple, as was the case with other temples in Puri. The beauty and architecture of Maussi Maa temple are evolved and majestic. Many concur that this temple is the prototype of the Jagannath temple but on a much smaller scale. The grand entrance with its geometric levelled ceilings has many smaller temples dedicated to the presiding deity, Lakshmi, Ganesh within the complex. Priests bless the devotees for a sum amount and it is advisable not to accept trinkets and such from them as it leads to unpleasant bargaining.
The main temple with fluted towers has the exemplary temple structure of Jagannath and even houses the 3 idols of the same size (again a prototype). Incidentally, apart from the 9 day Rath Yatra festivity, Maussi Maa remains open more as a temple visit.
(to be concluded)-6