Shankha-kshetra: The Third Fold


Jan 24, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A seventeen-part series on Sri Jagannath Puri Dham.

In describing Jagannath Puri Dham as Shankha-kshetra, a conch-like area comprised of 115 transcendental tirthas, teerthams and shrines, we have begun to describe the seven concentric folds within which all these holy spots are contained. The first, innermost fold is home to the Jagannath Deities Themselves, in the sanctum of Their 12th century shrine. The second fold, a hexagonal shape adjacent to the inner fold, is home to four Devis and contains two tirthas, two sacred trees, and two tanks.

The third fold of Shankha-kshetra comprises the central part of its lotus-like structure, which has eight petals, each petal being the abode of Lord Shiva and a Devi.

The eight forms of Shiva residing here are Agneswar, Bateswar, Khetrapaleswar, Chakreswar, Baikuntheswar, Pataleswar, Isaneswar, and Lokeswar. The eight goddesses are Dwarabasini, Mahabajreswari, Swanabhairabi, Bhadrakali, Bhubaneswari, Mahakaliaghorea, Sitala, and Jagnyeswari.

All of the Deities in the second and third folds are engaged in guarding and serving the Supreme Lord at the center of the temple complex.

Singhadwara Gate, Lions and Aruna Stamba

The primary entrance into the third fold is through the Lion's Gate, in the East, known as Singhadwara. On either side of the gate are two massive lions, in a crouching position and wearing crowns. Next to Lord Jagannatha and the Puri Temple itself, the lion sentinals are perhaps the most famous symbols of Puri Dham.

When entering through the Lion's Gate, one first passes by the Aruna Stamba, also known as the Sun Pillar. This beautiful 13th c. pillar used to stand before the Sun Temple at Konark, until it was moved here to Jagannath Puri by the Marathas. Made of chlorite, Aruna Stamba has sixteen sides and is 25 feet tall. It stands upon a beautifully carved pedestal, and at the top is a platform with an image of Aruna, the charioteer of Lord Surya, the Sun God. Aruna is kneeling down, offering obeisances.

Base of Aruna Stamba

After passing Aruna Stamba, pilgrims enter the Fumuta, where Lord Jagannath resides as Patitapavana, on the north side. Here, the Lord is visible to all devotees, including those who are not permitted to enter the inner temple premises. A small murti of Garuda sits before Patitapavana. Residing in carved niches in the wall are Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, Lord Nrsimhadeva, and Hanuman.

Next one enters an inner enclosure, which is reached by navigating a flight of 22 steps known as Baisipahacha. The steps vary in size, and are carved of feldspar and khondolite. Installed along the southern side of the Baisipahacha are Deities of Lord Ramacandra, Lord Nrsimha, Kasivisvanath (Shiva), and Ganesh.

To the left is Kasivisvanath Temple, which is the equivalent of Kasi itself. The Chaitanya Narsimha temple is also here, and a small Ramacandra temple, along with Ganesh.

Photographs of Jagannath Puri taken by Poorno Chander Mukherji, c. 1890, Archaeological Survey of India Collection


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