A few years ago, the Sun ran a brief series on the worship of Lord Nrsimha in Puri, taken from the extensive writings of Professor Purna C. Mohapatra. Excerpts from his study follows, describing in detail the many temples, shrines and Deities of Lord Nrsimhadeva that are currently present at Jagannatha Puri:
Narasimha Temple (Jagannath Temple Precinct): It is a pancharatha rekha deula at a height is about 55ft. The presiding Deity is the Vidarana Narasimha in ugra pose. The image is of 1 ft. high, which is not matching size to the height of the temple (in accordance with the Silpasastras).
Yagna Narasimha Temple: It is near Gundicha temple. Its height is about 60 ft. The presiding Deity is Laxmi-Narasimha. An elevated place has been levelled for the erection of the main temple and its two front apartments. The area around the temple complex has been protected by high masonry walls with provision of a series of steps for entry into the premises on the eastern side.
The main temple built in pancharatha rekha order is fronted by a pyramidal jagamohan and a rectangular natamandap. All the structures within the premises are thickly plastered in lime mortar, painted in matching colours. The bada of the main temple as well as the jagamohan indicate five-fold horizontal divisions and five vertical paga projections. The gandi of the main shrine is bereft of figure sculptures and decorative designs except, however, the projecting lions of the central rahapaga of all directions. The mastaka consists of the usual beki, amalakasila, khapuri, kalasa, and nilachakra.
The central niche of the outer walls contain figures of Varaha-Visnu, Trivikrama, of later workmanship, and a Visnu image of early Medieval period as parsvadevatas. The sanctum preserves a remarkable image of Laxmi- Narasimha on a high masonry pedestal. The artistic finish and iconographic peculiarity of the image take us back to the time of the Ganga period. The Deity was very likely installed at Puri by Chodagangadeva, who is said to have introduced the system of Narasimha worship in Orissa.
A similar Laxmi-Narasimha image is still noticed in the premises of Gangamandira of Cuttack town. The image in question is seated in Yogasana with both legs crossed and tied near the knee. Laxmi is found seated on His left lap. Of His four hands, the two lower ones are stretched over the knees and the two upper ones display conch and disc, the most favourite weapons of Visnu.
The jambs of the doorways leading to the sanctum are embellished with floral motifs, creepers, nagabandhas and scroll works. Figures of Jaya and Vijaya, the two legendary door-keepers of a Visnu temple are seen at the base of the jambs. The architrave over the door entrance is relieved with the figures of nine planets. A figure of Gajalaxmi is carved at the centre of the door lintel. The outer walls of the jagamohan are set with several sculptures of much later workmanship. A large panel on the left wall of the jagamohana represents three mounted elephants on the march. The window grills of the jagamohana depict ladies playing on various musical instruments, salabhanjikas, alasakanyas, and gajasimha motifs, also of much later workmanship.
Chakra Narasimha Temple: It is at Chakratirtha road. It is a Pidha Deula, at a height of about 55 ft. In the sanctum of the temple there are three Narasimha images. Among these three Deities, the middle one is bigger than the other two and is seated inside the Chakra. It is known as the Chakra Narasimha. Of the others, the one on the left is Purusottom-Narasimha, and on the right is Ananta-Narasimha.
Pandu Narasimha Temple: It is in Pandu Asrama near Jameswar Temple, Gaudabada Sahi. The presiding Deity is the eight-armed Vidarana Narasimha, in Ugra pose.
Laxmi-Narasimha Temple: It is at Mangalaghat road near Bali school. It is a Pancharatha rekha deula. Its height is about 25 ft. It has jagamohan.
Narasimha Temples (four temples inside Jagannath temple: (A) Baisi Pahacha; (B) Suka; (C) Simachala; and (D) Uttar Dwara.
Singada Narasimha Temple (near Lokanath Temple): The presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi-Narasimha, sitting on Utkatasan. A small image of Goddess Laxmi is sitting on the yoga-pata at the left thigh of the deity. She is offering betel in her right hand, looking to the Lord. She has a lotus in her left-hand. Narasimha in his uplifted back hands hold sankha and chakra, and his front two hands rest on his knee. The Deity is crowned by Kiritamukuta and he has three glittering eyes.
The Deity is adorned with different types of ornaments. He wears the Anantasarpa as sacred thread. Seven hoods of the snake cover as canopy over His head, amidst which the face of Balabhadra is seen with plough. Two female attendants like Sridevi and Bhudevi are found with folded hands on either sides of the Deity. A gajatorana supported by two pilasters is found just by the side of the Deity. At the right side base of the pillar there is a standing royal figure with folded hands. Perhaps it is the figure of legendary King Indradyumna. Just at the backside of Prahlad, Lord Siva is found in aradhana pose, and the image of Brahma with folded hands is seen at the left side. The presiding Deity is flanked by two Vidyadharas with garlands, perhaps because the image is very near to the pond full of a waterfruit named Singada.
Narasimha Temple: It is at Gadanti Chowk by the side of Meghanada Pachery of Srimandir. There is a miniature temple and the presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi-Narasimha.
Kanchisasana Narasimha Temple: Kanchisasana is a Brahmin sasana village under Chalisbatia Gram Panchayat in the Sadar Block of Puri. This village is renowned for Narasimha worship. Most of the Brahmins are Atharvavedi and Narasimha is their tutelary Deity. The village has one Narasimha temple on the eastern side of the village temple. The presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi-Narasimha. The temple is of rekha order and the height of the temple is 25 feet.
Jagannathpur Laxmi-Narasimha Temple: Jagannathpur is a Brahmin sasana village under Chalisbatia Gram Panchayat in the Sadar Block of Puri. It is 2 km from Kanchi sasana. The temple is of pidha order and is about 35 ft height. The presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi Narasimha made of granite stone, exclusively carved and of fine elegance in craftsmanship, being about 6 ft. in height.
Rendha Narasimha Temple: It is on Puri-Brahmagiri Road at a distance of 10 km from Puri, at Rendha Chowk. The presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi- Narasimha, and the Lord is highly revered.
Kusunikhuntia Jaga Narasimha: It is in the Jaga in Harachandi Sahi. It is a The Lord is highly revered. pidha deula of about 25 ft. height. The presiding Deity is four-armed Saumya Narasimha. The peculiar feature is the absence of any Laxmi figure. The Deity is crowned with seven-hooded Adisesha, which forms a canopy over His head.
Jadamath Narasimha: This temple is in a private Math in Pathuria Sahi. It is a pidha deula of about 23 ft. height. The presiding Deity is four-armed Laxmi- Narasimha.
Radhamadhav Narasimha Temple: It is located at Hatisal Chowk in Dukhishyama Chhata Math. The temple is 20 ft. height. The presiding Deity is four-armed Vidarana Laxmi-Narasimha.
Hinjalajaga Narasimha Temple: The temple is in the premises of the Jaga in Bali Sahi.
Barabatijaga Narasimha Temple: The temple is in the premises of the Jaga in Harachandi Sahi. The presiding Deity is four-armed Vidarana Laxmi-Narasimha.
Narasimha images on the temple walls, inside the temples on the premises of Jagannath Temple: Narasimha images carved into the walls are worshipped at some 50 places like Mukti Mandap, Bhogamandap, Natamandir, Narasimha and Nisa-Narasimha, Laxmi, Dadhibamana, Bhubaneswari and Madanamohan, Nandagopal temples, Ramamandira at Baisapahacha, Lion's Gate near Patitapaban.
Narasimha images in the temple as Parswadevata: These images are generally four-armed and in vidarana posture on the back raha niche of the temple: (a) Gopinath temple at Keponjharkothi on Grand Road; (b) Radha Krishna temple at Gopinathpur near Atharnala; (c) Jagannath temple, Manikarnika Sahi; (d) Radha Krishna temple, Manikarnika Sahi; and (e) Patitapaban temple at Patitapaban Lane, Markandeswar Sahi.
Narasimha images in the temple as Parswadevata in Sakti temples: (a) a four-armed 1ft. image with back hands uplifted with sankha and chakra and front hands in dhyana and abhaya mudra in Dakshinakali temple, Kalikadevi Sahi; and (b) a 4 ft. high, three-eyed, with ramanandi chita, back hands uplifted with sankha and charka and front thands on His knee, sitting on Garuda in the Ramachandi Temple, Ramachandi Sahi are the examples. These seem to be recent installations.
Narasimha images engraved in the walls of the Saiva temples: These types of images are found in the temples of Jameswar, Lokanath and Kapalamochana. (a) The image (sculpture) is known as Panchamukhi Mahavir, having five faces, with Varaha in north, Narasimha in south, Siva or Hanuman in east, Garuda in west and Hayagriva on top, near Indradyumna Tank. The Deity has ten hands, holding sankha, trident, khatwanga, pasa, ankusa, hillock, dhuma, musthi, mace and snake. He is standing over the demon. It is stated in the Kapila Samhita that one will earn more punya if he/she makes a darsana of Sri Nilakantheswar, Yajna Narasimha and Panchamukhi Mahavir after taking sacred bath in Indradyumna Tank. (It is related to Adapa Mandap Yatra of Jagannath). (b) Garuda Tosana: It is also a unique sculpture in the niche of Bhogamandap. It is a two-armed Deity standing in dwibhanga pose over the lotus pedestal. There is a Garuda image in worshipping pose on the right side of the Deity. In Hs right hand, the Deity is offering a laddu to Garuda, while his left hand is in katyavalambita posture. The legend associates it with the great Sankar.
Laxmi images: In almost all Laxmi-Narasimha sculptures of Puri, the size of Laxmi is very small and two-armed. The peculiarity noticed here is that Laxmi touches the mouth of Narasimha in her right hand in the process of offering betel. Another variation is found with the image at Algum, where Laxmi is four-armed.
Lord Narasimha is worshipped in almost all the Maths of Puri. The Maths at Puri have developed over the centuries into unique institutions, which have exercised profound influence on the religious and cultural life of the locals, as well as people coming to Puri. Adisankar is credited as being the pioneer of Math building. When he established Gobardhana/Bhavavardhana Math at Puri in the early 9th century A.D., it is said that Puri had 752 Maths. But the number is far below 100 at present.
The head of the Math is the Mahanta. He lives in these maths with sadhusanyasis, sisyas of the institution and some inmate students. These Maths belong to various Sampradayas and socio-religious groups. In these Maths, various Deities are worshipped, as per the sect they represent. The main Deity or subsidiaries are worshipped in the Maths. By this process, all Maths of different monastic order have promoted Narasimha worship. Ramanuja followed Adisankar in establishing Maths in considerable number, which are situated at every strategic place by his two categories of sisya order, the Bagel and Dingal. they facilitated Narasimha worship like their guru. These sisyas are of sanyasis and grihastas (Narasimhachari and Venkatachari).
Madhavacharya, another saint of the 13th century, had established one Narasimha temple at Soda. Some Maths of Madhavacharya order also worship Lord Narasimha. Narahari Tirtha had established one Narasimha temple at Srikakulam. Ramayati Vaisnavas at Puri are worshipping Narasimha along with Rama and Sita.
Sri Chaitanya advised his disciples to have Danda Pranama (salutation by laying on the ground) to Lord Narasimha before taking darshan of Sri Jagannath. Sri Chaitanya Himself worshipped Lord Narasimha at third step of baisapahach, before going to have the darshan of Sri Jagannath. So in some Gaudiya Maths, Narasimha is worshipped.
There is a legend that Sri Gauranga saved Thakur Haridas from the attack of an enemy, assuming the Form of Narasimha. There is a separate temple for Narasimha in the Sidhabakula Math of Thakur Haridas. Similarly, some Maths of Ramananda order also have Narasimha worship. Atibadi Jagannath Das, author of the Oriya Bhagabat, started his writing with a salutation to Narasimha, so the Math of Atibadi Jagannath Das order has Narasimha worship. The palm leaf manuscript of Oriya Bhagabat is worshipped with great reverence as the representative of Jagannath or Narasimha. Therefore with the spread of Bhagabata and Bhagabata Tungi in Orissa, Narasimha became more popular as a Deity. In all these Maths, Narasimha is worshipped either in iconic form or aniconic form. The iconic forms are normally made of metals, mostly astadhatu and sometimes stone. The aniconic form is the worship of Salagrama, on which the face of Lord Narasimha is drawn.