Known by many names like the Garden House of Jagannath or God’s Summer Garden Retreat, Gundicha Temple is the Vrindavan for the Vaishnavas during Lord Jagannath’s stay here. Located in one of India’s religiously rich city- Puri, Odisha, Gundicha Temple serves as the temporary home of Lord Jagannath during the world famous Rath Yatra. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden with walls on the sides and is located only 3 km from the main Jagannath Temple. Another attraction of this temple is that it lies on the same route of the Rath Yatra and is a place of relief for the pilgrims. The eagerness to know how it looks from the inside and how beautifully it is decorated during the Rath Yatra, hundreds of devotees pour in during the festival. Even though this temple is closed for most of the year for tourists, but when it welcomes one, it helps one discover the ultimate belief in God.
Built in a traditional Kalingan Style, Gundicha Temple is a major tourist attraction during the famous Puri Rath Yatra. Apart from the style of building, the outer beauty of the temple is because of the light grey sandstone used to construct it. The temple comprises a seat made up of chlorite and is called Ratnavedi. The height of this seat is 4 feet and in length it is 19 feet. Also the purpose of this seat is to put up idols of the god which are brought in during the festivals. Apart from the interior, the temple premises include two gates- The Main Gate, i.e., the western gate and The Nakuchana Gate- the eastern gate. During the festival, the deities enter from the western gate and exit from the eastern gate.
The temple is associated with four major legends and has a high following of each. Below mentioned are the legends which has always lured the explorers to visit this temple.
1- Gundicha is named after the Queen of Indradyumna
According to the first legend, this temple was built during the reign of King Indradyumna who was the son of Bharat and Sunanda (according to Mahabharat). When the famous celestial architecture Vishwakarma was building the magnificent Jagannath Temple,the queen saw it and fell in love with it. She requested the king to have a temple built in the similar manner in the honour of Lord Jagannath and to fulfill the queen’s wish, the king ordered the construction of the temple. He named the temple after the queen and hence the name- Gundicha. But the story does not here, the legend continues when the queen also requested the king to undertake the Rath Yatra and this started the tradition of a husband taking part in the Rath Yatra on being insisted by his wife.
2- Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his unbelievable devotion
Long ago with his sudden disappearance, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has made the pilgrims believe about the existence of Lord Jagannath. According the legend, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a major devotee of Lord Jagannath and would often be found in a trance-like situation mostly during the play of God’s love. He would always sing devotional songs and dance but there would be situations when he would faint while being in the trance-like rapture. One day, out of his will, he offered his willingness to clean the premises of the temple and asked the king for his permission. The king agreed to his wish and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started cleaning the premises on his own. Various other saints who were assisting him, noticed that he was crying while picking up the straws, dust and grains and putting them in his cloth which he would throw outside the temple premises. The other saints took this as an example and started doing the same. One day, none of his followers noticed but according to a book written on him, he was last seen entering the Manikotha after which he never came back and disappeared like that. It is believed that he has found Lord Jagannath and is now with him.
3- The tale Goddess Lakshmi holds
According to the famous legend, Goddess Lakshmi was locked up by Lord Jagannath in a small room of Jagannath Temple after which Lord Jagannath went to stay at Gundicha Temple for a week. This legend has a high resemblance with Lord Krishna and his abode in Vrindavan. During Lord Jagannath’s stay in Gundicha Temple, he enjoys the company of his gopis (which nowadays are the devadasis) and is attended by his lover-like figure Radha. He enjoys his stay with songs and dances. Upon his return, Goddess Lakshmi sprinkles some magical dust powder which erases the whole memory of his stay in Gundicha.
4- The mystical cure of smallpox- Local Goddess Gundicha
According to this famous local legend, Goddess Gundicha is believed to have cured the fatal disease- smallpox, during the epidemic in Bengal. In that worst time, Bengal found aid in Goddess Gundicha. People also associate her with being the aunt of Lord Krishna and believe that during this time the God would visit her along with his siblings, annually.
Best Time to Visit
Even though Odisha is an all season visit destination, but to experience the festive mood of Puri, try visit the city during the annual rath Yatra which usually takes place in Monsoon season.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
Even though Gundicha temple is a major tourist attraction but this temple is surrounded with few other eye-soothing locations like:
- Jagannath Temple
- Swargadwar Beach
- Goddess Vimala Temple
- Sudarshan Crafts Museum
- Ramchandi Beach