Jagannath Mandir

Top choice in Puri

This mighty temple is home to Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), an incarnation of Vishnu. Built in its present form in 1198, the temple – closed to non-Hindus – is surrounded by two walls, its 58m-high flag-draped sikhara (spire) topped by Vishnu's wheel. Non-Hindus can get a rooftop view and take photos from the Raghunandan Library terrace across the street for a ‘donation' (₹100 is fine). Cameras and mobile phones are not allowed within the temple.

Jannagath, the jet-black deity with large white eyes, is hugely popular across Odisha; his images are tended and regularly dressed in new clothes at shrines across the state.

Guarded by two stone lions and a pillar crowned by the Garuda that once stood at the Sun Temple at Konark, the eastern entrance (Lion Gate) to the temple is the passageway for the chariot procession of Rath Yatra. Jagannath, brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra reside supreme in the central jagamohan (assembly hall). Priests continually garland and dress the three idols throughout the day for different ceremonies. Incredibly, the temple employs about 6000 men to perform the complicated rituals involved in caring for the gods. An estimated 20,000 people – divided into 36 orders and 97 classes – are dependent on Jagannath for their livelihood.