The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for many Hindu traditions, particularly worshippers of god Krishna and god Vishnu, and part of the Char Dhampilgrimages that a Hindu is expected to make in one's lifetime.
Even though the icons of most Hindu deities that are worshiped are made out of stone or metal, the image of Jagannath is wooden. Every twelve or nineteen years these wooden figures are ceremoniously replaced by using sacred trees, that have to be carved as an exact replica. The reason behind this ceremonial tradition is the highly secret Navakalevara ('New Body' or 'New Embodiment') ceremony, an intricate set of rituals that accompany the renewal of the wooden statues.
The temple was built in the 12th century atop its ruins by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva.
The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Since medieval times, it is also associated with intense religious fervour.
The temple is sacred to the Vaishnava traditions and saint Ramananda who was closely associated with the temple. It is also of particular significance to the followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism whose founder, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was attracted to the deity, Jagannath, and lived in Puri for many years.
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