A place with many names over the centuries – Hilgiri, Niladri, Hilachal Purushottam, Sankhakshetra, Srikehetra, Jagannath Dham, Jagannath Puri – Puri is dominated by two great forces: the sea (Bay of Bengal) with its ever changing shape of constant motion, the other, the great temple of Lord Jagannath, a static, but no less dominant force.
Very few cities are so dominated by a single factor in so many diverse ways as Puri is, influenced by Lord Jagannath. A very large part of Puri’s population is connected with the temple in one way or the other. Some are involved in the service of Lord Jagannath (the Pandas and Purohits, others have gainful employment indirectly generated because of the deity.
Most people go to Puri for religious reasons – it being one of the four most holy Hindu ‘Dhams’ (meaning a holy place). But a very large number also go for both adventure as well as restful holidays. Drawing the maximum number of visitors as compared to any other place in Orissa, Puri not only has scores of hotels, but also hundreds of holiday homes owned by various organisations and business houses.
The never ending beach, the sea and the glorious skyscapes at dawn and dusk are to be experienced to be believed. There is the added attraction of one of the few remaining relies of the British period – the South Eastern Railway Hotel, There must be very few places left in India with such spacious rooms and so much living spaces. The lifestyle at this hotel can be an experience of a life-time for those coming from crowded cities.
Apart from Jagannath temple, the other two most important temples around are Lokanath Temple and Gundicha Temple.