Juggernaut, Or Jagannath (called by the natives Pooree), a town of Bengal, India, on the N. W. coast of the bay of Bengal, in the province of Orissa, and in the district and 45 m. 8. of the city of Cuttack; pop. about 30,000. The ground on which it stands is esteemed holy, and is held free of rent on condition of performing certain services in and about the temple. The principal street is composed chiefly of religious establishments called maths, which consist of stone buildings with low-pillared verandas in front and shaded by trees. At the end of this street, which is very wide, rises the celebrated temple. In the vicinity of the town are luxuriant groves and gardens, and many fine tanks of great antiquity. Between the S. W. side of the town and the sea are numerous ancient edifices nearly buried in the drifting sand. Juggernaut is the most holy of the shrines of Hindostan, and is visited annually by upward of 1,000,000 pilgrims. The temple stands within a square enclosure, surrounded by a lofty stone wall, each side of which measures 650 ft., making an area of about 10 acres. On the E. side is a grand gateway from which a broad flight of steps leads to a terrace 20 ft. high, enclosed by a second wall, each side of which measures 445 ft.
From this terrace the great pagoda rises, from a base of 30 ft. square, to the height of 200 ft. above the ground. It tapers from bottom to top, and is rounded off in the upper part. Most of the Hindoo deities have temples within the enclosure. The great temple is dedicated to Krishna, considered as an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, and derives its name from his title Juggernaut (properly Jagannatha, "the lord of the world"). Siva and Subhadra are the next principal objects of adoration, and these three deities are respectively represented by three frightful-looking idols made of blocks of wood about 6 ft. high, each surmounted by a grim representation of the human countenance. The block representing Krishna is painted dark blue, while Siva's image is white, and Subhadra's yellow. Each idol is provided with a chariot, which is a lofty platform mounted.on wheels. That of Juggernaut or Krishna is the largest, 43 1/2 ft. high, 34 1/2 ft. square, and is mounted on 16 wheels, each 6 1/2 ft. in diameter. The Bath Jatra, or great festival of Juggernaut, occurs in March when the moon is of a certain age, and the idols are then taken on their chariots to visit their country house, about 1 1/2 m. from the temple.
The chariots are drawn by long ropes held by enthusiastic thousands of men, women, and children, while priests standing on the platforms sing and repeat obscene stories, accompanied by corresponding gestures, amid the applauses of the multitude. In former years some of the votaries were occasionally sacrificed by falling accidentally or by design before the chariot wheels, and being crushed to death by the ponderous rolling vehicle; but latterly there have been no occurrences of this sort. The temple of Juggernaut is of considerable antiquity. The present building is supposed to have been completed in 1198, at a cost of more than $2,000,000. The British obtained possession of the town in 1803. Its former masters, the Mahrattas, had levied a tax upon the pilgrims resorting thither, and out of the large sum thus raised granted a small allowance to defray the expenses of the temple. The British continued this tax and the provision for the maintenance of the temple till 1839, when the tax was abolished and an annual donation from the public treasury given to the priests.
In consequence of the scandal created by the spectacle of a Christian government contributing to support the most obscene rites of heathen worship, this donation was suspended about 1855, and the temple now depends on a pilgrim tax collected by the native authorities.
The Principal Gateway of the Temple of Juggernaut.