Gundicha temple sits in the middle of a beautiful garden, only 3 kilometers away from the Shrimandira (the Jagannath Temple). This distance is also known as the Badadanda or Grand Avenue.
It becomes the ultimate destination for the three Raths or cars of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra during the Grand Ratha Jatra that is celebrated with its grandeur in Puri every year.
Although it remains mostly vacant throughout the year, it is a must-visit place when you’re in Puri! A day before the Ratha Jatra starts the temple is religiously cleaned for the deities to arrive.
The deities travel from the main temple to Gundicha temple and reach before nightfall. They remain in their chariots for the day and enter the temple the next day. They remain in the temple for the subsequent seven days.
There are many legends that accentuate the divine link between the Gundicha Temple and the Shrimandira. Some of the popular ones are as follows:
Queen Gundicha was the wife of the King Indradyumna who initiated the building of the temple. Impressed by the architecture of the temple built by the divine builder Vishwakarma she wished for a temple to be made by her name and Ratha Jatra to be conducted.
Another legend follows that there was a deal between the king Indradyumna and Vishwakarma who came in disguise of an old architect chosen to build the temple that, until and unless the work of the building of all the three sculptures of the deities is completely made and ready no one should open the room.
He confirmed that he wouldn’t require any food or water but would require a lot of privacy to build the sculptures in peace. After some months the sound that used to come out of the room of the architect making the sculptures stopped and hence Queen Gundicha thought that the old architect must have died without food and water.
Although the king insisted on the doors to remain closed, the queen thought it’d be unethical to let the corpse of an old talented mason to rot in a closed chamber with the divine Sculptures of the deities. So she opens the door and only to find the mason to disappear suddenly in thin air and the Sculptures remain half-built.
Drowning in despair she loathed herself to not having kept the required patience and asks the Lord Jagannath to visit her in a separate temple (now known as the Gundicha temple) to give her the opportunity to pay the atonement of her “wrongdoings” which she never had the intention to do.
Lord Jagannath is akin to Lord Krishna who had over 16000 Gopis (cow herders) as his lovers. But after his departure and marriage, they lost their beloved Krishna. So Lord Jaggnath locks Goddess Laxmi and visits Gundicha temple to spend time with his Gopi lovers.
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The legends also suggest that when Lord Jagganath returned from his trip Goddess Laxmi refuses to let him into the temple, to makes amends with her he offers her a bowl full of Rasagolas, impressed but which she lets him in and since that day the Rasagolas become a part of the Chhappan-Bhog. Wonder why Odisha has been asking for the GI tag for Rasagolas after West Bengal Claimed it!