The temple of Shri Lokanatha is situated at a distance of about 2.5 kilometers to the west of Lord Jagannatha Temple of Puri. This temple is one of the most important Shaiva Shrines of Odisha. From the architectural point of view the temple is not so important but from the religious point of view, it occupies an important position in the cultural history of Odisha. Lokanatha Temple is one of the Pancha Pandava temple of Puri. The western boundary of the Puri town is guarded by the Lord Lokanatha.
The innermost chamber of the main temple preserves a Shiva Linga which is the presiding deity of the temple. The uniqueness of this Shrine is that the innermost chamber including the Shiva Linga is filled with water throughout the year by a natural spring of the near by Pravati Sagara. The Shiva Linga is visible to the devotees once in every year. Another Shiva Linga is placed at the entrance of the innermost chamber and devotees worship this Linga throughout the year. According to a local tradition, people who suffer from incurable diseases come here for prayer. Offerings made by the devotess like flowers, sandal paste, milk, curd (yoghurt), honey, beetle leaves, coconut water, bilva leaves, etc. to the God throughout the year remain decomposed in the water and creating a special smell and taste being medicated as a whole. People take it as Prasad in order to be cured from the disese that they suffered for. In the night of Pankodhar Ekadashi (3 days before the famous Shivaratri festival) all the water along with other offerings is removed by the servitors, and the Shiva Linga becomes visible to thousands of devotees.
Lord Lokanatha's Bije Pratima (representative image) is in the Sri Jagannatha temple, known as Bhandara Lokanatha. He is the guardian deity of the Ratnabhandara (treasure house) of Sri Jagannatha temple.
Structure and Architecture
The temple of Lokanatha faces towards the west. The Lokanatha temple has four parts such as Vimana (Main Temple), Jagamohana (Entrance Hall), Natamandapa (Dancing Hall) and Bhogamndapa (Offering Hall). This temple is built in sand stones. The Vimana (main temple) is about 30 feet from the ground level. Most portions of the main temple have been covered with marbles, so the detail architectural features of the main temple are not visible. The outer walls of the main temple housed images of different Deities. The image of Shiva-Parvati is carved on the northern side wall. There is image of Lord Kartikeya on the eastern side wall. The image of four handed Lord Ganesha is carved on the southern side wall. All these side wall images are housed inside small temples.
The Jagamohana of the Lokanatha temple is about 22 feet from the ground of the temple. The outer southern wall of the Jagamohana contains a composite image of Hari-Hara (half Vishnu and half Shiva). This composite image of Harihara is installed on a double petalled lotus pedestal. The natamandapa of the Lokanatha temple is about 20 feet from the ground of the temple. There is a bull-pillar of 3 feet in height noticed in the middle portion of the floor of the Natamandapa. The recumbent bull has been installed on the top of the pillar and it is made of black chlorite stone. As per the tradition, devotees tell their wishes in the ear of this bull so that it will reach to Lord Lokanatha and will get fulfilled. The bhogamandapa is about 22 feet from the ground of temple. It is a rectangular hall and measures approximately 45 feet in length and 25 feet in width. The inner western wall of the bhogamandapa contains some sculptures in its niches. They are Narasimha, Bhairavi, Shiva-Parvati, Shyamakali and Swami Sankaracharya.
Many small temples are there inside the premises of Lokanatha temple. There is a small temple to the left of the inner courtyard which preserves images of Surya-Narayana and Chandra-Narayana. The Satya-Narayana temple within the premises preserves images of Vishnu, Laksmi and several brass idols. On the right side of the entrance to the inner courtyard you will find a figure of Lord Hanuman. The compound of the Lokanatha temple is about 10 feet below the road level. When you enter the Lokanatha temple compound by climbing down the stairs from the main road, you will find a big pond (known as Parvati Sagara in local language) at your right side. Devotees wash their hands and feets in this pond before entering into the temple. This pond houses a lot of fishes. Devotees offer foods to these fishes to fulfil their wishes.
The legend says that Lord Rama on his way to Sri Lanka for searching Devi Sita reached Puri and sat with a vow to see Lord Shiva here. At that time there was a village (known as Sabarapalli in local language) nearby. Sabaras (native of that village) presented him a Lau or Lauka (Bottle Gourd, one type of vegetable) looking like a Shiva Linga, Lord Rama installed that as the replica of Shiva Linga at that place and prayed Lord Shiva to fulfill his desire. From that day this Shiva Linga was called 'Laukanatha'. It is believed that the word Lokanatha is a later innovation from the original word Laukanatha.
As per the legend, Pancha Pandavas (Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva) at the period of exile in disguise for one year, visited this holy place and stayed one night in Puri. Here they worshipped Lord Vishnu for the safety of their journey. As a symbol of their visit, five Shiva temples were built at Puri to memorise their stay at this holy place. These famous five Shiva temples are Lokanatha, Jameswara, Kapalamochana, Markandeswara and Nilakantheswara together they are known as Pancha Pandavas or the five brothers. Lokanatha Temple is associated with Bhima, one of the brothers among the Pancha Pandavas.
Festivals and Rituals
Lokanatha is associated with Lord Jagannath in several festivals like Maha Shivaratri, Chandana yatra and Sital Sasthi. The festival of Shivaratri is observed in the temple of Lokanatha with great fervor and pomp. A meeting of Hari (Lord Vishnu) and Hara (Lord Shiva) takes place on this day. On the Maha Shivaratri day, lot of devotees visit the temple to offer their prayer to Lord Lokanatha with great devotion.
Lokanatha Temple is also considered very auspicious for Mundan ceremony ritual. Mundan ceremony ritual is observed on the steps of the Parvati Sagara. This ritual is performed for the child, it is the first haircut of the baby. This is a ritualistic practice followed by most Hindu parents for their babies in a pre-decided place or temple of their choice. It is usually performed in 1st or 3rd year after the birth of the child. Mundan Ceremony is done to ensure the baby grows as a healthy and spiritual individual who is free from sins and to attain the goodness of life.