Sacred Geography of Puri (Structure and Organisation, and Cultural Role of a Pilgrim Centre)
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Puri is a small town on the East Sea Coast of Orissa and the headquarters of Puri district. Puri is renowned in the country and abroad as one of the famous pilgrim centre. Many pilgrims coming from various parts of the country come on pilgrimage to Puri (Car festival) of Lord Jagannath.
Puri town comprises broadly two sections, such as Sacred section and Secular section. Many religious centres comprising temples, maths, Sahis inhabited by ritual functionaries, sacred tanks, trees and various other sacred sites are located in the sacred section of Puri as the secular section comprises largely hotels and many buildings of administrative headquarters of Puri district.
Puri has many names such as Shri Kshetra, Purusottam Kshetra and Sankha Kshetra. The shape of the Kshetra is like that of a conch shell (Sankha) and therefore its name has become a Sankha Kshetra. Sankha Kshetra comprises most of the religious centres. Of all the names by which Puri is referred to Sankha Kshetra is the most significant name because Sankha is one of the Aiyudhas of Vishnu who resides in the naval or the central part of the Conch shell in the form of Lord Jagannath.
Sankha Kshetra is about 10 miles in extent of which nearly half of it have remained submerged in the sea, and the remaining portion is above the water, where most of the sacred centres are located. The study of Sacred Geography is confined to the sacred places which are located in and around Sankha Kshetra of Puri Town.
Currently, Dr. Patnaik is involved in various activities of the Social Science and Development Research Institute (SSADRI) which he has set up at Bhubaneshwar after his retirement from Government Service.
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