Among all the revered religious centres of India, Puri has a prominent place of its own. Being the holy abode of Lord Jagannath, it attracts a large number of visitors, which include both devotees and leisure travellers. Apart from religious significance, this place is known for its sunny beach, which is an ideal location to behold the mesmeric sunrise bathed in a symphony of colours. A celebrated feature of this city is its multitude of pilgrimage centres, which are known to receive an influx of pilgrims from all parts of the world. There are a number of shrines popular among local residents that can be ideal destinations to visit.
Nilakantheswar Temple is known as a major shrine of Lord Shiva and receives hordes of local devotees. Situated on the southern bank of the sacred Indradyumna tank, it enshrines the sacred Shiva Lingam. Nilakantheswar is one of the eight pilgrimages, which are said to guard the sanctified city of Puri. All of these eight are situated in an equal number of different directions and are believed to save the local people from evil. The shrine is said to have derived its name from the famous mythological incident of Samudra Manthan, during which Lord Shiva drank a toxic substance and His throat turned blue. Sitalsasthi, Dola Purnima, Maha Shivaratri and Pana Sankranti are some occasions celebrated here with immense devotion.
Astasambhu, located in Puri, enshrines eight Shiva Lingams made of precious stones in different shades. Thus, the place is named Astasambhu, which means eight Shivas on translation. These lovely idols reflect different hues of sunlight when looked from different angles and are an absolute pleasure to watch. The eight Lingams are named after the various incarnations of the deity. Devotees at this place spend quality time in its serene atmosphere, especially during the sunrise when these holy idols are perfectly beheld. This shrine is said to have cured a king of a fatal illness, after which the various Lingams were religiously placed by members of the family of Maharaja Prataparudra.
Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Siddha Mahavir is a small shrine having huge religious significance. Tulsidas – the distinguished author of the holy Ramcharitmanas – is believed to have stayed here during his visit to the city. The presiding deity Siddha Mahavir is revered as one of the eight Mahavirs of the city, and thus, is religiously significant. A huge statue of the Lord – placed on an adorned pedestal – is the major attraction here. The statue features a Gada and a massive rock boulder in the left and right hands, respectively.
The Ardhasini or Mausima temple is another pilgrimage site positioned on the Grand Road of Balagandi Square. It is dedicated to Goddess Mausima, who is said to be the sister of the mother of Lord Jagannath. It is stated in scriptures that Goddess Mausima once saved the town from a flood by drinking half of the water. This was when she was provided the revered title of Ardhasini. According to a popular belief, Goddess Mausima and Kapalamochana Shiva are the guardian deities of this sacred place.