The mathas provided accommodation to co-religious brethren during their visit to Puri on festivities. For example, Bengalis remain in ‘Gaudiya Matha’. Some of such mathas are ‘Keonjhar Queen's Monastery’, ‘Lunia Choudhury Matha’, ‘Burdwan Queen's Matha’, ‘Sarguja Matha’ and ‘Raja Kirti Chandra Matha’.
Types of Mathas of Puri
There are various types of mathas and their origin and functions are equally varied. The sadhus established the mathas to propagate their respective sect philosophy through recitation from scriptures and also through recitation of religious hymns accompanied by cymbal and drum. Some monasteries were established for defence purposes. Many wealthy men established monasteries to pass their last days at Puri.
Certain mathas were established to perform specific ritual services daily and on festive occasions in the Jagannath Temple. Since such mathas were established by the Gajapati kings these are generally known as "Rajangila Mathas". There are some more Rajangila mathas like ‘Jagannath Ballava Matha’, ‘Raghava Das Matha’, ‘Poda Matha’, ‘Torani Chhatra Matha’ and ‘Malei Matha’, each of which has specific functions to perform in connection with the Seva Puja of the temple.
The functions of the Mathas were:
It is stated that out of 752 Maths established through out India, now 181 Maths continue to exist at Puri. Some of the mathas of Puri are discussed below:
Govardhan Matha is located in Swargadwar Sahi. It is one of the oldest matha in Puri and was founded by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century A.D. the matha is known as a centre of learning and culture, an exponent of monism.
Oriya Matha was established by Atibadi Jagannath Das of the 15th century A.D., who was a great religious poet and composed the "Oriya Bhagavata". The image of Atibadi Jagannath Das is preserved in this matha. Atibadi Jagannath Das was the intimate disciple of Sri Chaitanya and the founder of the Atibadi sect of Vaishnavism.
Jagannath Ballava Matha
Jagannath Ballava Matha is closely connected with some important religious rites of the main temple of Lord Jagannath. Ray Ramananda Pattanayak, a great scholar and also a great administrator, used to stay here in the midst of a beautiful garden from which flowers are sent to the Jagannath Temple everyday.
Located in front of the main gate of Jagannath Temple and connected with the historic advent of Acharya Nimbarka, a great philosopher of the country.
In a small room of Radhakanta matha lived Sri Chaitanya for 12 years. The personal belongings of Sri Chaitanya such as a wooden sandal, kamandalu and bed have been carefully preserved in this matha. Chanting of Mahamantra by the inmates of the matha round the clock is the special feature of this matha.
Siddha Bakul Matha
Siddha Bakul Matha was the ashram of Bakreswari Pandit, who lived during the time of Sri Chaitanya. There is a huge Bakul tree in the premises of the matha which is devoid of leaves and branches with no stem but only barks. The trunk of the tree is hollow.
Nandini Matha is located in Markendeswar sahi. It is believed that Mirabai, the famous devotional poetess of India, stayed here during her visit to Puri. The special attraction of this matha is the beautiful image of ‘Lord Sri Krishna’.
Dashavatar Matha is located in front of the main gate of the Gundicha temple. In this matha, there are 10 incarnations of Lord Krishna, as described by Jayadeva in "Gita Govindam", which are carved on the walls. It is believed that Jayadeva used to stay in this matha during his visit to Puri.
Haridas Matha is connected with the memory of a non-Hindu saint Haridas who, after coming to Puri, turned to be a great devotee of Lord Jagannath.
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