PURI, or JAGANNATH, a town and district of India, in the Orissa division of Bengal. The town is on the sea-coast, and has a railway station. Pop. (1901), 49,334, including an exceptional number of pilgrims. As containing the worldfamous shrine of Jagannath (see JUGGERNAUT), Puri is perhaps the most frequented of all Hindu places of pilgrimage. Sanitation is effected by the Puri Lodging- House Act, which provides for the appointment of a special health officer, and for the licensing of lodging-houses both in the town and along the pilgrims' route.
The DISTRICT OF PURI has an area of 2499 sq. m. The population in 1901 was 1,017,284, showing an increase of 7-6% in the decade. For the most part the country is flat, the only mountains being a low range which, rising in the west, runs south-east in an irregular line towards the Chilka lake and forms a water-parting between the district and the valley of the Mahanadi. The middle and eastern divisions of the district, forming the south-western part of the Mahanadi delta, consist entirely of alluvial plains, watered by a network of channels through which the most southerly branch of that river, the Koyakhai, finds its way into the sea. The other rivers are the Bhargavi, the Daya and the Nun, all of which flow into the Chilka lake and are navigable by large boats during the rainy season, when the waters come down in tremendous floods, bursting the banks and carrying everything before them. The Chilka lake is one of the largest in India; its length is 44 m., and its breadth in some parts 20 m. It is separated from the sea only by a narrow strip of sand. The lake is saline and everywhere very shallow, its mean depth ranging from 3 to 5 ft. Puri district is rich in historical remains, from the primitive rock-hewn caves of Buddhism the earliest relics of Indian architecture to the medieval Sun temple at Kanarak and the shrine of Jagannath. The annual rainfall averages 58 in.
Puri first came under British administration in 1803. The only political events in its history since that date have been the rebellion of the maharaja of Khurda in 1804 and the rising of the paiks or peasant militia in 1817-18. In the Orissa famine of 1866 more than one-third of the population of Puri is said to have perished. The district suffered from drought in 1897. It is served by the East Coast railway, which was opened throughout from Calcutta to Madras in 1891, with a branch to Puri town.
See Puri District Gazetteer (Calcutta, 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)