Alarnatha temple is located at around 25 km from Puri in Brahmagiri. It is a famous pilgrimage destination for the worshipers of Lord Vishnu. In Alarnath temple Lord Vishnu is worshipped as Lord Alarnatha.
Lord Alarnath is an prehistoric four-handed lord Vishnu which one of the Alvars believed to have mounted. The Jagannath Mandir Pujaris handle the temple now. Garuda, His eagle carrier with his hands folded in Prayer, kneels at his feet. He is also accompanied by his consorts, Sri and Bhu.
Small Deities of Sri Krishna’s queens Rukmini and Satyabhama are also displayed in the Temple. Lord Brahma and Lord Siva ‘s bas reliefs grace the ceiling of one of the halls which leads up to the main chamber.
The placing of the four Vishnu symbols on the Deity’s torso seem to suggest that he is Janardana Vishnu or Adi Vishnu — Lord Vishnu ‘s Original form. But unlike Lord Jananrdana,Alarnatha holds his right hand in the abhaya mudra ; granting fearlessness and protection to whoever takes his shelter. This mudra is displayed only by the Deities of Krishna and not the Vishnu or Narayan murtis.
Lord Chaitanya’s Deity is also situated inside the temple. Right in front of the deity there is a stone slab which bears impressions of the body of Lord Chaitanya. When Lord Chaitanya first lay facing Lord Alarnath in complete reverence, the stone below Lord Chaitanya melted from His blessed touch.
During his stay in Puri, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to visit Sri Jagannatha daily. He was unable to see his beloved Lord during Anavasara, when Lord and his siblings were taken to the Underground Chamber for 15 days as they fell sick.
So according to legend, the lord directed Chaitanya to go to Brahmagiri and visit his other temple named Alarnatha. The Shila which Mahaprabhu used to do Sankirtan is still over there today.
Many historians claim that Alwars visited this place once, but in Divyaprabandham there is no mention of it.
The Story of the Deity
i) Lord Brahma Carves the Deity:
According to a local tradition Alarnatha ‘s history goes back to Satya-yuga millions of years ago. Lord Narayan spoke from the sky to Lord Brahma about the shape of the deity that Brahma should sculpt and idolise in detail. Lord Narayan then addressed Brahma and told him that the place would be known as Brahmagiri (Brahma’s Hill) because he worshipped Narayana there. Brahamagiri became known as Alarnatha, with the passing of time.
The present temple was constructed about 1100 years ago, and the puja was previously performed by Brahmins from South India.
Since the pujaris were in the line of disciples of the great spiritual teachers known as the Alvars, the god became known as Alvarnatha (“Lord of the Alvars”), Which became Alarnath in time. Today, the location is generally referred to as Brahmagiri.
ii) Alarnatha Scalded by Sweet Rice:
Madhu then played with his friends and when he came back he noticed all the food was still on the plate.
Once a brahmin whose duty was to give food to Lord Alarnatha named Sri Ketana had to go out to seek provisions for the lord. In his absence he assigned his young son Madhu the task of making offerings to God, after asking him to put Alarnatha’s meals before him and pray to the Lord to accept them. So when time came for the first meal, Madhu took the food to the Lord and worshipped to accept his offering and added that he was just a child and did not know how to properly present it.
He prayed and asked God why he won’t eat it because then his father was likely to be really mad on his return.
Madhu left, only to come back and still have food on the plate. He begged the Lord to eat with teary eyes.
The plate was empty, when Madhu returned the third time. Madhu joyfully held his mother’s empty plate. When asked where the prasadam is, he told her that the Lord consumed it all.
Madhu and his family fasted for three days and each time Madhu gave his meal to the Lord, He ate it all.
When Sri Ketana came back and learned about the case, he scolded his son about the prasadam. As Madhu clarified that the food was consumed by the Lord, his father contradicted that the Deity is made of stone and can’t eat anything whatsoever.
Sri Ketana resolved to see what had actually occurred. So he hid behind a column while his son gave an offering to the Lord. Sri Ketana saw the Lord reach over to get the a bowl of sweet rice after Madhu had left. Sri Ketana leapt from behind the pillar and grabbed ahold the arm of the Lord, pouring hot sweet rice over the body of the Lord Alarnatha in the process.
Sri Ketana yelled at the Lord to stop, saying that if the Lord consumed that, how would the family of the brahmin eat?
Lord Alarnatha pronounced the brahmana a materialist, reminding him that he did not accept offerings from a faithless person like the brahmin . But he preferred to accept Madhu’s offerings because he served the food with simplicity, love & devotion.
iii) Alarnath scalded by Kheer Bhog :
There’s also another theory about Kheer bhog here too. It is often said that kheer was once taken for the deity by a child devotee. Lord Vishnu submerged his finger in hot kheer in the anticipation to experience it, and got burned. Since then until date the burnt finger can be seen.
Prasad served to Lord Vishnu
At noon the Lord is served with Rice dal, kheer and vegetables. After sunset the Lord is offered Khichudi and Peethas as prasad.
Best Time to Visit Alarnath
Alarnath gets packed with thousands of devotees during Ashadha’s Krishna paksha, just after Snana Yatra when lord Jagannath falls sick , popularly known as Anasara or ‘Anavasara’ (which literally means no opportunity to obtain darshan in the Jagannath Temple, people believe that Lord Jagannath manifests during this period as Alarnath Dev in the Alarnath Temple.
How to reach
By Air : The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar Airport which is around 75 km.
By Rail : Puri Railway station is the nearest station.
By Road: Regular buses and taxis ply from Puri which is around 25 km.