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History of Puri

History of Puri dates back to the period when the town was inhabited by the Sabaras, a Pre-Dravidian and Pre-Aryan tribe belonging to the Austro-Asiatic family. During the 7th and 8th centuries, Puri had been a provincial outpost that linked eastern India with the South.

Owing to its religious association with Sankaracharya ,Puri became one of the new centers for the practice of reformed Hinduism. In fact, Puri became an important center of pilgrimage by the 12th century. The history in Puri also proves that Sri Ramanuja visited Puri during 1107 and 1117. Sri Ramanuja was followed by Vishnu Swami, who is known to establish the Vishnuswami Matha, near Markandeshwar Tank.

With the arrival of the Gangas in the 12th century, Puri emerged as one of the centers of Vaishnavism. Anantavarman Chodaganga, one of the powerful rulers of Puri, established the Purusottama temple in 1135. Purusottama Temple later came to be known as the Jagannath Temple in the 15th century.

The history of Puri also reveals that in the 16th century, Puri was captured by the Afghans. The Afghans destroyed the Jagannath temple and reduced it to ruins. The temple was restored by the Marathas, who ruled Orissa for a short time. Under the British, the Jagannath temple was managed by the King of Orissa. The temple is also said to enjoy certain privileges under the British. Until 1816, Puri remained the capital of Orissa,

The origin of the name of Puri can be traced from the works of Hieun Tsang. Cunningham opines that the original name of Puri was Charitra. According to Cunningham, Hieun Tsang referred to the town as Che-li-ta-lo but there is a doubt regarding the identification of the town with Che-li-ta-lo.

Puri emerged as the seat of Vaishnavism during the reign of Choganga Deva. He built a temple at Puri. The temple came to be known as Purusottam temple and the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra were worshipped in it. The region became famous as the abode of Purusottam. Thus, the region came to be known as Purusottam Kshetra.

In Anargharaghava Natakam, a drama written in the 9th century, the name Purusottam is used for the town. Moreover, during the Saka Year 1151-52 (1229-30 AD), the province was known as Purusottam Kshetra. The Mughals also used the name Purusottam Kshetra. The Mughals and the Marathas referred to the place as Purusottam Chattar. The province is also referred to as Purusottam Chattar in the official records of the early British rulers.

Moreover, in the history of Puri we also find Purusottam Kshetra being referred to as Purusottam Puri. Instances of Purusottam Puri referred to as Puri is also very common. Earlier records prove that the territory was also known as Pooree.