Puri's vibrant and narrowly packed streets with brightly painted houses, pastiches of colonial buildings, has a charm of its own. The Jagannath Temple which soars out of these streets dominates the skyline. The Chakratirtha (CT) Road to the East, the waterfront of Marine Drive Road to the West, and the score of hotels, resorts in the middle and the crammed Bada Danda street with lodges and shops selling religious souvenirs and the colourful pattachitra paintings are the hubs of action. The long stretch of coast, much cleaner towards the eastern end, remains crowded with sun bathers and swimmers in the season with local fishermen serving as life guards. Barring the pilgrims, congregating in hundred thousands during the annual Rath Yatra, Puri's traveller scene is dominated by Bengalis from Kolkata and some young western and Japanese visitors exploring the laidback charm of the town mostly on foot or bicycles.
Puri City Guide - According to tradition, originally this dense forested area was inhabited by the Sabaras, a tribal group who predated the Dravidians and the Aryans. It is believed that the Sabaras, originally worshipped the Lord Jagannath as Nilamadhab, and made images of red tree trunks. This deity was later adopted by Brahmins. Some believed it to be the sacred site of Dantaputra, which once held the holy Buddhist Tooth relic. Until the time of its association with the Hindu reformer, Shankaracharya, Puri was an obscure outpost along the coastal trade route linking the South with eastern part of India. The Shankaracharya brought it to the religious map of India as a centre of teaching and learning a more ascetic form of Hinduism and established one of its four mathas here in the 8th century. The beginning of the 12th century witnessed the rise in influence of the Ganga dynasty with which the centre's religious importance got further consolidated. A great temple was founded by Anantavarman Chodaganga in 1135, dedicated to Purushottama (or Vishnu) and the name got changed to Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) in the 15th century during the reign of Gajapatis. The Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Bengal, spent many years at Puri in the 15th century. The temple now dedicated to the worship of Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, is one of the four dhams in India.