Math & Ashram
Source : Jagannath Puri Book Published by SJTA
Centring round the great temple of Lord Jagannath,many a Matha (Monasteries) grew up gradually in course of time in this holy town.In the past many Saints and Sadhus had come to Puri to have darshan of Lord Jagannath.They came in contact with and influenced the Gajapati Kings through their philosophical doctrines.The saints and sadhus established their monasteries on the lands donated to them by the kings and wealthy persons. The Maths continued preaching their respective doctrines and also performed certain ritual services in the Jagannath Temple.With endowed properties and lands, the heads of the Maths were able to maintain their institutions. Lands were donated to the Maths for 'Amritmanohi' the proceeds thereof were spent in offering 'Bhoga' to Lord Jagannath and the 'Mahaprasad' thus obtained, were distributed among the pilgrims, pupils, ascetics, and beggars. The functions of the Maths were:
(1) Propagation of the essential philosophy of Hinduism and Jagannath Culture.
(2) Providing shelter to pilgrims coming to Puri.
(3) Providing accommodation / financial help to poor and meritorious students.
(4)Participating in various rituals of the temple of Lord Jagannath.
As reported in the Puri Gazetter (1929) the "Mathas are monastic houses originally founded with the object of giving religious instructions to chelas or disciples and generally of encouraging a religious life." The heads of the Mathas are called Mahantas or Mathadharis. They are generally celebrates but in certain Mathas married men can become the Mahantas.
They are generally selected from among their 'Chelas'.Some mathas were setup for defence purposes. King Narasingh Dev-1 established 4 mathas ('Akhadas')namely Bagha,Khaki,Hati and Nirmohi mathas with strong valiant Sadhus to guard the temple.As per the said Gazetter " there are over seventy mathas in Puri town." The Mathas are affiliated to different sects of Hinduism,namely Angira sect, Adwait sect,Ramanandi sect,Ramanuja sect,Atibadi sect,Gaudiya sect,Pancha Ramanandi sect,Gauda Mahaba sect,Nimbarka sect,Anant sect,Utkal Vaishnab sect, Madhabacharya sect,Dashanami sect,Pustimarga sect.etc.There are also some mathas belonging to the Gurunanaka sect and the Kabir sect.
Most of the Mathas of Puri have ritual relation with the Sri Jagannath temple.