Sakhi Gopal is a small town located 20 km to the west of Puri, is named after Lord Sri Krishna who presides over the temple as Sakhi Gopal.From the writings of King Pratap Rudra Deva recorded in the “Anantavarman”, it’s understood that his father Purushottam Deva had defeated King Narsimha of Karnataka and married his daughter Padmini and brought the deity of Sakhi Gopala to Cuttack. Subsequently it was shifted from Cuttack to Jagannath temple, Puri by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and after that the deity moved to its present location.
The Prasad offered at temple is made of wheat which is a deviation from the traditional offerings made of rice offered at other Krishna temples. The statue of Radha was added later with the statue of Gopala.
According to mythology the deity of Sakhi Gopal was one of the sixteen idols of the Lord carved by King Vajra, who was the great grandson of Lord Shri Krishna and set up across Vrindavan and Mathura primarily to infuse life and evoke the spirit of Lord Krishna back into the region, which since the Kurushetra war- had turned into a living hell, with Dwarka being submerged into the sea and Yadus fighting amongst themselves.
The Sakhi Gopal idol is carved out of the rare but imperishable stone Bajra. Due to its lineage and history – Sakhi Gopal is one of the most revered seats of Lord Sri Krishna in the country.
Sakhi Gopal means “The Witness Gopal”. As mentioned earlier, the deity was originally in Vrindavan. The story which is associated with the deity and its presence in Odisha, a faraway place from Vrindavan and Mathura is one of the Lord’s benevolence towards his devotees.
It’s said that once two Brahmins- one elder and the other younger-from Vidyanagar (a place in modern day Karnataka) went on a pilgrimage. When they reached Vrindavan, the elder one was taken ill and was nursed back to health by the younger one.
To reciprocate the service rendered by his young co-traveler, the older Brahmin proposed his daughter’s hand to the young Brahmin before the deity of Lord Sri Krishna in Vrindavan which the former conveniently forgot after returning to Vidyanagar.
Not to be undone, the younger Brahmin returned to Vrindavan and fervently prayed to the lord and apprised him of his situation. Happy with his devotion Lord Krishna duly obliged him and said he would follow him to Vidyanagar and be his witness. The only condition that the Lord imposed was that the younger Brahmin shouldn’t look back throughout the journey and if he did then he would stay fixed at that very place and turn into a deity.
After they crossed a mound of sand, the younger Brahmin couldn’t hear Sri Krishna’s footsteps, eager to check whether the Lord is indeed following him, he turned back. Sri Krishna immediately stood fixed and turned into a deity.Nevertheless the young Brahmin could prove his point and married the elder Brahmin’s daughter.
Amla Navami– Falls during the holy month of Kartik , on this day Radha is attired in traditional Odishi Saree instead of her usual attire of Ghagra Choli. Hence her feet is visible on this day and the locals consider it auspicious to see the goddess’s feet and worship it.
The other festival which is observed with much fanfare in the temple is the Dola Purnima or Holi.