Juggernaut: Indian Temple Or Unstoppable Force?

Jagannath Temple in India gave rise to the word “juggernaut.” But the ancient story of Jagannath is rather delightful.

pyramid-like set of three temples - one with a flag flying int the breeze above - against a pinkish sunset
Jagannath Temple. Credit: Shutterstock

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In 2014, a grad student in Kolkata named Ujaan Ghosh came across an old book by a Scottish missionary. And as Ghosh paged through the book, he noticed the missionary kept using a word over and over: “Juggernaut.” But the missionary wasn’t using it the way we do today—to mean an unstoppable, overwhelming force. He  was using it to talk about a place: a temple in Puri, India. So Ghosh dug further, and as he grasped the real story of where the English word, juggernaut, had come from, he realized there was just no way he could keep using it.

A transcript of this episode is being processed and will be available within a week.


Chris Egusa is an audio producer and 2020 KALW Audio Academy fellow.

Dylan Thuras is co-founder of Atlas Obscura, and host of the Atlas Obscura podcast.

Ujaan Ghosh is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Footnotes & Further Reading:

Read Ujaan Ghosh’s article on the origins of the word “juggernaut.” 

Learn more about Jagannath Temple in Atlas Obscura. 

Listen to more episodes of the Atlas Obscura podcast.


This episode was a collaboration between Science Diction and Atlas Obscura. It was produced by Johanna Mayer and Chris Egusa, and edited by Elah Feder and John DeLore. D Peterschmidt is our composer, and Danya AbdelHameid fact checked the episode. It was mixed by Luz Fleming.

Meet the Writers

About Johanna Mayer

Johanna Mayer is a podcast producer and hosted Science Diction from Science Friday. When she’s not working, she’s probably baking a fruit pie. Cherry’s her specialty, but she whips up a mean rhubarb streusel as well.

About Elah Feder

Elah Feder is the former senior producer for podcasts at Science Friday. She produced the Science Diction podcast, and co-hosted and produced the Undiscovered podcast.

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