Thursday, 21 June 2012

Orissa (Puri – Chilika – Konark – Bhubaneswar) Part 1: Puri

Puri BeachesPuri is district headquarters and a city situated about 60 kilometres from Orissa’s capital of city of Bhubaneswar. It is one of the four holiest points of pilgrimage for Hindus and part of the Char Dhampilgrimages. The reigning deity of the city, Lord Jagannath, whose temple was built way back in the 11th century, is revered by thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. It is considered that a pilgrimage of the temples of India is not complete without making the journey to Puri.  Puri also has one of the best beaches for swimming in India and is also a popular beach resort, positioned in a unique place so that both sunset and sunrise can be viewed from the beach.
We started from Delhi by train and reached Puri a day later. The train journey was quite interesting; the gradual change in landscape, people and dialects along the way was very fascinating.
Youth Hostel PuriWe had pre booked our lodging in International Youth Hostels, which offers a good discount for students. The International Youth hostels offers cheap, but clean and comfortable dormitories for students all across the world. The Hostel at Puri was very clean, comfortable and safe. In addition, it was located very close to a secluded beach, a bit away from the main town. The Puri town offers a number of lodging options for all budgets. There are hotels offering array of services depending upon one’s preferences.
The first thing we did after transferring our luggage in the Hotel was to hit the beach!!!….the beaches of Puri are famed for their waves. The sea at Puri is really grand, if sea can be described as such!! The color of the sea is a soothing jade green and in the bright sunlight glitters so brilliantly as if numerous diamonds are floating on it. The waves are gigantic and very majestic!!! Indeed, as we first set our eyes on the beach, we were mesmerised by the calming jade green of the sea and the enormity of the waves. It was sheer fun on the beach; lying down in the sand, letting the waves  roll over us or venture out for a swim into the waves or just simply sitting down on the sand , watching the waves roll and feeling the cool sea breeze on skin!!!   After enjoying our first dip at the beach, we rested in the late afternoon.
Beaches - PuriIn the evening, we decided to check out another beach, which was frequented by tourists. Being located adjacent to the town square, the beach was crowded with people; it was a vibrant atmosphere at the beach with lot of tourists, locals, hawkers and restaurants. The sea breeze was strong and the sound of the waves was sheer music; we enjoyed the evening at one of the numerous shacks lining the beach with good food and lively conversation.
Lord Jagannath Rath YatraThe next morning, we decided to check out the main and also most famous temple of Puri, the Jagannath Mandir.  The celebrated Temple of Lord Jagannath now existent at Puri was constructed by Raja Ananta Varman Chodaganga Dev in late 11th century A.D. The wooden images of Jagannath Balabhadra and Subhadra were installed in that temple. It is the prominent temple in Puri and also the most visited. Hundreds of devotees from all over India and world visit this temple daily. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated chariots.
Entering inside the temple, we felt like transported back to the 11th century; old priests carrying bamboo umbrellas walked around and managed the huge crowds of devotees. The faith and reverence of the young and old devotees was mesmerising, it’s as if they had come to see a living god, the Jagannath (or King of the World). We had the Mahaprasad (main offering) at the temple, which was made of “satvic” (pure) ingredients, without any spices, onions or garlic and it tasted great!!! It was a totally different experience for all of us at the Jagnnath Temple.
Over the next 5 days, we visited quite a few temples in Puri Town and each one had a unique architecture and history behind it. The main temples we visited are as follows:
Gundicha Temple:
Gundicha TempleThe second most important sanctuary of Jagannath is the Gundicha temple, the abode to which Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are driven each of his or her wooden cars once in a year, during the Rath Yatra.  Except for these few days it is unoccupied, but there is a small establishment of servants by whom it is regularly maintained. The distance between the gates of Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple, is exactly 2,688.0696 meters (8327 feet).
Mausima or Ardhasani Temple:
Mausima or Ardhasani TempleOn the way to Gundicha temple, Mausima or Ardhasani is a small temple dedicated to the goddess of that name. She is also known as Mausi Maa (mother’s sister) of Lord Jagannath.
Loknath Temple:
Loknath TempleThis is the famous Siva temple of Puri Located about 1 Km away from the Jagannath Temple towards the western end. There is a popular belief that Lord Ram had installed this lingam with a Lauka or Pumpkin. The Temple was build during 10th-11th century A.D. The festival of Siva Ratri is observed in the temple of Lokanath with great devotion. It is believed that a   meeting of Siva and Vishnu takes place on the day.
Daksinakali Temple:
The temple is situated towards south-eastern side of the Lord Jagannath temple on Balisahi. It is believed that Daksinakalika is the guardian of the kitchen of the Lord Jagannath Temple.
We also had a wonderful time at the beaches of Puri for the 5 days that we stayed there, getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the fabulous sunrise at the beach, having a good dip in the morning and in the evenings; we never used to miss the awesome sunsets.
In addition, the non –vegetarian students in our group had a wonderful time gorging on the fresh sea food available at the numerous shacks at the beach and also all over town; it was tasty wholesome food at dirt-cheap prices!!!
Orissa is famous for its handlooms and silver handicrafts and Puri being one of the major tourist towns had a number of shops selling interesting souvenirs, handloom items and handicrafts. We bought lot of saris, silver jewellery and handloom items while on our tour of the town. The 5 days we spent in Puri were totally fun filled and we decided to visit Chilika for a day before heading out to Konark.

1 comment:

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