In Orissa: Temples and the Sea, Puri & Konark

Rain stopped, clouds vanished, and sky was now filled with bright colors of moon and stars. It was that usual phenomenon when days are overcast and nights are clear. Sound of high tide sea waves was audible till the T-junction where auto guy dropped me. I was hunting an accommodation at Chakra Tirtha (CT) road which runs parallel to the beach and lined up with hotels, taverns, restaurants and souvenir shops. During cross cultural movements of 60’s, Puri was one of the favorites among hippies to kick-back, break journey before wending their way to tropical paradises of South East Asia or perhaps to drink Bhang (Legalized here) or to smoke pot. Glimpse of hippie influence can still be seen but now Puri largely attracts Hindu pilgrims or Bengali vacationers when its holiday in Kolkata. By the time I landed in Puri, it was reconnected with power supply yet aftermath of cyclone was still quite evident. Close by I heard of milling crowd splashing with dark tidal waves. At last I lodged in a room which I got only after making up the story in which I always play protagonist, the travel writer... Everything before midnight…
Long and Sandy beach of Orissa
                                                                   Long and Sandy beach of Orissa

Home of one of the holiest Hindu shrines in India, Puri is a coastal town which attracts all type of tourists. Jagannath Temple is the prime attraction for the pilgrims. Long and sandy beaches of Puri occupy Indian vacationers. Looking for spiritual high, Foreign hippies generally sit back in Ashrams and enjoy the readily available Bhang. Puri is also the most preferred base for day trips to Chilika (Satpada) and Konark Temple. With its overwhelming tourist facilities and good food, Puri is the best place to kick-back and rejuvenate backpacking spirit.
Chakra Tirtha Road Puri
                                                                          Chakra Tirtha Road Puri

How to reach Puri: Being one of the most revered Hindu pilgrim sites, Puri is well connected with rest of India by trains. There are direct trains from all the major cities of the country. If you are coming from Bhubaneswar then buses are aplenty round the clock and generally take 2 hours.

Where to stay in Puri: Entire city of Puri is full of hotels (and nasty lodges) though most of the backpackers prefer to stay at Chakra Tirtha which is very close to the shore. There are frequent city buses from bus stand/railway station to CT (Chakra Tirtha) road or you can hire a private auto (50-60 INR). CT road has got wide range of accommodation options and one can also find couple of budget options in the range of 250-300 INR. Further down the road, there are other options but little far from the beach line. Avoid staying near Bus stand or railway station.

Where to Eat: Although restaurants are everywhere but CT road is the best pick for tidy cafes, bakeries. In the evening, most of the travelers generally hang on the roof-top cafes overlooking the sea. In terms of available food options, I believe it’s the second best city in Orissa after Bhubaneswar. Here you can find a wide variety of cuisines and won’t sulk if you are vegetarian. In the evening, you will come across number of options on the beach side itself.


Scene outside the Jagannath Temple
                                                            Scene outside the Jagannath Temple

In the morning, I missed the coveted sunrise of eastern coast yet again. It was a dull morning, partially overcast with intermittent drizzling. Shops were yet to open and it took a while to find a place for breakfast.  Soon after I headed to Jagannath Temple, one of the four temples in Chardham pilgrimages of Hindus, and a highlight of Orissa. Frequent city buses and shared Autos ply till the Temple gate which has stringent security due to its religious significance. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple premises and they generally peek from the rooftops of hotels nearby or from the Library which lies just opposite to the temple entrance.  It’s a huge complex and employed thousands of people to perform daily rituals, to manage temple’s kitchen and other task. Like any other famous pilgrim site of the country, absolute reverence of the place also brought its drawbacks such as preferences in the queue on money basis, priests chasing devotees for some special rituals, insistence for tilak and then donation afterwards. Outside the temple complex, there are many baggage counters where you will have to leave your stuff (Camera, Cell phone, Foot-wears and everything else except wallet).
Jagannath Temple Puri
                                                                               Jagannath Temple Puri

It’s a mighty temple with innumerous miniature shrines strew around the complex. Pillars are beautifully carved. I had to cross couple of narrow passages to reach the sanctum of main shrine where wooden idols of trinity of deities (Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra) are installed. These wooden figures are made of Neem logs and are replaced every 12 years. From its origin to founder, temple structure, deities, rituals, every aspect of the temple is tangled with myriad of legends and all are equally engrossing. Fortunately complex was not very crowded (perhaps due to non-prayer timing) so I could comfortably visit the main shrine and completed the holy circle in very less time. Inside the complex, many families were busy in complex rituals as I come out from the holy site.
Carved wheel at Konark Temple
                                                              Carved wheel at Konark Temple

Since the time I arrived in Puri, I started to mistake it with holy town of Dwarka which lies on the western coast of India. I visited Dwarka couple of years back and everything about Puri was reminding me of Dwarka. Déjà vu struck me more than often. Both of these towns feel so similar to each other not just because of proximity to the sea but for the spiritual vibrations and unflinching faith in the atmosphere.  Existence of Superpower had always been an unresolved intra-contemplation and I always kept it open accepting it beyond my limited intellect.  It all blows with the wind I guess. Later in the day I headed to the bus stand of Puri to visit the archeological quintessence of Indian Temples, Konark.
Puri Konark Road
                                                                         Puri Konark Road

Bus was as full as it can get and the only respite under the October Sky was view outside the window seat. It passed through picturesque villages close to the streams merging to the sea, backwaters adorned with fishing nets, casuarina line along the sandy shore and all against the lapping sea. Way before Bus arrived opposite the prodigious temple of Konark, I made up my mind to get down in between on my journey back and take a walk along the coastline. UNESCO World Heritage, the Sun temple of Konark is a paragon of Indian architecture. Built in AD 1250, during the reign of the Eastern Ganga King Narasimhadeva-1 (AD 1238-64), it was to enshrine an image of Sun (Arka), the patron deity of the place.
Sun Temple Konark
                                                                          Sun Temple

The entire complex was designed in the form of a huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely carved wheels. The sanctum symbolizes the majestic stride of the Sun-God and marks the culmination of the Orissan architectural style. The Vimana of the deul has collapsed, while that of Jagamohana and the nata-mandap are better preserved. The walls of the temple contain superb carving of divine, semi divine, human and animal figures amidst floral and geometric ornamentations. The Vivacious kanyas and danseuse are remarkable in their sensuous modeling, pulsating with human emotions which are absorbed in a variety of gestures and rhythmic actions. Such sculptures render the Orissan temple a class unto themselves. Mighty Simha-Gajas welcome the visitors at the porches. It is believed that originally temple of Konark temple was nearer to the coast but sea receded 3 km since then.
Erotic Carvings on the outerwalls of Sun Temple
                                                         Erotic Carvings on the outer walls of Sun Temple

Konark is a marvelous structure and stirred the awe-within from its first sight. Statues of animals, stone carvings on the walls and pillars, motifs, friezes are so engrossing that one may easily lose track of time. Lately discovered, temple complex has got other minors ruins nearby. It was like reading poetry inscribed over the stones and all done with profound meticulousness. In my opinion, sculpturing is one of the underrated forms of art where artist needs to depict life over the stones and it had been done wonderfully in some of the temples in India. Many images, stone carvings are disfigured perhaps due to the collapse of main sanctum. Several theories go around suggesting the exact cause and date of collapse but nothing is conclusive yet. Similar to temples in Khajuraho, outer walls are adorned with erotic figures depicting various positions of love-making seemingly inspired from Kama sutra. But there are other figures equally enthralling such as a warrior riding a lion, dancing celestial nymphs, panels illustrating events from Hindu mythology, mythological figures, carved wheels, mutilated statues, sculptures of elephants and horses, all an intricate work over the stones. For history or archeological buffs, there is so much that Konark temple complex can easily consume a day. Entranced, thirsty, I retraced from the main site and gulped coconut water to cool off.
Simha Gajas at the entrance of Konark Temple
                                                                  Simha Gajas at the entrance of Konark Temple

Later in the afternoon I boarded a bus to Chandrabhaga beach to partially quench insatiable desire to walk along the ocean. Chandrabhaga is much isolated and tidy alternative to the beaches near Puri which gets filthy with truck-loads of tourists. Beach line at Chandrabhaga is also deserted with very less vegetation near the shore nevertheless it’s a long stretch of sand ideal for apparently endless walks. I spent entire afternoon walking west towards Puri over the jumbled coastal sand dunes until I became completely drained… At last touched down the main road and hopped into a bus before it dusked…I reached Puri, haunting clouds formed just above the earth surface and incessant downpour began….Aah I forgot to mention that on the way back I met Maiko in the bus, gorgeous damsel, nearly perfect pick if I even consider a Japanese wife. Might be in mid-twenties, skinny, straight short silky hairs, small eyes, she stood beside me in awfully packed bus … and we started to chat… :)... censored… ;)... before midnight....
Lonely Shore at Chandrabhaga
                                                                     Lonely Shore at Chandrabhaga

Travel tips for Konark: From Bhubaneswar, there are direct buses to Konark at regular interval and takes 2 hours.  Bhubaneswar-Konark buses do not go via Puri. If you are planning to visit Konark as day trip from Puri then board frequent, overcrowded, ramshackle buses those ply along the eastern coast through some beautiful lakes, estuaries and charming villages. Buses take generally one hour I would recommend to get down at Chandrabhaga beach and stroll along the coastline as long as you can.

Although most of the travelers prefer to visit Konark as day trip from Bhubaneswar or Puri, few stay overnight away from vociferous crowd of Puri. There are number of accommodation options opposite to Konark archeological complex. Few resorts sort of options are coming up near the shore offering sea side theme to the guests. One can eat in the restaurants between sprawl of souvenir shops.

Nearby archeological museum showcases objects retrieved from the excavation at Konark.

Entrée Fees: 10 INR for Indians and 250 INR for foreigner.

Visiting hours: From Sunrise to 8 PM

In Orissa: In Chronological order

In Orissa: Encountering Bonda tribe in Onkadelli

In Orissa: Train Journey to Araku Valley into Eastern Ghats

In Orissa: Gopalpur on post cyclone sea

In Orissa: Winding, finding places to go before Puri

In Orissa: Temples and the Sea, Puri & Konark

In Orissa: Satapada, hinterland, lake, sea and dreary weather

In Orissa: Chandipur, The retreating sea and river mouth

Thanks a lot Vishnu for

Thanks a lot Vishnu for providing us such a nie and informative posting. No doubtdly Puri is one of the best visiting and tourist place in Odisha. Ratha yatra and nabakalebara are some of the important rituals of lord Jagannath. Do you know Nabakalebara, the life-force-infusing ritual in the Jagannath cult? There is a new mobile app on nabakalebara of lord Jagannath is in the air now. Get updates and information on Lord Jagannath's Nabakalebar (New Life)Festival on your android mobile phone wherever you may be. Install the app on your mobile so that your friends and relatives can get updates on Lord Jagannath's Historic Event every time. This exclusive apps is for every lovers of lord Jagannath. You can get the app link here to install in your mobile.

Thanks for your comment

Thanks for your comment Rakesh. Keep dropping by.

+- Vishnu

Nice post Vishnu! Revived my

Nice post Vishnu! Revived my PUri memories...I have been there twice and loved the place everytime. I did manage to catch the sunrise on the beach Smile

Thanks for dropping by

Thanks for dropping by Siddhartha... I must say you are an early riser than... sunrise would have been spectecular...I could manage it at Kanyakumari and it was breath-taking...

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