Sometimes, some plans are made just as randomly as one can imagine and our trip to Odisha was of them. Odisha is a land of spirituality and serenity with places like Jagannath Temple known for its massive religious value, Sea Beach on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and Chilika Lake Asia’s largest brackish lagoon welcoming migratory birds in winters annually amongst others.
Started off with an early morning flight to Bhubaneshwar (nearest airport) at 07h00 and reaching sharp at 09h10. Remember it is a relatively small airport, baggage claim for us took as long as 30 minutes. So, keep this time frame in mind while planning for your trip. After collecting our luggage, we proceeded towards Puri via a private taxi adding another 1.5 hrs to our journey.
#Puri Sea Beach
A beautiful beach on the shore of Bay of Bengal with majestic Golden Sands and varied hues of the sea.
Unlike other mainstream beaches in India, Sea beach doesn’t have any water activities. This was a let down for me because all we had to do sit around in huge crowds and not able to find solace. I observed another weird thing when I spotted horse/camel giving rides to tourists – like is this a desert or what?? Sorry if this was a spoiler, but aren’t beaches supposed to be fun and quiet places!!
The beach is somewhat clean but really dirty near the eateries and the evening markets. After clicking some pictures & roamed around for another hour we returned to room for lunch with a will to return soon.
- Local vendors lend chairs/shades to tourists at merely 20₹ per hour(20/30 cents/hour)
- Ask price of everything before purchasing.
- Beware of vendors selling pearls & gemstones claiming as original but are fake.
- Try Bhel Puri – without oil -they use mustard oil – something not everyone can relish – at 15/20 ₹ per plate(~20 cents).
- Try Papdi Chat at 30₹ per plate (~30 cents).
- Tea is wonderfully refreshing at most of the vendors.
- If you love seafood, do try fish and crab pakodas.
The temple dates back to 12th century & is dedicated to Lord Jagannath or otherwise known as Lord Krishna. It is one the char dhams – four divine temples which are suggested for all Hindus to visit once in a lifetime. Even, my mum is really desperate to visit all the four dhams before she gets too old to travel. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra/ Chariot festival where the idols from the temple are brought out on the main streets in Puri and usually occurs in June/July embracing huge amount of crowd from all over India.
The hotel receptionist arranged a priest for us to provide us an insight about the temple. As it is a Hindu Temple, we had to remove our shoes outside and (to my shock) mobiles/cameras were also not allowed inside the temple premises and had to be deposited at a counter, so no pictures after the entry point.
The temple has four entrances indicating North, South, East & West. We started our tour from the South Gate, the priest told us that the main temple is surrounded by various small temples of other gods. On completing Parikrama and visiting most of the temples, we proceeded towards the main temple. The priest took us directly to the queue towards the main hall, and we offered our prayers there by watching the deities from a distance.
*To my disappointment, the temple was not at all managed, priests supervising everything, no crowd control and most/all the priests demanding huge amounts of donations in exchange for blessings of God. I am a spiritual person(not a religious one), but these priests take undue advantage of people’s sentiments by making it as their source of income.
All in all, I was amazed by the architecture of the main temple, how could they have possibly built such a huge structure in the 12th century was really mind-blowing.
- Enter the temple premises by the East gate(refer pic above).
- If you have entered via East gate, get prasad from outside to be offered to the deities (inside the temple you get prasad at highly overpriced rates).
- Beware of the priests encroaching you once you enter the temple on the pretext of showing you around the temple.
- Leave your mobile phones & cameras in hotel/cloakroom as they’re not allowed in the temple.
- Turn deaf ear to the priests calling you out for donations to god in name of blessings.
- Once inside the main temple, take care of your wallets and donate only if you like (don’t do under priests pressure)
#Cuisine and Shopping
Being a coastal city, Puri has a wide variety of seafood available, make sure to taste some of the best-fried fish & prawns available on the sea beach. Catch the sunset at the beach and watch the market being set up while the sun sets for the day. Mornings and afternoon usually get really hot on the beach and so in evenings, the markets are really crowded. Food in the state is really cheap, you can get a samosa at 3 INR, a tea at 5 INR (10 INR at the beach), bhelpuri at 20 INR. While relaxing on the beach in evening, do enjoy these little snacks from the religious city of Odisha. The state is famous for its handloom industry and the quality of the cloth is beyond premium here. If you fancy a typical Indian style cotton sari, a suit or simple bedsheets, Puri is the place to shop for them. The market just opposite to the Sea beach is good for getting to know about the types of cloths. Even the market just opposite to the East gate of the Jagannath temple also have nice shops for handlooms, but being the prime spot from the city, that’s little expensive. Wander around the market surrounding the beach and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and probably wouldn’t return empty hand 😀
Have you been to Puri in Odisha? Do share your experience with me!!
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– The Wanderer