Highlights from our trip to Puri, Odisha

Monday, October 05, 2015

Puri (Odisha) holds a special place in a Bengali's heart. To some it is a pilgrimage, to some it is a beach vacation destination, even a honeymoon destination for some. Whatever it may be, ask a Bengali about Puri and he/she would have been here at least once in their lifetime. With this trip being my third, every time I have been here, it enchants me and makes me want to visit the place forever more. With its rich history of the Kalinga kingdom, the temples and its mysteries, this is one place which beckons us to visit every year. If a long weekend is coming up or not, if a Bengali is planning for a vacation, Puri is the first place that comes in mind. Same happened with us as well. Me and my husband so oblivious about mandatory holidays due to work pressure, forgot all out Bakhri-Eid falling on a Friday. When it did register to us the week before, we gave no second thoughts and booked our train tickets, called up the hotel where we usually stay (Hotel Gajapati, in case you are curious) and saved our long weekend from going to waste.

The Puri Jagannath temple is the center of all attraction in Puri. It is one of the Char Dham and devotees of Lord Krishna visits the temple from all over India. The place is always flocking with pilgrims no matter which time of the year you plan to visit. There are so many histories and mysteries behind the temple and every time I listen to them I am in awe. This year being very special as it is Naba-kalebara, where the old deities are replaced with a new ones after being carved from Neem trees, visiting the temple is a must.

Did you know :

  • No bird ever flies on top of the main temple. Even aeroplanes do not take any route above the temple sky.
  • Every day two man climbs up the main temple atop the dome without any support and changes the Flag after sundown without fail.
  • The Flag hoisted on the temple always flies to the opposite of the wind direction. I have seen it and was surprised.
  • From which ever side you see the temple, the Chakra on top would always be facing you.
  • The deities inside the temple are unfinished without any hands and legs.
  • The temple has a huge kitchen which common man do not have any access to and it has more than 740 century old Chulhas (stoves). Food is cooked by placing seven earthen handi's of different size above one another. All the food inside each handi are cooked equally within the same time.
  • They say river Ganges flows inside the temple which has been supplying cooking water for centuries.

If you love sea, Puri beach will surely enthrall you. The Bay of Bengal is at its mightiest best here. And since we arrived at the time of Full Moon and also Lunar Eclipse, the waves were so strong and high that they almost looked scary. And it did scare me, I did not go anywhere near the waves, rather sat on the beach and enjoyed its beauty while my husband made his struggled with the sea. Seriously he is a big man, but still the waves literally threw him many a times with it's force.

Well, that's not all that Puri has to offer. To my Bengali readers who knows about the place I know they might be saying right now, "Shut up woman, who doesn't know about Puri". LOL.

So let's continue on what we did. We booked ourselves guided tours organized by the Orissa Tourism Department. They take you for sightseeing in AC buses at a very nominal price. They have a counter at the gate of the Mahodadhi Fort from where you can buy your tickets for the tour of your choice. We opted for Tour 1, which included sightseeing at Chandrabhaga beach, Chandrabhaga Temple, Konark Sun Temple, Lingaraj Temple, Dhauligiri, Udaygiri, Khandagiri, Bhubaneshwar , Nandankanan. It's a whole day trip starting from 6:30 am in the morning and ending at 7:30 pm in the evening. And it only costs 430 INR per person. The AC buses starts from Pantha Nivas Gates at exact time. There are tours for the Chilika Lake, Sambhalpur and more places arranged by the OTDC.

We booked our ticket for 27th of September, which happened to be the World Tourism Day. And OTDC arranged for welcome ceremony at Konark Sun Temple and Nandankanan Zoo for all the tourists.

Chandrabhaga Beach

Chandrabhaga Temple
Did you know :

Sun God was attracted by the mystical charm of Chandrabhaga a daughter of Sage. When the Sun God asked for her hand in love, she refused which made the Sun God very angry. He ran after her and she had no option but to jump into the Chandrabhaga river to save her chastity.

Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple
Did you know:

There is a sculpt of a woman wearing high heels wearing a skirt and carrying a vanity bag in the wall of the Konark Temple. During that time it was not expected for a woman to wear such a clothe, but the makers did foresee the future about how women are going to dress in centuries to come and sculpted the same. There are carvings which shows different phases of a man's life, what a woman does at different time of the day. How to properly wear sindoor if you do not have mirror handy and so many more.

Did you know :

The mushroom like structures on top of the Dhauligiri Buddhist Peace Pagoda are five umbrellas honoring the five Brahmans Sariputta, Maudgalyayana, Mahakasyapa, Ananda and Anuruddha whom Gautam Buddha first gave his preachings to. They were known to be very close to Him.


Did you know :

Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves were built a a hideout for the Jain monks.



How to reach : 

Puri is well connected by railways. There are daily trains available from West Bengal from Howrah, Sealdah. Nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar.

Where to Stay:

Puri has a huge numbers of hotels, resorts and holiday homes. Most Bengalis prefer holiday homes where they can rent utensils, gas, stoves and cook their own meal and enjoy their stay.
There are many options of hotels to choose from in and around Swargadwar ( Puri's crematoria ). I personally do not like the place, it is too crowded and to stay near to a crematoria somehow sends chills down my spine. So I prefer to stay away from all of it in a calm and quite place.

Things to get from Puri:

Puri is famous for its Khaja and many different kinds of sweet. If you are planning to bring back Khaja, look for a shop near the temple called Twist and Taste. It's inside an alley opposite to the temple main gate. Local's swears by the khajas from this place. The next best would be Narasingha Sweets near the temple. Most Bengalis buys from a sweet shop called Kakatua. But locals says they are not of the best quality. I got to know about Twist and Taste from a Panda ( Temple Brahman ) and also our OTDC tour guide on our last day at Puri, but by then we had already bought our bagful of Khaja. I am going to look for this store next time when I visit Puri.

There are many Orissa state government hand loom stores as well from where you can get Sambhalpuri, Bomkai Sarees in cotton and silk There are so many stores selling items made out of shells. Beware of false as well, do not give into cheap semi precious stones available at many vendors, most of them are fakes.

In Dhauligiri, do not  get tempted to buy packets which looks like poppy seeds ( posto in bengali) as these comes at a very cheaper price. Those are ramdana / grass seeds. I got fooled too. But if you are visiting Dhauligiri in cashew season, buy as much as you can as they are sold at much cheaper price.

This brings me to the end of my post. I hope you enjoyed knowing about Puri.

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