Puri, the temple town of Odisha is well known for the famous Jagannath Temple and the Ratha Yatra. It is also a well-known beach destination in the Eastern part of India and any popular beach is a place for amusement so Puri is a complete package starting with devotion and ending in recreation. Thus Puri is an immensely favoured all season destination.
I personally do not like crowded places but that does not mean that I will not visit any such place. So willingly and unwillingly, knowing and ignoring the crowd factor I came to Puri.
When in Puri let’s do the first thing first – start our trip in a religious way with our visit to the sacred Jagannath temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath who is a form of Lord Vishnu. According to the legend, a tribal chief known as the Savar king used to worship Nila Madhava who was later known as Lord Jagannath. King Indradyumna of Ujjain after a lot of effort discovered this deity and built the original temple.
The greatest attraction of this temple is the Ratha Yatra, the annual chariot festival where Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are taken to their aunt’s house (another temple at a distance) in three respective chariots along with grand procession and gathering. (Read more about Puri Ratha Yatra).
This ancient temple is associated with the history of Puri and is known to be invaded 18 times with the purpose of plunder of the temple treasures. The deities were removed to safe places by the priests and the caretakers of the temple during every invasion.
Every bit of Puri is thus entwined to the Jagannath temple. Many other temples and religious structures came up much later. Puri is also known for the great Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Gaudiya Vaishnava mystic who spent a considerable amount of time in Puri.
The other temples of Puri are the Gundicha Temple, Asthachandi Temple, Panchatheertha Temple, Lokenath Temple and many others. Like other temple towns in India, you find temples in every lanes and bylane. I am not a very religious person so after the visit to the Jagannath temple, I did not look for any other religious place.
I headed straight to the famous Puri beach. Odisha has a vast coastline with the Bay of Bengal in its east and the Puri beach being the most popular and crowded among all. The area wise measurement calls the Bay of Bengal the largest bay in the world and Puri is a nearby, easily accessible and affordable place to enjoy the beauty of this vast and beautiful sea.
This is favourite beach destination among people from eastern and northeastern part of India. Be it an extended weekend or some subsequent holiday Puri comes into consideration. When this is the popularity level then you know what can be the scenario of the beach.
I have always heard of the crowded beach here, this time I experienced it myself. I have never seen any beach with so much of crowd. There were people all around and not a place left empty. All sorts of beach activities were going on in this chaotic situation.
I was puzzled and was in constant search of a place with less crowd. Perplexed and tired, I watched the water scooters speeding on the large waves when the artificial pearl vendor interrupted in quest of selling his products. Then I switched my attention to the moving vendors. A pair of children in their early adolescence became the attraction for the kids just because they were selling those brightly coloured balloons.
The poor camels have travelled far, from west to the east to run across the beach to earn a living for their owners as well as for themselves. Other vendors of hats, toys, jhalmuri, tea and other item has different target customers ranging from pretty ladies trying to prevent the beach tan to tea addicted uncles who are in great need for their hot sip.
Enthusiastic visitors were full with energy and were seen playing, jumping, bathing in the huge waves of the bay. Some elderly ladies were content sitting at the edge waiting for the approaching waves to get them wet. I saw a few chairs arranged in a line facing the sea. No sooner did I rest my back the owner appeared from nowhere and explained to me the charges per seat on an hourly basis.
Gradually I was familiarising myself with the beach activities when I saw a man busy making a sand art. I went close to him sat by the bench nearby and watched him in work. A tea vendor was fast enough to make it a point that if I want to sit there I need to buy her tea. So I sat with a cup of tea to watch and capture the beautiful sand art in the process when the artist informed me that if you want to take a picture you need to pay.
I watched it for a long long time till Montu our artist finished the face of Buddha in the sand. I was enthralled to see this extraordinary art being made in such a short time and with minimum tools. It seemed flawless to my untrained eyes and I was surprised to see such symmetry and details in his work.
I went further in search of solitude but with no fruitful result. After a long walk, the crowd seemed to lessen and I saw the lighthouse near. It was like a eureka moment. Unknowingly I found my desired thing. I am so much in love with the lighthouse that I jump at the very word of it. Coincidentally it was also the visiting time and what else can stop me from climbing up.
I found solitude near this place and the beach too had fewer people around. I decided to pack my bags and check in to a nearby hotel rather than staying in the busy area near the Marine Drive. Next morning the first thing I did was to check out from the hotel in the busy area and get into this peaceful place near the lighthouse.
From this time I started enjoying my Puri time, the saline air, the huge waves, the golden sand and the lighthouse with its rotating light. 🙂 Soaking in this salty water and watching the waves crashing on the shores for hours was the best pass time here.
I wanted to explore further as the solitude and the serenity was getting me indulged. I walked along the road by the beach. There were fishermen waiting for their partners to return back from their night long voyage. The other side of the road had hotels and private properties lined up. They seemed to be pricey and comparatively had fewer visitors than those in the busy area.
Walking for a long through this peaceful trail I reached the Mohana (a place where the river meets the sea). Here the Dhaudia river meets the Bay of Bengal. A vast stretch of sand and through this the thin river course comes to join the sea. I didn’t know about this place neither the name of the river, it was again an accidental discovery which brought me joy and a strange feeling of pride of exploration.
The initial phase of my Puri trip was dull and not the way I liked it but the best came out gradually. The religious start of my trip with the blessings of the Lord Jagannath gave me a final twist and changed my opinion on the popular beach destination of Puri and I feel it – Scenic, Serene and Sublime.