Monday, November 19, 2012

Puri: Goa of the East

Well, I’m ashamed of many things in my life, but being a Bengali and not having visited Puri wasn’t going to be one of them.

So at the end of this year’s pujas, (which was so lazy because we decided to grace only the colony idol), the four in the family trudged along to Howrah station with bags full of extra clothes we did not need and one jhola specially for food, for despite our many admonitions, the matron had to carry biscuits, cakes, fruits and nuts, with water for the journey and coax us to have them at regular intervals, we wanted or not. In the train, the brother learnt how to bribe a TT to give us reserved seats before others, and we reached Puri by morning.

Konark Temple. Where the matron with the weak knee and zero interest in history sat down to watch her brood tot their cameras and go around the chariot temple with their excitable guide. And as for the brood, we had to be brought back, kicking and screaming. Such a grand spectacle was this 13th century sandstone temple, built by King Narasimhadeva and dedicated to the Sun God. The temple is built as a chariot with seven horses and twenty four ornamental wheels at its base. The spokes of these wheels serve as sundials and our guide demonstrated, very enthusiastically I must say, how these can be used to read the time. The temple also houses erotic sculptures and images from everyday lives. Though it was searing hot, I could have spent a whole day here.

And our guide...
And some others...

Udayagiri and Khandgiri. Puri has been the house of several Jain monasteries as well, although now primarily inhabited by errant monkeys and more errant humans who feed them and scamper away screaming when chased. These twin hills have a couple of ornately carved out caves built for ascetics, that still stand.

Puri is the abode of Lord Jagannath and is one of the four holy sites or one among the Char Dham pilgrimage. But a visit to the temple hardly gives you any joy, truth be told. Crowded, dirty with greedy pandas (kind of pseudo priests who guide you inside and take a hefty fee for their service) milling round, this twelfth century temple allows only Hindus of Indian origin (foreigners attempting otherwise are often beaten up) and is also where the famous Rath Yatra happens every year. A spectacle I had much wish to see, but after my visit, will reconsider.

On shopping, unlike Bengali aunties who get back shell studded bags and Odisha special appliqué; I invested some money in some exquisite filigree jewelry, ikat and Bomkai sarees in the many stores around the temple, the only happy moment of visiting there.

With everyone in the family insisting on a good sea view room, I’d spent frantic few days looking for hotels that gave me one. Luckily, many in Puri give you a fantastic view of the sea. And while the older folks sipped tea and watched the sun rise, the kids ran to the beach for some sun, sand and interesting pictures.

I noticed boats at the end of the stretch we were at and in the interest of getting some shots of the sun, moved closer. Men and little boys were crouching down by the waters, catching fish perhaps, let’s go closer, watching the fish perhaps, since there were no nets. Actually, umm.. errr.. I think eeeww. And to think I had so many pictures of them doing their morning duty. Delete. Delete. Delete.

A visit to Chilka lake next, though heavy on the wallet (1300 to rent a ramshackle motor boat for 3 hours) was a journey into peace. Chilka lake is a large salt water lake that flows into the Bay of Bengal and is home to over 100 migratory birds of which I saw very little. After a while though, spurred by the humming of the motor boat and languid waters, I progressed to a sun baked reverie. Fishermen were laying their nets for the day and lo, behold what was that? Dolphins! So many!
All the fun was followed by an exhausting ride home in a non AC Jai Dada bus, made more interesting by some loud mouth and quarrelsome co passengers. Well, apt punishment for planning a visit to the Goa of the East during Puja Holidays and not buying train tickets sufficiently in advance.

But my pilgrimage is done. No more shame.

1 comment:

R Niranjan Das said...

Nice post with lovely captures. Do not delete them all. :)