Puri of the Beaches

For the devotees of Lord Jagannath, Puri does not need any introduction. The visitors must, however, explore the beautiful beachside when visiting the city

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A weekend break during an official trip to Kolkata was enough to tempt me to pack my bags and head towards the holy city of Puri. I boarded the evening Puri Shatabdi and after travelling for nearly eight hours, I reached the city. Of the many rikshawalas waiting for passengers outside, I hopped onto one who offered me to find a decent hotel near the beach. After paddling nearly 20 minutes, I reached an area named Swargadwar on the Marine Drive Road, with the majestic Puri beach to my left and numerous hotels, restaurants, shops and ATMs to my right. Luckily, I found a good seafacing room easily. As I checked in, absolute darkness outside prevented me from viewing the sea; still the roaring sound of waves crashing at the beach was too loud and unique. I dozed off immediately, but excitement and anticipation of watching the first ever sunrise from a beach helped me to wake up early next morning. The beach was abuzz with activities — with chaiwalas selling tea and snacks to tourists waiting for the sunrise.

As golden glitter started reflecting on the sea, most people took out their cameras and started clicking photographs. But there were a few like me who simply gazed at the beauty of the sun kissing the sea. At the same time, a few metres away, I noticed people jostling to buy fish and crabs from fishermen, as soon as their boats hit the beach.

After spending some time at the beach, it was time for breakfast. There are several small and big eateries serving quality puri-subzi, butter-toast, paratha, along the Marine Drive Road and I opted for one of the nondescript yet clean restaurants to grab a quick bite.

jagarnathJAGANNATH Ratha Yatra

The annual Chariot Festival commemorates Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple. Devotees from across the world visit Puri to take part in the festivities, while millions across the world remain glued to their TV sets to watch the celebrations. As part of Ratha Yatra, the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days after which they return to the main temple. During the festival, hotels charge premium and get sold out.

It is interesting to see people jostling to buy fish and crabs from fishermen as soon as their boats dock

I planned to begin my day with the market nearby. It took me no time in getting lost in the wide range of handloom, handicrafts, and other collectables at the market. Theprices were unbelievable, with exotic sarees and salwar-suits in Sambalpuri/Bomkai/ Kataki print starting from `100 onward and traditional Odiya kurtas starting from `80 onward. With unique design and print, there was a lot to shop for — from bed sheets to gamchhas, and from t-shirts to shawls, all unique, colourful and extremely affordable.

Before I realised, it was noon already and I decided to break for lunch. I opted for a crowded restaurant near Swargadwar. A simple vegetarian thali for `50, with unlimited rice, dal, chutney and vegetables cooked in Odiya/Bengali style, was simply lip-smacking and quite filling. With my hands full with shopping bags and stomach heavy post lunch, I decided to visit the Jagannath Temple after some rest. After an hour of rest,

Puri is purely about faith. A triad of deities — Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra — are worshipped at the temple

I was ready for a 25-minute walk from Marine Drive Road towards the majestic temple.

As I reached the holy shrine, I was struck by a thought that this temple is not much about ambience, structure or comfort; it is purely about faith and that alone. A triad of deities — Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra — are worshiped at the temple. So strong is the essence of this temple that the city is also known as Jagannath Puri.

By the time I came out of t he holy shrine, it was already evening. I headed straight for the beach, which had now transformed into a market place.

With CFL lights illuminating the numerous stalls selling hand-crafted items made of shells and oysters, decorative showpieces,

Pocket Delight

  • Sea-facing room Rs 800 onward Non Sea-facing Rs 500 onward
  • Tea and snacks at the beach Rs 10 onward per person
  • Breakfast Rs 20 onward
  • Meal (vegetarian) Rs 50 onward
  • Meal (non-vegetarian) Rs 80 onward
  • Saris and suit-salwars Rs 100 onward
  • Traditional Odiya kurtas Rs 100 onwards
  • You can also buy handicraft items like patachitra (palm leaf paintings), applique works, lampshades, colourful umbrellas, etc. at unbelievable prices

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aluminium utensils, and artificial ornaments, the contrast and vividity was distinctly visible. Spending a few hours in the market, sipping umpteen cups of tea and hanging around at the beach watching the white waves sweep the shores is simply an out of the world experience.

Soon, it was dinner time and I decided to feast on prawn curry and fish at a nearby eatery. The place was known for good non-vegetarian food. I paid Rs 200 for a complete meal with prawn and fish, which was quite a steal, considering the exquisite match of quality and quantity.

Later that night, as I walked back to my hotel room, I had a strange rush of emotions. I felt happy and yet sad at the same time. It was a good trip and I was able to explore a lively place packed with good food, shopping options, and without punching a hole in my pocket.

My only lament was that a day is too short to explore Puri and I could not visit nearby places like Konark Sun Temple and Chilika Lake. But as they say, there is always a next time. I knew I had to return, very soon.

Written by: Bhaskar Mahanta

 

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