The coastal princess Puri has long been soul of travel and tourism in Orissa. Beautifully situated, Puri offers a great sight seeing experience to a tourist especially one on budget constraints. A trip to Puri begins and ends at the beach for obvious reasons. It offers a great view and great many hotels and resorts to check into. Also known for its iconic temples the entire Puri experience is a mixed bag. Getting away might be hard as Puri seldom lets you leave without charming you thoroughly, but getting there is much, much easier! It has a many connecting railway lines from Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. From state capital Bhubaneswar, the journey is a only a few winks in a taxi or train.
Setting foot in Puri and taking in its sights makes one realize why it is called the ‘Abode of Lord Vishnu’. Temples are the very forefront of its attraction and Hindu pilgrimage tourists are found streaming in hundreds each year. The town of Puri is an interesting blend of historic sites steeped with spirituality and a charming little coastal resort spot. It has something for everyone – the backpackers, the pilgrimage goers, and the lazy tourist who wants a trip to the spa and some quality shut eye listening to the sound of the waves. It is modernized for convenience with much care as to not sever the cultural quaintness the city holds.
To kick start your day in the city, head out to the Golden Beach. It should be easy to spot it as Golden Beach is just miles of sea, surf and sand! Catch many tides, and expand your seashell collection in this quite, balmy atmosphere of gold beach. If you want to catch the beach in throes of activity, February would be a fine time to head out there. A 5-day long Beach Festival anticipated by the locals and the outsiders alike happen each year marking a new milestone each year with the number of tourists wanting to participate.
On the off chance that you are not interested in combing through crowds, the beach is also a cultural site with Kartik Purnima being held here during the Kartik season. Devotees take a quick plunge in the holy waters of Puri and pray to the sea god.
Shree Puri Jagannath Temple:
The most landmark of all temples in the east, Puri Jagannath not only gives ‘Puri’ its official name but also its identity as related by a sea of people across the country. ‘The land of the Vishnu Temple’. It has many structures and rock cut faces of deities and the architecture inspires a sigh of appreciation from anyone with an appreciation for the arts. Its quaint corridors and sturdy figures propped up against stone set in the walls are bathed in sunlight and ample history. Its construction goes all the way back to 11th century and paved way for the famous Rath Yatra tradition (known as the Car Festival to Europeans) which is held every July. Here, popular deities hoisted on a chariot are ferried around the city for the benefit of worshipers and this is held with a religious grandeur of a large scale bringing all eyes to this small seaside town. The temple’s food or ‘bhog’ carries the name of great relevance and not a morsel is to be wasted. The only drawback of the temples is perhaps the ‘Only Hindus’ rule that prohibits entry by others.
Konark Sun Temple:
Closely followed by the Jagannath temple is this ravishing site set deftly on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. It hails and appreciates the giver of energy, the one who streams endlessly into its pathways, the source of all light and wisdom as conceived in Hindu myth – the Sun god. The extremely novel aspect of the architecture is that the temple is in the form of a chariot with twelve wheels representing the twelve months of a year. Seven horses are seen coming to life with a touch of an expert chiseler steering the chariot.
Chilika Lake :
Make time for a visit to Asia’s largest inland salt water lagoon that is sure to make your jaw drop. This lake is just sprawling pocketing some incredibly lovely patches of land and migratory birds walking about. The birds are species indigenous to many places like Siberia and have chosen the Nalaban forests as their safe haven from biting winters. ‘Bird Island’ the tourist hot spot amasses a rich, diverse aquatic life and curious varieties of birds flecked with gorgeous patterns and colors.
Camera lenses fly out in a heartbeat and shutters go wild as exotic birds start coming out. Photographers often find it peaceful to stand by and watch the rich landscape through their lenses all day. The nearby Kalijai island famous for its temple goddess Kailijai, houses dolphins in its waters making for a rare viewing experience.
If you’re a nature lover, then pack your binoculars and cameras and teaming up with the local sightseeing communities to discover new creeks. The Orissa travel and tourism corporation desk offers a lot of information on that. Don’t miss it, its a fun way to explore the burst of nature and wildlife with like minded people.