Crowded streets, energetic or may I say noisy shopkeepers eager to grab your attention, priests looking for their next clients, its daily way of life of Puri, at least around the
There are only a few cities in India which can boasts of so many dimensions within it. Puri is definitely one of them. It seems there are so many different worlds living in perfect harmony. Although at first glance it may
But it is the shrine of Lord Jagannath around which the life revolves here. It’s the soul of this city. The shrine is part of Char Dham yatra, pilgrimage to four most holy shrines in Hinduism. The other three are Badrinath, Dwarka
My first visit to the shrine was on an evening during the first week this year. There was still some time for the Sun to set over the blue waters of Bay of Bengal, although when I reached near the shrine of Lord Jagannath. There was no plan to enter the temple right then but I wanted to witness the sacred flag changing ritual. It is one of main rituals which have been performed daily for last 800 years or so, minutely without fail. Witnessing this ritual is considered to bring good omen to the devotees.
The honour to change flag daily is bestowed to a particular family. A new flag made by male members of the family has to be hoisted by the male members of this family on daily basis. It is considered as great honour to be selected and trained for this job. The rights of preparing this 20 ft triangular shaped flag has given exclusively to a Chola family by the founder of temple King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva , first of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty rulers. The flag requires to be tied to the metal wheel (comprised of eight metals) called Neela Chakra (Blue Wheel) atop the temple. It took only around 10 minutes for these trained men to finish the job amid chanting of prayers and blowing of conch shells. The flapping of flag from east to west during the evening hours is unique here. Generally, during the day time wind blows from sea to land and in the evenings it blows from land to sea but in Puri it seems just opposite happens. One has to see it to believe it.
Soon after we returned to happening beach road after a long walk through the narrow streets of Puri. These narrow streets were lined up with all kinds of shops selling everything from souvenirs of different types to Khaja – a crunchy sweet. Visit any street of Puri and one would be surprised by noticing sheer number of shops selling these sweets especially around the Jagannath temple and roads leading to and from it. If you have not tasted Khaja in Puri than your visit to Puri would remain incomplete!
Next morning we all assembled near the Jagannath temple for darshan. It seemed we beat the crowed by waking up early. We took services of a Panda, a local priest to guide us inside the temple as our group was fairly large. Once inside the sanctorum through Singha dwar the first thing you witness is large statues of Jagannath, Balvardra and Suvadra. The statues were made from the woods of a Neem tree which stood there at the time of construction of this temple. The most fascinating thing of these statues is eyes of the idols. They are big and completely round in shape. You just cannot just miss those huge round eyes. In fact, these eyes are everywhere and would watch you literally everywhere in Puri!
Once the Darshan was over then we took relaxed walk around the temple. The priest cum guide diligently explained about the four dwaras or gates of the temple, dedicated to elephant, tiger, lion and horse. He also showed the temple kitchen where Mahaprasada, the food offered to the deities is prepared on fire by burning wood. Legend has it that the quantity of Mahaprasada remains same always no matter what is the no of devotees. There has never been any shortage of Prasadam. The other temples around the main temple are equally beautiful but much smaller in size than the main temple. Photography is not allowed inside the temple premises so I could not capture the grandeur of this temple they way I wanted. Once out of the temple from the Ashwa Dwar (Horse gate) we were once again on the same busy street.
But no mention of Puri would probably complete without mentioning Swarga Dwara, considered gateway to heaven, a crematorium. Although I had heard about it before I stumbled upon this place just as I took a small right turn from the beach road. I found myself at the gate of this huge crematorium. I was
How to reach-
Puri is one of the holiest places of the country. It is well connected by both by road and railways. Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha is just 67 km from Puri. Nearest Airport is also situated at Bhubaneswar. Apart from direct trains Puri can be reached by changing trains at Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road stations.
Where to stay-
Puri is frequented by thousands of holiday makers every day. Thus finding hotels, guest houses, resorts as per ones budget should not be a problem.
Its heaven for seafood and street food though all kinds of food are available. Observe the cleanliness of the place before jumping into these stalls.