As the summer approaches, my family came up with a great surprise plan- "a weekend getaway to Jagannath Puri". My parents were joined by my uncles & cousins along with their families thus making it a group trip of 16 people including 3 school going children.
We booked the train tickets and hotels for stay well in advance. Despite being a short trip, it turned out to be a great opportunity to spend comfortable family time and enjoy the journey with lots of giggling and hooting through-out the way. The journey commenced by meeting at the Railway Station well before the train’s departure time. All the mothers in the group carried a separate basket filled with home-made goodies to serve us all the way. The outing was like any typical Indian family trip with fathers’ playing cards, mommies gossiping, children indulging in board games as I took my favorite window seat to appreciate the scenery and have some “me” time.
We spent the whole night in the train amidst quality family time and delicious food before reaching our destination next morning. On arriving at the hotel, we checked in and refreshed ourselves before proceeding to explore the local market, the Jagannath Temple and the mighty Puri beach on that particular day. There are other places to visit in Odisha such as Chilika Lake, Cuttak, Bhubneshwar, Konark Sun Temple, Tribal Museum,etc.
We crossed the busy lanes of local market which were decorated with the special "Prasad" offered to the Lord Jagannath as we reached the entrance gate of the Temple. We had to deposit our mobiles, cameras at the security check before entering the Temple premises. As it was a hot day, the stairs of the Temple were cooled by continuous flow of water for the convenience of the devotees.
On entering the main hall of the Temple, we joined hundreds of other devotees waiting in a queue to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath. There were many priests or “Pandas” as they are locally called; showering blessings and asking for donations or “Dakshinas”. We struggled to make our way through the large crowd before finally reaching inside main sanctum of the Temple. The sanctum of the Jagannath Temple consists of three idols; Lord Jagannath and his siblings Lord Balram and Devi Subhadra. We only managed to get a couple of seconds to offer our prayers to the almighty before we were pushed outside by the huge crowd. Nevertheless, we were contended to receive the Lord’s blessing and as we came out of the main sanctum, we decided to explore the temple premises.
We passed through many temples of different Gods and Goddesses in varying sizes and some huge trees which were being worshiped before reaching the mega kitchen of the Temple. The kitchen was a big hall with many look-through glass windows having hundreds of earthen pots containing food items to be cooked for the deity. Adjacent to this huge kitchen was an open area where these earthen pots were being made. It is said that the pots are used only once for cooking.
We roamed around the temple premises that entire afternoon and it was now 6 P.M. - the most awaited time of the evening for “Dhwaja Rohan” or changing the flag of the temple. The flag waving at the peak of the temple measures several meters in length and is changed daily. A man bundled the flag over his back and climbed up the temple very quickly to reach the top. The entire experience of witnessing this change of flags was breath-taking to say the least. The next thing we say was the really glorious. We could hear hundreds of bells ringing, clapping sound of the hands and the sounds of enchanting prayers. Lord Jagannath along with his siblings was being taken to the evening tour across the city. Hundreds of devotees buzzed near the ‘Palki’ or Chariot to have a glimpse of this magnificent moment. Peoples started brushing the road to honor the god. I felt really blessed to have witnessed such an event.
We came out of the temple and explored the local market in the vicinity to purchase the popular “Prasad” for our friends back home. The local shops were decorated with numerous sizes and varieties of sculptures and portraits of the deity. They also sold various items used in the “Puja” of the Temple which can be brought back home. We purchased some of these items and proceeded to our destination.
The Puri beach-
We arrived at the beach of the mighty Bay of Bengal which extended till what it seemed to be eternity. Although it was late in the evening, we still decided to unwind with cool breeze and tides under the moonlight. The atmosphere at the beach was quite majestic with vendors selling varieties of fishes and sea shells and even pearls. After spending some time in the ocean water and soaking our legs while avoiding any insects or reptiles we decided to call it a day and headed back to our hotel.
The next day was our last day of the trip as we were departing in the evening. So much to see yet so little time!! Alas, the story of our lives. We decided to make the most of the time at hand by visiting the places of interest of the majority. We planned to start the day with having a holy dip in the Swargadwar beach and then visiting the Sand Art Museum, which proved to be power packed start of the day.
The Swargadwar beach-
As the name indicates, a door to the heaven, this beach is of religious importance to the hindus and so were we insisted by our moms to take a holy dip. But that holy dip turned out to be a real fun for all of us. We spend some time here and then headed for our next destination.
The sand art museum-
On arriving the museum, I became sure that we were going to witness something very beautiful and unusual here as sand art is something that can only be expected in the coastal areas. And I was not wrong!! The Museum consisted of numerous sculptures and replicas of popular places made from sand. We clicked a many pictures and moved on!
The next place on our itinerary was the famous 13th century Sun Temple of Konark. We purchased the entry tickets of and entered the premises to be greeted by the mesmerizing sight of two might horses jaunting over elephants carrying the entire temple as a chariot. The mighty temple appeared to be a victim of several vandalism over the last few centuries and the administration is working their best to preserve the lost glory of the ancient structure. We could see huge supporting frames all over the base of the monument. The base of the temple consisted of 12 large wheels representing 12 months of a year. Our parents and elder relatives kept on telling the mythological and historical stories associated with the Sun Temple through-out the way. The entire temple was amazingly decorated with intrinsic sculptures finely carved into the main building.
A lot has been said and written about the Konark Temple but one has to visit the temple to fully appreciate the grandiosity of the place. It takes you back in time and transcends you to another world of art and architecture. We revisited and appreciated the richness and fineness of our ancient art and culture and with a heavy heart decided to head back to the hotel. It was time to bid good bye to this divine city of Lord Jagannath.
The trip concluded as we reached the Railway Station but we will cherish the memories for a long time to come. May Lord Jagannath continue to shower his blessing to all his devotees! Jai Jagannath.