A religious Beachy Affair
"Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirits fly"..."Palm trees, ocean breeze, salty air, sun- kissed hair, the endless summer take me there"... my love for beaches can never die. A beach vacation is something for which I am always game. My short sweet Puri vacation will resonate in my mind for years to come. It was a sweet, pleasant trip, planned spontaneously without much ado.
A short trip to Puri was planned along with our Kolkata visit this year during Durga Puja. Puri, also known as Sri Jagannath Dhama is one of the original Char Dham pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Puri is synonymous with the Jagannath Temple and the economy of Puri is dependent to a great extent on the temple.
Ratha Yatra, Puri's most important festival is attended by millions of people every year. Sand art and applique art are some of the important crafts of the city. Puri has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) scheme of Government of India. We set out on our Puri trip on the afternoon of 26th October from Howrah station in Shatabdi Express. The Indian Railways managed to amuse us (I was travelling by train after a long span of time) with their wit and humour. They had used Bollywood movies such as 'Sholay' and 'Anand' to impart some relevant social messages.
We marvelled at the creativity of our railways. The train ride in Shatabdi express was good and was well spent watching two Bollywood movies on Amazon prime. We reached Puri at 10.30 p.m in the night, alighted an auto from the station to our hotel, Lucky India, Royal Heritage. It was the time of Lakshmi Puja in Orissa and so we came across several puja pandals on the way to our hotel. I was surprised because unlike Bengal where Maa Lakshmi's vahan is the owl, in Orissa, it is the elephant. Lucky India is a sea facing hotel and we were exhilarated with the thought that we were so close to the sea. The view of the ocean was breathtaking. The beach was quite unclean unlike many other beaches we have in our country. The hotel staff were kind enough to offer us dinner even at midnight. The people at reception inquired whether we would like to hire a 'panda' the next morning for our visit to the famous Jagannath Temple. We agreed to go with the panditji (panda) arranged by our hotel. We stood in the balcony just to hear the waves lashing at the shores. The warm night cajoled us to sleep with the sound of sea waves resonating in our ears.
We slept soon after as we planned to reach the Jagannath temple early morning as we wanted to avoid the crowd which would probably gather by midday. Despite it, we woke up not very early. The 'panda' arranged by the hotel had reached by 8 a.m and we could only leave by 9. The auto that we boarded in front our hotel, dropped us a little far from the temple entrance. We deposited our shoes at a shop, as guided by the panda and started our walk towards the temple entrance. It was a hot, clear sunny day. Walking barefoot was difficult as the sun's heat was scalding our feet. Devotion is a strong emotion in India. It is said even the crippled scale mountain when they have strong devotion in their hearts. We too managed to ignore the scalding feet, the parched throats, the long walk and the sun glaring at us, to finally reach the temple entrance. We were not carrying any modern day amenities (purse, wallet or mobile phone) with us. Devotees swarmed the temple and our panda guided us everywhere. He guided us to buy some 'prasad' as our offering to the deity. I felt skeptical on whether I could make it to the inside of the temple after a brief glance at the swarming crowd of devotees. I was completely intrigued by the manner in which the 'panda' stood facing me and held my hand and pulled me inside the temple alongwith my husband from behind. I had never before in my life witnessed something like this. He guided us saying, 'now climb one step up, look towards the left.....turn left and you will be able to see the deity on the left'. Had it not been for the panda, I doubt I could have ever managed to find my way through the crowd. After the pious encounter with the deities, we left the temple and returned to our hotel. A sumptuous and delicious breakfast followed. While our return from the Jagannath temple, we had hired the autowallah to take us to the Konark temple, 35 kms away from Puri. My love for ancient temples of India made me love Konark temple. We were lucky to find a guide who very well explained the engravings on the temple walls. The uniqueness of the Konark temple lies in the fact that it was built on the architectural set up of several magnets. The artisans had placed an iron plate between every two stone pieces. A loadstone at the top of the temple was a massive 52 ton magnet. We spent 2 hours of historic pleasure in the Konark temple. The inscriptions on the temple walls indicated that women in those days were progressive and modern. The guide showed us how the sun rays were used to read time.
We returned from Konark temple in the evening. The evening was spent on Puri beach facing the ocean and letting the sea waves wash our feet. The evening was a 'beachy evening' spent on the sea shore, enjoying the cool breeze and the tantalizing aromatic fish fries. It was a fun game, watching the sunset, darkness descend and the intimidating ocean rushing towards us. Every time it came and washed away the sand beneath our feet, we retraced our steps. The next morning we bid adieu to Puri and started our journey towards Bhubaneshwar as we had to board our flight from Bhubaneshwar.
During the drive towards Bhubaneshwar, we halted for a brief time in a green cottage of birds and crafts. Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves were our next destination. These caves are also known as Kataka caves or Cuttack caves. Most of these caves were a place of residence for Jaina monks during the reign of king Kharavela.Udayagiri literally means "Sunrise Hill" and has 18 caves and Khandagiri has 15 caves.
Soon it started raining and we had to cut short our cave exploration. We had a late flight to catch and so we decided to utilize the time we had watching a movie in Bhawani mall in Bhubaneshwar. The movie was not that great but we loved the idea of watching a movie in a new, unexplored city and thought maybe it would be a good idea in the future as well. Dusk descended when our movie ended and we started out for Bhubaneshwar airport. The next four hours were spent in the airport since our flight got delayed but it gave us ample time to retrospect on our small trip and how enjoyable it had turned out although planned impromptu.
There was a tinge of melancholy in the mild winter breeze that brushed past my cheeks. The distant music, the misty morning, the sunlight permeating through the haze, all evoked a strange emotion, a strange longing for a distant land, a long forgotten land. The tantalizing orange scent mischievously kissed my nose tip and lured me to tread into the long forgotten land. The wind caressed my cheeks and I curled up to the unexpected warmth of the winter morning which enshrouded me in a protective embrace. What do I yearn for? What is it that makes me feel unfulfilled despite the satiety of life. I challenged myself with these sombre thoughts. The cottony clouds in the sky spell an omen but I refused to give up to the gloom. I searched fervently for that one streak of hope. I dared to be defiant. The silly childhood games, the unmarred happiness of yore is a bleak memory now but sometimes a strange nostalgia creeps in when I come across that known whiff, which takes me back in times, to ...
Lakhani's misty eyes stared out of the window at oblivion. Batasi, her home was far away. The splashing rain on the window sill, the pittter patter on the tin shed and the melancholy around her, all engulfed her in a smothering hug. Lakhani from Batasi, longed for her home, her home in a faraway land. She longed for the azure sky, longed for the paddy fields, a splash in the pond, a game of "gilli danda" with the other village urchins and the torn pallu of her mother's cotton saree which she would wrap around her fingers at night, cuddle and fall asleep. The fragrance of spices and mustard oil and her mother's sweet body odour still lingered around her and cajoled her to sleep during the lonely nights.
Lakhani still remembers the stormy night when her mother had shivered with fever scalding her entire body, sweat drops on her forehead and her parched lips. Her mother had groaned the entire night and when daylight streamed into the solitary room of their mud hous...
"You have been matched" the ride-sharing app on Swati's phone declared. The name made her heart skip a beat, her hands started sweating profusely like it always does when she is disturbed and agitated. "You are sharing your ride with Shekhar Sharma"- the app declared. The irony of being matched with Shekhar almost made her laugh. Life could not match them, destiny could not match them and yet the ride-sharing app had somehow managed to match the two very unmatchable souls, it was ironically hilarious. If good sense had prevailed Swati would have cancelled the trip. Afterall it was just a matter of a click but she could not resist a strong debilitating urge to get a glimpse of the man, the man who at one point of time meant so much to her. Swati no longer loved him but at times was curious to know where he was, what he was up to. Swati stared at the name that was displayed on the app on her phone with distaste. The hatred in her heart for this man was unadulter...