Golden Triangle of Odisha
After the overwhelming response to the previous blog post, the urge to keep writing is irresistible. So, as I sat down to pen more of my journey sagas with you lovely people; my last blog post got me thinking of the "Firsts "in my life.
Couldn't help but glide down the memory lane.....straight to my first bicycle ride! Ultimately, the gradual change from bicycle wheels to economy bikes and a notch above from that led me to my Zeus!
Honestly....I tried to remember the first time that my bike stopped being a mode for commute and started being my unrelenting companion of wanderlust! And I didn't really have to look too far. It all started from my home-town!
My home state, Odisha, with its long coastlines and beautiful beaches, serene lakes, peaceful lagoons, wildlife reserve, exquisite temples, historical monuments was the perfect place to mark the beginning of my wanderlust. And the festivities in the state do not seem to end...what more can a rider ask for!
Exploring the heritage and historical landmarks around Bhubaneshwar need a good 3 - 4 days trip. If all journeys on the road were to be called madness, an itinerary is the method to madness. The best way to make a memorable journey to the Golden Triangle is to start the journey from Bhubaneshwar. Not only is the capital city of Odisha a great place for a relaxing stay, it is also very well connected through all railways, roadways and flight.
Day 1: Bhubaneshwar (City of Temples)
Visiting Bhubaneshwar is like a walk through time. It is more about the places around the heart of the city than the city itself. Although there is a lot to cover around the city, I really like the "blast from the past" concept and therefore suggest a visit to few selected ones.
Temples: Bhubaneshwar, also known as the City of Temples, was the capital city of ancient Kalinga and still houses over more 100 spectacular stone temples that give you a glimpse of the magnanimous culture of the state. So visiting the Lingaraj Tample, Mukteshwar Temple, Rajarani Temple, Brahmeshwar Temple and Jogeshwar Temple is not only a religious experience, but also an experience of the rich cultural history and commendable craftsmanship of Odisha!
The most prominent Shiva temple, Lingaraj Temple, although a must visit, has strict rules and doesn't allow foreigners, non-hindus and cameras inside the temple.
Since all these temples are situated within a radius of 5-6 kilometers, a visit to these temples can be easily covered in 4-5 hours. For a wholesome experience, start the excursion by 7 in the morning and round it up with a lunch full of Odiya delicacies at Dalema Hotel!
Sisupalgarh: 2.5 km southeast of Bhubaneswar , Sisupalgarh, was the site of Kalinga Nagar--the Capital of the Chedi (Mahameghavahan) Kings. The fort here, remarkably, had a well developed civil and military architecture, all through the beginning of the 3rd century BC to the middle of the 4th century AD. A walk through the excavation is like getting transcended in time!
Hirapur: 15kms south of Bhubaneswar, Hirapur, was the site of "sixty-four yogini" temples,One of the most impressive yogini temples in Odisha from 9th century. In Hirapur yogini temple, all Yogini images are with their vahanas (vehicles) and in standing posture.A Yogini is a human woman who, through the practice of Yoga, may possess supernatural powers, including the ability to transcend the normal ageing process via internalization of the reproductive power and even death.
The second day in Bhubaneshwar is completely dedicated to the glorious history of Odisha.
The archaeological remains at Khandagiri & Udayagiri (adjacent hills also known as Kumari Parvat) and Dhauli, have been traced back to 2nd Century B.C. and 3rd Century B.C. respectively.
The several caves at Khandagiri and Udayagiri are marvelous combination of natural and man-made caves and make quite an interesting visit. It takes good 2-3 hours and a good guide to get the real feel of the monumental splendour of the twin hillocks.
Visit to Nandankanan Zoological Park spread across 1000 acre land is just 20kms from Bhubaneswar.Currently it has one of the largest collections in the world and maximum number of White Tigers. Don't miss the Lion Safari ( a wide stretch of open ground infested with Lions where the visitors get to see them in their natural habitat) .
What awaits you next is a huge chunk of history. Dhauli. Located at the southern banks of river Daya, approximately 7 kms from Bhubaneshwar, Dhauli is of great historical importance as it houses one of the famous Rock Edicts (Elephant Edict). Area adjacent to the Dhauli Hill is also presumed to be the location of the Kalinga War. It is said that the waters of the river had turned red from the blood of all the ones slain in the Kalinga war. It is this blood chilling scene of human loss that had turned King Ashoka from a great emperor to a person embracing peace and compassion.
Located at the top of the hill is a dazzling white 'peace pagoda' bulit by the Japan Buddha Sangha in the 1970s. This is the best place to enjoy the stunning view of river Daya during a wonderful sunset.
The perfect way to end the stay at Bhubaneshwar is a visit to Ekamra Haat to enjoy and collect souvenirs of the Handicrafts of Odisha and feasting on the luxury and Odiya cuisine of Mayfair Kanika!!
Day 3: Puri (Jagannath Puri)
Although the commonly taken route for the trip down the Golden Triangle is Bhubaneshwar → Konark → Puri, for a well rounded trip, I suggest the route Bhubaneshwar → Puri → Konark via Pipli and Raghurajpur.
It is always advisable to start the journey early in the morning. On the way to Puri, there are two 'must-visit' stops.
Pipli, famous for the appliqué work; and Raghurajpur, a heritage village where the households (100+) are engaged in practicing the unique form of art called Pattachitra, paintings made over a piece of cloth known as Patta or a dried palm leaf. It is also excellent place to collect traditional masks, paper mache, wooden toys and paintings (pattachitra) souvenirs. And yes, don't forget to bargain!
After about 50 kilometers of ride, you reach the pious Puri, one of the four 'Dhaams' of India.
While I chose to visit the Jagannath Temple first, you can always hit the beaches first to enjoy the Sand Art displays (occasional) or simply the sun, sea, sand and the festivities in the city.
However, I would mention a visit to the Jagannath Temple as a 'must-do'. The structure built around 12th Century A.D. is a magnificent and fortified. The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet, and is surrounded by a high fortified wall. This 20 feet (6.1 m) high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri. It is said that as the name suggests even the sound of a thunder cannot enter the temple. The temple has 4 entrances in 4 directions. The temple remains open from 5 am to 12 midnight and the devotees are allowed full 'parikrama' inside the temple. During the Sahana Mela (Public Darshan) all people visiting the temple are allowed 'Darshan' of the deities without paying any fees. Special darshan is allowed at a fees of Rs.50.
However, the temple security is selective regarding who is allowed entry. On a serious note: It is also advisable that anyone visiting the temple should hire a local guide beforehand to avoid the touts inside the temple. In case, you don't happen to find a local guide, you can do well for yourselves by avoiding any interactions with any parties approaching you as 'pundits'.
For making the best out of the time available for the trip, I would suggest the one hour ride to Konark to be started before or around sunset.
This way, the wonderful experience of sunrise at Chandrabhaga beach can be made a part of the trip.
Though accomodation in OTDC Panthanivas is good. I recommend Kamat's Lotus Resort. Its near the lagoon & the beach is 10 mins walk on the bank of the lagoon. Cottages are neat & service is good. Mobile connectivity is a concern for people who always want to be with the network.If you want to stay in swiss tents look for Nature Camp Konark Retreat. (Its 13 kms before Konark if you are travelling from Puri). Ask near Ramchandi to find the place...500mtrs from the main road.
**Advance booking for accommodation is highly recommended.**
Day 4: Konark
About 3 kms from the Sun Temple at Konark is the beautiful and serene Chandrabhaga Sea Beach. You can watch the beautiful sunrise at the beach. An added bonus is a visit to the Light House which is about 200 mtrs from the beach. Nice..neat..clean.., the beach runs along the Marine Drive. Superb stretch of waters. It's a riders paradise for you won't regret the ride from Ramchandi to konark.
The obvious yet enigmatic part of the visit to Konark is the enigmatic architectural specimen; The Sun Temple. This temple is dedicated to Sun God. The temple looks like a chariot which stands on 24 wheels, pulled by 7 horses. Often referred to as the Black Pagoda, the temple was built in 13th Century and is famous for Kalinga style of architecture. The audience Hall-Jagmohan, Dance Hall-Nata Mandir, Dining Hall- Bhoga Mandap, Sun Dial, Erotic sculptures. The temple is open for all. Due to its beauty & attraction it features in the Seven Wonders of India.
To get the complete experience of the place and the history related to it, it is advised to hire a Government Authorised Guide at the entrance (they really know the facts). The untold stories of yesteryears is manifested through the immaculate details of the sculptures. It is this experience that makes me feel; perhaps this is the reason why Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore said," Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human".
On the ride back to Bhubaneshwar one can always stop by the Kakatpur Mangala Temple. The other option is the beautiful ride along the curvy roads of Puri District.
Don't forget to sweeten your memories with Chhena Jhili (Fried Unripened Curd Cheese Balls dipped in Sugar Syrup)at Nimpara.
Since I am talking about food let me mention fee delicacies which you shouldn't miss while visiting Odisha.
Rasogolla at Pahala (Birth place of Rasgolla- 10 mins from Bhubaneswar), Hot Rabdi & Malpua in Puri, Dalema at Puri or Bhubaneswar, Khaja inside Puri temple and so is Abhada Prsad at Puri temple (Try to order book through locals), Dahi Bara & Aloo Dum.
The best time to make the trip and really enjoy the excursions is any time between October and March.
Although I rode along these roads again and again on several occasions, the memories of my first ride with my best buddies Jay & Ujju will be cherished forever.
We rode without shoes....we ate authentic odiya sweets...swam in sea....sat in serenity at the light house .
And yes, I fondly remember the boyish banters of plans to propose to our gals someday at that top of the light house...The fun part of the pact was 'If she says yes then give her a kiss, but if she says no then just a gentle push off the rails...ha ha ha . Just a bunch of guys having some fun.
We never realize then that we were making MEMORIES. I believe that is was after that ride that my undying love for roads surfaced....every ride..every drive had me seeking more and the hunger lingers till date.
"I havent been everywhere, but it's on my list". - Susan Sontag
Till the next time
P:S: I wish to thank my tirelessly devoted, immeasurably patient, and cutting-edge capable editor, Shweta Kachhap. Her unyielding dedication and belief polished my scribble into a poetry.