Orissa or Odisha as it is called now, to me was always a place that I read about in my school textbooks. It was the images of Konark and Rath Yatra, it was one of the 4 Dhams that a Hindu should visit in a lifetime. Orissa Tourist Circuit was a place I always wanted to visit. But never got an opportunity to visit. So last week, when one such opportunity came up, I just could not let it go.
Popular Orissa Tourist Circuit
Though my trip was shortened by a day due to flight delays and missed connections, still I managed to do the popular Orissa Tourist Circuit. And did try to peep into the spirit of the place. After landing in Bhubaneswar on Sunday afternoon, I headed straight to Konark and Puri.
Konark at sunset was a treat to the eyes. You can read about the history and beauty of this ‘never worshiped’ temple at a lot of places. But what is amazing is the amount of sculpture that exists in stone. And as someone rightly said ‘when you stand there, it’s almost like stones are talking to you’. You can actually hear them telling you the stories. Stories of the by-gone eras. Stories of someone who has seen the times change, someone who was lost and re-discovered. Someone who has seen glorious eras, someone who has suffered, someone who has understood life. Someone who has attempted to have the life engraved on itself for the coming generations to understand.
Whenever the mention of Khajuraho and Konark comes, there is always a question that everyone has about the erotic sculpture. But to date, I never got an answer that seemed logical.
First time in Konark, someone could give me a bit convincing answer. And it was, ‘After the famous Kalinga war with Ashoka, a lot of people were killed. The population of the region went down drastically. And people who were alive turned monks after king Ashoka embraced Buddhism. So the erotic sculptures were carved to send the monks back into the world and contribute to the continuation of mankind. There was another explanation that said that the temple took about 12 years to be constructed and all this while all the
There was another explanation that said that the temple took about 12 years to be constructed. And all this while all the Karigars or sculptors were far away from their families. And this was their way of sculpting their fantasies on the stone. The third explanation says this was done for education and ensuring that the generations to come to know and learn the art.
The third explanation says this was done for education and ensuring that the generations come to know and learn the art.
Technically also Konark is a masterpiece like the original temple which no longer exists, had an idol which hung in the air by the forces of two magnets. And the rest of the structure was also held by the magnets. These magnets were destroyed by the sailors who sailed to India as the presence of such huge magnets made them lose their direction in the sea. You can still see the iron clips in the broken spikes of the 24 wheels around the temple and multiple other places. A bit of off-hand advice while visiting Konark in Orissa. Wear some bright clothes and you would have some of the best pictures of you.
Puri Jagannath Temple
After spending a couple of hours at Konark I proceeded to Puri in Orissa, to complete my first of the four Dham yatra. I had the image of Lord Jagannath as I have seen him on TV during Rath Yatras. The driver explained to me the place where Lord Jagannath visits his Mausi for 9 days every Ashadh.
The Rath Yatra is all about Lord going to her place. Staying there for 9 days and coming back. The distance is probably little more than a kilometer. But it takes the Yatra almost a day to cover that distance. Every devotee wants to be a part of pulling the rope of the Rath that carries Lord Jagannath. The temple was an old temple. Like most of the Hindu temples, there were lots of small temples around the main temple. The existence of lots of old Dharamshala’s around the temple is a testimony to pilgrims visiting and staying in this temple since ages. As a Hindu, I was delighted to have a nice long darshan at the main temple.
But otherwise, the temple needs a major cleaning drive. There were dirt and filth all around. The pandas start conning you right from the time you get down from the car. Some of them also collected all possible data about me from the driver. ‘Why is a lady visiting the temple all alone, after sunset, where is she from, why she is here, etc’. My driver and a few of my friends had warned me about the Pandas. So I left everything in the car and went to the temple only with the amount of money I actually wanted to spend there. And I told all the Pandas who approached me that I do not have any money to give them. Many gave me a bad look and went away.
But one guy tried his luck by saying that he wants me to have a good darshan. And he is there to serve the Lord and his devotees. Hence would help me get the darshan. But the moment he realized that I have no money left after I bought the Prasad, he also disappeared. There were many points in the temple when I was invited to take the ‘Aashirwaad’. The moment I said ‘Can I have it without paying any money’, the heads turned the other way round. Not a pleasant experience when you visit a temple of this importance and value.
What I expect there, is serenity and purity that would allow you to connect to the lord and enable you to have a conversation with them.
On my way back from Puri, I stopped at Pipli which is supposed to be the birthplace of Pipli work but was not very impressed with the work available. Apart from this, I could see a few temples like Lingaraj only from outside. Puri, Konark, and Lingaraj are supposed to be in a right-angled triangle. And out of these Konark is located the right angle, hence the names Konark (Kon means angle in Hindi). Legend is that the Lingaraj and Puri were constructed as a competition by two kings. And since Puri set of temples were constructed faster, it is called Puri.
Dhauli is a Buddhist stupa also called the ‘Shanti Stupa’. Located on a Hilltop, it has statues with all the famous poses of Buddha and lions protecting all the four sides. Being at a height it gives a good view of the surrounding town.
Udayagiri & Khandagiri
Udayagiri and Khandagiri are two twin hillocks opposite each other, which are said to have separated during an earthquake. They are caves similar to the ones that you see in Ajanta and Ellora and depict both Hindu and Jain symbols. It is said that these were used by the Jain monks who were earlier Hindus before the war for meditation and living. You can see dormitories and the place to keep their writing. At certain places, you can see the inscriptions in Pali and Prakrit. The caves are supposed to be the oldest caves discovered they date back to 200 BC. And the carvings on the walls depict a lot about the then society. Women were probably more equal than ever after, as you see them fighting on the battlefield, fighting with elephants, playing security guards amongst other things.
There are a few things that I could have seen but missed due to the missed flight connection at Hyderabad. The thing that I found conspicuously missing was the Oriya food. Though I had never heard of any particular Oriya dish, there are a lot of Oriya cooks in Bangalore, so I expected some good food. I did not try at many places so maybe I need to try the food next time I visit. But what was surprising was that no one could describe a typical Oriya food to me. No wonder you never see something like an Oriya restaurant or an Oriya cuisine.
Oriya Artwork & Mementos
Tried getting some authentic Oriya artwork and mementos. But I guess you need some time on hand to hunt for these things. Otherwise going to the emporiums is something you can do in any big city. In fact, what they display in Delhi during various festivals and at Delhi Haat is much better than anything that I saw in Orissa. But then I am limited by what I saw.
On my way back from Orissa Tourist Circuit, it almost feels like you have visited another era in less than 48 hours. It is almost like visiting another world. Need to go back to Orissa and visit the tribal areas. Maybe live there for some time, and of course, the beaches which I could only get a glimpse of on this trip.