Ode to Odisha….Journey to the Golden Triangle!

The unintended resemblance to the journey movie series ends with the name, because Journey to the Golden Triangle which is the most visited part of Eastern India is an adventure in itself!

Day 2

A very hectic day 2 of my trip to Odisha starts with a visit to the family grocery store. If you’re thinking of a swanky mart associated with a high-end retailer’s brand name, you couldn’t be more wrong! 

 From cereals and chips to detergents and insect repellents, basically everything was present here! And Mind you, It was a cart!!! No, I’m not kidding. 

IMG_20140117_082814

And did I mention vegetables and fruits? Yes, that too! Definitely a one-man show. Kudos to the owner who was very meticulous (to the point of exasperation) in weighing the rice that we ordered..

I digress.

As is considered auspicious in our land, our drive began with a stop at a sweet-meat shop where I got to taste ‘Jhilli’, a heart-shaped sweet that is reminiscent of Gulab Jamun but it holds its own!

IMG_20140117_113548

The highlight of our drive to Konark was the story of the legend of Kala Pahad and the reason why the roof of the sanctum of the Sun temple is said to be incomplete.

Now the Sun temple, unlike others of its name does NOT have a deity to worship. Our Guide told us that when this was built, way back in 1250 by the then king Narasimhadeva, there was a grand throne which the first ray of the rising sun would illuminate. Apparently,in comparison to the whole of Bharat, this was where the first golden light would fall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Regal Temple..

The collapse of the sanctum is a mystery mired in a lot of theories. It is said that The King’s architect was given an ultimatum of 3 days, despite the 12 years and 1200 architects it took, for this marvel to take shape. Unknown to the King, the Architect Bisu Maharaj’s son proposed and implemented a solution, But instead of rejoicing over a 12 yr old’s innovation, the artisans held him responsible to their sad plight if the king discovered the secret. He was said to have jumped to his death from atop this very roof to protect the artisans. The temple was considered inauspicious then but this claim is unfounded as even much later, worship of the Sun god is found in records.

Another theory suggests that Kala Pahad (literally Black Hill-the destroyer) is said to have invaded and destroyed many places of religious significance like Konark, Puri, Sambalpur etc. Most of the figurines remain destroyed till date due to the evil unleashed by him and subsequently the Mughals. 

Anyways, what’s done is done, it’s now upto us to preserve our legacy, however be the ruins. Our Archaeology department is doing a fine job restoring it. 

It is common knowledge that the Sun temple was built to resemble a chariot with 12 wheels signifying the 12 months of a year. But I was amazed to know that each wheel represented a sundial bearing 8 divisions. The gap between the spokes equivalent to 3 hours or 1 Prahar and 8*3=24 hours of the day!

IMG_20140117_131507

Our Guide measured the shadow his hand made with the dial and estimated the time, exact to the correct minute, 1:18, pm as we looked on astonished! Imagine India’s supremacy with Math and the Universe. Phew!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The intricacies of the Workmanship is truly astounding as detailed work is given to even the smallest design. Each wheel has a different story to tell and the temple also has various avatars of the Sun, the morning sun being young and hopeful (said to indicate birth), the noon sun burning bright and harsh( Exuberates youth) and the setting sun characterized by the sun god on a horse(old age). But again, the remains are few. Unbelievably, most of the temple work is held together by iron clips. Entry to the interiors is banned owning to the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India. 

The temple is adorned with explicitly erotic images and one can only wonder at their inclusion in a sacred spot. Perhaps it was to educate the masses or as some studies reveal, it was a belief at warding off calamities. The presence of these figurines attracted the wrath of the Mughals who defaced plenty of them. I wasn’t convinced with the Guide’s logic when he said these were built to check the dedication of the people who came to pray. If your mind wandered you weren’t considered devout. Well, that would be obvious! 

My mind fluttered and I confess that to stay and experience the aura of this place under a moonlit night, now that would be a perfect date!

Lucky are those who get to perform here for the Cultural festival held here every year.

It is while admiring the stonework that the enormity of the situation strikes you. To be able to experience grandeur of this scale, even though much has been lost to time and tide ( the Sun temple has been witness to various marauders, the coastal air and much recently cyclone Phailin) ..it’s a humbling experience. 

Rabindranath Tagore summed it up perfectly when he remarked

Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.” 

IMG_20140117_130612
Konark is the amalgamation of two words.. Kona(angle) and Ark(Sun). Named so for the precision in architecture!
The rear view of the temple
The rear view of the temple

I left with a lot of memories and a promise to return.

The way to Puri is marked with pristine shorelines and you cannot resist the urge to stop and admire the view.

IMG_20140117_152409
Sea Shells a plenty!

The beach was so clear even on a blazing afternoon that I really wished that I had the time to come here early morning and enjoy the tranquility. Definitely on my next visit! 

Enter Jagganath Puri, the city of the “Lord Of the Universe”, famed for its yearly Rath Yatras. My first impression was that I was entering another Tirupathi. Our vehicle was stopped 2 miles away from the temple due to security reasons. Not having much say in the matter, I was whisked away in a cycle rickshaw where I kept hoping the whole wobbly thing wouldn’t collapse because of my weight. It was all those sweets, I tell you! And Yes, you have to experience the crawl of this cycle. It’s simply weird and scary.

Say Jagannath with a little bit of accent and istyle and you’ll hear yourself mutter a pretty powerful word-Yes, you now know the etymological origin of the word Juggernaut! Fascinating no?

puri
The flag atop the dome is hoisted and lowered every day.

This is one the four Dham places in India. Jagannath is a form of Vishnu, The two other idols are Balabhadra and Shubadra. And this main temple being dotted with innumerable others! I was engulfed in a massive crowd as I entered the sanctum and there was jostling all around! The aura exuded and the fervour of the ‘Jai Jagannath’ chanting was pretty intense and  we lost track of time as light faded away(our watches and cellphones were kept out).

One final stop before reaching home was Peepli- home to some amazing handicrafts that Orissa has to offer. In fifteen minutes I grabbed a few mementos and rushed back..

Peepli
Peepli

All this while we hadn’t eaten lunch and I must say  there’s Nothing like Aunty’s steaming home cooked meal to make up for the day that we traversed the Golden triangle( which by the way is the tourist circuit of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar).

And what a day that was !

🙂

 

Advertisements

Ode to Odisha.. (Part 1)

Happy 2014 to you all!

So far, the year has had an interesting start. New places to see, a new phone to handle, new people to meet, new fights with old friends and new things yet to do.

Here I’m going to dive right inside of my trip to Orissa. Courtesy Twinks and family 🙂  

Scene: Train journey with my best friend and family.

The not-so-long train journey from Vizag to Bhubaneshwar is getting extremely annoying. The heat, the sleepless night and the obnoxious company of strangers in the same cabin is taking its toll. After all, I ask you, How many renditions of ‘Sari ke fall sa’ can you take before you lose your cool? 

Some People don’t take subtle hints.Well some people don’t take a blatant no either 😀

Anyway, I gained immunity and looked out the window and I could notice a sudden shift of scenery after crossing Barhampur where I saw a lot of palm fronds. But many of the trees lined along the railways looked misshapen and weird. It turned out that a lot of those were due to the effects of Cyclone Phalin. 

As we moved Farther into the state, Came the largest coastal lagoon in India. 

Chilika Lake
Chilika Lake

It isn’t an exaggeration when it’s called the largest salt water lake of our country. Chilika is an immense expanse of water Dotted with a lot of migratory birds and prawn culture farms. The water is so close to the Train, it felt like We were gliding above it..

Destination: Bhubaneshwar.

My tryst with the city of 3000 year old Indian History began from here:

Delightfully Yummy !
Delightfully Yummy Rasgullas!

Whoever said that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach sure knew to appreciate the finest things in life 😀 

If you have a sweet tooth and have a penchant for Bengali sweets, then that first bite of a warm Rasgulla, made of actual cheese, it’s Heaven!

Looking back, that makes up for all the “sari ke falls” I had to put up with 😉

Have I mentioned this is a very old city? And yet the Modern blends quite well with the Ancient. Bhubaneshwar is synonymous with Odissi, the classical dance, Ollywood -the Oriya film industry and loads of cultural fesitivities involving dance and music.

Early next morning I went to visit Lingaraj Temple, one of the largest and oldest temples in the region. The Kalinga architecture is prominent in most of the temples found in Odisha. There are a plethora of temples situated a stone’s throw away from this grand edifice thus living upto the title of ”Temple City of India”. 

Lingaraj Temple
IMG_20140116_110251
Chitrakarini Temple..

The intricacies of the workmanship are strikingly beautiful and you could gaze at them for ages and wonder how life was at the age of inception of these marvels..I couldn’t believe I spent half a day just admiring stonewok! 

The next big stop of the day was a Museum. Not a delightfully interesting place for a tourist but the visit to Odisha State Museum is something to cherish. 

These vibrant flowers greet us to various departments of the museum. Which includes a garden full of sculptures( for which I ran out of time )IMG_20140116_122357 IMG_20140116_122416

To start with, we began with the Archaeology section and we pretty much got exhausted with the variety.. Excavated sculptures, pillars, coins, everything that belongs in the history books of school students, we saw! 

IMG_20140116_123350
Creepy ain’t it?
IMG_20140116_124301
Notice the maze like design? Intriguing.
IMG_20140116_123840
Devotion

IMG_20140116_123102

I was really surprised to see that these artifacts were kept well lit and despite the absence of glass or regular monitoring staff, there was no indication of vandalism. Kudos to the tourists!

currency of a Bygone era..
Currency of a bygone era..

We were pressed for time and patience to see everything the museum had to offer and hunger drove us away. 

Now those heads of wild bisons are real creepy!
The remnants of a Wild Bison

After a sumptuous lunch at home, we head to the Shanthi stupa at Dhauligiri. 

Dhauli is speculated as the area where the massacre that was the Kalinga war took place. Ashoka, the erstwhile king of Mauryan dynasty, realized the futility of war when the river Daya running through the area turned red with the blood of the deceased. He them became a Buddhist and propagated peace. In 1970, this pagoda was built to commemorate the sanctity of the area. 

Battleground of Kalinga
Battleground of Kalinga

I stood by for a while imagining the doom of war.. peace obtained at a great cost.. precious indeed.

Shathi Stupa
Shathi Stupa

Those of you who have read ‘Immortals of Meluha’ might sympathise with me when the dome of this pagoda caught my eye for being the kind of radio transmitters described in the series. 😉 

IMG_20140116_154525

On the way to this stupa is a park which contains the Rock Edicts of Ashoka. Imagine our surprise when we ran( we were given only 5 min) the length and breadth of the park and couldn’t find a thing that looked historic! The edicts turned out to be hidden in a relatively small glass enclosure at the entrance. 

The bhaag-dhoud of the day still hadn’t come to an end. We then went to Ek number market and Wow, the bustling crowd, the tantalising smell of food like pani puri, chat, sweets, and the buzz of bargaining.. pretty amazing. 

Chaaats :D
Chaaats 😀
One stop shopping!
One stop shopping destination!

And since I just got started, I shall continue the rest in part 2. 

So long! 

Keep Smiling and Exploring 🙂