During the Durga Puja season, we used to get few holidays. As the season also starts changing with comfortable weather, we generally plan to enjoy the holidays by going out to some tourist places. Like us, many of our friends also go holidaying to different places during this period of time and we ask each other about the places that we plan to visit. Accordingly, we collect some ideas and tips beforehand.
The other day, one of my friends rang me up and asked me about the best way to visit "Puri" as they are planning to visit Puri and its nearby areas during this Puja. She knows that I have visited Puri, the beach town and temple town of Bhubaneswar many a times. I explained everything that I knew and I tried to satisfy her. Of course getting a hotel during Puja time is obviously difficult if one does not plan in advance. I gave her that advice as well.
After talking to her, I sat for a while, remembered a few scenes from my Puri visit and it appeared to me that the visit had happened just recently. I felt as if I was sitting in that particular balcony in the hotel and I was enjoying the blue colour sea meeting the blue sky in the distant horizon. It was a beautiful weather when we had last visited Puri. I still remember the day when, after breakfast, we were relaxing on the veranda enjoying the various shades of blue in front when the bell rang. We were surprised to see the Assam Panda in front of us as we had not asked anybody for a Panda to make the Temple visit till then. He introduced himself as the son of Assam panda and told us that he had got the information about our arrival from the hotel. Really, with his help, we could make the darshan in the temple very smoothly.
Puri's Jagannath temple is a very famous temple with three deities – Jaganath (Vishnu), his brother Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra. As a yearly festival, Puri's Rathayatra is very famous which happens in the month of "Ashadha". During this period, the three deities are taken by beautifully decorated Rathas to the nearby Gundicha temple, where the deities stay for nine days.
With the help of the Assam Panda, we visited the inside of the temple and could offer our prayer very nicely. When we visited the temple it was afternoon and "Bhog" was being given to deities. During that time, the temple is closed for visitors and so we waited outside. When the temple doors were opened, we were taken inside. I remembered that the floor was very slippery and warm as the "bhog" had just been taken outside.
After taking bhog in the temple we waited there till the evening as the Panda had told us about an evening ritual which happened every day. The ritual is about replacing the old flag with a new flag at the top of the temple. It was really a great scene to witness as the person with the new flag in hand goes to the top of the temple, climbing on his back, without looking at the steps. It is really difficult for a normal person to climb like that but we were told that this ritual was done by one particular family from a long period of time.
We also visited Gundicha temple and few nearby places like Chilika lake, the famous sun temple of Konark, the Buddhist pilgrimage sites Dhaulagiri, Khandagiri, Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneshwar.
I explained my experience in Chilika Lake to my friend as they were also planning to visit Chilika and I asked her to find out the truth of getting the pearl in Chilika. I remembered, on that very day after having a very relaxing boat ride in Chilika lake, we were dropped on a small white sand island. There is a small thatched restaurant in the island surrounded by few palm trees. We sat on the plastic chairs and ordered prawns and crab fry. Seeing us, two local vendors approached us to sell pearls. I must admit that I am very fond of pearls. So I took interest as they bought some live marine creatures named oysters and few ordinary looking stones. Both the person opened the oysters in front of us and took out beautiful white pearl from its inside. We were really surprised seeing that. Also they took out some red stones from the ordinary stone by breaking it with a hammer. That too surprised us. Till now I am not convinced whether those pearls I had bought were real or fake. Later on I searched the internet and was able to find that pearl harvesting is being carried out in Orissa. However, I told my friend to look for its authenticity.
Piply is a place situated between Puri and Bhubaneshwar. Piply is famous for its beautiful patchwork material, which is very colourful and lucrative. So on our way back from Puri, we stopped at that small village and picked up few patched work items from its various shops. It was another advice to her to buy those patchwork materials from Puri along with Orissa's famous Channapora sweet.
I also told my friend to go to one village near Puri named Raghuraipur as I like that place. Raghurajpur is a heritage crafts village known for its master Pattachitra paintings, an art form which dates back to 5 BC in the region. Apart from that, the village is also home to crafts like Tussar paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, wooden, cowdung and papier mache toys, and masks. In the year 2000, the village was chosen to be developed as state's first heritage village and developed as a Crafts village.
Situated amidst groves of coconut, palm, mango and jack fruit, the main village has two streets with over 120 houses, most decorated with mural paintings, where the painters reside and practice their various forms of art.
In the true sense, it is really an artist village. When we parked our car, a boy came and greeted us. With him we did a wonderful village walking tour, where we saw many artists busy at their work.
Finally I told my friend to visit the Assamese "Namghar" at Puri. It was founded in the year 1984. It is located very near to Jaganath Temple. Every day Naam-Kirtan is performed in the Namghar. Also it is known that accommodation facility is available for Assamese pilgrims. We went in the evening and met an Assamese "Bhakat" hailed from Nowgaon.
Talking with my friend, giving her a bit of advice and tips had really rejuvenated my mind. I have visited this beach town three times till now. But, still my mind is asking for some more!!!