Visiting home when you live in a foreign country is often a tedious task especially if you are an Indian! India means a lot of relatives, family and friends with an adulterous amount of your vacation time spent on dinners, lunches and half-slept drawing room conversations with an impending jet-lag. When all that is dutifully fulfilled- you hustle for “my space that you can’t invade” moment that is your congenital right, justly acquired in the west and you wonder- Wanderlust? Quality time with parents? Off-beat destination and weather permitting? In a skip of a beat and a click of a mouse; you know that Orissa be it!
Located in the eastern part of India, the state of Orissa shares a coastline with the Bay of Bengal. It is a magnificent area with abundant culture, old glorious folklores and rich history with stunning archeological sites, many of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. Sharing a quick recap of my itinerary where some of it was planned, some impulsive and all of it a memory made!
Bhubaneshwar - Dhauli - Puri -
Our self-appointed guide and friend Deepak took us for a local breakfast of piping hot Vadas, fresh steamed idlis with the perfect dopamine release of the “chena” or the homemade cheese sugary mithais. If there is one thing that Odiyans do really well - it is their desserts. For those of you with a sweet tooth - this place is nothing short of heaven. Yes, you have arrived at your dessert dream destination. We paid for a hearty breakfast of three, a total bill of Rs.60 which was a pleasant surprise especially if you are coming from an expensive city like Delhi.
Next stop - Dhauli Stupa. It is a white peace pagoda built by the Japan Buddha Sangha. Dhauli is the presumed location where the historical war of Kalinga was fought. It is believed that Daya river turned red with the blood after the battle which turned Ashoka into a Buddhist. He saw to it that Dhauli became an important center of Buddhist activities. He built several chaityas, stupas and pillars here. We came across a sadhu at Dhauli who adorned an interesting hairdo with the peepal tree on his head- depicting the one at Bodhgaya where Buddha attained enlightenment. We joked around his spiritual wifi connection and drove through the scenic highway until Puri. The evening was spent relaxing in the hotel and enjoying the beach at Puri.
Day 2- Puri
Visit to Jagganath Puri Temple - The temple is an important destination for Hindus and is a part of the Char Dham pilgrimage that a Hindu is expected to make in one's lifetime. This temple was one of my very unique experiences of Orissa. We could not take the car until the main gate so we had to squeeze into an auto and make it through small narrow lanes until the main gate. The gate had a board which left me stunned. I would like to call myself a liberal Hindu who believes in being more spiritual than staunch. The board left me more than shocked - It read that only Hindus were allowed to enter the premises. Shrikshetra of Puri Jagannath, as is commonly known, can verily be said to be a truthful replica of Indian culture. They are very proud of their lineage, heritage and ancient Vedic practices. They have a very complex system of priests and it is said that even Indira Gandhi- the PM, was denied entry because she
In a dark chamber glowing subtly by the innumerable vedic diyas, reverberating chants sung by pot-bellied, gold adorned priests with their foreheads decorated with chandan and vermillion; the majestically painted idols of the Gods and claustrophobia created by jam-packed devotees, it was a surreal darshan which lent goosebumps on the nape of my neck. Taking a step out of the room, I felt very light- how I had not felt in a long time and words can never explain such feelings. One of those!