An Odyssey in Orissa

An Odyssey in Orissa

Who hasn’t heard of Orissa?

I mean we have all heard of this eastern state , once a centre of ancient architecture and culture but now unfortunately in the news for wrong reasons like frequent floods , droughts or atrocities..

Orissa also boasts of the famed Hindu pilgrimage centre of Puri ( Lord Jagannath) and the “poem- in -stone” Sun Temple at Konark.

But I was not going there for any tourist reasons although I did manage to see those spots as well.
I was on an ‘official visit’ to spread awareness about a software in 3D- Modeling in Steel structures in certain engineering Institutes across the State. For exactly six days…

There is no direct flight from Chennai to Bhubaneswar, it seems. We need to fly to Kolkata and change or choose Bangalore if you please… I did both, once each way!

My first impression about Bhubaneswar, the Capital of the State, is that it’s a city which is just waking up to the realities of modern gadgets and mall-centric life inhabited by IT Professionals. The city is now undergoing small discernible changes , shrugging off the “laid back sleepy north Indian town” ambience, if you know what I mean…

A Park opp Secretariat in Bhubaneswar:

The city by itself is clean and neat in the central planned areas with wide straight well-lit roads and avenue tree greenery. There is very less congestion of traffic, which is a relief but most vehicle drivers on the roads seem to be under a mistaken impression that they are participating in a race and trying their best to get the first prize! Quite frightening really…

The city has adequate no of 3 star and 5 star Hotel comforts for those who can afford them.
I did manage to stay in a moderate 3 –star hotel , The Presidency, which is fine if you are not too ambitious as Room service, Housekeeping, Laundry and phones and Internet are all in working order. But anything other than the breakfast was too pricy and not very tasty either.

The water supply in this City, it appears is only partial in coverage and many hotels like mine use Bore-well waters. The problem is it smells and tastes of the iron ore , which seems to be latent in this soil of this state that boasts of Rourkela and such steel plants.

Oh sure, you could get over this problem very simply, by using Mineral water to rinse your mouth every time…Like I did.
I could not complain too much about this anyway, as I had come here to talk of Steel !

I did get to taste economic Vegetarian fare dished out at the Govinda’s restaurant of ISKCON temple. And the best part- it was right next to my Hotel.

Its a small serene white beauty of a temple and I clicked away some pics of the exteriors

The colleges I visited at Bhubaneswar and Cuttack area had just basic Spartan facilities but had some keen and enthusiastic students .Most were quite disciplined unlike other City students that I had met in Chennai etc, which pleased me and made my presentations that much more enjoyable and successful.

There is a big shopping area in Bhubaneswar, the Market with small stalls selling everything from readymade dresses, Vegetables, Electronics to pirated CD’s…Then you have a wholesale dealer from Kolkata dressmakers called Bazaar Kolkata where you can get some genuine discounted dress materials and Cotton saris etc…There are some hot spicy chaat joints on the roadside here ..so this is also the place where the hep youths of the City ‘hang out’ with their friends…

I also managed to go out of the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, one new and planned, the latter older and congested.

I went to a 400 km-distant district from Bhubaneswar in the remote area of Orissa called Bolangir by Train, boarding Puri -Ahmadabad express at 8 pm with my two associates.
I got off in the wee hours of the next morning, coming out of AC-3 tier bogie to the chilly winds of 15-deg C temp. outside.

We stayed in a very basic hotel in Bolangir which just managed to remain clean, if you are not too fussy. Its a small dusty sleepy town, which seemed to wake up at near about 9.30 am.

The college was far down the countryside, and it took 20 mins by car to reach a small old polytechnic building. I was pleasantly surprised by the cordial people who run the institution who had, trying their best, arranged a Projector and a screen for my presentation. Boy students wore clean uniforms, shoes and ties!! In this rural setting , that was exotic!

The students managed to huddle inside the small hall and sat cross legged to watch the ppt. Quite touching, really…I may have to come here again.
I could get back to Bhubaneswar from here in 7 hours by a day train the same day…Whew!
Then the travelogue part…The Golden Triangle of the east as they call- Bhubaneswar- Konark and Puri.

Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar

This is an ancient stone temple in the heart of the city where at the entrance itself , the pandas or the priests will mob you to hire them for the darshan tour for the day. It’s pretty exasperating to ward them off!

Once inside, we saw the Lingaraj as lord Shiva lingam was being propitiated with milk and curds etc from silver containers by many devotees and priests. There is a tall silver serpent ( nag) shielding the top of Shiva Lingam. It was on a Monday and the temple was packed with devotees being a special day.

Next, I managed to see a Peace pagoda at Dhauli which is a Buddhist Shanti stupa on a hillock. Less than a hundred steps from where your car stops to the nice new pagoda with Buddha in various positions on its side. I have managed to take in some pics there on idyllic views of the countryside below from the Stupa.



A lot has already been said and written about the famed Sun temple of Konark.
My two cents worth, as they say:

Aside from the Historic importance of the temple built by a King – Langula Narasimha deva in 13the century, its the architecture that appeals most… the main temple is in ruins but the other temples surrounding more than make up for it by their splendorous and exotic stone sculptures.

Almost everyone from school children to aged women who came in Tourist buses were seen taking in all the exhibited artistic and very erotic sculptures without a murmur…Quite strange really , considering our outwardly demonstrated reservations on Adult topics and moral policing etc…Hmmmm… See for yourselves!

The Puri Jagannath temple is also a masterpiece in Stone. It has a very high Gopuram and some interesting sculptures decorating the external walls. Lord Vishnu as Jagannath with siblings- Sister Subhadra and Brother Balabhadra are seen in a most unique vision here with bird like appearances…

The temple visitors are besieged with Pujaris and touts who claim to be priests and that they will take you around for a fancy price… If you refuse, God help you…The scene is pretty same as at Lingaraj temple.

Luckily this time around I was escorted by a local ‘Priest’ contracted by our friends in Bhubaneswar and so we were left alone .
Photography is not allowed inside, so here below is a good likeness of the original idols (not my pic, taken from net)..

The Grand old temple lives up to its reputation and the sanctum sanctorum had a long line of devotees which was bypassed by our priest and us! The insides of the Garbha Gruh was slippery with the fallen prasadam and offerings and we had to be careful while walking. The 3 lord images are pretty lovely and we felt enlivened and blessed.

After we had Lords’ darshan to heart’s content and came out, we had snacks in the form of delicious Chole Bhature on the roadside.…Tasty and affordable. There is a Puri beach and Chandrabagha beach near Konark, both neat and clean too, where the waters are calm and low. Artistes make small figurines in the sand…
Also seen on the way, a view of Paradip Port:
Orissa, I felt at one level, is an old fashioned poor state steeped in orthodoxy yet seeking modern lifestytles in its upcoming town and cities… People I met are quite charming , treat you well generally ( except at the temples ) but they confess themselves that they are a little lazy!
Good outing for a tourist , a VFM place…If you are on work like me, well, you have no choice!
(PS: I am not a big Photo-blogger, tried it for the first time…so..E &OE)

8 responses to “An Odyssey in Orissa

  1. Ree, you are simply superb chennaag heldri kathe. you are really amazing when it comes to narration when you visit a place, infact you make it sound more colourful and you instigate the urge to see the place eventhough it feels that we have already seen it through you i.e through your blog and it is pleasure listening to you in person too. Lucky are those students who are guided by you as you impart your knowledge impartially with humor and ease. I assure you they will respect you and remember you for their lifetime. Keep visiting good locations so that we too get the taste of it. Hope to join you sometime atleast

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