After arriving at Puri and checking into a hotel, it was around noon we went to see the Lord Jagannath. Amidst great hunger and intolerable heat, we arrived at the temple. There was a whole set of pundits who were after devotees wooing them into making pujas. Apparently that was common in that place. One of the pundits stuck to us like a leech and was bent on making us do some rituals. While I was getting irritated and tense, the better half held his calm and kept answering to all the unsolicited comments that guy gave. Finally the pundit gave up when he understood we were not the type that was going to give in.
Puri Jagannath temple is a small place (but then when you have been to a whole host of temples in the south – Madurai, Kanchipuram, Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Srirangam, Thiruchendur to name a few and have your home in the city of 'Big' temple, every other temple will seem 'small') divided into smaller temples to give space for different Lords. Even inside the sanctum sanctorum, the devotees were not let be in peace. The leeches were still around. For example, one guy closed his eyes and lied down for a sashtanga namaskaram. One of the pundits ran and stood just in front of his head and gave blessings suddenly. When the guy got up and opened his eyes, he started demanding for money for his blessings. Blame it on the hunger, or the irritation left behind by the rude priests and stalkers or the hot sun – I hardly remember what I saw in the temple.
Post our temple episode, the better half and I went to have some food. After searching for a decent restaurant in the hot sun for more than 30 minutes, we settled for a Oriya restaurant. I should mention here I am hardly a sport when it comes to trying new kinds of food. I went to Udhaipur once and hunted for a south Indian restaurant and had all my meals in the same place hearing the scoldings of friends :D. So I go and order this Oriya food thinking I might have changed someway and that I should be open to eat different kinds of food, experience different cultures bla bla blah. Finally came a meal with rice and potatoes – 4 different ways of cooked potatoes. I managed to finish about 20% of the meal. The better half got me a packet of Sunfeast cream biscuits (I usually hate other brands - being a total Britannia loyalist) which I gulped down to add to the meal and went for a great afternoon nap.
It was 5 in the evening when I woke up and understood the best thing we had done in Puri was to choose a sea facing hotel room (even though you would get rooms at half the rent which are non-sea-facing) in Puri Hotel. The setting sun and the evening breeze were phenomenal. We went for a walk in the seashore and slowly started forgetting the frustrations of the day. As the sun set we moved away from the sea to the shopping areas. The initial idea was to just ask for a few prices and buy some stuff if they were reasonable. Oh boy, we bought a big bag full of stuff for under 500. The handloom tops and kurtas were awesomely priced. While there was bargaining that won in the seashore shops, the formal shops in the city had fixed prices – the prices were so low you wont even think of bargaining. It was some fulfilling shopping experience that filled our bag with clothes, some bags, purses, some showcase items and other junk stuff.
Watching the sun rise from the horizon is a divine experience indeed. I remember seeing the sun rise from the sea in Kanyakumari. I thought of it and both of us woke up at 5 and sat by the balcony awaiting the morning sun. But it was a day with a lot of clouds and we couldn't get a full view of the sunrise. But the slow spread of the rays made our day anyway! We went to the sea for a morning walk and started our day.
We were on our way to Konark by 9 in the morning. It is about 40Km from Puri, taking hardly an hour's ride. We went to Konark to see only one place. The sun temple. No wonder Orissa tourism has chosen this as its USP. It is by itself beauty personified. And with God watering the temple just after we arrived added as a special effect. I don't know how long it is going to stand – already lot of engineering work is being done to keep it safe. I'm so glad we went!
So are you thinking of going to Puri? My verdict is GO! A few tips -
- Stay in a sea facing room
- Be prepared for eating more. Something in Puri's air makes you hungry.
- Take an extra shopping bag. You will want to buy lot of stuff.
- Visit Konark and the beach.