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A visit to Puri - City of Lord Jagannath

City of Jagannath, Puri, is situated some 60 kilometers south of Bhubaneswar, the City of Temples. It takes about an hour journey to reach Puri by road from Bhubaneswar; the town is connected to major cities of the country by Railways also.
Shri Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra (Courtesy: harekrsna.com)
This was my third visit to the Puri. First was when I was a kid, not much in memories except that we roamed the city and the beaches in white-chikan kurta. Second, a few years back with my college mates, the Best visit, with lot of fun on and with the jovial humongous inviting waves of the Puri beach. This time it was an unplanned short visit to the city with my office mates.
Jagannath Temple – A far view

Jagannath means Lord (Nath) of the Universe (Jagat), and He is an incarnation of Vishnu. It’s believed that Lord Jagannath is the Neeala-Madhab of a Tribal King (Savar King) of Odra desha (Odisha).
King Indradyumna discovered His temple through his intelligent minister Vidyapati; and determined to have His darshan, observed fast unto death at Mount Neela. Later he was blessed with the darshan, and established a Temple of the Lord with the divine help. However, the current Jagannath Temple is archaeologically believed to be built by Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev (1148 CE) of Kalinga; and finished by Ananga Bhima Deva in 1174 in its present shape. [More at Wikipedia and official website]

It’s advisable to strike a deal with some Panda (or Purohit) before you enter the Temple. Pandas are the persons who guide the devotees through the Temple and associated obligations. With the help of our Odiya driver, we negotiated with a Panda, and he took us in to the Temple. Non-Hindus are strictly prohibited inside the temple. My office mates were entertaining the goatee (beard on chin), and were exclusively noted by the Panda as he said, ‘Are you a Muslim? Please brother, don’t keep such a beard.’ In fact when we were passing through the Singhadwar (Main Gate), a Panda who was striking everybody with stick of Jagannath, amicably hit my mate and said, ‘जगन्नाथ की छड़ी (Jagannath ki Chaddi), I like your Dadhi’ (Stick of Lord, I like your Beard).
It’s my personal experience that you must keep at least a dozen of Rs 10 notes. They come handy, when some Panda pulls you towards the small temple under his authority, does his puja forcefully and asks for dakshina. In fact in the Garbha-griha (sanctum sanctorum) too, the moment you offer a note to the Panda, he pulls you in front of the Lord ahead of the crowd. Well, as I said our Panda was good one and along with his brother Haa-ri-mo-hanaa (as he was yelling periodically in Odiya accent) he managed to get us a closed darshan of the Lord. Inside the Garbha griha, when we completed the round of Lord, one Panda pulled me towards his seat, put tilaka on my forehead and started demanding dakshina. I had run out of money by that time, so were my mates. He bestowed me with words like, “***** कहीं के? लौंडिया देखने आया है मंदिर में?" (***** kahin ke, Laundiya dekhne aaya hai mandir me?”, i.e. You *****, have you come to stare girls in temple?) There’s a general saying that in Lord Jagannath temple whatever you receive is sweet, and as Buddha too once said, keep what you like, return what’s no sense for you; we left the Garbha griha. :)
Around the main temple, there are some thousands smaller temples. We visited a few of them, and also a wish tree. There we’re told to wish and promise the Lord to abandon one-fruit of choice for a year. One of us chose banana, other struggled to recall Kiwifruit, and the third one overheard the fruit-rule of the wish! ;)

And, do not forget to visit the Anand Baazar (Anand=Pleasure, Baazar=Market) located inside the Temple premises on the north edge. Your Panda or guide will for sure take you there; otherwise insist to visit the place. In our limited time visit, we couldn’t visit the place properly. Anand Baazar is believed to be world’s biggest open-air restaurant. Divine Mahaprasad is sold in Anand Bazar. Mahaprasad is steam cooked in Temple kitchen, in earthen pots over firewood. The food consisting of cooked rice, dal, vegetable curry, sweet-dishes etc, is first offered to Lord, then to Godess Bimala. After this offering, it becomes Mahaprasad and is available for people of all the caste and social status without any discrimination. It’s said that the cooked food has no fragrance or falvour when is carried to Lord Jagannath; but has a celestial smell after being offered to the Lord, as it is blessed. “Nirmalya” is one kind of Mahaprasad, dried rice packed in small cotton sacks; that is generally kept by devotees with their household AnnaGriha (Food storage). We bought Khaja, another famous Mahaprasad made up of maida-flour, sugar and ghee, for our families at a famous shop of the Puri city, Kakatua Khaja Shop.
(Thanks to friend Abhijeet, who reminded me to write about the Anand Bazaar)

A Splendid Sunrise at Puri Beach

Handicraft bought at Pipili
Next was to visit the Best beach I’ve ever seen, i.e. the Beach of Puri! You’ll fall in love with it. Though it’s almost always full of people, it’s so long that you’ll easily find a small place exclusively for you and friends. Enormity and power of the sea, can only be felt at a Bay of Bengal beach, Arabian Sea has got a different flavor. I’ve been to beaches around Mumbai, and have heard of Ganapatiphule, Goa etc; but none is close to what’s offered at Puri. White long beach with multi storey high waves, what else you can wish for! I recalled how we enjoyed bathing, toppling, somersaulting together last time on our college trip. This time, we only had about an hour. We shed our clothes and had a crazy run in to the waters! An hour with divinity, we left the place for journey back to Bhubaneswar. En route, we stopped at a small village Pipili, with beautiful handicraft shops. This village is the centre of majority of the handicrafts available in the markets of Puri, Konarka etc. A little negotiation with the shopkeepers can result in good deals for your pocket!
Waves at an East Coast Beach, near Chilika Lake mouth
Though, an annoying type of cheap-commercialism can easily be sensed at the Temple; a visit to the Temple is always high on spirituality and enchanting for both mind and heart. As a Bengali friend said, 90%of newly wed bong-couples visit Puri for honeymoon; this City can offer you both Spirituality and Fun at same time. Visit to the Puri beach is another story in itself. Do visit the City of Jagannath. Though the best time is November – December, when you can also visit the Chilika Lake and meet migratory birds; a visit in June can witness the acclaimed Rath Yatra of the Lord.
For more pics, you may visit my Picasa album here.




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