Monday, December 30, 2013

Odisha Trip

Bhubaneshwar - Jajpur - Puri - Konark - Chilka (Satpada)

I had visited Odisha, when I was quite young. Still a faint memory is there with me of Lingaraj Temple, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Nandankanan Zoo and Puri Shri Jagannath Temple.

Time flows away mercilessly.... It just slips out of hand second by second....

As it was quite some time now, so I just got this idea to refresh the memories. I consulted my Parents and as expected they agreed. My wife and kids are anyway always ready with me.

Tara Devi, Ratnagiri, Jajpur
I had visited "Travel and Tourism" fair at Bangalore, where I had met with representatives of Tropical Vacations at Odisha Tourism stall. There I discussed with Pratyush and he gave me valuable suggestions and set the plans for my Odisha Trip 2013.

As my parents and family of uncle (Chachaji and Chachiji)  were to accompany me on this trip and so I wanted to make this as comfortable and relaxing as possible. This included to and fro journey, accommodation and proper time to visit and stay.

The trip included full 7 days program at Odisha. It was as below:


Day 01, 22nd December, Sunday: Bhubaneswar

Visit of the rock cut caves of Khandagiri and Udaygiri. Second half Nandankanan Bilogical Park (Closed on Monday).

Day 02, 23rd December, Monday: Bhubaneswar

Sightseeing tour of Bhubaneswar, visit Parasurameswar, Mukteswar. Kedar Gauri, Vaital, Bindu Sagar, Lingraj and Raja Rani Temples. 

Day 03, 24th December, Tuesday: Bhubaneshwar- Diamond Triangle- Bhubaneshwar

Excursion to Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri, popularly known as the Diamond Triangle of Odisha. 

Day 04, 25th December, Wednesday :Bhubaneshwar- Dhauli - 64 Yogini - Pipili- Puri 

Drive to Puri on the way visiting the 64 Yogini Temple of Hirapur, Ashokan Rock Edicts and Shanti Stupa of Dhauli, and the Pipili, the Applique work village. 

Day 05, 26th December, Thursday: Puri

Visit Puri Jagannath temple and other temples of Gundicha, Loknath and Narendra Tank. 

Day 06, 27th December, Friday: Puri - Konark - Puri

Excursion to the Sun Temple of Konark, the World Heritage Monumen, Mata RamChandi Temple and Chandrabhaga Beach. 

Day 07, 28th December, Saturday : Puri- Chilika Lake (Satapada)- Bhubaneshwar

Drive to Satapada on Chilika Lake. Have a boat Cruise to spot the Irrawardy Dolphins from a close view. Then drive back to Bhubaneshwar


I booked railway tickets exactly 2 months in advance to avoid any issue later. 

Finally the day arrived and we boarded the train to Bhubaneswar.

I love trains. They gives the true feeling of diversity across India. Though I don't like the food served as in my view, it is not cooked very hygienically. 

Next day late evening we were at Bhubaneswar. My parents had reached a few hours earlier and were waiting for us at hotel after dinner.

It was very pleasant to meet all. After some gossips and dinner, we all retired for the day.

Day 01: Bhubaneswar

It was a pleasant Sunday morning, we got up early and got ready by 8. Our guide, driver and friend for trip, Raju was ready with Innova.

With a good and heavy breakfast, we were ready with our first day of excursions.

I liked the city of Bhubaneswar. It was developed as a well planned city, with wide roads and buildings. Though as the city expanded, it may not have been able to retain the same planning but still I felt it is one of the very good cities in India to live.

Bhubaneswar has a very rich history of over 3,000 years. It derived its name from Tribhubaneswar, which means the Lord of the Three Worlds (Shiva). Bhubaneswar has been known by names such as Toshali, Kalinga Nagari, Ekamra Kshetra and Mandira Malini Nagari. 

Bhubaneswar replaced Cuttack as the capital in 1948, the year after India gained its independence from Britain. The modern city was designed by the German architect Otto Königsberger. Along with Jamshedpur and Chandigarh, it was one of modern India's first planned cities. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are often referred to as the twin-cities of Odisha. 

Our first day of Odisha trip started with a visit to cave complex at the twin hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri,  mentioned as Kumari Parvat in the Hathigumpha inscription of King Kharvela at Udayagiri. These two caves are next to each other and it is said that the both were part of same hills and later one part of hill got broke away and hence the Khandagiri got seperated.

These cave complex are at Bhubaneswar itself so it hardly took 15-20 minutes to reach there from our hotel. 

It was a pleasant Sunday morning, the roads were light and surroundings beautiful and full of greenery.

We visited Udayagiri first. Udayagiri means the "The Hill of rising Sun". There is another site by same name at Jajpur district about 100 KMs from Bhubaneswar. That site we visited on the third day of our trip. This Udayagiri at Udayagiri-khandagiri cave complex were used by Jain monks, while the Udayagiri-Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri cave complex were used by Buddhist monks.

As we approached the site, Khandagiri was on the left, while Udaygiri was on the right. 

We parked the vehicle at foot of Khandagiri hills and walked towards the Udayagiri. As it was Sunday so the place was swelling with crowd with many school children.

As soon as we entered we were welcomed by guide, Subhash Pradhan. He asked for Rs 500/- for both the hills. Though I thought it to be at higher side, there was not much option, otherwise we may miss many things to see and understand. I tried to negotiate with him but to no avail. There were a few other guides also there but as I was talking to Subhash, nobody else took interest in us.

Unity wins always!

With our Guide, we ascended slowly towards these partly natural and partly artificial caves.

Ancient Jain Caves @ Udayagiri, Bhubaneswar
Udayagiri has 18 caves while Khandagiri has 15. These caves were dug out mostly during the reign of King Kharavela for the abode of Jain ascetics. 
The first cave complex we visited was the famous Rani Gumpha ('Queen's Cave'). It has upper and lower stories and a spacious courtyard. There was no proper steps to go from ground level to first floor and so for old people, it is a bit tiring. There are a lot of carvings on these caves. It was a very nice place to be and I was just thinking how it would have been in those days with monks occupying this area.
Kalinga War depicted at Udaygiri Jain Caves @ Bhubaneswar
These caves have chambers with inner portion elevated, perhaps to be used as pillow. All the caves have good mechanism for natural light and air. There are beautiful carvings on entrance of these caves.

The guide also told us that the site of Kalinga war can be seen from the first floor. That site on the banks of Daya river is about 10 KMs from here.

Our excited guide told that these caves were also used as bunkers for military purposes. Though I doubt his point.

Then walking through many small caves, we visited the Hathi Gumpha (Elephant Cave).

Ancient Caves @ Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar. Pandavas also spent some time here.
Hathi Gumpha is famous for inscription of King Kharavela. These lines tells us about Kharavela's military expeditions to Rajgir and also against Macedonians. King Kharavela was said to be a skilled musician as well and it seems as if he created a remarkable center of the arts.His queen had also played a major role in artistic creation around these caves.

This cave used to look like the head of an elephant (hence the name), front portion of this had fallen down with brunt of time.

From here one can see many caves behind, another prominent one is Sinh Gumpha (Lion Cave), though it is small.

Behind these caves is Ganesha Gumpha. It is a bit isolated from other caves and said to be used as place of worship. Inside this one can see images of Ganesha and Jain Tirthankar Rishabh.

I saw many young boys and girls sitting here and there trying to isolate themselves in bushes or the side of caves and rocks. I am not sure if this place of meditation and self realization is proper place to be intimate.

From here there is excellent view of surroundings. Also even though there were many people around, still there was calmness in environment, it is nothing but the effect of years of meditation done by monks here.

From here we can also see the temple on top of Khanadiri hills. Though I wanted to go there, but with elders and kids it would have been a bit difficult so we decided to restrict ourselves to ancient caves of Khandagiri only, which does not require to ascend too high.

Slowly we descended from Udayagiri and crossed the road towards Khandagiri.

A flight of steps took us to the cave complex of Khandagiri.

As we approached towards caves, an army of Langoors welcomed us. They were investigating each tourist. They levy heavy tax if someone is carrying any food items and goes ahead without offering them a part (or full) of it.

On the top of the hills, there is one Jain temple complex constructed in late 19th century, though we didnot went there. Instead we explored these ancient caves and temples which were easily approachable.

There are many caves here as well just like Udayagiri but less in number. As we ascended towards these caves, we came face to face with many Langoor monkeys who have made there abode here and in nearby lush green forests.

The guide showed us a group of five caves, which he told that waere used by Pandava brothers during their exile.

Further up, One of the caves was "Totawa Gumpha" or the Parrot Cave. It got the name from the carved parrots above the entrance. 

Caves have also depiction of Bodhi tree and the pegion carrying the letter etc. It was a wonderful experience to be there.

Caves are also adorned with door-keepers, bulls and lions.

The surrounding view from here was beautiful. My click hungry soul found stuffed with some good photographs here.

We descended a little to reach other group of caves which are now used as living temples. These group of caves include Navamuni Gumpha and Barabhuji Gumpha etc.

One of these caves is closed with glass and the 33 Jain tirthankar carved out on the wall. From these glass we can be see the beautiful carvings inside.

Next cave is the Barabhuji Devi where "Sashan Devi" is worshipped. There was also a small shrine for Shri Jagannath. We paid our respect and moved to next cave, where 9 Tirthankars have been crafted in wall. Now this cave is home to some sadhus and priests.

Now it was time to get down and start for Nandankanan.

A view of Caves @ Udayagiri, from Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar
Nandankanan Zoological Park is about a 1000 acre zoo in Bhubaneswar.

Nandankanan is famous for its white tiger population of white tigers. In 1980, the first litter of white tigers were born. Nandankanan is home to over 34 white tigers.

Nandankanan is in outskirts of Bhubaneswar. There was a big rush and queue as we reached there. Lord Anshumaan was in full glory, so asking everybody to be in shades of a blissful tree, I went in queue.

It took me about 45 minutes to get the tickets, there was another counter for Safari tickets and also for aquarium, I took tickets for these two as well.

Kids were particularly excited, but parents were not too much; particularly my mother, who had to walk with her painful knee. But with grace, she accepted the challenge.

One caution, no plastic bags are allowed inside the zoo premises, so don't carry otherwise the alert guards there will seize the articles.

We need to walk about a KM to get the Safari Bus. We waited patiently to get our turn for about an hour.

The safari covers four different enclosures, Lion, Tiger, Beer and Herbivorous (Deer, Sambhar etc.)

Kids were got very excited and Anshumaan was quite frightened to see the majestic lion so close to bus. We had seen a couple of them in Gir forest during our Gujarat trip as well.

Tiger and beer were in bushes in that scorching Sun, so barely we could get a glimpse of them.

There were plenty of Deers on artificial water tank, so they were easy to be seen along with a lot of peacocks.

I feel It is better to walk here rather than to take safari. There are plenty of Lions, Tigers, Beers and Deers along with other animals to see in different enclosures.

Coming out of safari, we got down at exit and walked slowly towards where reptiles are caged near the Kanjia Lake. We thought of boating but parents did not agreed so we took a walk at the enclosures where snakes, crocodiles, tortoise and other Lizards are kept.

Spending some time there and with charged kids, we walked towards where Tigers are caged, We also saw Giraffe. It was a pleasant surprise to see the size of these gentle creatures.

Next was the majestic Tiger then white tiger and then Lions.

They enthralled us with their kind appearance and my ever hungry camera was happy to click as much as possible.

There were a few mighty lions as well, who were a bit excited, perhaps because of terretorial issues with other Lions in next cage. Lions are very territorial and it leads to a bloody fight. But thanks to strong metal cage, there was no war here!

Further ahead there were elephants but it was now too tiring! 

Now it was about 5 PM and we were getting badly tired but before moving out we took a look at a small aquarium. It is not very big, but beautiful fishes are good to see. Kids enjoyed this section very much.

Pride of Nandankanan, The white Tiger
It was time to start back to our hotel. Badly tired but satisfied with our day, we took road and were back in next about 45 minutes to hotel The Excellency.

Some rest, a hot refreshing tea brought back the energy. A good dinner and blissful rest made us ready for our second day.

Day 02: Bhubaneswar

This day we had put to visit the famous temples of the temple city of Bhubaneswar. 

As planned, we started our excursions at around 9 in morning. Breakfast was really good at hotel and getting happy with full tummy, we started our day!

The first temple was Parsurameswar.

Parsurameswar Temple is a Shiva temple dated seventh century A.D. The temple is said to be one of the oldest temples in Orissa.

The temple is not very big but has very imposing architecture. Being there gives an excellent feeling as the temple has the unbroken event of worship here from last almost 1500 year! 

One thing that we noticed was that in general these ancient Orissan temples have two parts namely the sanctum (Deul or Vimana) and the other is place from where pilgrims view the sanctum (called Jagamohana). 

The Parsurameswar is said to be one of the first temples to have the additional structure called Jagamohana added its structure compared to the earlier temples that had only Vimana. 

Music party @ Parsurameswar Temple, Bhubaneswar
We blessed with Darshan of Lord of Lords and then circum-ambulated the shrine.

The carvings of the temple include a variety of fruits, flowers, birds and animals depicted in scenes and parts of designs. There are other beautiful carvings of musiciand and dancers along the outer walls.

Being located in the eastern coast, the temple, along with some other Orissan temples were not much affected by the Muslim invaders during the medieval times. 

Parsurameswar Temple, Bhubaneswar
There is one beautiful carving of Shiva throwing down king Ravana, who is trying to uproot Mount Kailasha, the similar, I noticed at either Belur or Halebidu temple in Karnataka.

Parasurameswar temple, along with the Rajarani Temple and Vaital Deula prove the existence of Natyasastra tradition during the times as it is widely sculpted on the walls.

Behind the Parsurameswar temple is the famous Mukteswar Temple.

We walked through the beautiful lawn to be there. Kids started playing in the lawns, while elders chatted happily as we reached there.

Muktesvara means "Lord of Freedom". This temple is also dedicated to Shiva. It dates back to 10th century.

Most scholars believe the temple is the successor to Parsurameswar Temple. The presence of "Torana", which is not part of any other temple in the region makes this temple unique.

This Torana is very beautiful carving outside temple.

This architecture is one of the basic reasons why Mukteswar temple is also known as the "Gem of Odisha architecture".

Mukteswar Temple, Bhubaneswar
The temple faces west and is constructed in a lower basement amidst a group of temples.

These all temples in a cluster gives a very imposing view as one gets lost in the beauty of architecture and blissful environment that comes with unbroken path of worship since more than a thousand years!

There is a tank (Madicha Kunda) in the eastern side of the temple and a well in the southwestern corner. A dip in the well is believed to cure infertility. There are other shrines within the temple complex.

There are beautiful carvings of Ganesha and Karthikeya along with many more on the outer wall.

We prayed there to the almighty and then clicked all around.

Now we took road to Kedar-Gauri or Kedareshwara Temple, which is also very close from here.

The presiding deity is Lord Shiva, referred to locally by the name Kedareshwar. 

This temple was a little more crowded than other two temples. From outside it was not visible that its very ancient. The structure does not seems that old but the worship is going on sine centuries.

Legend is that there lived a couple named Kedar and Gouri. They decided to marry. But the society was against the union, so it led them to flee from village. During the journey Gouri felt hungry, so Kedar went for food and was killed by a tiger. Later Gouri hearing this at this place jumped into the pond. The King, Lalatendu Keshari, knowing this raised a temple. Couples come here to pray for a happy wedlock without any obstacles. 

The pond here is said to have medicinal property. The fish in pond are a big attraction to kids.

There are sanctum of Lord Shiva, Mother Goddess, Lord Vinayaka among others. Fish in the ponds are attraction to Kids.

Very powerful place to meditate and worship. Gives immense peace!

We started towards Lingaraj Temple now. It was Monday today and said to be very auspicious to worship the "The Lord of Lords".

On the way, we noticed a big tank. It was Bindusagar. 

Bindusagar Tank is located on road to Vaital and Lingaraj Temples. The tank is enclosed within a masonry embankment. All the rituals of Lord Lingaraja are closely associated with this tank.

It is said that this tank is fed by a natural spring from the underground. Now the water is very polluted which need immediate attention.

According to the legend, Shiva and Parvati after their marriage came to Varanasi. But with the passage of time, Varanasi became a populated area. So Lord Siva and Parvati left Varanasi and looked for a new place. At last Siva and Parvati choose Ekamrakshetra as their abode when it was under the control of two demons Kirti and Vasa. Parvati killed the two demons by pressing them into the ground with her feet. That particular place became famous as Devi Padahara. After killing the demons Parvati felt very thirsty and to quench her thirst Lord Siva struck his trident at this place, out of which a spring came out. The water was then sanctified by collecting the waters of all rivers, streams and ultimately took the shape of a large water body. Which is today known as Bindusagar.

Bindu Sagar and surrounding cluster of Temples, Bhubaneswar
The tank is surrounded by many ancient temples. The main temples are the temple of Ananta Vasudeva on the eastern side, Mohini temple in south, Markandesvara temple in south-eastern direction and Uttaresvara temple in northern embankments.

At the centre of the tank there is a shrine what the locals call as Jagati. During the Chandan Yatra, held in the month of May, Lord Lingaraja visits the shrine by navigating through a boat. Chandan Yatra is the main function of the tank associated with Lord Lingaraja.

Now time was to move towards Lingaraj Temple. Not very far from Bindusagar, I noted one small but ancient temple. The driver Raju, told us that it is Vaitala Temple, so I asked him to stop the Innova.

Temple was closed but from the door, the diety was visible. 

Vaital Temple, Bhubaneswar
Vaitala Deula or Temple is dedicated to Goddess Chamunda and dated about 9th century AD. This is also locally known as "Tini Mundia Mandira". 

The semi-cylindrical shape of its roof is a leading example of Khakhara order of temples— which bears an affinity to the Dravidian Gopuram of the South Indian temples. 

The outer walls are adorned with panels of Hindu deities, mostly Shiva and his consort Parvati in her Shakti form etc. 

Mahishasur Mardini @ Vaital Temple, Bhubaneswar
The presiding deity, Chamunda sits on a corpse flanked by a jackal and an owl and decorated with a garland of skulls. She holds a snake, bow, shield, sword, trident, thunderbolt and an arrow, and is piercing the neck of the demon. 

The temple was most probably used for Tantric Sadhna etc. as the name suggests. There is a stone post in front of Jagamohan to which sacrificial offerings were said to be done.

After visiting this powerful place of meditation, we reached Lingraja Temple.

The famous Lingaraj Temple is dedicated to Harihara, a form of Lord Shiva and Vishnu.

The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The temple represents the glory of the Kalinga architecture. The temple is believed to be built by the kings from the Somavamsi dynasty, with later additions from the Ganga rulers.

Bhubaneswar is called the Ekamra Kshetra as the deity of Lingaraj was originally under a mango tree Ekamra) as noted in Ekamra Purana, a 13th-century Sanskrit book. 

Lingraj Temple, Bhubaneswar
As per legend, the presiding deity was not seen as lingam during the Satya and Treta yugas and only during the Dwapara and Kali yugas, it emerged as a lingam. The lingam in the temple is a natural unshaped stone that rests on a Shakti. 

Such a lingam is called Krutibasa or Swayambhu and is found in 64 places in different parts of India.

Shiva was worshipped as Kirtivasa and later as Harihara and is commonly referred as Tribhuvaneshwara (also called Bhubaneswar), the master of three worlds, namely, heaven, earth and netherworld). His consort is called Bhuvaneshvari.

The temple is said to be constructed in 11th century, though some scholars takes this date back to 6th Century.

James Ferugsson (1808–86), a noted critic and historian rated the temple as "one of the finest examples of purely Hindu temple in India". 

It is enshrined within a spacious compound wall.The door in the gate of the entrance porch is made of sandalwood.

The Lingaraja temple faces east and is built of sandstone and laterite. 

As per legend, an underground river originating from the Lingaraj temple fills the Bindusagar Tank (meaning ocean drop) and the water is believed to heal physical and spiritual illness. The water from the tank is thus treated sacred and pilgrims take a holy dip during festive occasions.

There was a lot of rush, as it was Monday. Braving the queue of faithfuls, we reached the sanctum!

It is said that the Lord here is worshiped as both Shiva and Vishnu and hence the name Harihara.

Chachaji was quick to enter and then all of us followed him. The sanctum was packed with devotees. Lord was showering all with bliss!!

Praying the Lord, we came out of sanctum and took a look at architecture and grandeur of this temple, which is there for many centuries as an epicenter of faith of millions.

Every year the chariot festival (Ratha-Yatra) of Lingaraja is celebrated on Ashokashtami. The deity is taken in a chariot to Rameshwar Deula temple. Thousands of devotees follow and pull brightly decorated chariots containing the idols of Lingaraj and his sister Rukmani. This chariot procession stays for five days at the Rameshwar Temple and then will be brought back. This festival commemorates Lord Lingaraj having slayed a demon. Thousands of pilgrims carry water from river Mahanadi and walk all the way to the temple during the month of Shravana every year.

Though I don't like the idea but non Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. It can be viewed from the viewing platform located outside the temple. The viewing platform and the back of the temple can be reached via a road located to the right of the main entrance of the temple.

King Yayati Kesari, believed to be the founder of the Lingaraja temple, deputed Dravidian Brahmins as temple priests over the local Brahmins on account of their increased knowledge of Shaivism. 

Getting blssed, we came out of the temple, at the exit gate there was some saplings kept to be taken, I took one to be taken to my native place of Lucknow.

Now we headed towards RajaRani Temple, our last temple for today.

Rajarani Temple belongs to 11th century. The temple is originally believed to be known as Indreswara.

There was some confusion in my mind with its name but later I came to know that the temple was constructed of dull red and turbid yellow sandstone locally called "Rajarani".

Raja Rani Temple, Bhubaneswar
The architecture of other temples in central India is believed to have originated from the temple, with the notable ones being the Khajuraho temples. The are various sculptures in the walls around the temple and the vimana depicting scenes of marriage of Shiva, Nataraja, Parvati, damsels looking into mirror etc.

"Damsel looking into Mirror" sculpture is quite interesting. The sample of this made of plaster of paris was in my home long back. I instantaneously remembered that.

Lion Slaying Elephant depicting wisdom is mightier than strength, @ Raja Rani Temple, Bhubaneswar

It is said that temple was possibly dedicated to Vishnu. The names of most Shiva temples in Bhubaneswar end with "Iswara" like Parasurameswara, Brahmesvara and Mitresvara. But Rajarani Temple bears a peculiar name and currently it contains no images of any deity inside the sanctum. 

But there are certain features of the temple which indicates its Saivite origin like the presence of Saiva doorkeepers: Prachanda and Chanda, Dvarapla with Jatamukha and a garland of skulls reaching up to and a snake.

The Ekamra Purana describes the position of Indresvara temple to the east of Siddheswara temple and hence it is believed that the original name of the temple is Indresvara. 

Now it was afternoon and we were quite tired with Lord Anshumaan shining in full glory, we decided to go back to hotel for lunch and some rest.

Evening we went to "Toshali", the art and craft fair.

It was quite big and we were interested in some "SambalPuri Saree". The cost was but high as compared to our expectations and so we purchaed some shawl etc. and aftre roaming along the fair, were back to hotel by around 8 PM.

Day 03: Bhubaneshwar- Diamond Triangle- Bhubaneshwar

Third day was to visit the ancient sites related to Buddhist monks.

Morning around 830, we took the road to these ancient Buddhist Vihar, Chaita, Stupas now in Jajpur district about 100 KMs from Bhubaneswar. 

The beautiful hills and rice-growing lands are home to remarkable Buddhist sect, set in an serene and beautiful landscape surrounded by green fields. 

The plan was to visit Udayagiri, Ratnagiri and then Lalitgiri. Togeather they are famous as diamond triangle. 

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Udayagiri, Jajpur
The excavations at the three sites have revealed Buddhist stupas, monasteries, sculptures and Buddha images.

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Udayagiri, Jajpur
Udayagiri is a Buddhist complex composed of major stupas and monasteries (viharas), and together with Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri forms the Ancient Pushpagiri, as mentioned by Chinese travellers.

There are two sites at Udayagiri. As we reached there, one local guy approached us and introduced himself as a guide. We hired him willingly.

Buddhist Stupa @ Udayagiri, Jajpur

I was a bit surprised that we were the only tourists there. The guide told us that mostly foreigners visit here, Indian visitors are only occasional. Not sure how much truth in this, but atleast we can assume that most of us have not much care or respect for our heritage!

There was an ancient step well there, the structure was similar to that of a "Vaav" in Gujarat. There was a not cery old structure nearby, where perhaps some sadhus live.

As per artifacts found here, its historical name was “Madhavapura Mahavihara.

Buddha @ Udayagiri, Jajpur
Slowly we started exploring the area. There was silence all around except of our steps and occasional chatting. Atmosphere was serene and calm. Though Sun god was coming up with charm, but it was not that hot. The breeze from surrounding hills made it comfortable.

Numerous excavations by the Archaeological Department have been conducted since Independence, which continues to this day. During the large excavation from 1997 to 2000, a second part (Udayagiri-2) was discovered with additional stupas and monasteries.

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Udayagiri, Jajpur
It was joyful to be here. Silence and bliss was everywhere. The presence of monks have made this place sacred. That sacredness is still here.

There is a small modern temple nearby in between the ruins. Idol may be old. We went there and prayed.

Excavations by the Archaeological Department have unearthed the monastery, within a large compound, with 18 cells and a veranda arranged around a courtyard. The 3 meter Lokeshwar Buddha image here has an eighth-century inscription on it. Further up the hill, fragments of sculpture have been excavated among the ruins.

Then we walked towards to the newly excavated sites (Udayagiri -2). It consists of a Stupa and other structures.

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Udayagiri, Jajpur
Having spend some quality moments there, it was time to take road to Ratnagiri.

Ratnagiri, the site of the 'Jewel Hill', on the bank of River Keluo, has produced the best finds of Buddhist circuit of Odisha.

One has to take a flight of steps to reach the plains on a small hillock, which has the Ratnagiri remains.

There were a lot of school children there, perhaps some school trip. I was happy, these futures of our nation are being molded to know our culture and heritage.

Slowly we walked up and reached the Monastry and Stupa. Here were situated three monasteries and several stupas and temples believed to date from the seventh century. The largest monastery is a large complex with a veranda with 60 pillars built around a courtyard entered through a carved gateway. At one end a shrine has a Buddha image and remnants of about 24 cells for monks which were built of brick. 

Similar structure was at Udayagiri also, but this was quite big.

Infront of Monastry, at this flat hill-top there are also remains of an impressive Stupa surrounded by a large number of votive Stupas of varying dimensions, courtyard, cells and verandah facing the courtyard with spacious sanctum enshrining colossal Buddha. 

The sight is enough to take one to the times of by-gone era!

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Ratnagiri, Jajpur
It is said that Ratnagiri was established during the reign of the King Narasimha Baladitya in the first half of the sixth century and flourished until the twelfth century. 

A Tibetan history, the Pag Sam Jon Zang, identifies Ratnagiri as an important center in the development of the Kalachakratantra in the 10th century, an assertion supported by the discovery of a number of votive stupas, plaques, and other artifacts featuring Kalachakra imagery.

So it can be easily assumed that this was a center of Buddhist Tantrik sect. 

Large number of stone sculptures, bronze and brass image of Buddha and Buddhist pantheon recovered during excavations tend to prove that Ratnagiri was a great Tantric center of Buddhism comparable to that of Nalanda in Bihar.

Stupa @ Ratnagiri, Jajpur
A large number of clay sealing, found during excavations, bearing the legend Shri Ratnagiri Mahavihariya Arya Bhikshu Samghasya have helped in identifying the name of Ratnagiri monastery. 

By the end of 13th century, it was on decline. Through it continued till about the 16th century CE.

My father was a bit tired now, so I was little worried. After some rest, he felt good so we proceeded towards the Museum which is next to this site.

It has many artifacts excavated from this site, though I felt most notable is that of Tara, which is kept at the gates of museum.

It was about 230 PM now, time to go to Lalitgiri.

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Lalitgiri, Jajpur
On way we took some fruits notable Banana. This was our lunch for today. We the urban jungalites does not have digestive system to take food at a village joint.

Lalitgiri (also known as Naltigiri) was together with Ratnagiri and Udayagiri, part of Puspagiri University.

Ruins of Buddhist Monastry @ Lalitgiri, Jajpur
There were some school children at Ratnagiri, but at Lalitgiri, like Udayagiri, we were welcomed by security guards only.

Perhaps there were also amused to see fellow Indians visiting this heritage center!

Lalitgiri site is also in quite vast area and one has to walk some distance after entering the gates. Initially some of us were a bit reluctant to walk. I was also worried for my father who was very tired at Ratnagiri. But he showed willingness to walk and slowly we covered the distance.

Administration should have some arrangements for elderly people.

This place was also very serene and peaceful, just like of that of Udayagiri.

There were ruins of many Vihar (dwellings) and Chaitya (Monastry and Stupa). As there were no crowds except us....time was like stopped here.... 

Namo Ratna Trayaya..

Mano Arya Gyan Sagara.....

At the end of remains, after a walk of about a KM, one museum has been built to display archaeological finds for public display. 

Just before the museum on the way nest to it, a flight of steps takes us to the Stupa. Truly magnificent indeed. being on higher grounds, it gives beautiful view of surroundings.

Stupa @ Lalitgiri, Jajpur

Lalitgiri has said to have housed the relics of Buddha. During excavations, stone, silver and gold caskets were unearthed with preserved relics inside. 

It was well past 5 PM now.... time to go back to Bhubaneswar.

We had also thought to visit the temple of Katak Chandi while returning back to Bhubaneswar, but could not do that as all were very tired by evening.

Day 04 :Bhubaneshwar- Dhauli - 64 Yogini - Pipili- Puri 

After spending our time in excursions at Jajpur the day before, today was the time to see the place where the Kalinga war was fought. It is on the banks of Daya river at a place called Dhauli.

Dhauli hills are located on the a km south of Bhubaneswar on road to Puri. Today it has a Vishwa Shanti Stupa standing on top of this, telling the world to be in peace with all.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa @ Dhauli, Near Bhubaneswar
The grand white Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupa can be spotted on the hilltop, constructed in 1972 by the Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha.

After the Kalinga war was over, Emperor Ashoka had engraved his edicts on a mass of rock, by the side of the road leading to the summit of the hill.

Now it has been covered and through a glass it can be viewed.

Plains near Dhauli Stupa, here on banks of Daya river, the Kalinga war took place
The Daya river is said to have turned red with the blood of the soldiers and civilians. Ashoka realized the magnitude of destruction that is the fruit of war. 

This structure houses the Ashokan Rock Edict @ Dhauli
Dhauli is surrounded by lush green area. The place has beautiful landscapes and a charm that can change the mind in a wonderful way, to change it spiritual, and hence soothe from many cares of life.

There is a fligyt of steps behind the edicts, we went up and had a good photo session there.

Ashoka Rock Edict description near Dhauli
In his rock Edict, Ashoka expresses his concern for the welfare of the whole world. The rock-cut elephant above the Edicts is said to be the earliest sculpture of Odisha.

Now the time was to go to Hirapur.

Hirapur is famous for "Chausath(64)Yogini" Temple.

In simple language, Yogini represents female master practitioner of Yoga.

As per legend, during the mother goddess Durga’s battles with the forces of asuras, eight yoginis are described emanating from the body of Durga, and they assisted her in the battle. In later texts, the number of Yoginis increased to sixty-four. 

All these Yoginis represented forces of vegetation and fertility, illness and death, Yoga and magic. All Yoginis are worshipped collectively and together, each one is enshrined in an individual position in a circular temple open to the sky (Sri Yantra).

As per another legend mentioned in Matsya Purana, Andhaka, an asura, was terrorising the whole universe. Once he attacked Kailasha in an attempt to capture Mother Parvati. Shiva countered with his Pasupata Astra. But due to boon innumerable demons sprang up from the blood pouring from his wounds. Shiva created several divine mothers who drank all the blood and the demon was destroyed. But this led to a new problem. The mothers went on rampage and Shiva sought the help of Narasimha, who created 32 mothers, more formidable.

Unable to withstand their power the divine mothers created by Shiva went to Lord Narasimha who advised them to nurture and guard the universe. 

64 Yogi Temple @ HeeraPur near Bhubaneswar
There are four major major sixty four Yogini temples in India, two in Odisha and two in Madhya Pradesh.

One of the most impressive Yogini temples in Odisha is the 9th century Chausath Yogini (sixty-four yogini) temple located at Hirapur near Bhubaneshwar. 

64 Yogi Temple @ HiraPur near Bhubaneswar

Another sixty-four yogini temple in Odisha is the Chausath Yogini Peetha in Ranipur-Jharial, near Titilagarh in Balangir district. Presently only 62 images are found in this temple.

Two notable Yogini temples in Madhya Pradesh are the 9th century Chaunsath Yogini temple in Khajuraho and the 10th century Chaunsath Yogini mandir in Bhedaghat, near Jabalpur.

The iconographies of the Yogini images in four Yogini temples are not uniform. In Hirapur yogini temple, all Yogini images are with their vahanas (vehicles) and in standing posture. In Ranipur-Jharial temple the yogini images are in dancing posture. In Bhedaghat temple Yogini images are seated in Lalitasana.

In the middle of paddy fields lies this ninth century temple at Hirapur. This shrine is hypaethral (no roof). It was discovered by the late K. N. Mahapatra, eminent historian and archaeologist of Orissa. 

The temple has 64 niches one for each image of the Yogini. 

From outside, it looks very small but a very powerful place for meditation. Even after damage, perhaps by iconoclasts or by time, the temple is still alive with spiritual vibrations. 

A circular wall, hardly 2 metres in height, containing 64 niches within its inner circumference encompass this shrine. All except one of these contain an image of a Yogini goddess. 

Decorated predominantly in red is Mahamaya (Chandi) Devi.

My mother, Chachiji and wife prayed there to divine mother as I watched them from a distance with our guide who explained about each single Yogini.

Scholars points out that the circular shape and absence of roof of Yogini temples find a justification in some ancient legends about the Yoginis themselves. It is stated that these deities use to roam about in a group in the air and when they descend, always settled in a circle.

The circular Yogini temple can be considered to be an iconic representation of Siva and Shakti, the former being placed at the centre in the role as axis mundi , the latter having multiplied into 64 female deities surrounding Siva in a circle as per the Mandala-Chakra-Yantra tradition.

There was a dance festival there just next to temple on that day evening. We saw the photos of the event by the Odishi Dance performers the next day in newspapers.

Some local people were trying to sell some handicraft items there. But we were in a but hurry to start for Puri now.

We took a small stopover at Pipili. 

Pipili is a town in Puri district. It is famous for designing beautiful Applique handicrafts and colorful fabrics.

We purchased a few items there to be carried to Bangalore and Lucknow.

It was later after noon as we reached Puri.

We checked in at Hotel Shakti International. At reception itself we got introduced to a "Panda", appointed by Hotel management. We talked to him and sought his help for Darshan the next day. He promised to come at 8 AM next day.

After some rest and late lunch, we started for the famous Puri beach.

It was full of tourists and was a full fledged market selling everything from dress to conchs and other sea items. My parents purchased many conchs to give as gift.

Me and Kids enjoy the beach. They were just jumping with excitement to enter into waters. Till a few years back the Puri beach was said to be very safe, but now with some undercurrents, it is not as safe and warning was given by hotel authorities. So we didn't entered into waters except till it just made our feet wet.

By 7/730 PM we were back to hotel. A good and hot dinner was waiting for us. A good sleep did the rest to make us fresh to have blissful darshan of the Lord of the Universe, The Jagannath.

Day 05: Puri

Morning we got up early, it was a special day as we took an auto to visit the temple.

Puri, the holy land of Lord Jaganath, has many names. It is mentioned in Puranas as Srikshetra, Neelachala, Purusottama Kshetra and Jagannath Puri. 

Puri is a shortened name for Jagannath Puri. 

It is also known as " Shankha Kshetra as it is believed that the geography of city is like a Conch.

It is the site of the Govardhana Mutt, one of the four institutions established by Aadi Shankaracharya, the others being those at Sringeri (Or at Rameshwaram, as its more famous), Dwaraka and Jyotirmath (near Badrinath).
It is said that original deity here was worshipped as "Neel Madhab" by the local tribe of Sabara. King Indradyumna of Malwa also wanted to worship him, but the Sabara tribe kept the location of deity very secret. Vidyapati, a relative of King, after getting married a daughter of Sabara headman, got access to cave of the Lord, and he revealed it to the King.

The King when he reached to the cave found that the idol had disappeared. He was in deep sorrow but in his dreams he got a divine message that one wood log will come floating at sea and one sculpture will approach to carve the idols. But nobody should see the sculptor doing his work.

The queen Gundicha could not resist her and opened the door, when the work was still in progress. The person (who was Vishwakarma) disappeared leaving the work unfinished. These idols were then decorated and installed, where they are worshiped till day.

Every about 12 years or the year in which there are two "Ashadha" months, the "NabaKalebar" happens.  In this time, new idols are crafted with "Neem Chandan" tree and the old one is buried at a place called "Vaikuntha Koil"

As per the legend, as guided Mother Mangala Devi (of KakatPur) dreams, the priests identify the "Neem Chandan" tree by which new idols will be crafted. This tree is cut with the golden axe and the most senior priest do the transfer of "Prana Pratishtha" from old to new. 

Muslim general Kalapahad desecrted the temple in 1568 and the Puja got stopped for some time. Later Raja Man Singh of Amber restored Raja Ramchandra Dev of Khurda and asked him to restore the temple. Then Marathas took over the administratiuon of temple and in 1803 british took it from Marathas. The descends of Raja still manage the temple.

There was good crowd there, we deposited our shoes and camera at a shop in front of temple.

The "Arun Stambh" at the gates of temple is taken from Konark and got installed here.

Our "Panda" had arranged tickets for us to do darshan at sanctum. This allows the faithfuls to be in close proximity of lord. There was huge rush there so the Panda took us to other sanctums in temple premises.

As soon as we entered the temple, there was a "Mukti Mandap" on the left. At this  place religious discourses do happen.

Next is Ganesha Temple below a banyana tree, called Kalpa Vriksha". 

Next is Rohini Kund also more famous as "Kak Bhushundi Kund". It is said that "Kak Bhushundi" the king of crows worshipped the Lord here.

Nearby is Vimala temple, which is a Shakti Peetha. She is said to be the guardian deity of temple who protectes the temple. Legend is that she wakes up before Lord in morning and sleeps after the Lord retires in night.

With folded hands we offered our prayers to the mother of universe, the most merciful.

There was a big queue at the next temple of Mother Lakshmi. She is always there where the Lord is and facilitates his devotees fulfilling all goodness in life, being a mother of universe!

A little further was the temple of Lord Anshumaan. 

Hail to you who illuminates all the worlds and who creates, sustains and destroys this world!

Be our guide, protector, mentor and be close to us always!

Next was the "Vaikunth Koil". This is the place where every 12 years or so (the year in which there are two Shravan", during "Naba Kalebar" "Nav Kalevar", the existing idols are buried. 

Now it was time to visit the main sanctum.

A bit a rush ws there. Braving it we all reached inside where the Lord of Universe is there to meet all his devotees and fulfill there heart and soul with bliss and compassion!

Right most is Lord Jagannath, left most is his elder brother Balram and middle one is sister Subhadra.

Environment was very blissful and peaceful. Even in that rush, there was an excellent feeling to be there and to see and feel him in so close.

As we were moving towards the exit gate we saw a big stone pillar, which fell down a few years ago from top of the temple, but nobody got hurt.

Atop the temple is "Patit Paban" the flag. It is changed everyday evening and to see the occasion there is always a huge crowd. It happens around sunset time.

Puri is also famous for its annual Ratha Yatra, or "Festival of Chariots", when the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra, are brought out of the temple, and placed in chariot procession.

It is said that nobody goes hungry at Puri. Every day quintals of rice with other delicacies are prepared for the Lord and after "Bhog" are offered to devotees (with some price). This is pure vegetarian cooked in ghee with wood in very traditional manner.

Friend Saroj had given good tips for Temple. He had suggested that its good to take Prasad after 2 PM so that we can get freshly cooked.

Our Panda promised us to bring it to us in evening so we decided to take dinner with it.

This festival starts at the second day of "Ashadha" month (during July), the siblings comes out in huge chariots and goes to Gundicha temple, about 1 KM infront of main temple. They stay there for 7 days before returning back.

During this time the Lord is easily accessible to all, anyone can go very close to him!

We took an auto to visit Gundicha Temple, Narendra Tank and Loknath Temple.

He asked me 600 bucks but finally agreed at 350!

There are many small shrines in Gundicha Temple. Visitors should be careful against always money asking priests. 

Narendra Tank is where the lord takes bath during annual "Chandan Yatra" It is said that the Lord gets sick for 21 days after this and so he does not meet anybody during this time. His darshan happnes at "Alarnath Temple" south of Puri at Satpada Road in Brahmagiri.

There is a small shrine on middle of the Narendra Tank. It is said to be the "Bua ka Temple". This shrine is dedicated to mother Kunti.

Now slowly the auto took the road to Loknath Temple.

Loknath temple is perhaps the only famous shrine for Lord Shiva at Puri.

The Shiva Linga in the shrine always remains submerged in waters covered with "Bilva" leaves. During Shiva Ratri, it is cleaned and waters are pumped out so that devotees can have rare glimpse of the Lord of Lords!

There is a big pond nearby.

It was about 2 PM or so, I asked auto to drop us at hotel.

Evening was to explore the Puri beach again. 

We visited the place where the sand art by Sudarshan Patnaik was there.

Sand Art @ Puri
It was just amazing. How he has prepared these so minutely and precisely in sand is just superb.

Sand Art @ Puri
Nearby was in a small tented enclosure was an exhibition displaying his art.

Now it was time to take road to beach towards Swarga Dwar Road.

The Golden Beach @ Puri
Beach at Puri is just beautiful, but going in deep waters are dangerous now. We just roamed there as kids enjoyed the camel ride and my wife and parents were busy in some little marketing.

At the end of the Swarg Dwar road, there is an statue of Shri Gaurang. It is also said that here Shri Chaitanya became one with Lord in sea.

There is a Aadi Shanjar Kanchi Kaam Koti Mutt on beach road, just infront of beach. We visited it. Many young boys were reciting the shlokas. 

Kanchi Kam Koti Shankaracharya Mutt, Puri

Mutt was established by Kanchi Shankaracharya. I am very devoted to his grace. Visiting the shrine ws very nice experience.

Nearby there is a good market where we purchased a few T-Shirt etc for kids.

Late evening as we reached hotel, our Panda came back with Prasad from temple. We all sat on ground and tasted the delicacy of rice and other curries and "rabri".

Day 06: Puri - Konark - Puri

Today was the day to visit Konark, it is about 35 KMs from Puri.

Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.
  ~Rabindranath Tagore

Today we had plans to cover Konark, Chandrabhaga and RamChandi temple and to be back by afternoon to Puri.

By 9 Am, we were at Konark. There was a huge rush. A guide approached us and we hired him. He saved us from long queue as he arranged tickets for us.

Braving the big crowd and blazing Sun, we slowly approached to this magnificent piece of art.

The name Konârka is derived from the Sanskrit word Kona (meaning angle) and word Arka (meaning sun) as the temple dedicated to the Sun God.

I remembered the Sun Temple at Modhera in Guajarat, which is not as famous as Konark, but equally majestic.
Sun Temple @ Konark
According to the scriptures, Samba, the son of Krishna, was cursed with leprosy. He was advised by the sage, Kataka, to worship the Sun God to cure his aliment. Samba underwent penance for 12 years in Mitravana near the shores of Chandrabhaga.The Konark temple is attributed to him.

The monument was also called the Black Pagoda by European sailors. In contrast, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the White Pagoda. Both temples served as important landmarks for the sailors.

The current temple is attributed to Narasimhadeva of the Ganga Dynasty. It was originally built at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga, but the waterline has receded since then.

A Legend about the temple goes like this.

Narasimhadeva had hired a architect called Bisu Maharana to build the temple. 

After a period of twelve years, a workforce of twelve thousand almost finished the construction. But, they failed to mount the crown stone. The impatient king ordered the temple to be finished in three days or the artisans be put to death. At the time, Bisu Maharana's twelve year old son, Dharmapada, arrived at the site. Bisu Maharana had never seen his son, as he had left his village when his wife was still pregnant. Dharmapada successfully proposed a solution to mount the crown stone. But, the artisans were still apprehensive that the king will be displeased to learn that a boy succeeded where his best artisans failed. Dharmapada climbed onto the temple and jumped into the water to save his father and his co-workers.

Carvings at Sun Temple @ Konark
The cause of collapse is placed on destruction by Muslim army chief Kalapahad who invaded Odisha in 1568. Kalapahad is also said to be responsible for damages to several other temples during the conquest.

In 1627, the then Raja of Khurda had removed the Sun idol from Konark and moved it to the Jagannath temple in Puri.

In the last quarter of the 18th century, when worship had ceased in the temple, the Aruna stambha (Aruna pillar) was removed from the entrance of Konark temple and placed at the Singha-dwara (Lion's Gate) of the Jagannath temple in Puri by a Maratha Brahmachari called Goswain (or Goswami).The pillar is made of monolithic chlorite and is about 33 tall . It is dedicated to Aruna, the charioteer of the Sun God.

1 of the 24 wheels at Sun Temple @ Konark
We took a round of the temple with guide as he explained about it.

The temple was designed as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God with twelve pairs of wheels pulled by seven horses. 

Six of the seven horse still stand today.

Guide was not happy as we frequently took time to click the beautiful carvings along with us.

The original Temple sanctum. Now only the yellow marked portion is left
(Graphics is with thanks to Wikipedia)
The main temple no more exist today. It has been collapsed because of Kalapahad.

The audience hall (Jagamohana) still stands and is the principal structure in the surviving ruins. Among the structures, which have survived to the current day, are the dance hall (Nata mandira) and dining hall (Bhoga mandapa).

Dance hall is first building as we see when we enter the temple complex, followed by Jagamohana, as shown above in graphics.

Dining hall or Bhogamandap was on right side of temple as we see towards the temple gates at dance hall.

Sun Temple @ Konark
After taking a round we took stairs to be on level of temple. It is a bit risky as height from ground level is good and any carelessness can be proved very costly.

Behind the Sun temple is temple of Chhaya Devi, wife of Lord.

Spending good time there, we moved out and purchased a few KG of cashew. Cashew grows here in good quantity. I was under impression that it grows in Konkan area of Goa only. But the belt from Dhauli and Konark, has a lot of Cashew shops.

Old tree, mute spectator of times @ Konark
Next to the temple premises is the "Navagraha" temple. It is housed in a small structure. It is said to be part of original temple.

The surroundings are full of greenery. I saw a few gigantic trees, silent spectators of bygone era.

Now we took road back towards Puri.

On way between Puri and Konark at about 30 KMs from Puri is Chandrabhaga beach. 

According to legends, Chandrabhag, the daughter of a sage, caught the attraction of the Sun God by her magical charm. The God came down to seek her hand in love. But a frightened Chandrabhaga jumped in to the river. As a mark of tribute to her sacrifice, every year on the 7th day of the full moon fortnight of Magha month, people from all over the state and outside gather to take a holy dip in the shallow river and offer their prayers to the Sun God.

Chandrabhaga beach near Konark
This beach is very serene, clean and beautiful. We spend very good time here. Though it was mid-day and Lord Anshumaan was in his full glory, but still being there bring joy and  peacefulness.

This beach becomes more lively at evenings.

Nearby is Ramachandi Temple, on the banks of the Kusabhadra River where it flows into the Bay of Bengal. Goddess Ramachandi, the deity of Konark is thought by some to be the temple of Mayadevi, wife of Surya (Sun God).

The temple of Goddess Ramachandi on the river mouth of Kushabhadra river is a splendid scenic picnic place. It is said to be more ancient than the Sun Temple at Konark. 

Ramchandi Temple near Konark
Legend regarding the deity is popular among the locals. 

Kalapahad, the rebel hindu Brahmin youth who got converted to Islam, vowed to destroy all the temples of hindu worship during 17th century. After destroying the Sun temple, Kalapahad approached Ramachandi temple to destroy it. He was feeling thirsty. Then Goddess Ramachandi dressed as a Maluni (a maid servant) asked Kalapahad to wait at the door till she brings water from the river. Kalapahad anxiously waited for a long time to get some cold water. When it was too late and the Maluni did not return he was exhausted and entered inside the temple and found the throne empty. Then he thought the Maluni took away the deity with her and with anger he followed the Maluni. When he reached the bank of the Kushabhadra river he found the goddess Ramachandi floating in the middle of the river. At that time the river was outpouring, so he came back without being able to reach the middle of the river. Then Goddess Ramachandi came in dream of a Panda (priest) and told him to build a temple on the bank of the Kushabhadra river. 

This place is now known as Ramachandi. 

We felt elated to get the blessing of Goddess Ramachandi and to enjoy the scenic beauty of river Kushabhadra and Bay of Bengal.

By late afternoon, we were back to Puri. 

After lunch and some rest, we again went to Puri beach and spend excellent time there.

In the streets nearby, we purchased some "Khaja" (Pheni, in local language) to be distributed as prasad. There was also a small but beautiful Jagannath temple there, very  precisely  decorated!

Magnificent Krishna Temple, near Swargadwar Market @ Puri
Today was our lst day at Puri in the current trip, so we were there till around 830 PM or so at beach and surrounding market before returning back to hotel.

Day 07 : Puri- Chilika Lake (Satapada)- Bhubaneshwar

Last day of our Odisha trip, we started early for Satpada (Chilka). We wanted to do some boating and to see the Dolphins there before returning back to Bhubaneswar that evening.

I had seen one tourism site advertisement and from there I came to know about Alarnath Temple on way to Satpada.

Alarnath temple is dedicated to Krishna and located in Brahmagiri. It becomes crowded during the krishnapaksha of Ashadha, when after the "Snana Yatra" or "Chandan Yatra" at Narendra Tank, Lord Jagannath fell ill and hence can't be seen in Puri. During this period, popularly known as Anasara or 'Anavasara' (literally meaning no opportunity to see the lord of Puri), instead of having darshan in Jagannath Temple, peoples believe that Lord Jagannath manifests as Alarnath Dev, at Brahmagiri, which is about 23 km from Puri.

Alarnath Temple @ BramhaGiri near Puri
Temple is small but very good place to have darshan of Lord. It was not much crowded.

This temple is associated with the visit of the Alwar saint Ramanujacharya to Orissa. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu during his stay in Puri used to see Shri Jagannatha daily. During Anavasara when Lord and his siblings were sick, he was unable to see his dear Lord.So as per legend Lord directed him to go to Brahmagiri and visit his another temple called Alvarnath (or Alarnath).

Gaudiya Mutt @ BramhaGiri near Puri
Nearby is a beautiful Gaudiya Mutt.

During Anavasara time the Payasa or Kheeri bhoga offered to Alvarnaath Swamy is much in demand.

Getting blessed we resumed our journey to Satpada.

Satapada is a town south of Puri at a distance of about 60 KMs. In Oriya 'Sata' means 'Seven' and 'Pada' Means 'Village', so the name Satapada means group of seven villages. 

Satpada is located at the northeast cape of Chilika Lake. The famous Irrawardy Dolphins can be seen here.

Boating @ Satpada, Chilka
Chilka Lake is a water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the World.

A small island called "Rajahamsa" is situated near this place at the mouth of the lagoon, named after a bird Rajahamsa. This island is 18 kilometer from Satapada. It is a small strip of land of which one side is placed near the lagoon on one side and the other side is towards Bay of Bengal.

We negotiated to take a boat ride. Plan was to see the Dolphins and then to take boat till the mouth of bay of Bengal. But later I dropped the idea and restricted us only till the viewing of Dolphins.

There was no life jackets and I am not surprised that what degree of security measures our Government takes for its citizens.

Boating @ Satpada, Chilka
In next about an hour or so, when we were boat-riding in Chilika, we spotted the Dolphins 3/4 times. Though they did not came out jumping in waters and only their fins, mouth and tail was visible, but that itself was quite exciting and it was good to see them in their natural habitat.

I heard from boatman that they are more playful early in morning when there is no or little human activity.

Nalaban island in south of Chilika is an important habitat and breeding ground for both resident and migratory and aquatic birds, most notably flamingos. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the India. Migratory birds arrive in October from as far away as Siberia and the Himalayas and stay until March at Nalaban sanctuary. 

It takes around 4 hours by boat from Satapada to reach Nalaban so it was not in our plan. Let me see if get another opportunity to be here in future.

Our this Odisha trip was coming to an end as we took road to Bhubaneswar via Puri.

After crossing Puri, we halted for some time to visit Sakshi Gopal Temple.

Sakshigopal Temple is dedicated to Lord Gopal located in the town of Sakshigopal on the Puri Bhubaneshwar highway about 16 KMs from Puri. 

Legend says that a poor young man of the village, fell in love with the daughter of the village headman. However being of a higher status the headman opposed marriage between this young man and his daughter. The villagers went on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan including the headman and the young man. The village headman fell ill and was abandoned by fellow villagers. The young man tended to him so well that he soon got well and in gratitude promised his daughter in marriage to the young man. As soon as they returned to the village the headman went back on his promise asking the young man to produce a witness in support of his claim.

Lord Gopal impressed by the young man's devotion agreed to come and bear witness to the promise on one condition that the young man lead the way and he would follow, but the young man must never look back. He led the way to the Lord but near the village was a mound of sand on which as they passed, the man could not hear the Lord's footsteps and turned back. Immediately the Lord turned into a statue of stone rooted to the spot. The villagers were however so impressed that God himself came to back the young man's claim that the youngsters were married off and appointed as the first priests of the temple built in honor of Lord Gopal who came to bear witness known as Sakshi.
Sakshi Gopal Temple near Puri
The priests are in look for money.... I can understand this as it is only way of their livelihood. It is very hard to be on path of devotion without satisfying physical needs in this world of consumerism.

They narrated us the story and legend behind the temple.

The temple is quite old and the construction is of medieval times.

The Temple is famous for celebrating the annual Amla Navami Festival. The festival is associated with the practice of touching of Radha's feet. Legend has it that the temple was originally without a statue of Radha. It is believed that Lord Krishna should not be without Radha, so a statue was installed here.The statue had originally Ghagra and Choli adorned but when it was clad on a traditional Saree of Odisha, the feet of the statue was visible and the priests took it for a holy sign.From that day Amla Navami is celebrated and faithful are allowed to touch the Goddess's feet.

The food offerings at Sakshi Gopala temple are made of wheat instead of rice. This is one of exceptional offerings among the worshiping processes of Vishnu temples all over the world.

The doors of main sanctum was closed as because of noon. We just get a glimpse of deity as housed in a nearby shrine.

Evening around 6, we checked in back at Hotel Excellency. A bit tired but happy at our satisfying trip.

29th Morning, we took trains to Bangalore and Lucknow respectively.

30th December, Monday, we were back to Home Sweet Home!


  1. Such a beautiful post and magnificent places in odisha , Thank you !

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  2. Bhubaneshwar the capital of Orissa is a city of sanctuaries, a few of which are imperative from an engineering point of view.
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  4. Awesome shots! And wonderful explanation

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