Miles and miles of golden sand, calm blue waters, gigantic sand arts, colourful sunrises and sunsets, casuarina trees, local fishermen plying their boats – Puri beach is idyllic. It’s the perfect place to unwind and recharge oneself. In early November, the place comes alive with music, art, craft and dance during the Puri Beach festival.
Eight Km from Puri is another lovely casuarina-caressed beach called Balighai. Catch plentiful sun, sand, and sea here and pick exquisite sea shells to take back home.
This village is famous for its attractive patachitra and talapatachitra (paintings on silk and palm leaves) illustrations. This handicraft hub is also the birthplace of Odissi dance maestro Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra.
About 36 km from Puri, this little town is famous for its appliqué work. Historically, artists from Pipli made colourful umbrellas and dresses for Lord Jagannath. Here you can pick up charming traditional appliqué items such as batuas (cloth pouches) and sunjis (embroidered quilts).
SUDARSHAN CRAFTS MUSEUM
Named after the proficient craftsman Padmashree Sudarshan Sahu, this museum is a training-cum-production centre, where you can watch students carve traditional stone and wooden statues.
The magnificent Jagannath temple is Puri’s prime attraction. The sprawling Kalinga-style temple has four massive gates in each of the four cardinal directions and is dedicated to Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra. While everything about the temple – architecture, history, legend, rituals – is grand, a unique feature is its kitchen, believed to be the largest in the world. Nearly 400 cooks work around 200 fireplaces to feed over 10,000 people every day with the ‘Mahaprasad’ (offerings to god) of 56 items. The mahaprasad tastes exquisite and is a cherished part of the temple experience.
On the second day of the bright fortnight of Asadha, in June-July, the three deities of the Jagannath temple leave the precincts in three colossal chariots on a rath yatra (a procession) to Gundicha mandir, 3 km away, to commemorate Lord Krishna’s journey from Gokul to Mathura. The chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees, and the yatra is marked by tremendous festivity, merriment, and religious fervour. If you’re coming to Puri around this time of the year, try to be here on the precise dates of the yatra.
It is believed that all pilgrims who wish to go to the Jagannath temple at Puri must first offer worship at the Lingaraj temple. Built in 11th century AD, the 55-meter high temple has quintessentially Kalinga architecture. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva embodied in a Lingam or male phallus, and is embellished with splendid folk and erotic sculptures. This temple is considered the pinnacle of architectural excellence in Orissa.
UDAYGIRI AND KHANDAGIRI
The rock-cut caves at Udaygiri and Khadagiri, excavated in 1st and 2nd centuries BC, comprise two of India’s most important archaeological sites. The caves were apparently used by Jain ascetics and commissioned to some extent by King Kharavela. There are 18 caves at Udaygiri and 15 caves at Khandagiri. Most of the caves consist of rows of cells opening to a common veranda. Attractive carvings of animals, creepers, flowers, and human figures can be seen here. Ranigumpha and Hathigumpha are the most exquisite caves at Udaygiri, while the most interesting cave at Khandagiri is the Tirthankara Cave with its carvings of 24 Jain Tirthankaras on monolithic stones. Khandagiri, atop a hill, commands an excellent view of Bhubaneshwar city.
Nandakannan National Park in Chandaka forest is a zoo, botanical garden, and wildlife sanctuary. There are a variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, and several rare plant species here. The elephant rides and tiger safari are the most popular attractions. You can catch sight of the Asiatic lion, Indian pangolin, Gharial crocodiles, black panthers, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, European black bears, mouse deer, and, not to be missed, the white tiger. The park overlooks Kanjia Lake which offers boating activities.
DHAULIGIRI SHANTI STUPA (Peace Pagoda)
Dhauli Hills has an important place in Buddhist history. It was here that, after the Kalinga war, King Ashoka transformed from a marauding emperor to a messenger of peace and compassion through Buddhist principles. To commemorate this place, the Nippon Buddha Sangha built a shanti stupa or peace pagoda here in the seventies.
Located 20 km from Puri, the elegant Satyabadi temple is dedicated to Lord Sakshigopal (Lord Krishna). It is believed that a visit to Puri is incomplete without a visit to Sakshigopal.
EXCURSIONS FROM PURI
KONARK (35 km from Puri)
Built by king Narsimhadeva in the thirteenth century, the awesome Sun temple is designed in the shape of a massive chariot with seven horses and 24 wheels, carrying the Sun god. The black granite temple is renowned for its architecture and spectacular carvings.
CHILKA LAKE (48 km from Puri)
52 rivers and rivulets run into 1,100 sq km of Chilka (Chilika) lake, the largest coastal lagoon in India, and the second-largest in the world. The lake is also the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in India (birds come here from as far as Siberia). It has over 150 species of birds, more than 225 fish species, Irrawaddy dolphins, and over 700 plant species. The lake is a designated Ramsar site, which means that it’s a wetland of international importance. Wonderful little islands like Nalabana Island, Honeymoon Island and Breakfast Island make the lake even more picturesque. Nalabana Island has been classified as a bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act. A cruise to the major islands of Chilka is a fun, enriching experience.