Visiting Shree Jagannath Puri, Odisha

Sushma Malhotra
Going to India is like a wish come true! Especially when I could not go there for almost three years from January 2020. The whole world was at a standstill due to COVID 19. Forget about traveling to another country, there was even no question of leaving one's hometown. Thanks to the scientists for the medical science research, who made the COVID 19 vaccine and boosters available to the whole world in time, allowing free movement of people gradually. After almost three years of such an environment my husband and I decided to come to India in December 2022 to attend a family wedding. The wedding was in Delhi in the first week of December. Whenever I go to India, I always want to visit one or the other historical and religious places. Because going to India does not mean just sitting at home and gossiping with relatives. So, we planned to visit Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. We contacted a travel agent and booked our Puri Odisha package for three days. My husband and I took an early morning flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar and reached Hotel Pramod in Puri.
Since we had booked a package which included our stay and transportation, we did not face any inconvenience in reaching there. We stayed at Hotel Pramod Puri which is located near Golden Beach.  We reached in the afternoon, took some rest and decided to visit the Jagannath temple first thing in the evening. Jagannath is a Sanskrit word derived from Jagat meaning "universe" and nath meaning "Master" or "Lord". Thus, Jagannatha means "Lord of the Universe". We had talked to a priest and got escorted to have darshan inside the temple.

Our pre-booked car took us as far as cars could go. Then we had to take an auto to go near the temple. Auto was also stopped about 200 meters before the temple. My husband and I walked to the temple premises. Devotees were standing in queue to have darshan of Shri Jagannath ji. However, our pre-arranged priest guide took us to the temple and we got a close look at Shri Jagannathji. In this temple there is a trinity of Shri Jagannath ji along with his brother Balabhadra ji and sister Subhadra ji. 

In Odisha, Shri Jagannath is the Supreme Lord, Purushottama and Parabrahma. According to many Hindus, Shri Jagannath is an abstract representation of Krishna, or Vishnu, sometimes as an avatar of Krishna or Vishnu. After having darshan of all the three idols, I was mesmerized and felt blessed that I had been able to have darshan of one of the Char Dhams. There are four Hindu pilgrimage sites in Dham as defined by Adi Shankaracharya and the Jagannath Temple is one of those four. There we decided to offer Mahaprasad to Shri Jagannath ji. I came to know that Mahaprasad is of two types. One Sankudi Mahaprasad and the other Sukhila Mahaprasad. It is said that 56 types of prasad are offered to the deity every day during the puja and all of them are prepared in the temple kitchen. We ate mahaprasad, felt blissful, and were blessed to taste it.

Next morning, we went to the Golden Beach, a beach which truly lives up to its name. It is a beach of Bay of Bengal. There is a ticket to enter this beach. We found that the beach was very clean and well maintained. We watched the sunrise at the Golden Beach in the morning and enjoyed a walk on the beach.
 
After breakfast, we went to visit Konark Sun Temple. The Sun Temple of Konark is about 35 kilometers northeast of Puri city on the sea coast in Puri district of the Indian state of Odisha. The temple was built by King Narasimha Deva in the 13th century. It is counted among the 7 wonders of India, famous for World Heritage Sites and also known as "Black Pagoda". The Sun Temple of Konark is famous for its unique architecture.Its geometric patterns and carved wheels served as sundials. This Sun Temple was built by King Narasimhadeva-I of the Ganga Dynasty in the Kalinga style. The Konark Temple is built in the shape of a chariot of the Sun God. It has twenty-four wheels and seven horses. Kalinga style and today it is considered one of the seven wonders in the country.

The twelve wheels represent the 12 months of the year. According to the Indian calendar, each month has a Shukla Paksha and a Krishna Paksha, so the other twelve wheels stand for them. Three images of the Sun God can be seen in three directions to capture the rays of the Sun at dawn, noon and sunset. It was very sad to see the broken parts of the Sun Temple. However, I felt very happy to visit the Sun Temple and had the pleasure of learning about the reading of time with the wheels of the Konark Sun Temple.

On the way back we visited Raghurajpur Artisan Village, which is famous for its Pattachitra art, an art that dates back to 5 BC in the region. There people live in small houses and take pride in showcasing their art.

Every house in that village makes this art and sells it from lowest to highest price. We bought Pattachitra paintings on a piece of Tassar cloth. Which I am planning to get framed and hang on the walls of my house.

Then on the third day we went to Chilka Lake. Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, located in Puri, which flows into the Bay of Bengal. We went on a boat ride on Chilka Lake. We learned that it was formed due to the silting action of the Mahanadi River, which flows into the northern end of the lake and the northern currents into the Bay of Bengal. We hired a boat and started our journey at Chilka Lake. During our boat ride some native people tried to sell us pearls and colored stones saying that they are real pearls and precious stones. Since we were informed about the scam and sale of fake stones, we did not make any purchase. After some time the boat reached the shore of the Bay of Bengal. We went to the shores of the Bay of Bengal and saw the vastness of the Bay. We noticed a few shops where they were frying fish caught from the Chilka lake. Wherever we went, we saw people sticking to their heritage and simplicity.

Then the next day we went to Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneshwar. The Lingaraj Temple is dedicated to Harihara, a combination of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, this temple was built in the 11th century by Jajati Keshari, a Somavanshi king), Mukteshwar Temple (a gem of architecture). The Lingaraj Temple is one of the oldest and tallest Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the Indian state of Odisha.

The temple is a prominent landmark of the city of Bhubaneswar and one of the major tourist attractions of the state due to its religious significance and splendid Kalinga architecture.  In just three days I traveled to various historical places in Odisha and gained knowledge about Indian history. The trip was worth the money that we spent on hotel and transport as well as a guide etc.  Since I went to India from America after covid 19 lockdown and didn't want to eat outside food there. That's why we usually had breakfast at the hotel and had dinner back at the hotel. Thank god we didn't face any problem with food etc. and our entire trip to Shree Jagannath Puri, Odisha was a blissful success.

2 comments :

  1. By accepting my photo essay and publishing in "Setu" a distinguished Bilingual magazine in the USA, made me feel humbled and honored. With gratitude to the whole editorial team!

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  2. A very detailed information of the temple and other tourist places. One felt as one is there visiting these places with the author. Photos gave me the true picture of this religious place . Congratulations to Sushma Malhotra

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