Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Puri tour

Before leaving the USA we had decided to go on a vacation in India. My husband wanted to go to Puri or Darjeeling, but I wanted to go to Mandarmani. Anyway, after coming in India, we didn’t get time to go on vacation anywhere. Suddenly my husband decided to go to Puri. We decided to go there on 18th February, 2012. We departed home at 12:30 in the afternoon to take Duranta Express from Howrah to Puri. It was an eight hours journey. The train delayed by half an hour, so we reached Puri station at 10:30 at the night. It was the time for the auto-rickshaw drivers. All of them asked princely amount to go to Hotel Victoria. The hotel was not very far from the station. After bargaining with some of the drivers, my husband agreed to pay Rs. 80 to one of them. We reached the hotel after 11:00. We didn’t have booking there. The auto-rickshaw driver told that, he would wait there, because we needed to go somewhere else, if we didn’t get a room there. Anyway, we got a room. My husband wanted to take a non-A/C (air-conditioned) room. Though there was no non-A/c room available at that moment, he was told that non-A/C would be available after one day. So we took an A/C room for one, though the price was double to the non-A/C room. We were too tired to stay awake. The train provided dinner to us, so, we just went to bed.
Snacks in the train

Hotel Victoria

Next morning we woke up at 6 o’clock. I thought that we woke up very early. Anyway we decided to go for a walk as well as had a cup of tea from road-side stalls, which I like to say road-side ‘chai’. The word ‘Chai’ (means tea) is the best fitted word here. When we went outside, I was just stunned by seeing the crowd in the beach. Even some people were coming back after taking bath in the sea. So, I found that we woke not early, but late. After having ‘chai’ we walked up to ‘Swargya Dwar’ (Door to Heaven).
Road-side Chai in the morning


That was actually a Hindu Crematorium ground.  The Hindu people believe that, to be burned there after death is luck, and it is definite that the person will get the accessibility to heaven for liberating their Soul and ultimately Salvation.  At the previous night I couldn’t see the town properly in the dark, while coming from the station. However, in the day light I found the town was extremely congested. Our Plan was to take bath and take rest. We decided to go to Bhubaneswar on Monday, and we wanted to rent one car. My husband started enquiring at the all the road-side travel-offices, but no one could give an attractive rate to my husband. After coming back to the hotel my husband enquired about the trip at the hotel reception. In the meantime we already changed our room. He was told that, Nandan Kanan would remain closed on Monday. He was also told that a car was still available at the hotel, so if we wanted, we could rent the car and could go to the trip. Within no time we got ready and headed to Bhubaneswar.  Soon our car entered the villages. I asked my husband about the road, he told me that the part of the road was through villages up to Pipili. 
In Pipili

Pipili was famous for its handicrafts. It was morning, so most of the shops were closed, so, we couldn’t get a glimpse of those famous handcrafts. I decided to go there during our return journey. Our driver told that if we first visit Dhauli then it would be easier for us to cover most of the places which we wanted to see. It took two hours to reach the Buddhist Stupa.  
Dhauli Stupa

 We visited the Stupa very fast and left there for Lingaraj Mandir. I wanted to take picture of the stunning stone-temple, but nobody was allowed to carry camera. So, to my disappointment I couldn’t take a single photo.  Within the premises apart from the biggest and the oldest temple there were numerous Shiva temples. The temples built up with black stone, beautifully decorated by craving the stones.  My husband suddenly made the plan to visit Puri, so I couldn’t get time to read the history about the place. After seeing that historical temple I decided to know about it after coming back home.
Linngaraaj Temple

Lingaraaj means The king of Lingam is the symbol of Shaivism. Shiva was there worshipped as Master of three worlds, i.e. Heaven, Earth and Netherworld. The temple was more than 1100 years old, though there was evidence that some parts of the temple had been there since sixth century. By the time the Lingaraj temple was constructed, the Jagannath (form of Vishnu) cult had been growing, which historians believe was an evidenced by the co-existence of Vishnu and Shiva worship at the temple. The temple was the largest temple in Bhubaneswar stood majestically in the heart of Bhubaneswar. Apart from the largest temple, which was eventually 55 meters high, 150 smaller shrines dominated the spacious courtyard and were surrounded by massive walls splendidly decorated with beautiful sculptures.  I had been started looking around the temple. Sometimes I felt like that, I was lost in its vast courtyard. Each and every moment I missed my camera. I wanted to keep every nook and corner of that marvelous historic temple in the lens. I felt that if I were an artist, I would have made sketch of the temple to keep my memory alive.  Anyway, from there we rushed towards Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves. 
Rani Gumpha

I tried to cover the total courtyard, but I couldn’t do that, because of its vastness. Bhubaneswar was also very congested city; the roads were too narrow to drive smoothly.
After parking the car we first went to visit Udaygiri. Before entering there, my husband told me that he wouldn’t go to the top, because it was not possible to climb there with our child. Moreover, he had already been there, when he used to stay in Bhubaneswar. So, I decided to go alone, while he stayed with our son at the base.  We were welcomed there by many monkeys. When we were coming inside some hawkers were selling peanuts to feed the monkeys. The funniest incident was that those self-trained monkeys didn’t pursue the tourists who didn’t have any peanuts packet, but they were jumping towards them who had packets in their hand. Another thing which caught my eyes was that the monkeys were not going to the hawkers who were selling peanuts or bananas.  Udayagiri (Hill of Sunrise) & Khandagiri (Broken Hills) Caves were one of the earliest groups of Jain rock-cut dwelling retreats or cells of the Jain ascetics, opening directly into the verandah or the open space in front during the reign of king Kharavela. The caves of the both hills had an unparalleled position in ancient history, rock-cut architecture, art, and religion. The two hills rose abruptly from the coastal plain, about six kilometer west of Bhubaneswar, which were separated by a highway. Mostly excavated near the top of the ledge or boulder, they simply provided dry shelter for meditation and prayer, with very little amenities even for small comforts. The height being too low, does not allow a man to stand erect. The carvings on the wall mainly depicted scenes of celebration on king’s victorious return. Also religious carvings and scenes from the royal courts were there. Jain symbols are also found at many parts. At present, all the important caves have been numbered for to avoid confusion in nomenclature. The main and the most attractive caves were situated at the base itself. Rani Gumpha (Queen’s Cave), it was one of the few double storied caves in these hills was the largest cave. Other interesting cave was Bagh Gumpha (Tiger’s cave) and Hathi Gumpha (Elephant’s cave).
Bagh Gumpha
Hathi Gumpha

 The entrance to the Bagh Gumpha is carved in the shape of a tiger’s open mouth and is visually quite awe-inspiring. Hathi Gumpha had great importance historically. A seventeen line Brahmi inscription told us about the expeditions and victories of King Kharavela. Udayagiri was not so to climb. While climbing, I thought that, why my husband didn’t to climb, when that was not very high. After reaching on the top I saw Khandagiri cave on the opposite side of the road, which was very steep and difficult to climb. Then I understood why my husband didn’t want to climb. I was very interested to go to Khandagiri also, but as usual time overpower me. I heard that Lingaraj temple could be seen very clearly and a panoramic view of the city, but as I couldn’t go there, I’ve missed the chance to see. Anyway, we decided to have lunch before going to Nandankanan zoological park. On our way to Nandankanan we decided to have our lunch in Hotel Swostik. 
White tiger in Nandankanan
 My husband suddenly felt nostalgic. He spent five long years in Bhubaneswar. He was a member of the gym in that very hotel. We reached the hotel too early to have lunch. The buffet lunch was yet to be served. We waited for some time, and then we had a good lunch and started for Nandankanan zoo. On our way to the hotel, my husband felt very nostalgic. He recalled his day in Bhubaneswar. After lunch we started for the zoo. Seeing the fast development of the city my husband felt very exciting. Anyway, our plan was to see the white tiger. The zoo was too vast to cover within two hours. As soon as we entered the zoo, so many guides jumped on us to help us to see the zoo that we faced difficulty to move. Anyway my husband asked whether he would buy the tickets of lion and tiger safaris. I had an idea that it was going to very exciting tour at least for an hour. However, the safari was too little to enjoy. Moreover we could see only one tiger and two lions. Anyway, then we decided to see the tigers by foot. I enjoyed that very much. We could see three white tigers and one brown tiger. After one and a half hour we came out from the zoo and headed towards Konark. It was a long way to reach there. I wanted to stop at Pipili, but we couldn’t do that. The appliqué work of Pipili is probably most well-known handicraft in Puri and surrounding area. Each and every families of here were engaged them in this appliqué craft, which was their livelihood. Actually I wanted to buy some handicrafts. Anyway, as we were running out of time we directly went to Korank. When we reached Konark it was almost dark. I asked my husband to take some photos fast. Again another photographer pursued us to get photographed by him. My husband didn’t give him attention. Lastly he told that he would take photos in our camera. Anyway the photos taken by him were really good. As soon as we entered there, the guides thronged around us, but we didn’t take any guide to know about the temple. The temple was built in 1278 AD by King Narasimha Deva , one of the majestic temples of India. The temple was also referred to as the Black Pagoda. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century.
Konark Sun Temple

Chariot wheel in Konark Sun temple
Lion is crushing elephant
 Mythological fact was that Samba, son of Lord Krishna was cursed by Krishna with leprosy, and was decreed that he would be relieved of the curse by worshipping the sun God on the sea coast north east of Puri. Samba reached Konaditya Kshetra and discovered an image of Surya seated on the lotus, worshipped him and was relieved of his curse. He built that magnificent temple. The temple was not completed as conceived because the foundation was not strong enough to bear the weight of the heavy dome. According to local belief that it was constructed in entirety, but the magnetic dome caused ships to crash near the seashore. To save their trade and their ships, the Portuguese took away the lodestone. The lodestone that was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones of the temple wall balanced, fell out of alignment because of its removal and eventually led to the destruction of Main Sanctum. The image of the Sun God was taken to Puri. The architectural grandeur of the temple was widely known, but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple had been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance. The nata mandir in front of the Jagamohana was also intricately carved.  Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, were carvings in the erotic style.  There were images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. The famous jewel-like quality of Orissan art is evident throughout, as is a very human perspective which makes the sculpture extremely accessible. There were three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset. Orissa came under Muslim control in 1568. There were constant attempts to destroy the Hindu temples. The Pandas (priests) of Puri, to save the sanctity of the Puri temple, took away the Lord Jagannath from the Srimandir and kept the image in a secret place. Similarly, it was said that the Pandas of Konark took away the presiding deity of the Sun temple and buried it under the sand for years. Latter on the image was said to have been removed to Puri and kept in the temple of Indra, in the compound of the Puri Jagannath temple. According to others, the Puja image of the Konark temple was yet to be discovered. But others hold the view that the Sun image now kept in the National Museum of Delhi was the presiding deity of the Konark Sun temple. The Sun worship in the Konark temple ended upon the removal of the sacred image from the temple. That resulted in the end of pilgrimages to Konark. The port at Konark was also closed, due to pirate attacks. Konark was as glorious a city for Sun worship and also was for commercial activities. However, after the cessation of these activities, Konark became deserted and was left to be covered by a dense forest over the years. The large structure seen today is actually the mandap. Of the main tower, which once stood in the front, only the remains can be seen. This tower (deul) was perhaps 200 feet (60 metres) tall, higher than any other temple in India. Currently the temple was in ruin state. As it was built by placing stones, the stones were falling out. The twenty four wheels, according to history which were used calculate the time, were in a ruin state. The government was trying utmost to preserve the temple. The entry was restricted in many parts, which was a little disappointment to me, as I wanted to visit every nook and corner of the temple. However, later I thought that, it was more essential to preserve the architectural and historical grandeur rather than destroying it to fulfill my desire. Before entering the premises, I recollect a little incident of my childhood. When I was in school, one of my friends went to Konark temple and showed me a photograph, where she was holding the center of the one of the wheels. I also wanted to do that. I thought, after more than two decades I got the chance to do the same. Like a child I wanted to touch, but to preserve, the visitors were not allowed to touch the wheels. I like to urge to all of my friends from everywhere to visit the place at least once. It was really a lifetime experience to see man’s creation. I really wonder about the patience and skill of the workers at that time. Anyway, it was already seven and we decided to go back to our hotel. We dropped our plan to go to Chandrabhaga beach, because first of we were too tired to go and also it was too dark to see anything. We reached our hotel almost a nine in the evening. Though we were tired, we decided to go for a walk. Another things happened there, my husband’s mobile phone was not working and mine one’s battery was almost discharged. We had a tough time to contact with our home in Kolkata. We were unable to find public telephone booth to make distant call. 
Simple dinner at the end of the day

Next morning we had no plan to go anywhere, so we woke up late. We didn’t have the return ticket. So our foremost task was to buy the ticket. Anyway, in the morning first we went to the sea. That was my experience in the sea in puri. All of us had a great fun in the sea. Due to fear my son started hanging by holding me when the waves were coming on the shore. We left the beach before it became too hot to bathe in the sea. We rushed to Puri station to buy ticket. We didn’t have to wait in the queue. Then after coming back to the hotel we decided to have rest in the afternoon. My husband wanted to show me some wonder at Sri Jagannath temple. We didn’t have any plan to offer puja at the temple. We went there just to watch the changing of flags at the top of the 214 ft. high temple. The huge temple complex covers an area of over was surrounded by a high fortified wall. Apart from the main temple there were numerous small temples. The sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture made it one of the most magnificent monuments of India. The main temple was a curvilinear temple and crowning the top is the 'srichakra' (an eight spiked wheel) of Vishnu. The temple tower was built on a raised platform of stone .The pyramidal roofs of the surrounding temples and adjoining halls rose in steps toward the tower like a ridge of mountain peaks.  When I saw the height of the temple I was just wondering how a person could climb on the top of the temple. Anyway, when two small boys started climbing I just remained open-mouthed. They didn’t climb in normal way, but in reverse manner. They climbed facing to the deity that means they had to climb without seeing anything. The task was quite hazardous. However, till date no accident had occurred.Then we looked around the premises. We went inside keeping all our belonging and shoes outside as nothing was allowed inside. After collecting our things we bought the famous jivegaja( a kind of sweet)and came back to hotel. We went to bed early. Our train was at 6 o’clock in the morning. We started at 5 o’clock from the hotel. that was the end of our fast Puri tour.

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