While discussing a colleague’s honeymoon plans, a debate ensued between us. What’s important to travel – money or interest. I was in favour of interest – a foremost condition for planning travel trips. And just in time I visited Alok’s blog, which has some very good pictures from Orissa, forcing me to memories from the time when we made a trip to the state, mainly driven by interest.
Father had been to Puri (on the eastern shores of Orissa, famous for the Jagannath temple) when he was a kid. Ever since marriage, he had been promising mother a visit to the place. With age, the purpose of the visit changed from honeymoon to religious, but the trip didn’t materiallise; not until the dawn of the millenium.
We visited Puri on 1st of January, 2000.
Ever since ma told me about the plan, I couldn’t hide the thrill. So many firsts – the first visit to a sea beach was the most exhilarating.
Puri is an overnight journey from Chittaranjan. The train (can’t remember the train name – neither can locate it on the net) reached Puri at about 3 in the morning.
Although we had come equipped with hot blankets and sweaters (remember it’s the peak of winter in January), the climate over here was warm enough to make these redundant. But these had to be carried. But although I have grown so big, father would not readily part with the load.
Since I had decided to view the sunrise of the millenium (was just thrilled thinking of the same). Even though father wanted to unload at some hotel before sightseeing, I quickly found a supporter in ma. And when we become a duo, papa ki thori bhi nahi chalti (father fears to visit any place with both ma and me together)
Except for the station, it was dark everywhere. The autorickshaw wallah was amazed when we requested him to take us to the sea beach, rather than any hotel.
It was 4 when we reached the beach. There was not a soul to be seen, just we three. I could hear the gurgling sound of water but the ocean was not yet visible. The trek was really long and father was irritated. It was also difficult to walk on sand too. When mother interrupted, he said, “tumhe kya hai. sara bojh to hame hi dhona hai”. But what’s the point in returning now.
Finally we reached water. Papa heaved a sigh of relief. Mother’s joys knew no bounds. And I was trying to locate upto where is the ocean stretched, in the dark still.
Close to 5 in the morning, the first rays of the sun enlightened the sky. And we had the first view of the vast ocean – water everywhere – with no bounds in sight. Instantly I took out the camera and began to click mother’s photos (father is too camera shy). By that time, the sun too was starting to rise in the horizon – deep red in colour.
Despite father telling us not to go in the water so early in the morning, mother and I took a dip. It was pleasure to let the warm waters of the sea dance over the body. I would go far into the sea and then relax in the water until the tide forced me on to the beaches.
At 8 o’clock, we finally decided to head for a hotel. We soon found one close to the Jagannath temple. We decided to visit the temple first. We already had freshened up and although father wanted to rest a bit, we dragged him to the temple.
Built in over a kilometre area, the majestic temple is the abode of Lord Jagannath (Krishna) where he lives along with siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra. Three wooden idols of the Lord and his siblings is what mother wanted to touch.
Unfortunately the first visit to the temple didn’t give her this luxury. And she was disappointed. Always remembered a certain person’s mother who was so unlucky that she couldn’t touch the lord’s feet after coming so close to his abode – and now she. Father tried to reassure her that she has 4 more days here and she will certainly be able to touch the Lord’s feet. Later, we came to know that because of a certain festival that fell on that day and of course New Year (Puri sees a great number of people on 1st of january) that the temple authorities weren’t allowing crowds near the idols.
The evening visit to the temple too didn’t satisfy mother’s wishes. It was on the next day that we accidentally got the chance to come close to the Lord. Father wanted to relax a bit after the morning bath at the sea (during the 5 days that we spent in Puri, we didn’t ever bathe at the hotel); so ma and I decided to go to the temple alone. Once inside the temple complex, we could see that a crowd was heading towards the temple from a different path. We were told that it is for a free darshan. Mother qickly slipped in and so did I.
Mother looked pleased once she touched the Lord, as if she had no more desires left. She remembered papa and quickly dispatched me to bring him to the temple. Papa returned just in time before the free darshan was to get over.
Yes, the prasada. The khaja is a major attraction of Puri. Father had orders from many of his colleagues to bring them khaja from Puri. Different from the khaja in Bihar. While the Bihar version is fluffy, the Puri version is thick but juicy.
There is another variety of prasada as well. This in the form of khichdi, prepared with rice, pulses, vegetables, spices, all mixed into one. This prasada is first offered to the Lord and then distributed among the devotees.
The streets of Puri were another big attraction. Most of the big brands that we see here in Delhi were present there. What attracted my attention were handicrafts. We purchased a framed idol of Lord Jagannath along with his siblings. Also, mother purchased 5 small lotas and inscribed them with our names.
Conches are very famous here. We purchased two big conches for Rs. 600. We purchased more at the sea beach. By the time we left the place, we had over 10 conches of different shapes and sizes, the favourite one being the panchmukhi, or the one with 5 mouths, associated with Lord Vishnu. We also purchased many toys and wall hangings made with sea shells.
After conches, mother’s next desire was a boat’s nail. They say that a Boat’s nail, when made into a ring, protects you from the Shani Dev. But it is not very easy to get one. Not one of the boats lying at the beach had loose nails. But I surely found one on a vacant boat – can’t say with certainty if someone didn’t throw it here.
Also mother purchased pearls at the beach – ranging from Rs. 5 to 10 – which came out to be fakes when mother got it checked from a jeweller. Everytime the fishermen would come to the banks, mother and I would run to see if they have recovered any pearls. We thought we were so smart when we negotiated a cheap pearl.
Fish was sold on the beach like vegetables on the streets of Delhi – at half the price that we buy here. Unfortunately, we were on a religious trip, so non-veg was banned. Wasn’t much satisfied with food though. Also, who had time for food (you know I am not much fond of food).
It was so good to while away time on the beach. Mornings and evenings were spent at the beach. Although father didn’t want to come along, he had no resort. Beach, temple and street shopping – the days passed away fast. The last day we went out on a trip to Bhuvaneshwar, about which I will talk in my next post. It recounts our trip to Konark, Pimpli Village, Nandan Kanan and of course some fights between my parents (it is almost impossible for them to be peaceful whenever they come together).