Our Orissa trip happened quite fortuitously. Divinity beckoned, and we were truly blessed. My friends and I joined a tour from Chennai. We took the flight to Bhuvaneshwar, and landed at ‘Biju Patnaik Airport’ at about 10am.
From the airport, we drove to the historically renowned KHANDAGIRI and UDAYAGIRI hills, located on the outskirts of Bhuvaneshwar. The caves were carved during the reign of King Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty, and served as the dwelling retreat for Jain monks. The sculptures in the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri were very impressive. The magnificent temple, atop the Udayagiri hills, is a Marble Marvel. We also visited the LINGARAJ TEMPLE which was adorned by a majestic gopuram.
We then checked into ‘Toshali Sands Resorts’ near Puri. The resort welcomed us with lush verdant lawns, and gardens blossoming with dahlias, pansies, marigold and chrysanthemums, in all vibrant hues. The cottages were comfortable and eco friendly too.
After breakfast, we proceeded to Konark. This temple is dedicated to SURYA,’ SUN GOD’. Although I had seen several images of Konark, nothing had prepared me for that breathtaking beauty. The temple is depicted as Lord Surya riding in a chariot, having 24 wheels (chakras), drawn by seven horses. The carvings in the wheels were simply exquisite. A number of figurines of dancing damsels, portraying Odissi Dance MUDRAS (postures) were frozen in stone for the benefit of the posterity. In 1984 Konark was duly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The following day after a hearty breakfast, we went to CHILIKA Lake for a boat ride. We were thrilled to see many Dolphins dancing in the lake. For lunch, we opted for Odishia cuisine. We relished Chaula Bara (crispy fried balls), Pilaf, which tasted like desi fried rice and Santula, a vegetable curry. We also tasted some Odissa sweet delicacies such as Khaja, Gajja, Palua Ladu and Odishaa Rasagolla. Then we proceeded to Puri Jagannath temple. By the grace of the Lord, we were ushered into the sanctum sanctorum. The darshan of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Goddess Subhadra made me feel blessed. I felt sheer bliss when I placed my forehead at His lotus feet. After the divine darshan, we went on a shopping spree and picked some ikat dress materials, Bomkai and Boyanika sarees. The store owners were affable and assisted us to pick our outfits. We returned to our hotel and enjoyed witnessing a traditional Odissi dance performance, which was arranged exclusively for us by the resort management.
The next day, we visited the MUKTESHWAR, a Shiva temple, known as ‘The Gem of Odissa’ and also went to Raja Rani temple. The KedarGauri temple gopuram, looked imposing, hued Red in colour. After tasting the sumptuous Odisha Thali for lunch, we went to ADIVASI MELA (Tribal festival). There were many exquisite handicrafts in display. The miniature model cottages of tribal dwellings all over India, gave an insight into their way of living. As the saying goes, ‘All good things come to an end.’ Hence, I bade good bye to my friends and returned to Coimbatore, with a treasure trove of fine indelible memories.
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