Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wonders of Puri

Puri is truly a city that never sleeps. The city is very enchanting with its continuous religious chants, chiming of bells, souvenir and fruit vendors, herds of cows walking aimlessly in the streets, breathtaking natural beauty, fascinating artistic talents and of course the simply magnificent Puri Jaganath Temple.

The life of the locals revolves around the Puri Jaganath Temple. Whether you are out on the main streets at 10pm or 4am, the whole place is so lively with people adorned in their colorful clothes, humbly dressed to offer their prayers to God. Jaganath is a very powerful god (Vishnu) and the way He is presented in Puri is very unique and amusing. Amusing because I have never seen God represented in such a way!

Look at how beautiful the temple looks! No photos are allowed inside as with most religious places in India.

The story behind this goes: About a 1000 years ago, there was a king called Indradyumna who ruled Puri . He was a very pious man and while listening to his sages, he learnt that the ultimate realization was the personal form of Godhead. The king therefore built a strong desire to see the Godhead. One night, he dreamt that Lord Vishnu told him he would find a wooden log at Puri's seashore and advised him to take it with him. Lord Vishnu asked him to carve the wood according to the instructions found in the Shilpa Shashtras. The king woke up excited and immediately went to the beach where he found a large log. He ordered his carpenters to carve the wood but the wood was so hard that their tools broke. A heavenly architect called Vishwakarma went to meet the king and informed him that the log was divine. No mortal would be able to carve it and he told the king he would do it himself, if permitted. There was one condition however: no one should be allowed to see his work until it was finished. If anyone saw it and disturbed his meditation, he would abandon the king. The king agreed to his condition and allowed him to start working. Although the king patiently waited for Vishwakarma to finish the carving, his wife, Gundhicha kept urging him to take a peek at his work. One day, there was no more noise coming from the chamber where Vishwakarma was working and the king and his wife went to take a peek. Before the door was even halfway open, the architect vanished, leaving his tools and the carving behind unfinished. The king felt bad and decided to fast till his death. He had another dream where Lord Vishnu told him that the unfinished carving was in fact a form that could be worshiped. Vishwakarma had made carvings of Jaganath, his sister Subadhra and his brother Balabadhra. As the quality of wood deteriorates over the years, there is a festival held in July every year called Rath Yathra whereby the deities are taken out from the temple and make their way in separate chariots to the Gundhicha temple where they remain for a few days. The new wooden idols then return to the Puri Jagannath temple in a similar fashion. Needless to say, there are thousands of devotees who come thronging to Puri at this very auspicious time to seek the Lord's blessings.

We went to the temple at 5am and already then it was very crowded. It was funny to see monkeys still sleeping on the temple pillars and slowly waking up. The moment the entrance opened, everybody rushed inside to see the Lord and His siblings. We were so up close it seemed surreal. Truly magical. We spent some time walking to the different altars in the temple and kept being bothered by money driven priests who kept somehow only targeting us for money. It was very frustrating especially when we went to the temple to have a peaceful moment with God.

We came back with some very nice honey sweets nicely packaged from the temple!

We walked around the temple and on Grand Road to have a true feel of the place. The whole place was so bustling, active and colorful as you can see! I especially liked seeing the cow gatherings!

At one point during the day it rained heavily although just briefly and look what happened to Grand Road! Flooded!

At night, we took an auto from the hotel through the narrow winding streets of Puri to see the glittering temple.

We saw some nice souvenirs as well in the shops on the main street.

Since the weather was so beautiful with the glorious sun, we went for a short stroll on the beach. Just looking at these photos makes me want to go back there!!!

One of the excursions you can do when in Puri is to go to Chilika lake which is the second largest lagoon in the world. The lake is the largest home to migratory birds and is famous for dolphin watching. As exciting as that sounds, I did not find it great. The dolphins hardly came out to give us a show and it was a bit dull.

I did however really enjoy the drive to the lake. Such stunning nature and friendly and hospitable locals!

We ended our stay in Puri by visiting the nearby artists' village of Raghurajpur. This place was simply fascinating. Everyone from kids to the elderly in this village is dedicated to creating Pattachitra paintings. We visited many homes where the families enthusiastically showed us their hard work. Really impressive! We ended up buying a beautiful painting of Lord Jaganath and His siblings. The village itself is small and charming and it was lovely to walk around and talk to the locals. We even got to see a young boy's kathak performance. So much passion and talent in this tiny village!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and impressions of Puri. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this mystical place. Next up, my adventures in Bhubaneswar!


Sriram said...

Very nice collages. Puri is truly magic and hard to describe. Listen to Om Jai Jagdish Hare while reading the article so you can get an idea of mystical Puri.

banoo said...

While going through this Puri visit, I could hear Preethi singing 'Jagannatha Puriii'! in a loud pitch! Very nice place and the Lord Jagannath is very mischevous, like a kid standing in front of you! Very unique place and marvelous temple indeed! Feel like visiting again.....


Ravipa said...

Raghurajpur left a deep impression on me. A village where every family is an artist family! Visually pleasing yet intricate artwork. Unforgettable visit. Another unforgettable memory is the hustle and bustle of the Puri Grand Road!


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