Monday, December 13, 2010

From Puri With Love

From the City of Joy(Kolkata),I directly headed for Puri,the cultural capital of Orissa, by a convenient train at night and reached there on a pleasant morning next day.Through the main and by lanes around 3km.,I reached a hotel near the beach by an auto-rikshaw,experiencing cool breeze and then the faint rhythmic roar of the sea as the vehicle stopped before the hotel.Leisurely refreshing myself with a cold, powerful shower,I dressed up and went to the restaurant for breakfast;A plate of Rasgullas(originally a recipe of Orissa, normally made with cows milk) and then curds.Feeling light but well energized I soon reached the magnificent temple of Lord Jagannath,quite obscured by non-eco-friendly surroundings.

Before the main entrance of the temple,Singhadwara,guarded by two huge,lively crouching lions(of course beautiful stone sculptures) stood the stately,sixteen-sided monolithic pillar,Arun Stambha.Originally at the Sun temple of Konark,it was transported to Puri by the King of Khurda.But here only the curiosity of my 'anxious-to-shoot' camera ended as it had to be deposited with paid custodians before we entered the temple! The base of Arun Stambha
An enormous 37000sq.mtrs.complex fortified by a high wall all around; had about 120 temples and shrines and their pyramidal roofs(Mandapas) rose in steps towards the glorious main, curvilinear temple tower, 65mtrs. high built on a raised stone platform.The Baisi Pahacha,a flight of 22 steps led us into the main temple.A painted idol of Jagannath known as Patit Pavana(saviour of the downtrodden and fallen) on the right side of the entrance in ancient times was meant for the untouchables ( who were not allowed inside the temple) to offer prayers. Today,with our mind-set and social environ,I wondered whether I had the moral right to go in!Along with a large number of people I entered the spacious Bhogmandir, the first chamber of the temple where food and material offerings are made.This grand,well ventilated hall(with a high pyramidal roof) with beautifully painted,intricate sculptures on walls and sixteen pillars all round was a treat to pass through. I was particularly fascinated by the mythological Ratha(chariot) physically made by thousands of Gopis to carry their beloved Krishna.I forgot the people around me as I passed through to Nata-mandir,a similar chamber with a lower pyramidal roof and artistically sculptured pillars, for the purpose of dance and musicTill the early20th century,Devadasis,women dedicated to Lord Jagannath since their childhood regularly performed music and dance(mostly Odyssi) in the temple.They had a reputation to be puritanical and saintly but later on perhaps they too indulged in adultery or associated themselves with prostitutes.They became extremely despicable and the practice of dance as a ritual was completely stopped in the temple.Last surviving Devadasi (an extremely talented woman),Shashimani Mahri was 90yrs. old in 2003..Actually these two chambers have been extended later in the 15th(and 16th) century.As I entered the Jagamohana chamber I started feeling the heat of the crowd gathering there and forming a queue for the darshan of the stupendous deities in the sanctum sanctorum known as Deul.
Yes,the magnetic,unusual,colourful icons of Lord Jagannath(Bhadra),his brother Balram(Balbhadra) and his sister Subhadra were unique; having an aura and several myths behind them for a devotee to regurgitate,enchant himself and enjoy moods from spirituality to eroticism! Krishna the Supreme Being is Lord Jagannath at Puri.Hindu philosophy and mythology portrayed Him variously as a prankster,an ideal lover or a divine hero.According to a traditional story, Subhadra was instructed by the Gopies(cow herd girls) to keep a watch and see that Krishna could not eavesdrop on them as they talked among themselves about His pleasant deeds and their unprecedented love for Him.Subhadra was overwhelmed as they talked and did not see Krishna and Balrama also joining her from behind.As they listened to the Gopies with ecstatic delight,their hair stood on ends,arms retracted and eyes grew biggest.Hence
the look of the icons!

Not heeding to the harassing priests I had a wholehearted,satisfying time in the great sanctum sanctorum and came out with a lot of food for thought, again slowly trying to capture many more meaningful details of the chambers I already had passed through.Coming out into the open and just realizing the huge proportions of the temple ,I decided to go around and appreciate the beautiful sculpture all over it.

The fierce,but beautifully painted huge lions on the first two chambers and the lions in matching red stone on grand main temple at perfect heights enhanced the beauty of The White Pagoda(as the temple was known in ancient times) which guided the sailors in the olden days!Many attractive sculptures of gods and godesses with peculiar bodies due to their mythological background,also peacefully positioned themselves on the domes.And there were plenty of erotic sculptures all round the temple which perhaps indicated the regard in those times for good,healthy heterosexuality without inhibitions.Of course today sex is perverted in many advanced countries and to a great extent a taboo in India!Well, enjoying the temple to the hilt I came out and decided to have a round of the complex from outside its boundary wall appreciating the other three sculptured entrances Near the fourth entrance I came across a vendor , where I tasted a plate of chhaina poda (a baked cake in ricotta cheese )It was mildly sweet, delicious experience;the texture giving a satisfying spongy bite .Orrisa made a great veriety of sweets, vegetables,curries which are liked all over India.I walked through the bazar with many kiosks under big,white umbrellas for some distance.This was the route(Bada Danda) on which the great chariot of Mighty Jagannath rolled every year to the thrill of millions!

Early evening and I was right on time on one of the loveliest beaches in the world accommodating a large number of locals,tourists and also a sparing number of foreigners.The fine white sands which will shortly would turn into golden to the glory of the setting sun gave a cushion like feel to my feet as I removed my Hawaiis(slippers) to have fun!I was welcomed by a sand art piece;Mr. Crab was the artist!Crabs dug holes in the sand to stay safe and in the process artistic patterns were formed around the holes.Still there was plenty of light and the pleasant blue waters ran to the shores in mild waves with amicable roar, mock-threatening the crowds enjoying them.

Crab Art

I started walking west in the cool,exhilarating breeze enjoying several activities on the six to seven km. stretch at my disposal.There was a group of people playing cricket in the sands with a very well spread field!As I proceeded,I saw a group of fishermen releasing a small catch of fish from a very attractive blue net.Slowly,the shadows elongated and the sand and water started turning into gold. I felt like reaching the sun as it would set shortly towards the swargadwar(a sacred cremation place for Hindus) side of the beach.I jogged for around 2km. replenishing myself as if with elixir; and as the sun set very fast in the last lap,I started returning, exiting the beach in between.
The Monk,Children and the Sea.

I hired a cycle-rikshaw and ventured into the town as it was quite early to return to the hotel.There I met an N.G.O. worker who talked with me over a cup of tea(offered by him) about the type of social work he did..He worked without any modern amenities like a computer and with a very poor salary.As I wanted to have dinner with him, we slipped into a roadside Dhaba known to him.There we had a bottle of beer each and he saw that we got choicest fresh,fried Chilika lake prawns!Their sweetish,succulent taste lingered on my tongue as I drowsily,happily
returned to the hotel by cycle-rickshaw bidding the gentleman goodbye.

Next day morning again I reached the sea to watch the huge red rising sun;the live canvas of the catamarans being lithely pushed into the sea by fast,blithe fishermen as they simultaneously climbed them too!Ya...they went fishing deep into the sea!There was a fisherman by my side happily waving his brethren going into the sea;when I turned and saw him, it was the poverty of Orissa written all over him!
Fishermen with a Paltry Catch.

Raja Ram Atre.


Raja Ram Atre
3-6 687/102,St.No.10,



I must say this one is written deep from the heart...I hope you will continue to enlighten me with your wondeful thoughts..Looking forward for your new post


Keep writing sir