EXPLORING THE CITY OF TEMPLES

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PROLOGUE

This is my first travelogue and it is about my visit to Orissa, the home for hundreds of temples. I have done many attempts to make something productive out of my madness of exploration. But none of them ended properly with a satisfaction. For instance, in my south India trip, I’ve lost the records that I have noted, and then I did the stupidest thing in my north India trip, to video document it for the very first time, again the disappointment. Videos I’ve taken were in pathetic condition. So when I had a chance again, I gave up of trying such things and decided to write.
Actually, the trip wasn’t planned like a visit to Orissa. I was a final year architecture student when my college (SASI CREATIVE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, Coimbatore) received an opportunity to attend the National Convention of the Indian Institute of Architects (NATCON IIA) conducted by the Bhubaneswar chapter of Orissa. So, the respected dean of our college Ar. Mohamed Ali Shareiff opted us the final year students to be those to attend it.
The convention was scheduled as a 3-day program on 7th,8th and 9th of December 2017. So along with that, we planned a 10-day trip starting on December 3rd from Chennai.

DAY-1
2-December,2017

I headed to Chennai with my folks this day. At 5;05 am in the early morning we left our apartment, cached the town bus to the Coimbatore railway station and reached there by 5;45 am. The Chennai express that we booked has arrived and departure by 6:10am, we were 6 students to travel in that train .most the others left already to their relative’s house in Chennai and the others for the night journey .we had no idea about the accommodation there. I thought I can sleep at the railway station itself, that will be a different experience.
After a long time we reach the Chennai central station by 3.00pm, we struggled there a lot to manage the luggage, there are so many procedures for keeping it in the cloakroom. so we managed it to keep it ourselves. while searching for lunch a ‘Thalapakatti’ restaurant have stricken my attention. Even though I’ve been in Tamil Nadu for all these years, I never had any chance to taste the famous Thalapakatti biriyani. So I suggested having lunch there. The restaurant was on the first floor. over the crowd, we pulled up all our stuffs upstairs in that tiny restaurant. the biriyani charged Rs 146, and its worth of it .spicy and different from other types if biriyanis I’ve tasted. After that good meal, we left the restaurant to search for accommodation, before that my friend Shakthi suggested a women’s paying guest home where one of our junior is staying there .so as a matter of safety, I went with her. We girls left the station by 4:30pm by a taxi cab. The boys who were with us decided to spend the night in the station itself. The only problem outside the railway station was the traffic mess.
We reached our accommodation within 10 minutes. They charged 500rs per head for one night. After freshening up and a little roam, I met a Keralite girl from Kottayam district .she is working in Chennai after her engineering studies. She asked about me and our trip, she left to her room saying a happy journey to me.

DAY-2
3-December 2017
we left the apartment by 7am to the railway station catching a taxi cab. as the traffic was comparatively less than usual we reached there by 7:30am. even though we didn’t have the whole compartment in the train by ourselves we have adjusted with the strangers, by a group of us here and there. the train started at 8:15 am.
The morning session was full of fun in the thrill of the trip, so time ran out so faster. It was 2:50pm, we reached Vijayawada, on the way after that we saw this beautiful riverscape running in between the green blankets of trees. the depth of that river seems a lot shallow that the water barely covers the ground.’its the Krishna river kids’, an old guy sitting next to us said. This river, it reminds me of river Nila the second largest river in Kerala. besides my hometown. it drained out really bad due to the sand mining from river banks. we reached Vishakapatnam by 8:30 pm and our train halted there like half an hour. so we bought some chappatis and pickles for the dinner. everyone started to folds their seats to sleep by 9:45 pm itself, so as we.

DAY-3
4 -December 2017

At 4:30 am, we reached the Bhubaneswar railway station. the temperature was 16 degree Celsius cold, when we stepped out.i saw the worst scenario of the refugees lying there almost everywhere on the floor.we hesitated to walk through them without disturbing them. 90%of the of them were women with children.
The bus that we arranged for our transportation have reached there by 5:00am .our accommodation was in a youth hostel at Kalinga vihar located 12.5kms away from the station.a group of us including 10 members had the room on the topmost floor with a terrace. The only problem we faced there was the only 2 bathrooms for 10 of us on the terrace itself.
But I found it a strange challenging experience to live like local people. with a good fresh up and a healthy breakfast, we started our journey to the first destination, the UDAYAGIRI AND KHANDAGIRI CAVES is 6.1 km from our hostel, we reached there by 10:30am. these caves are known as the ‘cittack’or ‘kattack’caves. They are party artificial and partly natural caves, which was carved in the 2nd century. These 2 hills are located at the 2 sides of the road .it is believed that the Jain monks used to meditate and worship here during the reign of king Kharavel. we climbed up the khandagiri hills first, a huge iron gate opened up to the numerous stone steps up to the hilltop. one old monk sitting in the steps were chanting some mantras.IMG_20171204_104544
There are 15 caves on the hilltop, having the carved idols of Jains.these caves were actually smaller than I imagined. a temple which seems presently active was there.
Udayagiri hill was clearly visible from this hill itself. After we climbed down, we entered the udayagiri caves.IMG_20171204_112352Udayagiri, the word means sunrisehill.compared to the khandagiri hill this hill, this hill majorly have artificial stone structures. Next, we headed for lunch on the way at kharavel nagar.i had a fish thali meals of rs 120km from the southern cafe
restaurant at 1:00pm.
The time was 3:00 pm when we reached the LINGARAJA TEMPLE which is 8.1 km far from UDAYAGIRI and KHANDAGIRI CAVES. phones and cameras are not permitted inside the temple. the temple complex was built on the Chanakya period around the BINDUSAGAR LAKE. it is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bhubaneswar. this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, in which the lord is worshiped in the name ‘Hariharan'(the combined form of Lord Vishnu and Shiva).
As we enter the temple there is a purification area to clean our foot before entering the sacred part of the temple complex. there are totally 180 idols, which were created by the kings themselves. most of them were located below the ground level. the entire complex is constructed with the sandstone following the Kalinga architectural style. each shrine is covered with the highly skilled carved stone ornamentation works. the backside of the main shrine is designed with a beautiful lawn garden with outdoor seating spaces which created a peaceful environment. we left outside the temple after our visit and went back to the hostel.

DAY-4
5-December,2017

we bounded to Puri by 8 am in the morning. When we reached our first destination The heritage Artists village, which is 60.6 km from Bhubaneswar, our bus halted in front of a hotel and we had our breakfast. We walked about 1km from there to the village, where we witnessed a whole village of passionate artists who depend on their skills of art for their living expense. What they used were the pure natural materials for their art&craft works.
IMG_20171205_110350Most of them were the handcrafts of decorated pots, coconut shells and tiny boxes etc. they displayed their artworks and dealt with their customers in their living room itself. Since we stepped into this village an artist named Abhimanyu were begging us to visit his house. he said that his house is at the corner of the street, so most of the visitors don’t have the patience to reach till there.
As we felt pity towards that innocent guy, we went to his home and take a look at his works. His artworks were somewhat similar to most of the villagers, but in spite of that, he has a collection of some ancient artworks including a 120-year-old painting depicting the story of Jagannatha temple, which is painted in the black natural kajal. I bought an emblem and a bookmark made of palm leaves.
Right next to that we traveled for 14.6 km to reach Loknatha temple, which is built in the 11th century. Here also as we were supposed to clean our feet before entering the temple, there is a pond nearby the entrance of the temple. This wasn’t such a massive structure as the Lingaraja temple that we visited last day. This was more like a simple stone carved structure with less than 10 idols.
There is a Shivalinga idol submerged in water, representing the Ganga river flows over Lord shivas head. The Sree Jagganatha temple is 1.6 km near to the Loknatha temple, so we visited there next. On the way, we can see the vast and wide puri beach. Our driver suggested keeping the footwear, phones, and cameras inside the bus itself. because as it was very crowded the safety of their clock room is not that guaranteed. The bus has parked about 700 meters from the temple, and we walked till the temple barefooted. Just like all the temples, a huge queue has led us to clean our foot. This large massive stone structured temple complex welcomed us with a terror effect of merchandisers of the market inside the, to be frank. Off to that zone, the temple worship space is quiet and calm.
Jagganatha meaning the lord of the universe, Shiva is worshiped here.
So in a huge massive stupa is where the Lord Vishnu is worshiped and there the other two stupas where lord Balabhadra and lord Subhadra is worshiped. According to the culture of the people in Puri, most of them depend on Lord Vishnu. A huge crowd present inside the main stupa of Vishnu, so the idol of the lord was not visually clear to us. We left the temple by 4pm for our next visit to the sun temple at Konark, which is 37.7 km from there. It took one and a half hours on the bus to reach there.
Konark is located on the northeast part of Puri in the coastline of Orrisa. we saw the beautiful sunset on the Konark beach on the way to sun temple. The pink rays of the submerging sun, falling on the fine sand casting the shadows of the trees. The sight was enormously beautiful and priceless.

Before entering the sun temple a number of hawker shops were on both sides for about 150 meters long. The temple depicting the visit chariot of sun-god which is pulled by 24 wheels by 7 horses. Sun temple of Konark is one of the world heritage sites of UNESCO. This 100ft high chariot, with the wheels& horses, were huge stone carved structures, constructed in the 13th century by the king Narasimha Deva. We can see the classic illustration of the Nagara style architecture. There was some conservation works by the UNESCO happening on the sun chariot, so the scaffoldings covered the beauty of the structure while our visit.

IMG_20171205_174640
After the temple visit, we moved to the Konark beachside, A sand art exhibition was happening there. Contestants from different countries have participated in this festival. The time was 10 pm, I had a delicious street food dinner with a north Indian chicken roll and fish curry from one of a hawker shop. At 11:45 pm we reached the hostel.

DAY-5
6-December,2017

This was a fine peaceful morning that we started our journey by 9:40 am to the Chilka lake at Satapada which is 116 km far from Bhubaneswar. We had our breakfast on the way itself. It was 2:45 pm after a long drive. This is actually a brackish water lagoon which spreads over puri, khuvantra and Gunjan districts flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area over 1,100 square km. This water lagoon is known as the largest coastal lagoon in India. The area is a poor village place as there was only one good restaurant which is crowded. so some of us adjusted our lunch by some snacks and a red bull energy drink, due to the delay of food.IMG_20171206_141719
Our boat voyage has started at 3:30pm to the chilka island. So the whole crew of us divided into 2 boats. We saw the group of pipers and godwits fishing through the glossy reflecting face of the water. It was a long way on the boat. we reached the island by 4;20pm.In that island, there is a temple. That view of the lake with the chattering birds on the deck was glorious. The golden orange sun drowned down the lake emitting the smudged rays. Now the time is 5pm, and the next best thing happened, we had an opportunity to have a jetski adventure, I bet none of us would have no idea how excited I was at that moment. The only thing that disappointed everyone was the absence of daylight in that special moment. But It was not a big deal for me other than, being one of my dream come true. On my first turn the guide guy was controlling the bike and taught me to ride it, on my second turn I ride it by myself, It was easier than I thought, that I had even done a loop. I kept my excitement scream silent inside. After a good dinner, we went back to the hostel.

DAY-6,7,8
7-December,2017 to 9-December,2017

We attended the convention for these 3 days, to attend the seminar by famous architects like Haider Ali and Hafeez Contractor at Mayfair convention center which is 12.4 km away from the hostel. We even had the chance to meet Ar. Apurva Bose, the architectural journalist in Bangalore.

DAY-9
10-December,2017
After all those convention days, we decided to hang out one more day as one last goodbye to Orissa. almost all of us were tired, so we delayed to get ready by 11am.
First, we visited the Tribal museum 10 km away from the hostel. we reached there by 12:30pm.They exhibited ornaments, clothes weapons & utensils of the ancient tribes of Orissa. The Museum landscaped with paved pathways besides the lawn which dives one lead to an artificial tribal cottage representing the different types of dwellings showcasing their ancient households in each of them. The other path leads to the main museum block, exhibiting the ornaments, weapons, clothes etc of the tribal people. We had our lunch at the museum canteen itself. From there we went shopping at the Shahid Nagar market, 7.8 km away. Our herd has splited here and there to the market. my company was my friend Ashique . We weren’t that interested in shopping there, so we literally did a street food safari all the way in that market with different pani puris from the street hawkers.
Right after that, we visited the Sanchi stupa by 7:00pm. There was a scheduled light show at 7:30 pm about the stories of the ancient kingdom of Orissa, Including the legends of king Narasimhaveda. The entry inside the Stupa was restricted at this time. So we went back to hostel celebrating this last day.

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