Puri is a Beach City of Odisha

Puri a Beach City of Odisha
Nimisha Jaiswal
Puri is a Beach City of Odisha and is situated on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the “Char Dham” pilgrimage sites for the Hindus. It is popularly called “Sri Jagannatha Dhama” because of the Lord Jagannatha temple built around the 12th century.

The economy of Puri city revolves around the Lord Jagannatha temple. The major 13 festivals celebrated in the temple complex contribute to the city’s economy. The most important festival here is the Rath Yatra, which is conducted during June or July. It is interesting to know that about 1 million visitors come here to witness this festival. If you are here in these months, don’t forget to attend this event.

Odissi is a classical dance form of Odisha. If you visit Puri, make a plan to enjoy the spectacular dance performances by the dancers in a cultural program held at District Collector’s Conference Hall on every second Saturday of the month.

          Top 10 places to visit in Puri:
1.     Lord Jagannatha Temple
The Lord Jagannatha Temple is one of the
most important and holy Hindu temples. It was built in the 12th century by King Indradyumna. Lord Jagannatha who is believed to be a form of Lord Vishnu is worshipped here. Along with him, the idols of Balabhadra and Subhadra are also worshipped here.

The temple’s architecture is Kalingan and has a height of 58 meters. It has a flag unfurled above it.
The temple complex has an area of 10.7 acres. There are 4 entry gates in the temple with beautiful carvings. The Lions Gate (eastern gate), Horse Gate (southern gate), Tigers Gate (western gate) and Elephant Gate (northern gate). These 4 gates represent 4 fundamental principles of knowledge, renunciation, right conduct, and prosperity.

Do you know the temple has one of the largest kitchens in the world? The food or Mahaprasad is cooked in earthen pots for thousands of devotees every day. It is said that every day during the time of worship, “56 Bhog” or 56 types of Prasad are offered to the Lord.

The most awaited festival is of Rath Yatra, the enthusiasm, vigor, devotion of people is worth witnessing. The colorful chariots, rituals, the mesmerizing aura will satisfy your religious instincts.
On this day, the deities are brought out of the temple in huge chariots and they cover a distance of 3 kms through Bada Danda (main street) to Gundicha Temple. The devotees throng to this place just to have a glimpse of Lords and get blessed.

2.     Puri Beach
Puri beach bordering the Bay of Bengal is an ideal place for travelers to spend more time in solitude and enjoy the pristine waters of the beach. The golden sand and beautiful waves make this place magical. Most of the tourists come here to see the spellbinding and spectacular sunrise and sunsets. Moreover, you can take a camel or a horse ride at the beach to have a look at picturesque beaches. Also, you can do scuba diving, surfing and swimming on this beach.

This beach is also famous for the sand sculptures made by Sudarshan Patnaik, an internationally known sand artist.

Puri Beach Festival is held in the first week of November every year. Here you can see the sand art, traditional handicrafts and enjoy Odia cuisines.

3.     Raghurajpur Artist Village
It is a heritage crafts village. It is known for Pattachitra paintings, wood and stone carvings, and palm leaf engraving. It is also known for Gotipua folk dance, from where classical Odissi dance originated. The traditional decoration of Lord Jagannath's throne called Patas is only made in this village. You will be amazed to know that the village is restoring its culture dated back to 5 BCE.

4.     Gundicha Temple
Gundicha Temple is just 3 kms away from the main temple of Lord Jagannatha. Rath Yatra starts from Lord Jagannatha temple and ends in the Gundicha temple. Here Lord Jagannatha, his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra rests for 7 days before going back to their home. Gundicha temple doesn’t have any idol of any diety for the rest of the year, although it has many images representing the Lord’s life.

5.     Baleshwar Beach
Baleshwar Beach also known as Chandipur Beach is less crowded and the beach is more serene. The uniqueness of this beach is its tide pattern. During some particular tides, the seawater goes back to about 5 kms from the sandy beach leaving the place muddy. Thus, you can easily find molluscs and horseshoe crabs on the beaches.

6.     Narendra Tank
It is one of the biggest tanks in Odisha built in the 15th century. With many temples around it, it is considered to be a holy tank. In the middle of the lake, there is a temple known as “Chandana Mandapa”. If you are in Puri, take some out to visit this place.

7.     Swargadwar Beach
It is one of the popular beaches of Puri. It witnesses visitors throughout the year. If you are interested in seashells and jewelry made from it, then this place will not disappoint you. Come here to enjoy the bright sunny beaches and the golden sunsets with some tea and snacks.

8.     Lokanath Temple

Puri is not only known for Lord Jagannath, but it has a lot of history related to Lord Shiva as well. It is believed that lingam in this temple was installed by Lord Rama himself. The Shivlinga is always submerged under a stream of water, considered to be Goddess Ganga, flowing on top of it.

Only on Pankodhar Ekadasi which comes before Shivratri, the flowing water is less and Lingam can be seen. On this auspicious day, thousands of devotees throng to this place for worship.

9.     Lakshmi Temple
Close to Jagannath Temple, this temple has an interesting history. It is believed that on the 6th day of the fortnight of Jyeshta, Lord Shiv married Goddess Parvati. It is said that they were invited by Goddess Lakshmi to this temple. If you are a Shiv devotee, this place is a must-visit destination.

10. Sudarshan Crafts Museum
Located at station road, it is the best place for art lovers. The museum was started in 1977 by Sudarshan Sahoo. Here you can witness carvings in wood, fiberglass, and stone and fine paintings as well. The items exhibited here are rare works of art, glorifying the culture and tradition of Odisha. You can also buy many souvenirs from here.

Other places to visit in and close to Puri:
1.     Chilika Lake
Chilika Lake is the biggest internal saltwater lake in entire Asia. It is a paradise for nature lovers, as they can witness migratory birds, who flock here in huge numbers during winters. If you are interested in birds’ photography, this place has a lot to offer, you can spot sea eagles, pink storks, golden plovers, flamingos and much more. The captivating and enduring lake is also the best place to witness sunrise and sunsets. Come here to spend some time in nature’s lap and have an enchanting experience.

2.     Pipili
Pipili, a small town near Puri is famous for its Applique work. All kinds of products like pillow covers, bed sheets, wall hangings, lamp shades, handbags, etc can be bought here at reasonable prices and you get to choose from a wide variety of options.

3.     Manas Sahoo’s Sand Art Park
Located near Light House, opposite Shri Hari Hotel in Puri is sand art park. Here you can see amazing sand sculptures of gods, temples, famous buildings, international events, current issues, etc. It is made of fine-grained sand and water.

4.     Shankaracharya’s Govardhan Pitha
In 810 AD, when Adi Shankaracharya visited Puri, he established one of the four Matha in this city. It is called Govardhan Matha and it is also an important destination for Hindus. The other 3 Mathas are at Sringeri, Jyotirmath, and Dwarka.

5.     Blue Splash Water Park
If you are accompanying with kids and want to enjoy some water rides, then this park will fulfill your wishes. It has more than 7 massive water rides and is spread in more than 8 acres of land area. The amusement park and play area for children close to it are also most visited.

Best time to visit:
Puri has a moderate and tropical climate. It is very humid throughout the year. The ideal time to visit here is between October and February when the weather is pleasant. If you are a strong devotee of Lord Jagannath, then you must visit here during Rath Yatra, between June and July.

How to Reach by Flight:
The nearest airport is Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, which is around 49 kms from Puri. It is well connected to most of the cities in India.

How to Reach by Road:
Government and Private buses are available from Vishakapatnam, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, etc.

How to Reach by Rail:
The Puri Railway station is the best place to get down if you are traveling by train. Most of the trains traveling from Kolkata to Chennai stops at Puri.

Best Hotels to stay in Puri:
1.         Priya Ananya Resort, Rating – 4.0/5, Hotel Class – 4 Stars
2.         Hotel Gandhara, Rating – 4.5/5, Hotel Class – 2 Stars
3.         Sterling Puri, Rating – 4.0/5, Hotel Class - 3.5 Stars
4.         Mayfair Heritage – Rating – 4.5/5, Hotel Class – 4 Stars
5.         Hotel Holiday Resort – Rating – 4.0/5, Hotel Class – 4 Stars
6.         Hotel Samudra – Rating – 4.0/5, Hotel Class – 3 Stars
7.         The Chariot Resort & Spa – Rating – 3.5/5, Hotel Class – 4 Stars
8.         Golden Tree – Rating – 5/5, Hotel Class – 3 Stars
9.         Puri Beach Resort – Rating – 3.0/5, Hotel Class – 2 Stars
10.     Hotel Balaji International – Rating – 3.5/5, Hotel Class – 2 Stars

Top 10 delicious food to try in Puri are:
1.     Maha Prasada
The Lord Jagannatha Temple runs the largest kitchen in the world and prepares around 56 varieties of food (also called Chappan Bhog) every day. These food are offered to the deities in the temple. Thus the most famous food in the city is “Maha Prasada”, which can be obtained inside the temple or can be bought from Ananda Bazar, in the north-east corner of the temple. Every day thousands of devotees buy and relish the holy Prasad.

2.     Khichdi
Khichdi is a popular Odia dish. It is best served at Lord Jagannatha temple. It is an item of maha bhog offered to the lord. It is a mix of rice and lentils cooked in pure ghee. Coconut, cinnamon, and sugar are added for a flavor. It is often served with curd and papad to make it a complete meal. You can relish an Abadha Thali, also a part of maha bhog.

3.     Malpua
Malpuas of Puri are mouth-watering sweet dish and you can’t eat just one. It is prepared with Maida, cardamoms, fennel seeds, coconut, milk, and bananas. The best place to try this is Original Nrusingha Sweets.

4.     Dalma
Dalma is the most famous Odia cuisine. If you want to try this authentic food cooked by mixing vegetables and lentils, you should visit a restaurant Dalma, which is named after the dish.

5.     Chungdi Malai
Chungdi Malai is a delicious prawn dish and is creamier due to coconut milk. Spices are also added to make it a mouth-watering food item. It is usually served with basmati rice to satisfy your hunger.

6.     Chenna Poda and Khaja
Chenna Poda is considered to be the favorite sweet dish of Lord Jagannatha and is prepared in all houses on special occasions. It is a cottage cheese cake. Khaja is prepared with flour and sugar made into layered dough and fried in oil.

If you are traveling from the lion’s gate of the temple towards sea beach via Khaja Patti, You can find Chenna Poda and Khaja in almost all the local sweet shops. You can also try Rabri, Chenna Jhili, rasabali, rasagolla, etc.

7.     Pitha
Pithas are generally made of rice and jaggery or sugar and often filled with coconut, pistachios, and cashews. They are usually flavored with cardamom. Some of the Pithas, you must try in Puri are Arisa Pitha, Manda Pitha, and Kakara Pitha. Chakuli Pitha, Enduri Pitha, and Podo Pitha are generally made of rice flour and black gram.

8.     Macha Chenncheda
It is yet again a popular dish in Puri. It is cooked with fish, bananas, vegetables and chana dal. Bringing all these ingredients together makes the dish unique and strangely delicious too. You can enjoy it with rice or roti. Best place to try it is in the Wildgrass Restaurant.

9.     Chinese Cuisine
Chinese food is loved all over India. Some people have an obsession with having Chinese on their holiday trips. For Chinese food lovers, Chung Wah restaurant is the best, which serves all types of dishes which will leave you with a lip-smacking experience.

10.            Samosas, crabs/prawns/fish Pakoras
There are many street stalls close to the beaches of Puri. You can enjoy the Samosas while relaxing on the beach and witnessing the golden sunsets and rippling waves at just Rs 20.

The Marine Drive Road (from Penthakata to Swargadwara) has many street stalls, which serve seafood dishes and pakoras of prawn, crab, and variety of fishes. The taste and aroma of these delicacies will take you on a food ride.

Best Restaurants in Puri:

1.      Wildgrass Restaurant,  
2.      Chung Wah Restaurant, 
3.      Fusion,  
4.      The Grand Regency  
5.      Dalma -  
6.      Rasoi -  
7.      Priya Ananya Swaad Restaurant  
8.      Bhojohori Manna  
9.      Agarwal’s Pure Veg Restaurant  
10.  The Gajapati -  

Shopping In Puri
Like every other state of India, Odisha also has its unique handicrafts. Some of them are Dhokra metalwork, silver filigree, palm lead engravings, wood carvings, Applique work, Cane and Bamboo craft, Paper Mache, Pattachitras, Sabai Grass, stone carving, Terracotta, Tribal jewelry, etc. If you are in Puri, then shopping for some of these souvenirs must be in your bucket list.

To fulfill all your shopping desires, the best place to visit is Utkalika, which is run by Odisha State Co-operative Handicrafts corporation ltd and Priyadarshini, which is famous for Sarees and dress materials. You can find fabrics like Tusser, Sambalpur, and Ikat. Sambalpur sarees are one of the best in India.

Other places, where you can find souvenirs are Sudharshan Workshop, Pattachitra Center, Sun Crafts, market complexes on the Grand Road (Bada Danda), Sea Beach markets, etc.

Puri is the holiest city of Odisha. But apart from visiting temples and seek blessings of God, visitors can relax and enjoy the golden beaches, enthralling Chilika lake, splendid sand arts, spectacular Odissi Dance performances, buy various handicrafts and taste the best of Odia cuisine. It’s a magical land where you not only get blessed but also experience a state of relaxation free from stress and anxiety.

So pack your bags, plan a travel itinerary and visit Puri.

Don’t forget to take home some Maha Prasada for your family and friends.

Happy Traveling!

Nimisha Jaiswal  MBA [USA] CDCW, DMCA

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