God’s Best Kept Secret …. Odisha!
S V Prasad recounts the fellowship to Odisha
We, the 18 Odisha Juggernauts, embarked on our journey on December 3, 2018. After landing in Bhubaneshwar, we drove straight to the Lord Jagannath Temple Town, Puri, a 40 km drive away. In Puri, we took a green tour on cycle
rickshaws to the Old Town, ending with a quick visit to the home of Sant Kabir.
At the Temple, the priest took us around all the important sights in the temple, including the main Garbhagriha of Lord Jagannath with His Brother Balabhadra and Sister Subhadra, perhaps the only temple with all the three statues made of wood and not stone or metal.
The next day was action-packed. First, a visit to a quaint, little village with skilful locals using eco-friendly material, parchments etc. We then went to another village where we were treated to a wonderful recital of the traditional Gotipua Dance performed by men dressed as women.
After a nice, local cuisine lunch and a short siesta, we were off to Konark, 40 km away, to see the ruins of the famous Sun Temple, designed in the shape of the Sun God’s chariot. After a quick look at the sand art exhibition on the beach, we witnessed two lovely dance recitals of the traditional Assamese dance and the Odissi dance, the latter led by an Indophile from Italy. This was at the Annual Konark Dance Festival with the temple in the background giving it a surreal feel and experience.
On the December 5, we were off early in the morning to Chilka Lake, first by bus and then by motor boat, where we had a fleeting darshan of dolphins.
The next day, in the morning, we were treated to the sights of a number of migratory birds in another part of Chilka
lake – herons, kingfishers, cormorants, brahmini ducks and many more.
Our caravan left for Bhubaneshwar the next day, climbing up the rock-cut Udayagiri and Khandagiri Jain caves en route, carved during the second century BCE, after stopping at a village with traditional textiles as its main
occupation. After lunch, we went to Dhauli hills, where the Kalinga War is said to have taken place in 262 BCE.
A few of us witnessed a thrilling World Cup hockey match in a magnificent stadium. The hassle-free entry, the
spotlessly clean walkway, comfy seats made us feel proud as Indians.
On December 8, we went to see the magnificent 11th century Lingaraj Temple. What’s unique is the main Garbhagriha has the presence of both Lords Shiva and Vishnu with their respective consorts in the form of a combination of a Shiva Linga and Shaligram signifying Vishnu. After darshan at a few other temples there, and in the nearby Mukteswar,
Siddheshwar and Parushurameshvara temples, we left for the airport.
The Oriyas are simple, nice people who are hospitality personified. The varied sights, cleanliness, well-maintained
roads all meant that Odisha is truly “God’s Best Kept Secret” – the tag line used by the Odisha Government.