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Ruchira takes us on a tour of Puri, exclusively for Different Truths.
“Time writes no wrinkles on thy azure brow” ~ Byron
Come summer and the numerous beaches, sea resorts beckon footloose fancy-free travellers. Travel agents and tourism companies dish up all sorts of packages to lure their customers. This flurry of activities now a global phenomenon makes one feel good.
During one summer vacation, when I was out of school, the paterfamilias took us on a holiday to the seaside town of Puri (aka Jagannath Dham or Srikshestra). An overnight train journey from Kolkata brought us to this famous town. We were in June, the peak of summer. The sun was blazing; however to feel the salty sea air blowing on our faces was so refreshing.
The vast undulating seaside or beach, call it what you will, is the nerve centre of Puri, the heart of town.
The vast undulating seaside or beach, call it what you will, is the nerve centre of Puri, the heart of town. Hotels, shops and other utilities jostled with each other for space. All of them faced the sea. Puri has been a perennial holiday destination for the Bengalis. More so, during the days of the Raj. Even Tagore, the Nobel laureate had sojourned here very many times, staying almost always at the elitist Victoria Club (though I am not sure whether the original still stands or undergone renovation); some of his landmark poems and letters had been composed here.
Though we had happened to check into moderate hotel without prior booking, yet we fortunately got a large, spacious, well-ventilated room – can you believe it – overlooking the sea! To a dreamy adolescent like me it was the last word in luxury! From the windows we could see the surf and spray keeping the sands constantly wet; the roar of the ocean, a tad monotonous, was a new experience for one’s ears.
The sky above was like a huge canvas splayed with a motley of colours – red, orange, pink, magenta, and molten gold. The sea lay sprawled – a gigantic creature, restless and violent…
After the day’s heat had subsided, we made a beeline to the beach – merely a stone’s throw from our lodgings. The sky above was like a huge canvas splayed with a motley of colours – red, orange, pink, magenta, and molten gold. The sea lay sprawled – a gigantic creature, restless and violent, frothing, fuming, eager to pounce on its prey. Words fail me, for I am no poet, the sea always fascinates me, in whichever part of the globe I happen to be in.
As the sun dipped over the turbulent waters, sombre grey brown indigo began to lengthen across the skies. As the tide strengthened the mighty breakers grew more powerful. Hurtling themselves the sandy shores they filled the watchers’ hearts and minds with awe.
As the tide strengthened the mighty breakers grew more powerful. Hurtling themselves the sandy shores they filled the watchers’ hearts and minds with awe.
After darkness deepened, we went to the Jagannath temple – Mecca for devout Hindus from across the globe. Ideally, such Darshans happen during the day, but Dad who was now visiting Puri for the umpteenth time was wary about the notorious pandas (guides), who virtually fleece the gullible tourist in return for temple-tour and ritual-worship packages. Hence we decided to defer the visit after sundown when thepandas were less likely to be on the prowl. Inside the sanctum sanctorum the three divine siblings reposed in utmost serenity. The colorful ornately decorated idols were veritable works of art! I am not religiously inclined per se yet I was bemused. The temple architecture, the sublime ambience, as well as the presence of the deities, had me enthralled!
The other highlights of our Puri visit was the sea bathing aided by efficient nuliyaas (fisher folk cum divers) who skillfully manoeuvre each rising wave and afford the bathers memorable dips and baths. Last but not the least, every night, a balmy sea breeze inconsonance with the roaring waters invariably lulled you to a deep slumber…
Photos from the Internet