Konark – the famed black pagoda frequented by thousands everyday. A Bong learns to travel, starts his/her outings with quintessential DiPuDa( a popular pun of Bengal generated from abbreviation of Digha-Puri-Darjeeling). A naive traveler who had just landed on Puri would certainly wonder by finding the language spoken mostly in the town is Bengali instead of Odia!! Entire town of Puri specially the marine drive is dotted with several kiosks selling and sending people on tour of Konark, Dhauli, Bhubaneswar etc. Most popular and cheap mode of travel is to take a day out to these places in a bus or other vehicles and return to Puri to catch a overnight train back to Kolkata. Myself having taken this trip three four time since childhood lost any further excitement on this. Few days ago Facebook feeds of festivities during Nabakalebar of Lord Jagannath drawn my attention and I vowed that I will explore some off beat locations around Konark. To achieve this my first job would be to fetch a night accommodation in Konark. After researching a bit online I managed to book OTDC Yatrinivas at Konark.
28th July, 2015
With forecasts of heavy rains and Cyclone Komen rushing towards coasts of Orissa, West Bengal and Bangladesh I set out for Puri by Howrah-Puri Garib Rath Express. It started raining cats and dogs as the train moved towards Kharagpur. However an overcast morning though without rain welcomed us in Puri next morning. 29th July, 2015 This time I booked a hotel away from chaos of Swargadwar or Grand Road to enjoy a bit of peace. Bingo it was a right choice. My hotel was right in front of the beach and the sea is visible from the room balcony. The portion of the Beach after the lighthouse is still free from crowd and vendors. There is hardly any shop also. One can enjoy a clean golden beach in these parts. Though commuting to other places like railway station or temple is a bit problematic as one has to depend on one or two autos or rickshaws only.No option to share the ride or bargain. However, this time Lord Jagannath is staying back for two more days on chariot just outside the Sinhadwar as a part of Nabakalebar ritual of Sonabesha(Golden Attire). Yes, this time He fulfilled my long cherished desire to have a long darshan of the deities and taking photographs. What a sight it was. There is no pushing or frisking or haggling by Pandas as done inside the sanctum of temple. Neither there is a million people rushing and running to pull the chariot as done in Rathyatra and Bahuda Yatra(both concluded in earlier week). Nandighosh, Debdalan and Taldhwaj– the three immense chariots of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram standing gracefully on Bada Danda(Grand Road). The deities standing on their respective chariots gracefully in broad daylight. It is as easy as anything to see them as per your wish, take your time, take how many photos you want to take, no pushing , no screaming Pandas, just pray to him as per your convenience. In the evening I came back once again to have a darshan in evening attire returning completely satisfied. Neither I could see him so close during the Rathyatra in 2007. 30th July,2015 It is early morning,7 AM hired an auto for Rs. 500 to drop to Konark Yatrinivas. It is beautiful picturesque journey through Konark-Balukhand Sanctuary along the coast. Clean and superb road condition, no traffic, no pollution, no honking. It is a delight to travel on this road. En route we visited Ramachandi Temple and Beach on the seamouth of River Kushbhadra. Goddess Ramachandi is being worshiped since long here and she guided Lord Rama with valuable inputs to rescue Sita from Ravana. Here the beach is secluded with one side forming a shallow backwater and on another side the Bay of Bengal. Soon reached Konark and checked in the OTDC YN. It is a nice and cozy premises with sprawling gardens and calm, peaceful surroundings. Food is also tasty and price is appropriate. Rooms are adequate in size with all amenities like LCD TV, AC, Geyser etc. What I did not expect was a keyless(RFID cards) entry. Now its time to hit the unknown road. The resort arranged a cab for Rs. 1000/- that will cover few lesser known spots in 3-4 hours. First, we visited the Buddhist Site of Kuruma about 8Kms away in a village set amidst plush green settings. The site is pretty small with just only one Buddha idol found in Bhumisparsha Mudra and remnants of a brick wall. Next, its turn for Chaurasi where there is a small but ancient temple dating 9th Century AD dedicated to Goddess Barahi worshiped as per tantric rituals.This temple is built in Khakra style of architecture which predates Kalinga style of architecture. Next we reached Kakatpur where temple of Goddess Mangala is situated. Goddess Mangala is belived to guide the servitors of Lord Jagannath for Daru Anweshan(search for the wood/tree for new deities) in dreams during Nabakalebar. Finally, time to visit a least known but pristine beach of Odisha– Astaranga, famous for view of colorful sunset as the name suggests. Unfortunately, in the onset of a cyclone, sky was overcast. Hence, there was not much array of colors. Still the isolated, vast beach filled the mind with bliss. On returning, I asked the driver to drop me off to the Konark Sun Temple. My intention was to capture the majestic monument in evening. Earlier in 2009, I made a failed attempt as my point and shoot camera did not allowed me to take a good photo. This time I came prepared with better camera and tripod. But unfortunately, a strange rule of ASI forbid me this time also. Though nowhere it is mentioned but when you draw your gears out, security stops you. But nobody stops you if you litter the complex with food packets, tickets etc. 31st July, 2015 Anyways, next morning I visited it early and got chance to enjoy the monument with comfortable weather, very less number of visitors.
Last but not the least, there is a small but impressive museum which very few people visit. It has a good collection from ruins of sun temple. It was in poor condition in 2009, but now I found it refurbished and very well maintained. Even they provide free locker facility and brochures for quenching the thirsty of an inquisitive visitor.