Around 8:15pm, after a very fulfilling visit to the Sun temple at Konark, I decided to leave for Puri the same evening. Since I had to attend an urgent work call, my start time from Konark to Puri was 9:30pm in the night. As I drove towards Puri, I realized that the road had very few commuting cars with no streetlights at places! On my way, due to the pitch darkness of the night I could not experience the beauty of the adjacent sea view. It’s the same road that runs parallel to the coast of Bay of Bengal which is popularly called as the ‘Marine Drive’ of Konark-Puri road. Here’s a video link of the Marine Drive of Puri-Orissa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_0a9IAw6I8 On the long drive of 35.8 kms from Konark to Puri honestly, I was a bit tensed from time to time. This was because at times I had to slow down on the road when fog obstructed my view while driving & at times herds of random cattle moving around would cross the road. I guess, on a solo road trip such moments add thrill and suspense to the journey. As I hummed songs to beat my tension, I was wondering if I would get a place to stay and dinner to eat after reaching Puri.
As I reached Puri at 11:30pm I started searching for good lodges and hotels to stay for the night. No restaurant was open around in the city as I realized that, due to early sunset in the East coast of India, most of the shops and eateries in small towns shut down by 8-9pm. It dawned on me that its not Mumbai for me to expect access to anything at wee hours of morning! After an hour of search finally it was sheer ‘Luck’ factor that diverted me to Orissa Tourism Development Corporation’s (OTDC) guest house named ‘Pantanivas’. At the reception I enquired about the availability of a room for the night and to my surprise there was one! In no time I checked into a comfortable and cozy room on the ground floor and felt a sigh of relief to get a roof over my head for that night. Now the next hunt was of putting some food in my stomach. On enquiring with room service, I got to know that the guest house restaurant had shut down and it would only open at 6am in the morn! Just when I thought I would have to sleep that night on empty stomach, the door bell rang! On opening the door, I saw a thin waiter standing with a tray in which there were slices of bread, jam and butter. He said ‘Madam, would this be OK for fulfilling your hunger tonight?’ I smiled and said, ‘that would be more than enough!’ Thereafter I gobbled 4-5 bread- butter- jam slices back to back! As I spiraled down to sleep that night, I was looking forward to have a good night sleep to be charged enough the next day to experience the waters of Bay of Bengal and thereafter to visit the holy shrine of Lord Jagannath of Puri.
Waking up next morning at 6:30am I was surprised to feel the rays of the sun outside my room. I opened the curtains and to my surprise I could see the sea & the Puri beach just outside my window!! The earlier night I could not see the beach when I had entered the premise hurriedly. I rushed to the beach and played ‘catch-and-cook’ with the waves. After a lot of ‘ducking’, I allowed the waters of the Bay of Bengal finally catch me! All my life I have stayed on the West coast of India at Mumbai. I am used to see the Arabian Sea. It’s the first time I was literally ‘flirting’ with the waters of the Bay of Bengal! It was one of the most beautiful Monday morning of my life!
After breakfast as I bid good-bye to the guest house, I noticed that the final bill didn’t include the last night snack of bread-butter-jam. I pointed it out to the senior executive at the reception about it. He said that ‘they understood in what situation I was and it’s bill was ‘on the house’ as they didn’t want to be an opportunist about my hunger’! I was touched by the kind gesture and the humaneness show by OTDC staff. I actually saw, the tagline ‘Athiti Devo Bhava (Guest is God) of India tourism put to practice by Orissa Tourism Development Corporation.
I then visited the temple of Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna). The ancient temple and its precinct is full of life. Devotees come to seek blessings of the Lord from across the world! Here is a National Geographic video which best showcases the legend of Lord Jagannath (the Lord of Universe) as described in Hindu mythology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb2qnJi4g0w
Since cellphones and video recorders are prohibited in the temple premise, I could not click any photographs of the temple. But my mind’s eye captured enough visuals which will transport me to the temple as an when I remember the magnificence of the shape and colors of the idols of Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Lord Ballibhadra (Lord Krishna’s brother) and Subhadra (Lord Krishna’s sister). The temple is symbolic of ‘love between siblings and of universal brotherhood’. As I headed back from Puri to Bhubaneshwar (62 kms) I realized how action-packed my trip of completing the ‘Golden Triangle’ (of Konark-Puri-Bhubaneshwar) was. Temple, beach, history, culture, architecture & above all the hospitality extended by the people Odisha, to this Marathi ‘mulgi’ (girl) of Maharashtra was truly heart-warming. It was literally a feeling of ‘From Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea- With Love’!
Photos Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar, Free Internet resource.