#TravelDiaries: Kalinga yatra

Konark, Puri and Bhubaneswar make an interesting trinity of Hindu philosophy. Konark represents Sun, HiranyaGarbha – the Creator, Puri is the mainstay of Vishnu – Jagannath – the sustainer and Bhubaneswar is the abode of Rudra/Shiva/ Lingraj – the destroyer, the one who establishes balance.

History and spirituality interest me immensely. Hence, when Maa suggested Puri as the last trip for the year, I jumped on it.  My Maa is one awesome travel buddy. Super enthu and super energetic. Always ready for a new adventure. I am quite an offbeat traveler. Live local, travel local, eat local, not too bothered about hygiene and comfort. Over and above, I rarely have a detailed plan. My itineraries can easily change depending on the situation at hand. Hence traveling with someone usually makes me kinda nervous as I am never too sure how much my partner can take. But with Maa, well lets say, I owe my spirit to her and hence the usual concerns are of no concern.

We spent about 5 days in Odisha and a day and a half in Vishakhapatnam, on the way back. (You ask why Vishakhapatnam? – well 2 reasons – I had seen the pictures of Shiva Parvati on Kailashgiri, I had to see it with my own eyes once in my life time, and the flights from Vishakhapatnam-Mumbai were half that of Bhubaneswar-Mumbai :))

We met directly at Bhubaneswar airport and headed straight to Konark in an auto rickshaw. Interesting guy, our rickshawala was, very politically aware, had an opinion on every single issue. His hope in life is to do Bharat bhraman in his auto and collect one rupee from every person he meets to create a social welfare fund.  We say, “apna desh bhagvan bharose chalta hai” (Its only God who runs this country). But I believe its people like him who exist in millions, that have ensured we survive and thrive in spite of all our daily problems.


We reached Konark late evening, the home to world renowned Surya mandir (Sun temple). Konark , literally translates in to corner (“Kon”) of the Sun (“Arka”). Since the beginning of human civilization, man has worshiped the Sun, the beholder of light & the destroyer of darkness “Bhanu”, the nourisher of the world – ‘Pushan”. Sun is  considered the primordial God – “Adidev”. Our rishis rightfully called Surya HiranyaGarbha – the golden egg, the source of creation . In India, Konark is  home to one of the most majestic Surya Mandir, but it is only one amongst many. Another one that I have visited is Modhera in Gujarat. There are many more including the Martand mandir of Kashmir, of which only ruins remain now.

Immediately, we set out to get a glimpse of the famed temple. The receding light, made it look like a haunted haveli. I was but a little disappointed, though the following day was going to prove me so wrong. The crowning glory of the evening was the soft radiance of the waxing moon, it was the trayodashi of shuklapaksh (2 days before the full moon).

Early next morning, we were up at 4 AM. After all we were on the east coast, couldn’t have missed the Suryoday at Chadrabhagha beach.I was stunned, if not shocked to see a atleast 500 others who were already at the beach before we reached at 4:30 AM. The cutting chai stalls were up and running as the early risers thronged to get the early morning chuski! Surely enough, after a wait of a little over 90 mins, Suryadev obliged. The pristine colors of dawn spread through the sky, as if laying down a red carpet for the sun to arrive. The atmosphere was divine, further enhanced by sanskrit chants heard from the temple near by. A faint glow at the horizon quickly assumed the fiery glaze..and here he was, heralding another beautiful day into our lives.
The bright day elevated my spirits, ready I was to give Konark another shot. And this time, I was mesmerized. The sandstone marvel shone radiantly under the Sun’s gaze, like a girl coming of age. Though, this 800 year old structure has weathered enough storms and lost enough mass, one can’t miss its youthful energy. The temple complex is structured like a chariot  with 12 wheels, depicting the mythical characterization of Surya dev’s rath with 7 horses. 4 or one side and 3 on another. Our guide linked it back to the incline in the earth’s orbit around the sun. Interestingly, this makes sense, why else would there not be an even distribution of horses?
Surya Mandir, Konark

Like other Kalinga style mandirs, the entrance is flanked by 2 GajaSimha (elephant lion). In all temples, in Orissa you’ll see the temple being flanked by 2 lions. In here, you see a lion over an elephant, which has tightly grasped a helpless human. The symbolism suggests that Pride (lion) and Greed/luxury (elephant), is hard to escape and unless man makes an attempt to free himself/herself from these deadly chungals, s/he will find no moksha.

The best surviving structure is that of the main temple with the garbh griha , where once upon a time sat the idol of Surya dev. When the Muslim king Kalaphad, invaded and destroyed the temple, the pandas of Konark, somehow hid the idol, which was then relocated to Jagannath mandir in Puri. Since that attack, the formal worship at Konark stopped and it became a story in stones! Once upon a time, the first rays of the rising sun fell directly on the mukut of this mandir, but sometime in 1850s, after a massive earthquake, the sea shore moved 3 kms away and now the forest surrounding the mandir, blocks the first rays from falling on the temple. This shore is the Chandrabhagha beach, the one where we went to watch the sun rise.

It is said that a 52-ton magnet was used to create the peak of the main temple. It is said that the entire structure has tolerated the harsh conditions especially of the sea because of this magnet. Previously, the unique arrangement of the main magnet along with the other magnets caused the main idol of the temple to float in air.   Read more  about Konark here  http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/travel/the-konark-sun-temple-scientific-marvel-of-ancient-india

Intricate carvings adorn every stone of the temple, those without , are the later ones, out in place for protection of the structure. The carvings have a theme, the lower ones are of horses and elephants indicating working towards prosperity – arthorparjan , the middle section is about enjoying the senses – the erotica – kam, vilas bhog and towards the top is theme of renunciation and moksha . Here’s just a glimpse:

 Top left: An elephant and a Giraffe in the Kings Court; the interesting thing here is the Giraffe, an animal from Africa, not native to India. This shows that back in 1250s, trade relations existed with Africa
Bottom left: images of monogamy, polygamy, polyandry abound in Konark. Our ancestors surely knew how to indulge, but more importantly when to indulge and when to give up.
Centre: This is the image of Suryadev. Notice closely, Suryadev is in gum boots, indicates the trend of those times. In fact I also saw the Surya murti relocated to Puri, that too shows Suryadev with gum boots!
Top right: You see images of 2 monks here, one distinctly Hindu, the other distinctly Buddhist bhikshu – the history of acceptance and coexistence
Bottom right: Look closely, the lady holds a beautiful purse, even today you find similar ones in the market

One of the other surprising aspects I saw in these carvings was about women in those times, there were images of women in war, women on hunting expeditions. Clearly, there is more to history than the women were oppressed stories we are usually fed.  Take a look at the pictures below

Woman in Combat

Top: Taken at Konark, depicts a hunting expedition undertaken by a royal maiden
Bottom right: Picture of a war between Kalinga and Magadh. Kalinga forces are led by a woman (our guide called her Charulata)
Bottom left: A woman warrior slayer her enemy

Beyond all the above there’s something in the spirit of Konark, something inexplicable that fills your soul , that makes it want to break free. And when the soul takes charge, the body takes a flight, the mind forgets how old you are, the heart overpowers any sense of social consciousness , rhythm flows like water gushing out of an open damn. Dance they say, is but the expression of the soul. In a flash the realization of Shiva’s cosmic dance dawned upon me – that indeed is happiness, that indeed in Nirvana.

Music in stones

Chilka, Puri

Puri came next. We reached there late evening and even managed to get  darshan at the Jagannath mandir. Late morning the next day, we headed to Chilka – the largest coastal lagoon in India. The migratory birds and dolphins are the key attractions at Chilka. It was one of those trips where 3 full hours, you do nothing, just sail away in a boat. It is peaceful and it calm, and yes we spotted a dolphin too.

Though we hadn’t planned it that way, we were lucky to be in Puri on the Karthik Poornima day. It is considered one of the most auspicious days for visiting Puri. Pujas start early in the morning, at the beach. Women and kids take boat like structures made from tree barks and release them in the sea. This tradition is called Bali Yatra. It goes back to the times when Indian traders set sail towards Indonesia, Java, Bali for trade centuries ago, in the month of Karthik, post the monsoons. Pujas were done to ensure their journeys were trouble free and successful. Quite a joyous morning that was – women singing, kids playing with the waves and tourists like us, soaking all this in!

Bali Puja

Later in the morning, we took darshan at the temple again. Jagannath Puri, is a huge temple complex with many smaller temples apart from the main Vishnu temple, after which it gets its name. There is a huge food market inside the complex too, where one can eat Prasad. The food is cheap and very tasty (khichdi, sabzi. meetha bhaat, chaas)  A must eat when in Puri. Unfortunately, due to security concerns and crowd management, visitors are not allowed to carry cameras of cell phones inside. Hence I have no pictures.
I have visited many temples before, I love the energy and the collective virtuous spirit one feels in the temples. But the darshan of the main deity Jagannath and Balram in this temple, is an experience beyond words. They say there is the power of faith in stone – nowhere else I have felt it as strongly as I experienced it here.

Our final destination in Odisha was Bhubaneshwar, a city of temples. The entire town seems like a UNESCO world heritage site with 100s of big and small elegantly carved temples peppered around the city. The biggest and the most well known is a Lingraj mandir. Here too, camera/cell phones aren’t allowed, so I got no picture, one majestic temple complex it is.  There are other equally beautiful but smaller temples too, like the Mukteshwar, Kedar Gouri, Raja Rani mandirs. Bhubaneshwar is also home to the ancient rock cut caves from 1st Century BC – Udayagiri & Khandgiri . The caves exist as well preserved ruins and make a wonderful tour. One can very well imagine the life and times of the Jain ascetics under the royal patronage in those times. Then there is the Shanti Stupa, that which commemorates the change of heart of Samrat Ashok post the Kalinga war.
Another interesting temple was the Chausath Yogini mandir.  What you see below is a shakta temple, in the shape of a “yoni”, a mandir dedicated to Durga or Mahamaya in her 64 avtaars, called the 64 yoginis. Our concept of Gods and Goddesses is but unique, even more is our imagination of them. To sample a few – check out here, you see Vinayaki (female Ganesh), Ek pad Bhairavi (female bhairav), NarSimhi (female narsimha) and the one on the top right is Chamunda, a skeleton goddess.
From Bhubaneswar we header to Vishakhapatnam ( Have mentioned  earlier the reasoning for this pairing :))  On the very first day we ventured out to explore  Borra Caves. Thanks to Modi’s incredible India picture campaign, I had seen some pictures of the beautiful natural caves in Vishakhapatnam.  Well, I had to see them. The caves didn’t disappoint. Totally worth the 4 hours spent in a general compartment of a passenger train. Read here about what these caves are all about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borra_Caves
The last day was spent exploring Vishakhapatnam. While Kailashgiri was the highlight of Vizag, what amazed me the most, was the R K Beach area. Spic and span, not a plastic bag in sight.  From the microphone system installed every 100 mts , there were periodic announcements of Vishakhapatnam being made into a smart city and about fines that would be levied if anyone littered the beach. I was told this massive turnaround had been accomplished in last 3-4 months when the government took it upon itself to actively promote Swacch Bharat. Slowly but surely, things are changing 🙂
One lovely trip this was 🙂
Memories Galore

Picture 1: Mom participating in the Bali Yatra puja – Puri beach
Picture 2: Early morning camel ride – Puri beach
Picture 3: Hobnobbing with super smart kids of a municipal school in Yarada, Vishakhapatnam
Picture 4: At Borra caves with young and promising kids from Sainik school in Nagaland. They were on a school trip
Picture 5: Maa and I at Udayagiri

ॐ शान्ति |
ॐ शान्ति |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s