Post our Sun temple tour we looked ahead towards exploring Konark further. Despite the clouds, the weather was humid, thus decided upon coconut water before heading to Varahi Devi Temple. Since the temple was shut and opened at 5.30 pm, we took a stop for lunch at a local Dhaba. While eating our lunch, the sky got covered with dark clouds, and a sheet of rain poured from them. We waited for 30min for the rain to cease, but to our back luck, it did not.
Hence we decided to retort back to Puri, & do the rest Konark exploration tomorrow. We did not keep the Chilka lake in our tour as it had not opened completely, alone a few boats were operating at a high cost. The evening was spent leisurely at the hotel, enjoying rain & the high tide of the sea.
The following morning we left for Konark after an early breakfast. The day was cloudy, but luckily it was not raining. The drive was majestic as the eye could witness greenery where ever it seemed.
Yesterday we missed visiting Ramachandi Beach; hence we started our trip with the beach. The beach is located at the merging point of Kushabhadra River and Bay of Bengal, covered with golden sands and substantial palm trees, and the beach is ideal for taking long walks and collecting shells.
At the mouth of the Kushabhadra river is this graceful Chandi temple located known as Ramchandi. The temple is much senior to the sun temple because Goddess Ramchandi is believed to be the presiding deity of Konark, and benevolently she is called Chandi. The Idol of Goddess Ramachandi is in a seated position on a lotus in the sanctum. I paid homage at the synagogue, & took a good look round. The temple was built facing north with sandstone, laterite and bricks. Jagamohana part of the temple is hidden behind the picturesque Casuarina plantation, while Vimana could be seen painted in white & red colours.
As per folklore, during the 17th century, a young Brahmin named Kalapahad took Islam as his faith, & vowed to destroy all temples. One fine day after producing the destruction of the Sun temple, he approached Ramachandi temple. To safeguard the temple, Goddess Ramachandi dressed as a Maluni (maid) asked Kalapahad to wait at the door till she brings water from the river for the Goddess. Kalapahad waited anxiously for her reappearance. After, a long wait when the Maluni did not return exhausted, Kalapahad entered the temple and found an empty throne. He imagined that the maid took away the deity, so he followed her in anger. However, upon arriving at the Kushabhadra River banks, he found the Goddess idol floating in the middle of the river. Since the river was outpouring and Kalapahad was unable to pass, so he returned.
Later that night, Goddess Ramchandi came in the dreams of a priest and consecrated him to construct a temple on the Kushabhadra River banks. Hence the Ramchandi temple was made, I took a walk along the Marine Drive Road, which leads to Konark. The spot was so serene, ideal for poets & photographers. Though today, it’s a loved picnic, sailing, boating, swimming and sunbathing area.
Later we drove to Kuruma a little village at a length of 7.5 km from Konark Sun temple. Initially, I could not find it because of the ASI landmark, hidden under a heap of grasses. After confirming a local, we finally found the spot who confirmed not many people, visit this spot.
The ancestry of this place dates back to 8th-9th century AD and is a primary archaeological site. Kuruma has been cited in many Buddhist texts from Ashoka and Ceylon; it even appears in the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang’s writing.
It is said a stone slab with a beautiful sculpture Lord Buddha image was found along the bank of Dharma Pukur initially, where Buddha is seated cross-legged with a right hand in the Bhumisparsa mudra while the left hand placed over his left knee. The image also wears a beautifully carved crown and a necklace. Two other images were found along with the Buddha, one of them identified as Vajrayana deities Heruka and Dharma. And the other one is identified as Yama; however, experts believe it to be of Yamataka, Yama’s equivalent in Tantric Buddhism. Hence this place was influenced by both the Mahayana and Vajrayana sects of Buddhism.
The site was first reported by a school teacher named Brajabandhu Das. This led to excavation by the Archaeology from 1971 to 1975. During the excavation, a Buddhist Monastery with 12 cubicles was found. It has an open courtyard and the shrine chamber for prayers. There were three ovens, rectangular in shape discovered on the ground floor, which indicated the habitation in the area. Other antiquities recovered are mainly pottery of redware and beads placed in a modest shed.
The monastery is abandoned, and sadly this beautiful statue has lost most of its intricacy and elegance. The situation is also not very well maintained as portions have overgrown with vegetation. The locals use the site as storage of hay and cow muck, making some pieces almost inaccessible. Karma once used to be a Buddhist centre frequented by traders coming by the sea route, directly at the mercy of human and nature.
Spending sometime around the area, we drove towards the Varahi Devi Temple. It is one of the beautiful monument in the Prachi Valley. This temple exhibits the typical Odisa nomenclature- Khakhara style of architecture. The temple is spread across 2 acres of land. It has east-facing temple- with two sections Vimana and JagMohana. The walls of both the chamber are delicately decorated with the figural and arabesque motifs—the charismatic balanced rhythm is showcased with 2 latticed windows on either side of the Jagamohan.
Walking around the temple, I observed it presents a Pancharatha type both in plan and construction. Here the shrine is rectangular in shape, and the Shikara has semi-cylindrical ridge crowns. A beautiful statue of Lord Surya is installed in the niche. Significant relief is found on the walls of the temple. Ramayana has scenes like killing off the illusory deer, the abduction of Sita, the killing of Jatayu, the uprooting of seven palm trees. Even the murder of Vali, and construction of the bridge over the sea has been delicately sculptured.
This temple is unique in more than one way. As the image enshrined is considered a masterpiece among the pictures of the deity found all over India. It was built during the Somavamsi rule in the first quarter of the 10th century. Here Varahi is believed to be the Sakti of Varaha locally known as Matsya Varahi. The Idol is seated on the pedestal holding a fish in her right hand, and Kapala in the left hand, while her right foot resting on her Vahana( vehicle) buffalo.
The Idol bears a face of boar and body of a divine woman. Her big belly indicates that she held the entire universe in her womb. The beauty of the Idol is the third eye tightly engraved into her forehead, which is prominent. I was awestruck looking at the Idol. Though we were not allowed to enter the shrine hence stood at portico & offered our prayers. We skipped Ma Mangla Temple, situated at Kakatpur, instead, we drove to Raghurajpur– A heritage crafts village in Odisha.
How to Reach
The nearest airport is the Bhubaneshwar airport- Biju Patnaik. Puri is nearly 64km from the airport. Most metros are well connected with Bhubaneshwar airport. So can book a cab or take the buses for Konark as roads are well connected.
Konark does not have any railway station. Hence the closest railway station is Bhuwaneshwar and Puri. The Bhubaneswar railway station is 61.7 km from Konark while the one in Puri is 35.3 km away. And both direct train services are available from many cities in India. So can book a cab or take the buses for Konark as roads are well connected.
Several buses run by OTDC connects well Konark to other towns and cities within Odisha. There are private buses & Volvo that ply from Puri & Bhubaneshwar at regular interval.