Odisha I saw was with the sky was like a curtain of grey silk; where the skyline was a line of nickel silver, and the sea song of the waves soothed me. I stood silently in front of the Puri Swargdar Beach Odisha, watching the waves rippling away gently. Well, yes, I could not keep back the wanderer in me and planned a sea trip. With the COVID unlock 5.0, the traveller’s soul too unleashed itself. And walking on the beach stretch, I felt life here is different, as time doesn’t pass hour by hour, but mood to moment. People survive by the currents; they plan by the tides & follow the sun. Hence, I decided to sit for a while & breathe the smell of salt, so I hired a chair at Rs 20 per hour. Interesting! Isn’t it- chairs for hire.
Though there are a few beaches near Kolkata, I preferred Odisha to relive my faded 29 yrs old childhood memory. Yeah! Nearly two-decade, I was a 6yrs old kid when I first visited Puri in Odisha. Hence, I finalized a road trip to Puri, as the trains were operating until Bhuwaneshwar only. My mamma, a YouTube champ these days, also gave me the go-ahead, after doing thorough research. But the irony was after I planned the govt of India started railway service up to Puri from Oct. Well, I ignored the news and added Bhuwaneshwar as part of my trip. The planning was smooth as I was spending time with my grandma in Kolkata.
Adding up to hotels, then only a few hotels have opened up. I booked the Victoria Club Hotel- sea-facing hotel & one of the oldest hotels in Puri. Established in 1907, it’s still maintaining a legacy of 110 years. The rooms were airy, with all modern amenities, a bottle of sanitiser, and a lovely balcony where you can sit and the relish the sea waves crashing along the shore.
We booked the Victoria Royal room at the cost of Rs2975 per night. I got a discount of 30%. The price of a sea-facing hotel in Puri starts from Rs 2500; you can also opt for Hotel Deep resort or Puri hotel, a sea-facing resort. Well, other options are to stay in the New Marine drive area Balipanda for sea-facing alternatives. Luxury hotels can opt the Chakratirtha Road, and budget motels near the Jagganath temple that starts from Rs 500 per night.
Finally, the day of departure arrived, 30th Sep, I was excited and all geared up for the trip. We have taken off at 6.30 am since the distance we had to cover was 508 kilometres, a 10hrs 30mins drive. The day’s outset was calm and pleasant with clear blue sky, and Tufty clouds of wizard-white drifting past. The drive till Kolaghat was smooth, as minimal traffic on the road. And we crossed a beautiful bridge, on an overflowing river, before we took our first halt at Shere Punjab restaurant for breakfast.
As we took up our travel towards the destination, I could perceive only the green paddy fields along both ends of the streets. I felt the spirit and soul of this late autumn morning, and my eyes could only witness hues of green. As these paddy fields stretch outwards toward the light, the beams of the sun paint them in a thousand shades of yellow, greenish & brown, who kept dancing to the music of the soft whispering wind. Post the breakfast break, and we made minimum halts either to take pictures or sip tea or for the washroom. As we reached Puri around 4.30 pm; we were greeted warmly at the hotel, following all COVID precautions – mask on & proper use of sanitization.
Post-check-in, we headed towards the beach- It was a heartwarming experience as my soul was awake again. The beach was clean, with golden sand. Few tourists bathing, others seated and enjoying the ocean. And the sea was jewel-blue, where the waves in the distance were like white creases on a vast baling of blue velvet. I was savouring the sea’s indescribable beauty, and allowing its vastness seep into my psyche since I wanted to carry fragments of it home as a memory.
But some other sad part was this COVID had impacted the livelihood of many people in Odisha. It not only halted domestic trade activities but also affected the daily seller. I realized this when I bought 4 pearls (cultured) necklaces for Rs 300, that local sell on the beach. A sad truth, but tourism has been impacted. We passed the evening at our leisure, watching the waves from the hotel balcony. At last, had an early dinner & hit to bed.
My mom told me sunrises are spectacular in Puri, filling the sky with pink and orange fire, but I was not fortunate to witness it as morning clouds. However, the afternoon was partly cloudy where one can discover the beautiful golden brown, with the choppy & wild sea. Due to COVID, most of the spots have not reopened, but luckily Konark sun temple was opened. Hence post breakfast, we headed towards the Sun temple.
Well, Talking about Konark, it draws in large tourists around the year. The first reason being it’s a part of the Golden travel of Odisha along with Puri & Bhubaneshwar. Another reason is the Annual Konark dance festival- an ancient amphitheatre. Because of COVID, the number of tourists was restricted to 2500 only, where one needs to purchase tickets online & scan it at the entrance to maintain social distance. The drive towards Konark was picturesque where the trees lifted their branches to the sky as if sun-basking to turn more green. Besides, the sun playing hide and seek with clouds showcasing varied hues of colours bright blue to a dull grey.
Along the way to Konark lies the Chandrabhaga beach, which is on a parallel stretch of remaining 5 Km to Konark. I was awestruck with the longest stretch of sylvan sands and soothing blue rushing in undulating waves.
But the view that took hold of my attention was the meeting point of quiet flowing river Chandrabhaga & the roaring Bay of Bengal. It was a magical charm, not just the panorama, but the beach itself who is first to catch the Blue Flag certification — a tag given to the environment-friendly clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
There is a mythological reference, as this place was considered a place of natural cure for lepers. It is believed Shamba( Krishna’s son) worshipped the Sun god for treatment on the river mouth of Chandrabhaga, and the river dried up. Hence reduced to a dry bed or a narrow trickle where it meets the sea.
Another legend says Chandrabhaga, daughter of a sage was sited by Sun god, drawn by her magical charm. He sought her hand in love, but Chandrabhaga refused. Out of anger on denial, Sun god chased frightened Chandrabhaga who jumped into the river and killed herself, protecting her chastity. A yearly Magha Saptami Mela, a mark of tribute to her sacrifice, a seven-day festival occurs during the 7th full moon day of Magha month. People consider a holy dip in the river reduced to a shallow pool, to offer their prayers to the Sun God.
Though Chandrabhaga’s sacrifice has been forgotten, however, the place is remembered as a holy shrine. It goes on to inspire various religious and meditative activities. It has also been a large hunting-ground for poets, artists and lovers. A moment’s pause at Chandrabhaga is a great fatigue-healer.
There was a lighthouse close to Chandrabhaga beach, but it was shut down due to COVID so unable to visit. Apart from this one, Chandrabhaga is rich in marine resources; hence a big colony of fishermen resides along the dried river-mouth of Chandrabhaga.
I chose a stroll along the beachside, as strong currents make swimming unsafe. It’s said a panoramic sight of the sunrise is another captivating attraction of this beach; maybe I keep this for my next visit. After spending some quality time, we rode towards our planned destination-The Sun Temple. Splendid Heritage of Odisha.
How to Reach:
The nearest airport is the Bhubaneshwar airport- Biju Patnaik. Puri is nearly 56km from the airport. Most metros are well connected with Bhubaneshwar airport. So can book a cab or take the buses for Puri as roads are well connected.
Puri is a junction; hence direct train services are available from many cities in India it includes Bhubaneswar, New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
Puri is well connected with neighbouring cities like Kolkata, Vishakapatnam, Ranchi, Jamshedpur etc. Roadways is an appropriate option since the bus stand is located close to the Gundicha Temple. And buses ply to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack every 15mins.