Of chariots and horses- Puri

The theme of my trip to India in December 2022 was to travel, travel and more travel. With my 20 year old daughter as a partner in crime, we tried to cover 3 -4 towns and cities in 15 days, we averaged at 3-4 days per halt.

Other than Delhi and Kolkata ( where our families live), I wanted to take Tia to a part of India she can relate to.

Tia has been learning the Indian classical dance form-odishi from her guru- Smt. Nandita Behera right from kindergarten.

Even before she went to first grade, she was introduced to Jagannath, the Odisi dance mudras and Rath yatra in Puri. Dance is her first love and so a trip to visit the birth place of her dance had a very significant meaning for her.

Day 1- Bhuvaneshwar

We flew into Biju Patnayak airport from Delhi on a 2 hour flight.

First impressions- loved the airport, very clean and compact. The general vibe of the place is positive and peaceful.

We were picked up by our relatives and taken to their beautiful apartments – a fairly new high rise in Bhuvaneshwar. Our highlight of the night stay was our luchi or poori making session. There was a fierce competition on who could make the pooris bigger and better.

The next morning we left for Puri. It is to be noted that Puri is a no-fly zone and that there are no direct flights to Puri. I wondered why; later in the trip I found out the reason.

Day 2- Bhuvaneshwar to Puri

Trains : if you would like to get to Puri directly, the easiest transport is Indian railways. A part of our entourage joined us via overnight train from Kolkata to Puri.

Private car: we rented a private car from Bhuvaneshwar to Puri and the trip took us about 90 minutes through a beautiful lush green scenery.

Day 2- Puri

Lodging: there are an umpteen number of hotels along the sea side with a wide range of prices. We picked Bay Suites – it’s a fairly new 3 star hotel.


Clean, newly furbished rooms with modern amenities . The size of the rooms was quite decent. The staff was professional and catered to our multitude of needs that comes with a pack of 8 people.

Highlight: the hotel has its own restaurant. Breakfast buffet was 5 stars with a decent number of items. We probably ordered every non veg item on their lunch menu. Odisha people are famed for their cooking and this restaurant really kept their pride.

Verdict: Thumbs up

We spent a portion of the day catching up at the hotel and then hitting the beach later in the day.

Puri at night..

After sunset, Puri took on a new look- a bustling sea side town.

Puri at night

As the waves lapped the shores, Puri came alive with with shimmery neon lights under hundreds of umbrellas. The sea side turned into a fairground, multitude of vendors selling food, clothing, trinkets and memorabilia. There was entertainment as well- street side jugglers, camels for joy rides and a sparkling Ferris wheel.

Day 3- The abode of Lord Jagannath

Even though I have also grown up with the stories being told of Lord Jagannath, with a few more grey hairs and Wikipedia, I wanted to know a little bit more and examine my beliefs.


My ‘Cliffs notes:

  • This temple was built in the 12th century BC
  • It’s one of the ‘char dham’ – 4 pilgrimage sites of Hindus.
  • The principal diety is Jagannath ( a form of Vishnu). His siblings (Balabhadra and Subhadra) are by His side.
  • Statues are made of wood and are replaced every 12 years. Most statues of deities in India are made of metal or earth.
  • The deities don’t have any hands.

Mystery and intrigue

There are thousands of temples in India over the period of centuries. Why is this temple so unique?

I wondered what was it was about this temple that people have visited this place from centuries, especially, when travel was not just buying a plane or train ticket.

What inspired pilgrims to walk on foot, horseback, bullock carts for days and months and reach Jagannath?

How did they know about this temple when there was no internet and satellite radios?

I delved a little deeper, but I had more questions than answers.

  • The structure of the temple doesn’t cast any shadows at any given time of the day
  • The eyes – the eyes are bigger than the body -symbolic of spiritual esctascy
  • Every day a priest climbs the wall of the temple with a height equivalent of 45 stories to change the flag at the top of the dome
  • Neel chakra
    • the sacred disc of Lord Vishnu, at the top of the temple, is made of 8 metals. This 8 metal alloy has the ability to absorb the most ferocious of thunderbolts and protects the temple from harm.
    • It has been replaced only 4 times since construction. The last replacement was in 2010- 300 years subsequent to the previous replacement in 1715 CE
    • Birds ( the feathered or man made, i.e. airplanes) cannot flly over the temple. While the birds are affected by strong winds, the neel chakra is powerful enough to block communication signals for planes. This is the reason that Puri is a no-fly zone.

Darshan or visit:

With its flag flying high, the view of Jagannath temple was our ‘rubber meets the road’ moment- a very emotional one.

Entry: the entry to the temple had a barricaded gate and was pretty organized. We had previously communicated with one of the priests or’pandas’ as they are locally known and he had asked us to meet him at the gate at 7am. Mobile phones are not allowed inside the temple and need to be checked in at the gate along with shoes.

Darshan or visit: Our priest was our ‘tour guide’ and met us at the gate and took us inside to a ‘holding area’ where there were other groups of visitors waiting for the darshan.

Word of caution: Unfortunately, in some of the temples in India, there is a malpractice that the priests begin to ‘haggle’ or ‘negotiate’ what pujas (offerings) will be offered by the visitors. Their demand for more money at the pilgrimage site really takes away from the experience.

We entered the sanctum with a human wave of visitors, we got a glimpse ( 10 seconds) of the deities before we were swept out with wave of people leaving the sanctum.

Verdict: The moment of the darshan was an emotional one and is based on faith. I wish that we could see the Lord a little longer, but it is what it is. The collective vibe of the prayers and faith of pilgrims adds the dimension of aura and mystery. The human mind might seek answers, but some of them are oblivious to us through our 5 senses and maybe, we need the 6th sense for it.

Rath yatra- the joy ride

This is the journey of the deities that gave birth to the English word’ juggernaut’ – really, the word being Jagannath. The festival of chariots is an annual phenomenon where the deities are removed from the temple and are taken on a trip to Gundicha temple for a full 9 days.

Any discussion of Jagannath would be incomplete without the reference to the Rath Yatra- the journey of the chariots. Will be on my bucket list- to visit Puri during Rath Yatra next time.

While the Lord made the trip, with his siblings, He left His wife (Lakshmi) behind. Even the Lord is unable to escape his wife’s ire- on the 5th day, Goddess Lakshmi arrives and She sits face-to-face with Her Husband to have a ‘talk’. She asks Her husband to return home, and He obeys his wife’s orders. However, in order to vent her anger to be left out of the family vacation, the Goddess breaks a part of the chariot that carries the Lord. It’s called Rathbhanga.

Rath yatra

Retail therapy

I dont think that any trip is complete without this mandatory therapy. The uniqueness of India is that each region has its own DNA. Odisha has a very strong presence in arts and crafts – two of my favorites were the Silver Filigree jewelry and Odisha handloom (Bomkai weave).

Filigree: The silver jewelry is very light, delicate and intricate and the white silver color stays as long as the jewelry is stored properly.

Bomkai– saris and fabric are made by use of the ‘IKAT’ dyeing technique and are vibrant in color. The design is available in both cotton and silk materials.

Phamily time

To us, Bengalis, Puri is synonymous to sea side, great sea food and a quick getaway vacation. Puri is just an overnight away from Kolkata by train and is a common spot for family vacations.

This year, we were lucky to have both sides of my and my husband’s family coincidentally visit Puri at the same time.

Like handkerchiefs hanging to dry on a clothes line fluttering in the wind together, we made memories ; colorful and hanging on the same line – the Phamily line, fluttering gently in the winds of time.

15 responses to “Of chariots and horses- Puri”

  1. LOVE this post!!!! What an exciting trip Chumki… it makes me want to visit right away!
    Felt the handkerchief analogy:-) well described!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the writing. Felt so nostalgic as we have very deep memories of this place that’s so close to our hearts. Loved the handkerchief analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so beautifully penned. So informative too.
    Keep writing Bouma…eagerly wait for your new post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love it Chumki.nice write up.it was such a wonderful trip.nicely describe d.eagerly waiting for our next trip & ur next vlog💕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It was great going through it. Loved to read all the details precisely and seeing the photos…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely … as someone else said … loved the handkerchief analogy

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent travel blog Chumki as always !! You took me on a trip to Puri with your beautiful narration! Loved the articulation and appreciate the efforts you put in researching history . Loved the handkerchief analogy 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very well written. 👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing your memories of this trip so vividly. Very informative. It has certainly put Puri on my bucket list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved the post. Learnt a few new things. The flag is the “dhwaja”. We observed the young man climb up and change it and I have one of them in my puja room.🙏🏽
    Puri is also not complete without the “ khaja” snack. Lovely place

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It was nice reading it. Keep it up.😊🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So nicely written with so much information. Juggernaut was one of the information which i liked and was not aware of. Puri to us – the bengalis – are always to cheirsh. Sitting at the sea side and waving with the waves is just priceless. Enjoyed so much when you were here. Will wait for ur blog regarding Konark next.

    Love ur writings as always.

    By the way – Luchis are improving fast now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enjoyed reading your travelogue! Learnt a lot of new facts about Jagannath temple. Really like your writing style… simple, to the point and informative!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Enjoyed reading the post. It bright back fond memories of our past trip to Puri. Really like your writing style… simple and to the point writing. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Chanchal Dasgupta Avatar
    Chanchal Dasgupta

    I saw, smelt, walked and ate the blog – it’s so visual, enjoyable and informative. Good to travel with you Chumki

    Liked by 1 person

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