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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Puri


30th December 2012

It was the day where we were visiting two Temple towns. One is known for its Architectural beauty while the other is famous for its religious significance. We start with the religious one, the town of Puri.

Jagannath Temple seen from the main road
Puri is about 60km from Bhubaneswar but it took us more than two hours to cover this distance. Heavy traffic and road widening in progress were some of the reasons that can be attributed for the slow journey.

Devotees on the way to the Temple
As expected, Puri was overflowing with pilgrims from various part of India. Lord Jagannath Temple here attracts religious people. As with many religious sites, Puri is also not free from pandas (priests) who make a living by cheating gullible devotees. One such person arrives as we get down from taxi. He has a kamandala claiming that the holy water can cure all our sins committed in our lives. Wow!! What an easy way to get rid of sins!!  We ignored him completely but then there were others who took that water with all devotion. And then they need to pay him handsomely. Nothing is free!! (Later when we returned back to Taxi stand, I saw that the priest was sharing his “revenue” with a police constable).


Administration did a good thing by blocking main road for all vehicles. We travelled some distance on cycle rickshaw and then walked the remaining. The main road was flanked with shops which were too hard to ignore for my wife and daughter. While they shopped I went ahead on the main road towards Temple.

My daughter happy after buying toys!!
I do not believe in standing in the queue for hours just to see God for a fraction of a second.  For me the experience in reaching the place and the place itself provides immense satisfaction.


Puri has a great beach. It is said that both sunrise and sunset can be viewed from this beach. We could not watch either of them as we were there right in the middle of the day.


This was one of the most crowded beaches I have seen in my life. Kids like beach without any reservation and my daughter spent a good amount of time playing in water and sand.


We were hungry but the restaurants near the beach served only bad food. The Temple road had some good restaurants but we didn’t want to go back to the town and hence decided to eat on the way to Konark.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bhubaneswar


29th December 2012

From Jagdalpur, our journey continued towards Orissa. The Hirakhand express left promptly at 2:30PM from Jagdalpur and reached Bhubaneswar at 8:30AM next day.

The biggest issue in trains is the quality of food. It is so pathetic that one would prefer to stay hungry.  The first thing we did in Bhubaneswar was to barge into a good looking restaurant in the railway station. The railway restaurant surprisingly served good quality dosas which we consumed happily. With our tummies full, the next stop was the hotel where we had to stay. I had booked “Ginger hotel” which was in a good location.  We hired an auto to reach the hotel.  I was immensely impressed with Bhubaneswar.  The roads were wide with boulevards on either side.

We had no time to sit and relax in the hotel. After freshing up, we started the tour of the city. We took an auto to Udayagiri and Khandagiri cave complex situated at the outskirts of the city. These two adjacent hills have beautifully carved caves. According to ASI “There are altogether 18 caves in Udayagiri and 15 caves in Khandagiri hill. These caves were excavated by Kharavela and his successors in first century BC. The activities continued till the time of Somavamsis of AD 10th-11th century”.


The most imposing cave in the complex is Ranigumpa (Cave no 1) in Udayagiri, the double storeyed cave. 



The caves are scattered all around the hill. The important ones are Ganeshgumpa and Hathigumpa caves.

From the top of Khandagiri hill, we can see the view of Bhubaneswar and also the caves of Udayagiri.

We had our lunch at a restaurant near the caves. The next destination was Lingaraj Temple, largest temple in Bhubaneswar. Architecturally, it is regarded as one of finest example of Hindu Temple.  And it did not meet the fate of destruction seen in other great Temples of India. It is a live Temple with deity being worshipped. That brings the not so good part. The Temple and its surrounding are filled with priests and their assistants who harass tourists in the name of religion. Cameras are not allowed inside the Temple. It is a pity considering its architectural value.

Lingaraj Temple seen from neighbouring area
Since we did not had the courage to keep valuables in Temple’s luggage room, I and wife visited Temple in turns.


Lingaraj Temple is in old city of Bhubaneswar. The old city is filled with Temple. Next to Lingaraj Temple was Chitrakani Temple.


Adjacent to Chitrakani was Papanashini Temple.


Yameshwara Temple was situated amidst residential area. There was hardly any maintenance.


A Temple with no name.


We were little tired by now. These small Temple looked nice but there was no information available about them.


And then we went to Rajarani Temple, maintained by ASI. Look at the Temple surrounded by gardens.


The carvings of the Temple.


The name Rajarani is believed to have its origin to a particular variety of sandstone, locally known as Ranraniya, of which the Temple is constructed. It was earlier called as Indreshwar Shiva but the Temple does not have the deity now.


It was raining Temples that day!! The next Temple was Mukteshwara Temple.


The unique feature of this Temple is the arch in front of the Temple.


Opposite to Mukteshwara Temple was Siddeshwara Temple.


Small shrines in the Temple complex.


It was already evening when the Temple tour was finished. It took some time before we could find an auto!! 


Shanti stupa at Dauli was in our list. It was outside the city on Puri road. We kept it for the next day. 





Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chitrakoot waterfalls


27 December 2012

Chitrakoot falls is called as “Niagara of India”. It is a common practice in India to compare falls against Niagara!!  But to give credit to Chitrakoot, it is an amazing falls to see in monsoon although I never saw it in rainy season. The grandeur of monsoon cannot be expected during December but still good enough to visit.


Chitrakoot falls is about 35 km from Jagdalpur which took us little less than an hour to cover the distance. On the way we visited a tribal museum which could have been given a miss. Our point of stay “Chitrakoot” resort” was next to the Indravati River. A beautiful property from Chhattisgarh tourism at an affordable rate.


That afternoon we saw ourselves walking down to the base of the falls. What a pleasant place it was!!

First view of the falls
The waterfall was still quite far and what separated it was the wide pool of water formed at the bottom of the falls. Boats were busy ferrying people to the base of the falls. That would be fun.


The boatmen were busy in removing water from the boats. It looked scary. Water entered when boat went near the falls and not due to any leaks. That was little assuring but still the fragile boat looked scary. I hoped it will live up for one more round trip to the falls!!


We made it a point to put life jackets on. My daughter was little worried on seeing the boat. The memory of being struck in a paddle boat at Kolli hills was still fresh in her mind. But she was relaxed on hearing that it was not a paddle boat!!


The boat slowly moved towards the falls. As it neared the falls, the excitement of the people manifested several times. It was a pure fun to experience the water splashing on us. The boat went very near to the falls much nearer than I thought.


After the eventful boat ride, I and my wife spent some good time looking at the falls while my daughter kept herself busy playing on the sand.  It was time to climb back.


The view from the top was equally spectacular. I just imagined how great it would look like during monsoon. 


See the boat from the top of the falls.


The evening we spent at the top of the falls and then headed back to our room.



After dark, I was back again at the falls. The little crowd present in the evening was all gone. I was all alone at the falls (My wife and daughter decided to stay back in room). The flood lights gave completely different look to the falls.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Tirathgarh waterfalls


26 December 2012

From Kutumsar cave, we headed to Tirathgarh waterfalls.  People combine their visit to Tirathgarh and Kutumsar cave as both are inside Kanger Valley national park.



When we reached the parking place of Tirathgarh falls, our driver warned us about the monkey menace at the falls. So, we dropped the idea of carrying food. Instead we searched for some good “sticks” that can scare the monkeys off. My daughter took the biggest one. She was happy to see monkeys running away on brandishing the stick!!


We descended down the steps to reach the base of the waterfall. The water falls down from series of rocky steps which resembles like falling from a staircase. There was quite a crowd at the base of the falls with most of them posing in front of camera and others swimming in a small pool formed at the base.


The waterfall drops in two streams. One stream was easily seen from the place we stood. I crossed to see the other side the falls formed by second stream. The water from the second stream was directly falling to the base of the valley while the first one dropped in two stages. I went down further to see the second stage of the falls.


Surprisingly very few people go down to the second stage of the falls. It was more serene and beautiful than the crowded first stage.

Second stage of the falls
The waterfall drops even further down to reach the bottom of the valley after which it flows into a gorge.

Base of the valley
We climbed back with our tummies craving for food. The eateries near the falls only had scary looking stuff filled with oil. So we had to be contended with packed food that we brought from Jagdalpur. While eating I also did an additional duty of chasing monkeys away. It was too much for them to see people having food in front of them!!

From the top
One can also reach the top of the falls easily. The Kanger valley can be seen for miles ahead and if you put your head down your eyes will be filled with the people swimming at the base of the falls.

Kanger valley from top of the falls

Friday, March 01, 2013

Kutumsar cave


27th December 2012

One of the tourist spots in Bastar district is Kutumsar cave. Situated inside Kanger valley national park, it is about 40 km from Jagdalpur. The last 10km drive is inside Kanger valley national park where permission from forest department is required. That can be easily obtained at the entrance of the park.


The cave is about 350 meters long, 35 meters wide and 55 meters deep. It is a young cave if the date of its discovery is considered!! The world came to know about its existence only in 1993 even though it was formed million of years ago.


We had reached early in the morning but a small queue was already formed in front of the cave. Forest guard asks us to wait until people who had entered before come back. So, only one way traffic is allowed in the cave!! And the entrance did not look big. “Why the hype”, I tell to myself. I think I was expecting a cave as big as 10 storey building!!


But I was awestruck when people started to pop out from the cave. 1,2,3..5….10…20 and soon I lost the count of number of people exited cave!! The cave must be big enough!! The narrow passage at the entrance meant that only limited number of people can go at a time to avoid any confusion or panic inside the cave. Until the group comes out, others need to wait outside the cave.

Entrance of the cave

Once guard was convinced that the cave was empty, he let us in. As expected, the entrance of the cave was very narrow. Only one person can bend and enter into the cave. Iron railings are provided at places where we need to get down into the cave. I thought my daughter would get scared but she goes down in a jiffy!! My wife needed some help to get down. But once this initial hurdle is crossed, rest of the journey is plain walk!! It is a big and a long cave. Worth every penny we spent to reach this place.


Tourists are usually accompanied by forest guards who show the path using their torches. It looks like they got fed up with the huge number of tourists during the season. Hence they put few lights running on a generator. Their job now is just to sit and watch people roaming in the cave.


According to information on web and tourist department broacher,  the cave is formed of stalactites and stalagmites in various formations. It has resulted in various forms of rock cutting some resembling animals and Gods!!


Since limited numbers of people are allowed inside the cave, you get enough space and time to look into the cave. At the end of the cave is a rock formation attaining the form of Shiva Linga. As expected it is being worshipped and a priest is appointed to take care of it.

Shiva Linga formation at the end of the cave
And it is time to move out of darkness. My daughter requires some help to climb back. The queue outside has multiplied several times. It is time to congratulate ourselves for starting early.


In our itinerary was another cave called Kailash which is 30 km away. Maoists have created some trouble there making it out of bounds for tourists.

Kid in good mood!!
Note: There is no public transport to the cave and it is best to hire a vehicle to the cave. During peak season start early to avoid long queues in front of the cave.