A visit to Maa Kalijai Temple

25.06.2017:

On completing our visit to Konark, we headed towards Berhampur. We were uncertain about our next destination as my friends started worrying about my condition. I was running a fever along with cough and cold and we set out from Konark only at around 18.00 hrs! Though I wanted to stop at Pipli on our way to Berhampur, I couldn’t, as I was fast asleep in the car and my friends didn’t dare to disturb my sleep 😉 Pipli is a place in Odisha which is famous for its applique work and artecrafts.  One can buy colorful umbrellas, bags, wall hangings and other decorative items.

I was woken up my friends only when we stopped at a restaurant for dinner and to my surprise, it was the same restaurant in which we dined the other day! 🙂 Even the owner and the waiters were able to recognize us quickly and were more happy to extend their services to us! 😀 I slept again for the rest of our journey and woke up only after reaching our hotel in Berhampur. Once checked-in, I called it a day!

26.06.2017:

I woke up around 07.00 hrs and was surprised to see my friends who were already up and got ready! They asked me how I were feeling and they relieved a sigh when I told them that I was much better after such a good sleep that night! I quickly freshened up and we checked-out from the hotel. As it was only 08.00 hrs in the morning and none of us felt like eating and didn’t think much about our breakfast and headed towards Chilika Lake. Yes, it’s the Chilika – Asia’s largest brackish water lake.

Chilika Lake is situated at a distance of about 50 kms from Berhampur and is one of the most visited places in Odisha. Chilika is also one of the famous eco tourist spots of the state. On reaching Chilika Lake, we checked for a ferry service and there are multiple options available here. We can either go on a ferry which would carry around 20 passengers, or a boat which would carry about 10 people or a speed boat which would be sufficient for 6 passengers. The fare depends on the number of places which we choose to visit!

We chose a speed boat visit to the nearby Kalijai island which costed us around Rs. 3,000/-. Chilika is a brackish water lagoon which extends over an area of 1,200 sq km in the monsoon season and shrinks to an area of about 800 sq km in summers! It was declared a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance in 1981 and is popular as a spot for both bird watching and finding Irrawady dolphins. As soon as we stepped into our speed boat, it sped off through a narrow channel which leads to the main lagoon! It’s a vast expanse of blue waters surrounded by low undulating hills. It wasn’t a sunny day and temperature was low which is perfect to soak in this magic! 🙂 🙂

This lake is dotted with numerous islands and the Nalabana Island which is at the center of the lake has a bird sanctuary and the best time to visit this island is in between October and March when a lot of migratory birds from Afghanisthan, Iran and Serbia comes here. And Satpada which is near to Puri is the place where concentration of Irrawady Dolphins is more and chances of us getting a glimpse of this endangered species are more! We came across the INS Chilika Headquarters on our way to the Kalijai island.

It took us around 30 minutes to reach this island. Our boat driver also acted as our guide through the ride and explained us different things about Chilika. He told us that the Kalijai island is the abode of goddess Kalijai, who is revered as the reigning deity of the lagoon. There is a legend behind this temple too 🙂 It is said that Jaai was a girl who was going to get married in Parikud Islan, and the boat on which they are travelling was capsized in the storm and while everyone else survived in this tragedy, the girl died. And in later days, the boatmen and fishermen were to hear her speaking to them and guiding them in troublesome situations and became to be worshiped as Maa Kali. Hence the name Kalijai!

He further added that no boatmen would venture out into the lake without offering prayers to Maa Kalijai. The temple of Maa Kalijai was built by Sri Jagannath Mansingh (king of Bankad) in the year 1717. This is a small rocky island and houses a temple and few shacks selling food, soft drinks and other puja items. We offered our prayers and went around the island which hardly took 15 minutes! Apart from the priest and some staff in the temple, no one else lives there.

Back on the shore, it’s time for us to head to our homes – our loving parents are waiting for us! 😉 Though we didn’t have our breakfast, we didn’t forget to make a stop at our now favorite eating spot – the Urvashi Paradise Restaurant in Palasa and this time we tried our hand at the lip-smacking Gongura as well as Avakai Biryanis! 🙂 Our next stop was at one of my favorite hang-out spots in Vizag – the coffee shop ‘Pasty, Coffee & Conversation‘, which is a 10 minute walk from my University in which I pursued my engineering 🙂 🙂 Good olden days and good olden memories 🙂

Having a recap of our trip in our conversation over cups of coffee and some pastries and mud-pies, we headed to Rajahmundry 🙂

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The Black Pagoda – Konark Sun Temple

The Konark Sun Temple, originally built on sea shore is also called as the Black Pagoda due to its dark color. Though the temple is dedicated to the Sun god, the legend also has it that after slaying demon Gyasur, Lord Vishnu left his belongings at several places to commemorate his victory – conch in Puri, disc in Bhubaneswar, mace in Jaipur and lotus in Konark. The most important part of this temple apart from the legends and myths around it, is its exquisite architecture! The temple was built in the form of the celestial chariot of the Sun God being pulled by seven galloping horses on 12 pairs of wheels towards east; and hence the main entrance of this temple is on the eastern side.

The seven horses pulling the temple eastwards towards dawn is symbolic of the seven days of the week; the dozen pair of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the eight spokes in each wheel symbolize the eight ideal stages in a woman’s day.  The entrance of the temple is guarded by two huge lions, each killing a war elephant (represents pride) and beneath the elephant (represent wealth) is a man. This symbolizes the conquest of spiritual power over worldly power and the symbol of ignorance conquered by knowledge. The temple consists of a vimana (main temple) for housing the deity, Jagamohana, which is a praying hall and the natya mandir wherein which the dances are performed.

The most unique feature of this temple is its design which ensures the rays of the Sun fall on the image of the Sun God at equinoxes. Also this temple is known as pancha-ratha-dekha deul with each of its façade broken by five small projections, which as a consequence produces the effect of light and shade on the surface and creates an impression of one continuous vertical line called rekha. A guide here told us that there used to be a magnet at the top of the temple and every two stones of the temple are sandwiched by iron plates, and as a result the idol was said to have been floating in the air – no idea how far this is true!

During the medieval times, this temple was used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha and it is said that the magnet placed on top of the temple have disturbed the compasses of these sailors leading to shipwrecks and hence it was removed on a later stage. There are two raised platforms on the right side and behind the temple which are also in ruins. The walls of the temples are adorned with rampaging elephants, military processions, hunting scenes, as well as a few erotic figurines here and there. We spent about 2.5 hrs sitting here and there in the complex listening to various stories and legends shared by the gatekeepers, some old men who are frequent visitors to this temple and of course an old guide too 🙂 Yes, Eshwar hired one!

It was this guide who told the fascinating story of a 12 year old boy called Dharmapad who had sacrificed himself for the sake of the 12000 craftsmen who worked for 12 years to complete this temple. The legend is that Bisu Maharana, heading the group of craftsmen was unable to finish off the construction even after 12 years and the king Narasimha announces that all would be beheaded if the construction wouldn’t be completed the following day. Dharmapad, son of Bisu Maharana who studied Odiya temple architecture finds out the fault lay and erects the final stone or the Kalash on top of the Konark temple. But, Dharmapad had to end his life by jumping off into the sea as he knew that the king won’t accept the defeat of his craftsmen at the hands of a 12 year old boy and definitely beheads them.

While sharing this heroic story with us, I could see the old man taking pride in Dharmapad and remembering him so fondly and as a source of inspiration! As truly remarked by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, “Here in Konark, the language of stone surpasses the language of man” 🙂

 

Konark – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

25.06.2017:

Odisha is popular for its architecturally celebrated temples like the Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneshwar, Lord Jagannath’s shrine in Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark and many more sacred shrines and heritage monuments along with the famous Odissi dance, fairs, festivals and exotic handicrafts. The first thing that comes into everyone’s mind when heard of the state’s name is either the famous Rath Yatra or the Konark Sun Temple. This itself proves that how heritage has become an integral part of Odisha!

As I reached the entrance, I could see the Kalinga architectural marvel standing as a living sonata in stone! This 13th century temple dedicated to the Sun God, is built in black granite during the reign of King Langula Narasimhadeva – I of the Ganga Dynasty around 1250 AD. This is one of the most important temples dedicated to the Sun God in India and is a leading Hindu pilgrimage centre. This place is now under the maintenance of Archaeological Survey of India and the entry fee is Rs. 30/- per person.

There was a queue of tour guides behind us by the time we entered the temple complex and we politely rejected their services! 🙂 The first structure we encountered upon entering the complex is the Natya Mandir (the Dance Hall) where the temple dancers once performed. A stone staircase flanked by seated lions led us on to the platform from where we can get a better view of the Sun Temple. Once upon a time, the temple dancers used to perform here as a ritual offering to the God, but now this ritual is no more!

The Natya Mandir had exquisitely carved pillars with various mythical figures, floral motifs and human creatures etc. I can imagine how the musicians might have seated there with their drums and other instruments and the temple dancers performed in front of the God here 🙂 , would have been good if I got back to those days 🙂 . Nevertheless, we can have the same experience now too; by attending the annual Konark Dance Festival which is held in every December, dedicated to the classical Indian dance forms. Why late, grab the tickets now! 😉

We walked towards the main temple which is visibly in ruins, corroded by time and sea air. Yet the temple shares the brilliance and dazzle of the sun with its fascinating architecture, exotic sculptures and intriguing social history of Odisha; which was also a beacon to mariners in medieval times. Konark has got its name from two Sanskrit words – Kona, meaning corner and ark implying the sun. And this temple which was dedicated to the worship of the Sun God holds the sun as the soul of whole manifestation, primal cause of this universe and its different cycles of manifestation and annihilation. The Suryopanishad – a scripture on the Sun God asserts that the Sun is the creator, protector and destroyer.

Though in ruins now, this place retained its rustic charm and serene aura. The mighty sculptures, beautiful lawns and gardens around the temple attracted me the most and I instantly fell in love with this place!

Chandrabhaga – Almost desolate :)

 25.06.2017:

We left Puri at about 02.00 hrs to Konark, one of India’s best known. Konark, which is a part of the Golden triangle is around 35 kms from Puri and can be easily reached by road. Odisha is a land of great history and heritage, art and architecture, fairs and festivals. The traffic on the road was comparatively less as everyone’s journey today is towards Puri. We parked our car on the roadside to stretch for a while and continued with our journey towards Puri.

The roads are good and covered by trees on either side of the roads. Half way through, the way became more scenic with the sea on one side and lagoons on the other. Bordering the Bay of Bengal in the east, Odisha is famous for its beaches such as Gopalpur, Puri, Chandipur and Chandrabhaga to mention a few. Chandrabhaga, yet another famous beach of Odisha after the Gopalpur on Sea is located at a distance of 4 kms from the famous Sun Temple Konark. Just few hundred meters away from the Chandrabhaga, there is a jet-ski hub where we can go on a water-bike ride.

Continuous travels, bad weather, soaking in the rain for hours together started to take a toll on me. I had a bad cold, sore throat and was running of fever; so I had to stay back on the shores while the guys went on with their jet-ski rides 😦 Nevertheless, watching them ride those beasts was also fun 🙂 . A small tip here is that if one wants to ride a jet-ski, bargain hard 😉 We went on a walk along the shores of the Chandrabhaga beach, where they say that in the past river Chandrabhaga joined the sea here, but now only the confluence remains to be seen. Tourists do visit this place also to take holy dips on some auspicious days!

Chandrabhaga with its cool blue waters has its own charm and serenity! Long stretch of fine sand beach, neat and clean, camels and horses waiting for their passengers, a functioning lighthouse are the main attractions here. Chandrabhaga is mainly a sun-set point. Though I didn’t experience this, I heard my dad sharing his experience about the stunning views of this beach during the sun-set! A seven day festival fair called the Chandrabhaga Mela takes place here every year in the honor of the Sun God. It is also in this beach, the International Sand Art Festival is organized alongside the internationally famous Konark Dance Festival. Owing to the Rath Yatra in Puri, the beach is comparatively less crowded. After enjoying the cool sea breeze, we returned back to our car to continue our journey to Konark.

Konark is just 10 minutes away from Chandrabhaga and finding our way to the temple wasn’t that difficult as all the roads here leads to the architectural masterpiece! Konark is a small town situated on the east coast of Odisha and as soon as we entered on to the road that leads to the famous Sun Temple, we could see a small Rath Yatra (Chariot Parade) taking place here too! 🙂  Though the chariots are so huge, they are like the exact replicas of those which we saw in Puri. Praying the lord Jagannath for his blessings, we moved towards the Sun Temple!

Puri – The Last Stop of Golden Triangle

Heard of the “Golden Triangle” of India? If not, here is a short brief on this 🙂 The “Golden Triangle” is a pilgrimage circuit which comprises of the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Lord Jagannath’s Temple of Puri. The last stop on the “Golden Circuit” Triangle – Puri is also one of the four great ‘Char Dham (the Purushottam Dham)’ pilgrimage sites and most sacred of India! I feel blessed for being arrived in Puri during a particularly auspicious time – the annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot Parade!

25.06.2017:

It was still raining by the time I woke up! Though it was a disturbed sleep all through the night, the charm of the city and the festival vibes that day made me feel positive 🙂 A perfect way to start a day! When came out the room to check on the guys, I was surprised to see Bhojnadh watching the rain holding a cup of hot tea in the balcony. Eshwar too was awake while Pappu still lay tucked inside his blanket. I asked the bell boy for a bucket of hot water for my shower and he simply rejected my request :-0

We got ready quickly and checked-out from the hotel to go to the temple. The roads were muddy coz of the rain and they were jam-packed with thousands of devotees who are proceeding towards the temple to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath (God of the Universe). Every nook and corner is under the scrutiny of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and the Odisha Police. The roads were filled up with barricades to regulate the movement of vehicles during these peak hours. Though we thought of parking our car near to the Railway Station, we ended up parking it on road-side, a little near to the temple.

After walking through the narrow streets and alleys, we reached the Bada Danda or Grand Avenue of Puri on which the famous Rath Yatra takes place. The Avenue is filled up with shops of all kinds and various ashrams for the pilgrims. Volunteers were providing drinking water, lemonades and fresh food to the thronging pilgrims and tourists. Further towards the temple, a huge crowd of people were competing to stand as close as possible to the temple in order to get a better view of the deities.

We too started walking towards the huge mass of people. The security forces had cordoned off the place near to the temple for around a distance of 800 mts. As we were closing nearby, we got the first glimpses of the mighty chariots and the temple tower. The great Jagannath Temple of Puri was built in the 12th century atop the ruins of the Gundicha temple by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Ananatavarman Chodaganga Deva and the temple complex covers a huge area of over 400,000 sq ft. The temple tower, built on a raised platform of stone to a height of 214 feet above the inner sanctum, is truly dominating the surrounding landscape.

The temple style here is quite different – it is mainly dominated by colossal cylindrical and pyramid-shaped towers rising skyward in multiple tiers, covered with elaborate stone carvings. A striking feature of the Jagannath Temple is the flag atop and it is said that it always flaps in the opposite direction of wind. Yet another one is the wooden deities! In most of the Hindu temples the icons of the deities are either made out of stone or metal, but here it’s wood and this is replaced every twelve or nineteen years ceremoniously.

Owing to the Rath Yatra, the temple is closed for pilgrims and entry into the temple on normal days is restricted only to the Hindus. This is the only occasion when people of all castes and creeds can catch a glimpse of the gods and hence the annual Rath Yatra draws close to a million of devotees all over India and the world!

Stay tuned!