Timeless beauty of Puri-Konarak

#1 Jun 19th, 2014, 16:32
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Puri is an age old destination for Bengalis (infact one of the leg of the famous travel destination triangle called DiPuDa – for Digha, Puri and Darjeeling). The travel down to “Dakkhin” (or South, limited to Puri Jagannath Dham) have been immortalised in time and is seeped with an aura of pilgrimage. View of the majestic Bay of Bengal at Puri and the magnificient Sun Temple at Konark are an added benefit. Though technically this was my second visit to Puri, I considered it to be my first as my last visit to this place was when I was 7 years old. The only memories I have of that last visit are of the giant waves dwarfing my little body and myself having immense fun collecting jhinuk (seashells) on the sea beach, playing with my cousins chasing the sea. Since then I have been to many beaches on both sides of the coast but the memory of the Puri sea beach was hard to forget. So, Puri was always in my “must visit” list to relive my memories. And I got the chance to realise my dream this month when I was desperate for a break after a strenuous time at work.

We were seven people in our group- myself, my husband, brother, my parents and in-laws. The plan was to cover the golden triangle of Orissa temples viz. Bhubaneswar, Konarak and Puri. We had four days for the tour and decided to spend one night in Konarak and 2 nights in Puri. The itinerary was:
13th June: Board SDAH-Puri Duronto at 8pm (AC-3 tier).
14th June: Reach Puri station at 4am. Reach Konark via BBSR sight-seeing. Night stay at Konark.
15th June: Konark sight-seeing in morning. Reach Puri after lunch and night stay.
16th June: Puri sight-seeing and night stay.
17th June: Spend day at Puri. Board Puri-SDAH Duronto (AC-3 tier) at 7.45 pm. Reach SDAH at 4am next day.

Accordingly, tickets were booked. Stay at Konark was to be at the OTDC Yatrinivas, 3 AC double bedrooms (Rs. 1100 per day plus 7.5 % tax) were booked from their Kolkata office at Lenin Sarani ( Near Wellington Square). As we had two senior citizens in our group, we availed a 10% discount for two rooms (tax is on full room rent, to be paid on site). For staying in Puri my father arranged accommodation in a holiday home at Swargadwar. Preparation all set, we waited eagerly for the day to arrive when we would board the train. Though we knew the climate in Orissa would be very hot and humid, prediction of rain and thundershowers for our journey days kept us cheerful.

Finally the D-day arrived and we were happy to leave the soaring temperatures of Kolkata behind. Duronto was very punctual and left dot at 8pm. The train was very neat and clean and the food provided was sumptuous –soup with bread-stick, chapati, rice, dal, chicken curry (or paneer for veg), sour curd and ice-cream. After the heavy dinner (I am sure the food they provided would be much more than sufficient for an average foodie like myself) we were quick to retire for the night as we were to reach Puri very early in the morning. Our original plan was to reach Konark immediately from Puri station and do the BBSR leg the next day but to economise the time properly we decided to visit BBSR first and then reach Konarak. Duronto was right on time at Puri and we were all sound asleep when we reached the station (rumbling of the train has no effect on my sleep). We freshened ourselves in the First Class waiting room of Puri station which provided good facilities of AC and clean toilets and were ready to leave for our destination. The weather at Puri was not very hot in those early hours and we could see that it had rained in the night. As we were ready to leave, we got an unfortunate news. We reached Puri on 14th morning, the previous day was Jagannath Snan Yatra day (bath day for Lord Jagannath). On this day, the Lord along with his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra are taken out of the temple and have a bath. According to legend, they have fever afterwards and they get well only after they visit their aunt’s place on the famous Rath Yatra day (Chariot festival of Puri). During this entire span of about 21 days, they are not available for “darshan” and remain away from the eyes of their devotees. It seemed we missed having a “darshan” by just one day. Well, nothing could be done about this fact and we decided to enjoy the rest of the tour.

For the trip to BBSR we booked an AC Tavera from one Mr. Gopal (9776437775) who picked us up from the station in his Tata Magic and transferred us to the Tavera. It was decided that we would visit first Dhauli, then Lingaraj temple followed by Udaigiri-Khandagiri, Nandankanan, Mukteswar and then drop to Konark. He charged us Rs. 2700 for the entire trip and as it matched the rate OTDC chart provided so kindly by ashishda in his TR, we did not bargain.
We left Puri at 6am after having morning tea and some snacks we had with ourselves. The sun was up by then but the temperature was not uncomfortable. First stop was Dhauli where we were the first visitors of the morning.


Dhauli is a Buddhist Shanti stupa built by the Japanese for the spread of Buddhism.


This is also a historic place as this is where King Ashoka had laid down his weapons and became Dharma Ashoka from Chanda Ashoka. The river Daya which is said to have turned red during the Kalinga war can also be seen from this stupa.


The stupa houses four Buddha statues in different forms and other Budhdhist sculptures.






Behind the stupa there is a modern day temple of “Dhabaleswar”.








Our next stop was the famous Lingaraj Temple which has 108 small shiva shrines in addition to the main shrine which houses a giant (breadthwise) linga of Shiva. As elsewhere in Orissa, the pandas (priests) are very active and are ready to fleece money from tourists and one has to be very wary to escape their advances. Non-hindus are not allowed inside this temple. the architecture of this temple is brilliant and one only has to marvel at Orissan architectural brilliance by having a look here. I am not well versed with the architectural details so I will not be able to comment on them but there are two excellent TRs here in IM which discusses in detail the Orissa style of temple architecture.

Trip report: Konark, Bhubaneshwar and Chilika

Trip Report - Bhubaneswar, Puri & Konark During Rath Yatra

As camera is not allowed inside the temple I have no photos from Lingaraj temple.

to be continued...
#2 Jun 19th, 2014, 18:01
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#2
Next we moved on to visit the caves of the twin hills of Udaygiri and Khandagiri. These caves were dwellings of Jain monks and were first excavated at the time of King Kharavela (1st century BC). There are 18 caves in Udaygiri and 15 in Khandagiri. Most of these caves are dormitories and few are shrines. But as there are no markings it is difficult to understand which is which.

Aerial view of the Udaygiri caves:


One of the caves contains a Brahmi script inscribed into its brows which tells of the expeditions of King Kharavela. This cave has also been fortified with huge pillars by ASI to prevent the cave from falling in.


The writings are nearly illegible now.


Such stone pillars could also be seen in many of the other caves. Some caves are two storeyed whereas others have dwarpalakas (guards) sculpted into the rocks. Some are also distinguished with mural friezes and sculptures.

One of the two-storied caves:










Best place to beat the heat:


According to my mother, there used to be a huge statue of Lord Parswanath atop the Khandagiri hills but we couldn’t spot any such thing from the top of Udaygiri hills. Instead, there were two concrete temples at the top, so we were puzzled and went on to check out.


We gave the caves in Khandagiri a miss as we were already pressed for time. At the top, we found two people manning the entry to the temple and demanded Re. 1 as entry fee. They also sprayed water on our feet before our entry. The two concrete temples were on the point of construction and there were no deities. At one side there was one room which housed many Jain statues (both in sitting and standing positions).


There was another large building which housed a giant Tirthankar statue of a black colour. My mother said that this statue was the one which used to be in the open atop this hill.


Now, the temples are being constructed with the purpose of housing these deities. The temple attendees informed us that the structure was heavily damaged during the Cyclone Philin, so reconstruction work was going on in this site. Though we could see the statues, there was no aesthetics in the place.

By this time, it had become unbearably hot and heat radiated from the stones. We came down from the hills and headed straight for lunch. We had skipped breakfast and now we were ravenous. After having a filling lunch on a road side restaurant we moved on to Nandankanan zoo. We were not very keen on visiting the zoo but since it was in our package we thought to check out this famed place. This place is very large and it is impossible to cover it within 2-3 hours. So we opted to go for the jungle safari and check out the other places on the way. Jungle safari and aquarium tickets are to be bought separately. This zoo is a plastic free zone and they check your bags for any polythene packs you may carry. So it is better to go prepared. As it was a Saturday, hundreds of people thronged the zoo and it was very noisy. The safari starts about ½ km from the main gate and on the way we saw deers, marmosets, baboons and the like. There is also a mini-museum inside which showcases information about the different species of animals housed there, different instruments and devices used to monitor animal movement and treat them. There was also an audio-visual show about the animals going on which we did not see as it was in Oriya language.

We were disappointed to see the Safari vehicle which was a bus carrying about 30 people. I was sure no animal could be sighted when so many people were going together. Anyways, we boarded the bus and were taken first to the enclosure of the White Tiger (Nandankanan zoo is famous for this). We could see one tiger taking a afternoon nap and some peacocks roaming about. In the next enclosure for lions, we could see a couple of lion-lioness, also taking a nap. Ditto with the bear enclosure. Only the herbivore enclosure had numerous deers- sambars, cheetals, barking deer etc. Zoo authorities may not be blamed fully for the poor sightings as it was a very hot part of the day and animals do not generally come out during that time. Even the sambars could be seen taking a dip. The entire safari is for around 30 mins duration.


After the safari, on the way back we saw the reptile section which has numerous specimens of snakes, tortoises, crocodiles, water monitor lizards and gharials. We also went to the enclosure of the Asiatic one-horned rhino.


The enclosure of the hippos were a delight to watch. I had never seen so many hippos together in any zoo.






We did not linger any longer at the zoo as it was getting late and we were yet to visit the Mukteswar temple.

The Mukteswar area contains 4 temples – Mukteswar, Sidhdheswar, Parasurameswar and Hara-Gowri temples. These temples are one of the finest specimens of Orissan style of temple architecture. The detailed reliefs, friezes and sculptures left us mesmerised and spellbound. After seeing these images you will be able to judge for yourselves the beauty and splendor of theses temples.
The Mukteswar temple:


The group of temples surrounding the Mukteswar temple:


The beautifully decorated inner sanctum:


Full-blown lotus decoration of the ceiling:


Our first view of Lord Jagannath (we were delighted as we were not to get a darshan at Puri):


A sculpture on the torana:


Is this lady going to war?


A view of the temple side:

There is also a water tank but unfortunately I dont have any photos of that.

The Sidhdheswar temple:


The inner sanctum:


Shiva's sons Ganesha and Kartikeya adorn the temple wall:




The Parasurameswar temple, well preserved gem of Orissan temple architecture:


This huge linga stands outside:


Mural friezes, these devis are still worshipped as can be seen from the vermillion on their head:


A beautifully decorated window:


More friezes:


This ganapati is smeared with oil and stands on a entrance wall:


It was already 5pm by the time we finished this visit and the driver was in no mood to take us to any place else which was not in our package (we dearly wanted to see the Radharani temple but it was not to be). We were also very tired and wanted to reach Konarak with some time left before it closes (8pm) as we wanted to see the temple under artificial lighting. So we left Bhubaneswar with the memories of a well spent day and anticipating the visit to Konarak. Though our driver hurried, as luck would have have it, we had a punctured tyre on the way which added to further delay. To compensate for our time, we were gifted this wonderful view of the sunset.


After the punctured tyre was replaced, we moved on and reached Konarak OTDC Yatrinivas by 7 pm. My parents and in-laws were dead tired and in no mood to visit Konarak that day. So leaving them in charge for arranging for the rooms, we rushed on to the Sun Temple site.

to be continued
Last edited by trisha; Jun 20th, 2014 at 12:43..
#3 Jun 20th, 2014, 21:00
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Konarak Sun Temple is at about 10 mins walking distance from the Yatrinivas through the main road though its peak can be seen from the Yatrinivas itself. After the entrance gate it is a further 2-3 min walk upto the temple entry gate. Both sides of this walkway are lined with souvenir shops and as one walks through this path the majestic Sun Temple beckons in its full grandeur. In our hurry we walked straight upto the Temple entrance without noticing the ticket counter which is to the left of the main gate. As it was already close to 7.30 pm and the entry closes at 8 pm, we decided not to go back to buy tickets but walk around the perimeter wall of the Sun Temple. As we realised later, this proved to be highly rewarding as this position gave us a good view of the temple from an elevated position almost on level with the platform of the Temple. At this late hour there were still many tourists roaming about. The Sun temple was flooded with lights both from distant lampposts and bushes nearby the monument. At the north side of the temple (outside the compound) there is a Navagraha Temple (didn’t know at that time so didn’t visit but this shed houses the navagraha panel from the main door-frame of the Sun Temple and is now under active worship). The perimeter wall is about 4 feet wide made of stone (most probably built after the site was excavated). Area on three sides of the wall (the fourth side being the entrance) is heavily forested with banyan trees. As we walked up the ramp, with the floodlit Su Temple on our left and the semi-dark jungle on the right, a eerie feeling crept in. It was very quiet, the distant chattering of the thinning tourist crowd did not reach us. We took some photographs, as much as the low light condition provided. Mostly we soaked in the architectural brilliance of the massive temple. Though the decorations on the wall could not be seen from the distance, the whole structure itself overwhelmed us with its gigantic proportions. Here are some photos.

In its full brilliance


The eerie feeling:


One of the wheels:


A simha-vyala


The artificially lit back-side view of the temple


The natya mandir


We completed the perimeter tour by 8 and left for the hotel with the determination to be back as early as possible in the morning. Few point about the Konarak Yatrinivas:
1. Rooms are locked with bar-code matched keys. No latch present on the outside. Though barcodes are supposed to be unique, one of our room doors could be opened with another key. Conclude what you may.
2. This place has its own restaurant but I think the food is overpriced. Preparation is edible but quantity is less for some items. Also dinner has to be booked atleast half an hour in advance. We also found a shortage of serving staffs.
3. They did not provide room service (even drinking water was provided just once on entry, other times we had to fill water ourselves from the restaurant). They said many staff were on holiday due to the festival season.
4. AC does not work if there is a power interruption (which we had to face).

The fan in our room was not in working condition and no one was sent even after repeated call to the reception. Luckily power was restored soon and we could sleep peacefully in the night.

Though we had a tiring day with less sleep (on our toes from 4 am), I was awake by 4.30 the following morning. It is my habit whenever I am on tour to watch the sunrise and the desire was especially more to view the Sun Temple in early morning light. By 5 we were already at the temple premises. Though the ticket counter maintains that entry is from sunrise to 8pm, at that early hour the ticket counter was not open. Only few people milled about. With no chance to enter the premises, we again decided to roam about the perimeter wall and have a good look at the interiors. The scenery was definitely improved with daylight. Though no human being was present, monkeys were the omnipresent early visitors. They roamed about freely in the temple complexes, their calls reverberated through the ancient trees. By the time we completed the perimeter tour (around 5.45am), tourists had already started coming. By the time we bought our tickets (Rs. 10 per head for Indian tourists, no charge for still camera) and had some tea in the nearby tea stall, crowds of tourists arrived. We were surprised with the footfall so early in the morning but maybe as it was a Sunday and festival season for them, local tourists were plenty. I was really happy that I had come early in the morning before anyone arrived and could click some photos without the crowd (though the light condition was not ideal).

The grand entrance:


Full plan of the temple


Front view


Another view


Kitchen of the temple


Way to the Natya mandir (sometimes also referred to as the Bhoga mandap) from the kitchen


Back view of one of the stallions on south side of the temple


The guard posts and huge banyan trees lining the perimeter




Large stones from the collapsed sanctuary are laid on the northside of the temple wall


Heavy renovation work going on at the amala of the Jagamohan..


Entering the premises, we were mesmerised with the sheer size and architectural details of the temple. Though many of the statues were in dilapidated condition and most of the figures were defaced, what remained could easily testify for the grandeur that the Sun Temple had in its days. The sculptures made from chlorite has survived to this day but the wall sculptures which are made od khondalite have been majorly destroyed.Words would not suffice for its beauty, maybe these pictures can so some justice.

The Gaja-Simha that guards the Natya mandir


The dancing divas


Just imagining the ages of footfalls these steps have endured gives me goosebumps


One of the pillars of the natyamandir


So graceful


A mother and child


The jaganmohana


Relief from the eastern door jamb. A GajaLakshmi finds a place here along with naga-kanya and other sculptures


Another view


Also from the door jamb


One of the simha-vyalas, this is a prominent figure in many places of the temple


Another common motif of naga-naga kanya


Warrior going to war


Sun God Aruna in his flaming chariot in the Northern wall


Sun God in the West wall


Another beautiful relief


In addition to the main temple, there is also the temple of Mayadevi. Some say it is the temple of Surya’s wife, others prevail that this as the original site of the Sun Temple before the present one has been built. This temple is also architecturally brilliant. Some pictures.

The Mayadevi temple


One of the early visitors


Water snout






Beautiful reliefs


A brick temple lies farthest to the southwest of the complex. This is said to be a Vaishnavite temple. It is older than either of the sun temples.





View of the Sun temple from the back


The mighty wheels (12 pairs of these gigantic wheels are present)


Ageless and unsurpassable beauty


And some trick photography to end the day


Early morning visit had another plus point. As the sun was up, the heat slowly started becoming unbearable. By 10 am, we decided to end our visit though our heart wanted more. With a quick breakfast of Masala dosa from one of the roadside eateries, we decided to freshen up, visit the ASI museum and then head to Puri. The ASI museum is adjacent to the OTDC Yatrinivas. The museum is well maintained and houses numerous collections from the Sun Temple with detailed illustrations. The museum is a must visit (I think it would be better if visited before going to the Sun temple). I also bought a ASI World Heritage series Konarak guidebook (Good Earth Publications) from the counter for Rs. 60. Here I also came to know about the excavation site of a Buddhist stupa at Lalitgiri (about 40 kms from Konarak). If one is interested, they can visit this stupa along with the stupas at Ratnagiri and Udaygiri (Jajpur district) dating back to 1st century AD. But we did not have time for this visit.

OTDC Yatrinivas


ASI museum






For the drop to Puri, we enquired for some vehicles which charged around Rs. 900 (autos asked for Rs. 450 but we were 7 people along with luggage, so one auto would not suffice). We had talked to Mr. Gopal the previous day and he had asked for an amount of Rs. 700 in a Tata Magic. So we contacted him and he sent us a vehicle from Puri. We left Konarak at around 12 pm. On our way we stopped at the Chandrabhaga beach but the mid-day sun did not allow us to remain for more than 5 mins at the beach. The way to Puri was through the picturesque Konarak-Puri marine highway which passed through the Balukhanda-Konarak deer sanctuary. First the casuarina lined beaches and then the heavy forest cover made the 1 hour journey to Puri very much enjoyable.





Though we could see no deer in the sanctuary, there were plenty of birds even at that odd hour and I was delighted to spot a Pied Kingfisher first time in my life. The vehicle dropped us at our holidayhome near Swargadwara around 1.30pm and we were all set to enjoy our stay at Puri.

to be continued
#4 Jun 23rd, 2014, 14:27
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#4
Thanks vaibhav_arora, arupratan ghosh, DebarshiRoy, JuliaF and fuuny_in for liking the posts...more on Puri to follow soon.....
#5 Jun 23rd, 2014, 14:31
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My sun temple tour is complete....Thanks trisha
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#6 Jun 27th, 2014, 20:16
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The prime attraction for me in Puri was the sea, for my parents it was both the sea and the Jagannath temple. As there was to be no darshan of the deity in the temple, we spent more time by the sea beach. Our holidayhome was close to the sea beach, so mornings and evenings of the two days that we spent in Puri was by the sea side- seabathing in the morning hours, and generally enjoying and soaking in the environment of the beach during evenings. Afternoons were mostly spent inside our rooms as it was unbearably hot and humid. For the same reason, plans to visit Chilka lake was cancelled and one day was spent lazing around with a quick visit to the Jagannath temple. That day we had been at sea till 10am, took bath and then went to the temple around 12 noon. This proved to be a wrong decision as the stone temple was very hot and we almost scorched our naked feet while moving about the temple premises. The pandas were not very active inside the temple as the main deity was not available for public viewing but still managed to lure people by arranging for them a darshan of the “replica” which substituted for the main idols. Anyways, though I wanted to take in the temple architecture and couldn’t because of the heat, we quickly left, had lunch and retired to our rooms. The other day, we again took a sea bath early morning and got ready by 8am. We had arranged with Mr. Gopal for a vehicle for visiting some temples in and around Puri (Tata Magic for Rs. 700 for half a day). We visited the Gour Vihari math, Kakatua Math, Sonar Gouranga temple, Narendra Sarovar (also known as pishir bari-aunt’s house, where Lord Madanmohan (in lieu of Lord Jagannath), his brother, sister and the pandavas take a boat ride during the festivities in the month of Baisakh), Gundicha temple (masir bari where the Rath Yatra festival ends and the three deities take rest for 7 days and then return to their abode) and a couple of other ashrams. By noon we were back. Some part of our visit was also spent on roaming around the Puri-Swargadwar market. As there is a huge tourist footfall, lots of shop has sprung up selling a variety of merchandise including cloths (Orissa has a rich collection of handloom textiles), toys, seashell items, replicas of Lord Jagannath with his siblings in a wide range of materials (including T-shirts and bags), items with appliqué work and ofcourse the sweet shops selling their famour “khaja”, “chanapoda” and other items. The beachside stalls are stocked with so many varieties of food items that one is spoilt for choices. Strolling around the beach one would be overwhelmed with the impression of a huge vibrant “mela” (fair) complete with camel and horse rides. Sitting by the sea, counting the number of waves that come and go irrespective of anyone watching them and enjoying the activities around the beach made our holiday complete. Spending a very enjoyable 4 days in this part of Orissa, we returned by Duronto on 17th night (train left punctually at 7.45 pm). Dinner comprised of rice, chapatti, chicken curry, dal and sweets. Both the quality and quantity of the food was inferior compared to what we got from Sealdah. Dont know how this difference can exist in the same train from two ends of its journey. We were at Sealdah at 4am the next morning after a well spent holiday reminiscing about the gigantic sea, beautiful architecture and the relaxed feeling of a family trip.

First view of the sea


The wonderful sunset


The mela like atmosphere of the beach




The cute playthings for sale.


We were also treated to a magnificient view of the full moon rising from the sea (please excuse the pic quality)




An unusual sunrise on a sea beach on the eastern coast, maybe we have encroached too much on the beach


The innumerable waves


Whoa!! look, its coming!!!


The fishing boats distant on the horizon


The golden beach and the blue sea


One can never get bored with this view


Evening hues


Puri marine drive


Here's Lord Jagannath


World famous khaja of Puri


Our last evening


And finally, a parting shot...we will meet again..
#7 Jun 27th, 2014, 20:41
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nice read and beautiful pictures. Keep it up.

cheers
#8 Jun 27th, 2014, 20:46
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Most excellent trip report. Shame the konark temple is undergoing maintenance, you could have took stunning photos sans the scaffoldings.
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#9 Jun 27th, 2014, 22:05
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@ Linbaba -

That scaffolding on the Jagamohana structure is permanent. It was there in December 2011 when i visited and wrote about my experiences here: Trip report: Konark, Bhubaneshwar and Chilika. I will look at your 82 day plan and try to provide some feedback. I saw your photogallery and I might be able to suggest a few towns / cities that would make for good street photos and architecture (especially Indian temple architecture). Konarak and Bhubanesar would have been great additions but as such, your itinerary doesnt come close to the eastern side.

@ Trisha - stunning photos. You've noticed some details that I missed. I've really enjoyed your report.
#10 Jul 9th, 2014, 01:43
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Excellent trip report and pictures. I would like to go here someday, when the Konark temple has been completely repaired.
#11 Jul 9th, 2014, 13:03
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Thanks AN, but I dont know when (if at all) the Konark temple would get repaired. I remember seeing the scaffolds when I went there as a kid (1992) and even now at 2014. I am not sure if the scaffolds are just for repair or they also help to keep the structure together and prevent further collapse. But rest assured, the beauty of Konark lies not only in its grandeur but also in its small details, magnificent stone-carvings and the overall ambiance. Be there as soon as you can .
#12 Jul 10th, 2014, 17:41
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#12
The pictures are stunning and the writing compact.
Enjoyed both
#13 Jul 10th, 2014, 17:49
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#13
Ahh..missed it earlier! Konark always inspires an awe in me and Puri is a place I'm never tired of going! Amazing photos and write-up. Great work!
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid Albert Einstein


Trip reports:

Syalsaur/ Deoria taal/ Chopta trip report, West and South Sikkim trip report , Puri/ Konark trip report
#14 Jul 10th, 2014, 18:29
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Thanks sdg2705 and sagarneelda for your kind words...truly its an amazing place to be....
#15 Jul 10th, 2014, 18:48
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#15
Adding some more snaps from Puri....

The fishermen and the blue sea...


The deserted Puri beach after evening storm, a rare sight


Colourful wooden toys from Puri market


The deities in so many forms and colour..








The golden sand and the sea..
Last edited by trisha; Jul 11th, 2014 at 17:54..

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