God’s Best Kept Secret ….Odisha! — Part 2

By April 19, 2019 May 4th, 2019 Travel Hub

The concluding part of the two-part Odisha travelogue

Off to Chilka Lake

On day three, we were off early in the morning to Chilka Lake, first by bus and then by motor boat, with the dolphins deigning to give us a fleeting darshan. The second largest brackish water lagoon in the world, occupying more than 1,000 sq.kms, it is ecologically very well preserved and home to a number of migratory birds, apart from providing livelihood to more than 150,000 fishermen living in 130+ villages.

As it was a long journey to our Hotel Swosti Chilka, on the banks of Chilka, the evening was a relaxed one where we entertained ourselves with singing and dancing amongst ourselves. The Hotel was kind enough to give us a large open terrace for our jollities.

Mangalajodi, the awesome Bird Sanctuary

On day four, in the morning, we drove to Mangalajodi, in another part of the Chilka Lake, and were treated to the sights of a number of local & migratory birds — herons, kingfishers, cormorants, brahmini ducks and many more.

We were on narrow wooden boats – catamarans, with the boatman in each boat being expert bird watchers with their naked eyes. They were all earlier poachers, till a good Samaritan prevailed upon them to join hands and earn their livelihood by showing tourists around the place. It is evident that all of them are happy and doing well in this new, better, legit profession.

The majestic Flamingoes

After lunch, some of us took the speed boats arranged by the Resort to see flamingoes and were not disappointed. What a pretty sight to see them strutting about and flying majestically! We watched them from a small viewing tower machaan created on a small island close to them.

On the way back, we had Darshan in a Devi Temple.

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Jain Caves

Our caravan left the next day for Bhubaneshwar.

En route, we climbed up the rock cut Udayagiri and Khandagiri Jain caves, carved during the 2nd Century BCE after stopping over at a village with traditional textiles as its main occupation and livelihood.

Similar to the Kanheri Caves in Mumbai close to the Borivili National Park, these caves too made one feel humbled. How did the Monks carve such caves with rudimentary tools available in those days and besides, lived and meditated in them!

Dhauli Hills — the Site of Ashoka’s Kalinga War

After lunch, we went to Dhauli hills, where the famous Kalinga War is said to have taken place in 262 BCE.

The Ashokan Edict with inscriptions in Pali and Brahmi and the Shanti Stupa built in more recent times by the Japanese Buddhists are the highlights there.

Later in the evening, many of us saw a wonderful Sound and Light Show with the Shanti Stupa in the background.

The World Cup Hockey was on at that time in Odisha. A few of us sports fans witnessed a thrilling world cup hockey match in a magnificent world class stadium in Bhubaneshwar. England narrowly beat Ireland in a thrilling match that went down to the wire. The hassle free entry, the spotlessly clean walkway, comfy seats, magnificent stadium etc made us feel extremely proud as Indians for the wonderful organizational capabilities of the Odisha Government and others responsible for running the tournament.

Bhubaneshwar sight seeing

Lingaraj and other ancient Temples

The next day in the morning, we went to see the magnificent 11th century Lingaraj Temple. What’s unique is that in the main Garbhagriha is the presence of both Lords Shiva and Vishnu with their respective consorts in the form of a combination of a Shiva Linga and Shaligram signifying Vishnu. The Pandit there also educated us by stating that you do not do a pradikshna/parikrama i.e. circumambulate the Shivaling as the Lord’s Head is at the end opposite the Shiv Ling and one does not go around the Lord’s Head.

There were many other temples in the complex — Lord Ganesha being a prominent one. I do not want to spoil the fun for people planning a visit there.

Just as in Puri, some of us got our names (husband, wife, children), names of our parents etc recorded for posterity. When our grandchildren, their children, grand children etc., make a visit to the Temple in the future, the Pandits (Pandas as they are called here) would be able to pull out the records to show them that we were there!

We then had Darshan at a few other temples in the vicinity – Mukteswar, Siddheshwar and Parushurameshwar temples. All of them built many, many years back with Lord Parashurameshwar Temple perhaps the oldest.

Oriyas — simple, nice people with a tremendous history

The Oriyas are simple, nice people who are hospitality personified. The varied sights, cleanliness, well maintained roads etc all meant that Odisha is truly “God’s Best Kept Secret” — the tag line used by the Odisha Government which we noticed when we witnessed the Hockey Match.

Like the renowned South Indian Empires like the Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas etc., the Oriya Kings too were sea farers and conquered territories in places such as Bali in Indonesia, Cambodia etc. The world famous Angkor Vat Temples in Cambodia were built by Kings with their roots in Orissa. Yet, many of us are not aware of this.

Yes, Odisha has a long and memorable history, apart from its numerous temples, Chilka Lake, Wild Life Sanctuary, abode to Adivasi tribes, hitherto reserved areas with restrictions on entry. And in many ways, we just touched the proverbial tip of the iceberg on this trip.

Yes, I do plan to visit Odisha again.

We then reluctantly left for the Airport on our way back to Amchi Mumbai.