Revered since ancient times, with countless lores passed down over centuries to bear testimony to it’s grandeur and prominence, Puri, along with Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameswaram comprise the original Char Dham. Hence, a true and devoted practitioner of Hinduism stands incomplete without a pilgrimage to the Jagannath Temple, atleast one in his/her lifetime.
So, before you launch your tour plan, here are some travel essentials to help you along the way!
How to reach
Location: 60kms south of Bhubaneswar, Dist Puri, Odisha
Bhubaneswar, the nearest major city, is well served all means of transportation. International terminals are also expected become functional at Biju Patnaik Airport BBSR in 2014. Bus services between Bhubaneswar and Puri are easy to avail, dependable and pocket friendly. Besides state run bus services provided by the Odisha state road transport corporation, there are several private liners(including Volvo sleeper buses) run by travel agencies such a Dolphin Travels, Royal Cruiser, etc frequenting between Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Puri which are available at regular intervals. Bus reservations can be made either online(OSRTC, and several private bus service agencies maintain online ticketing portals), or through private agents. Owing to the immense popularity of Puri and the nearby Konark and Gopalpur, tickets often tend to be sold out early, especially during the peak season. An early bird bus reservation well in advance is hence recommended.
Boarding and lodging
The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation owned Panthanivas resort is an experience in itself. With an expansive, pristine private beach to offer and sea facing rooms heralding the majestic sunrise at the beach every dawn, it is a welcome break far from the maddening humdrum of life. Besides the overall ambience, it’s value for money, serves delicious and sumptuous seafood and extends excellent hospitality.
Hotel Holiday Resorts, Hotel Mayfair Puri, Toshali Sands, Coco Palms Puri, Puri Golden Sands and Aveda Chariot are prominent luxury resorts. Besides, there are countless options available to suit every budget, in the form of privately run hotels, guesthouses, houses for temporary rent, dharmasalas sprawling around the beach and in the vicinity of the temple complex. Rumani Hotel, Puri Hotel and Hotel Golden Dust are some other well known lodges in the neighbourhood, which provide budget accommodation. The Bharat Sevashram Sangha Math at Swargadwar in Puri is a charitable foundation, which provides free of cost boarding and lodging facilities to members and contributors, and at subsidized rates to non-member pilgrims as well.
Places to drop by
The central theme to the legend named Puri, the fabled Jagannath Temple houses the trinity comprising of the sibling deities Jagannath, Balaram and their sister Subhadra, seated atop the bejeweled Ratnavedi, in the Garba Griha. The grand, imposing idols were carved out of entire blocks of neem wood (Daru Brahma) and predate the temple. The construction of the temple complex was started around 1100 AD and completed in 1174 AD. The impressive Singhadwara, with the crouching lion sculptures flanking it’s sides, is the main entrance leading into the complex from the Grand Avenue.
The temple complex contains twelve other minor shrines, each with a prized heritage of it’s own, namely Bimala Shaktipeeth, Mahalakshmi Temple, Kanchi Ganesh Temple, Muktimandap, Surya, Vimala, Saraswati, Narsimha, Ramachandra, Hanuman and Eshaneshwara Temple.
Puri’s Golden beach is ideal for a breezy stroll in the afternoon, waddling in the gentle, foaming waves along the beach or a casual dip. Surfing activities are also conducted. Trained swimmers and guides (Nuliyas) are also available for hire.
Other notable places of tourist interest in Puri include the Shree Gundicha Temple, which is the end destination of the famed annual Ratha Yatra. Other temples in the pilgrimage city include Shankaracharya’s Gobardhan Pitha, Sri Lokanath Mandir, Sunara Gaurang Mandir, Bedi Hanuman and Mausima Temple.
Best time to visit
Peak seasons include the summer and winter vacations, dussehra break, and during the Ratha Yatra, when thousands of tourists from nearby districts of Odisha and Bengal pool in to participate in the festival proceedings