India images have always revealed the strong influence of religion. Carrying on with the India images is the Indian destination of Puri. Puri, situated in the eastern part of the state of Orissa, is one of the four holy dhams of Hinduism and the hallowed seat of Lord Jagannath. Washed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal and embraced by causarina-fringed beaches, it is located at a distance of 60 km from the state capital Bhubaneshwar. It is a famous beach on the eastern coastline of peninsular India. The famous Rath Yatra or the Car Festival is held every year as a part of the festival of the great Jagannath temple; it draws good number of pilgrims from all over the world. The yatra forms an integral part of the India images. India images since times immemorial have depicted devotees.
Puri has the Bay of Bengal and the rice-growing alluvial plain on its east, Khurda district on its west, Sambalpur on its south and the state capital Bhubaneshwar on its northern side.The forest area lying to the west of Puri provides bamboo and sal. The district of Puri encompasses most of the Chilika Lake, Asia's largest freshwater lake. Bhubaneshwar is also located in Puri district.
Puri was once part of the kingdom of Kalinga, formed by Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire in 260 BC. The Sabaras, a tribe belonging to pre-Aryan and pre-Dravidian Austric linguistic group, inhabited the region. The region came under British rule in 1803. The Raja of Khurda rebelled in 1804, and there was a peasant uprising in 1817-18. The Orissa famine of 1866 claimed many lives in Puri.
The Rath Yatra and Nava Kalebara are the famous festivals of Puri. Both these events are related to the reigning deity, Lord Jagannath. Commemorating the journey of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura, the Rath Yatra is celebrated on the second day of the bright fortnight of Asadha (June-July). The image is placed in a heavy chariot and the efforts of hundreds of devotees are required to move it. The journey takes several days, and thousands of pilgrims participate. Perhaps many people will be surprised to know that the English word juggernaut, with its connotation of a force crushing whatever is in its path, is derived from name Jagannath, meaning "lord of the world."
The Nava Kalebara festival is an immensely significant religious ritual, wherein the idols of the three deities-Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra- change their external forms. New idols are carved out of specially sanctified chandan/neem trees, following certain regulations. The 'daru' (wood) is then transported to the temple in full regalia.
Puri Beach Festival is celebrated annually in early November. Orissan craft, cuisine and cultural evenings are the highlights of the event.
The fine white sands of Puri beach and the roar of the breakers rolling in from the Bay of Bengal have fascinated visitors throughout the years. The local fishermen, with their catamarans and wide-brimmed cane hats, are also expert masseurs. With excellent hotels and guesthouses, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot.
However, what attracts most the tourists to this place is the majestic temple of Jagannath. Even before one enters Puri, this 65-meter-high structure makes its presence felt. The 12th-century temple built by Chodaganga, to commemorate the shifting of his capital from south to central Orissa, stands in a compound on the Nilgiri Hill, and is surrounded by a 20-foot-high wall, within which lie several smaller shrines. A traditional porch, shrine, hall of offerings and a pillared hall of dance form the rest of this temple. Unfortunately, Jagannath is not open for non-Hindus, who must contend themselves viewing it from a vantage point, outside its precincts.
Another place worth visiting is Ananda Bazar, the largest food market in the world.
Gundicha Mandir is one of the temples closely related to the festivity of the Rath Yatra of Puri. It is a holy place where God resides for seven days during the festival. This garden is regarded as the place of lord Jagannath's aunt.
Balighai Beach, 8 km from Puri, is at the mouth of the river Nuanai. It a popular picnic spot, fringed by lovely causarina trees.
Sakshi Gopal (literal meaning, the witness lord) is a place 20 km away from Puri where a life-size image of the child Krishna is being built. This was to commemorate the incident when lord Krishna came to this place as a witness to clear out a dispute of two Brahmans. Later it is said that lord liked this place so much that he decided to stay there for a while.
Another site to give a visit is the magnificent Atharnala Bridge, constructed during the 13th century.
Besides the places of the city, there are a number of tourist sites outside the city boundary.
Balighai, also known for its sea turtle research center, is located just 8 km away from the temple town.
Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lake in Asia (65 km long, 8-20 km wide, about 2 m deep), is situated just a few kilometers away from Puri and is a place worth visiting. It has been affectionately called as the "honeymooners' paradise" and "breakfast island." The simmering blue water makes it an excellent site to have a break from the monotonous daily routine.
For someone interested in local handicrafts, a visit to the small village of Pipli near Puri is a must. This place is famous for the appliqué work of the traditional Orissa style.
Another craftsmen's village is Raghurajpur. This small village is situated just few kilometers from Puri. This place is famous for the Patta Chitra art of Orissa.
Besides these, Brahmagiri, a holy shrine; Satyabadi, another shrine and temple; and Baliharachandi are some of the sites to visit near Puri.