Once a small town on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Orissa; Puri is today a bustling city that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Hindus in the country. The city is known for its famous Jagannath temple. Thousands of devotees visit this city every year to pay their respects to the three gods worshipped at this temple – Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra.
Location : State/District
The city of Puri is located in the Puri district of the state of Orissa in India.The latitude of Puri is 19° 48' 0 N and its longitude is 85° 50' 60 E.
Puri is a religious destination which is hugely popular among Hindus. However its beautiful beach with golden sands and the sea which offers ideal condition for bathing and surfing has made this a beautiful destination for nature lovers and adventure tourists as well.
Puri attracts thousands of devotees every year while during the festival of Ratha Yatra, lakhs of devotees visit the city. It is therefore essentially a family destination. Even the beautiful beach is visited mostly by families, often with small children.
The city of Puri enjoys a tropical monsoon type of climate. Summers are hot and last from March to May while the monsoon season extends from June to September. The winter months are pleasant. The best time to visit Puri is during the winter when the climate is mild but sunny and the sea is calm enough to allow plenty of opportunities for bathing. However, the largest number of visitors to the city is recorded during Ratha Yatra festival which is celebrated in June.
Indian citizens do not require any special documents or permits to visit Puri. However, foreign tourists must have a valid passport and Indian visa in order to visit this city. It should be mentioned that only Hindus are allowed to enter the premises of the famed Jagannath temple.
Places to Visit
The most important place to visit in Puri is the Jagannath temple which was erected in its current form in 1198. It is actually a huge temple complex whose peak can be seen from a long distance. The temple is surrounded by two high walls. In addition to a number of small temples inside the complex, there is the main temple where the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra can be seen. The dress and ornaments of the deities are changed several times throughout the day and several rituals are performed. It is also imperative to visit the vast kitchen of the temple where a variety of dishes are cooked for the gods. Since non Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple, they can get a good view from the top of the Raghunandan library.
For those interested in art and culture, a visit to the small but detailed Archeological museum is a must. It houses a variety of sculptures which were collected during the excavation of the Sun temple in nearby Konark. The beach of Puri is a beautiful stretch of golden sand and surf that can mesmerize the tourists. It is a popular spot for bathing or simply enjoying the view. Swargadwar is a famous cremation ground located next to the beach. It is regarded as hallowed grounds and it is possible to see the end rites as you walk past. It offers a fascinating glimpse of Indian culture and the role of Puri in it.
Shree Loknath temple is another important site in Puri. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, a part of the Lingam is always under water. Apart from this, other important temples in and near Puri include the Gundicha temple, Mausi ma temple, Sonar Gauranga temple and the Sakhi Gopal temple which is a small form of the Jagannath temple.
After worshipping at the Jagannath temple, the most popular activity in Puri is bathing in the sea. The beach near Swargadwar is the most popular destination for this and trained swimmers are available to guide the novice and enjoy sea bathing. Though the sea can be rough during the monsoon months, it offers excellent opportunities for bathing during the rest of the year.
For those interested in soaking up the culture of Puri, a tour of the city by cycle Rickshaw is a must. Traditional shops along the beach and the main road approaching the temple offer fascinating mementoes.
Now it is also possible to enjoy ayurvedic massage in Puri. This, followed by a dip in the sea can be quite invigorating.
There are a number of destinations within short distance of Puri which should not be missed. Perhaps the most famous is the Sun Temple at Konark. It lies 35 kms from Puri and was declared to be a World heritage site in 1984. It is a huge Sun temple I the shape of a chariot. Exquisite carvings on the walls of this temple attract tourists from far. It was constructed around 1250 and parts of the temple now lie in ruin.
Chilika Lake is another popular destination and is located 37 kms away from Puri. It is the largest brackish water lake in Asia and covers an area of 1100 sq kms. It attracts vast number of migratory birds in winter. Boating and fishing are popular tourist activities.
Another interesting place to visit is the Sand Art Park which is located at the Giral beach at a distance of 12 kms from Puri. It houses magnificent sand sculptures by the renowned sand artist Manas Kumar Sahoo. The park is spread over 30 acres and the sculptures are nearly ten feet tall.
Finally, the Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves lying 62 kms from Puri is another interesting site. These are Jain rock cut caves with several inscriptions and ornate carvings which attract tourists. Out of a total of 33 caves, Hatigumpha and Ganeshagumpha are especially well known for their carvings.
Food & Accommodation
As tourists of diverse types visit the city of Puri, variety of food and accommodation can be found here. Authentic Indian dishes can be found in the restaurants located near the temple and along the beach while international cuisines are available at the major hotels located along the beach. The trademark crispy sweet, Khaja must be tasted at Puri and is one of the popular prasads of the temple. Shyama and Krishna Resorts offer good quality vegetarian food while Jabari Garden and Wild Grass restaurant offer multi cuisine non vegetarian fare. Snacks are sold all along the beach and must be tasted.
Hotels of many different budgets are available in Puri. Those looking for five star and four star accommodation should seek along the beach where the leading hotels of Mayfair, Holiday Resort, Vijaya International etc are located. The price is around Rs 5000. Medium range hotels are scattered around Swargadwar while quite cheap accommodations are available near the temple. You can get budget accommodation near the beach as well if you are willing to forgo a view of the sea from your room.
Safety and Security
Puri is friendly to tourists and is quite a safe place. However, proper respect must be maintained in and around the temple and Swargadwar where a number of ancient rules and practices are still strictly adhered to.