Puri is the most famous temple town and tourist haven in the eastern coastal region of India. It has religious, cultural, and historical significance and is blessed with picturesque beaches, lush-green scenic locations, and stunning natural resources. You can visit this tourist hotspot anytime of the year, except the rainy season. The roads become difficult to navigate during heavy downpour and remain devoid of traffic most of the time during monsoon season.
If you’re a pilgrim, vacationer, or nature enthusiast travelling to this ‘holy city’ of India for the first time, we suggest you to go through our comprehensive list of this city’s top 5 must-visit sites:
1. Sri Jagannath Temple
According to Hindu scriptures, this temple is one of the Char Dham i.e. the four prime centers of Hindu pilgrimage. This magnificent temple complex is an exquisite example of Kalinga style of architecture. It houses the gigantic wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra. Interestingly, it is the only temple in India dedicated to a female Goddess in the form of God’s sister. During the famous annual ‘Rath Yatra’, these idols are decorated, worshipped, and driven to the neighboring Gundicha Ghar Temple as per the rituals. Don’t forget to feast on ‘Maha Bhog’ and do pack some ‘Maha Prasad’ for your friends and relatives staying back home!
2. Puri Beach
The vast golden-hued sandy expanse of puri beach is a hub of various artistic, cultural, and recreational activities. The world-renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik often comes to this place to create sand sculptures and images related to global events and Indian sentiments. The district administration, every year, organizes the eagerly-awaited ‘Puri Beach Festival’ where artists, performers, musicians, and tourists from India and rest of the world attend in large numbers. Only certain select sites on the beach are open for commercial activities such as open-air food stalls and trinket shops. This is also a great place for kids and adults to indulge themselves in fun activities like building sand castles, collecting seashells, and watching various fishermen rowing their wood-made primitive boats. You can also revel in watching the sunrise and sunset. The strong cool winds which blow throughout the day will surely leave you refreshed physically and mentally!
3. Gundicha Ghar Temple
Every year, during ‘Rath Yatra’ or ‘Car Festival’, the giant wooden statues of the resident deities of Sree Jagannath Temple are transported via their wooden chariots to this sacred temple. It serves as the abode of these deities for 9 days during this period. It is made of light-grey sandstone and displays the typical Kalinga style of architecture. Its height is approximately 75 feet and lies surrounded with a well-kept garden.
4. The Sun Temple of Konark
Built by King Narsimhadeva, this world-famous architectural marvel is also known as ‘Black Pagoda; as the entire structure is made of black granite. It took 1200 artisans and a span of 12 years to complete this artistic brilliance. In the year 1984, UNESCO declared this ancient temple as a ‘World Heritage Site’. The temple resembles an intricately-carved chariot, fitted with 24 wheels with a diameter of 10-feet each. There are seven sculptured statues of horses attached to this magnificent chariot-shaped temple. The spokes of the wheels, the walls of the monument and the surface of the statues are decorated with beautiful carvings of animals, warriors, people, and plants. You can climb the three different staircases leading to the three separate images of the ‘Sun God’. Each image is positioned in such a manner, that it catches the sunrays at dawn, noon, and dusk, respectively.
5. Chilika Lake
It is the biggest brackish-water lagoon of Asia and opens into the Bay of Bengal. It boasts of a rich biodiversity and dynamic ecosystem. It’s clear bluish water sustains a large variety of fishes, prawns, and other shell-fishes and provides lucrative livelihood to local fishermen. You can also find a wide range of aquatic plants thriving in its mineral-rich water. During Indian Winter months, the place becomes chaotic with arrival of thousands of migratory birds from different parts of the world. There are several lush-green hills and small islands in this region which enhance its scenic beauty manifold. Undoubtedly, this place is popular with both, nature lovers and vacationers, alike. You will definitely love inhaling the pollution-free air, enjoying the cool breeze, and watching the smog-free blue sky!
You can also visit these lesser known tourist locations in Puri, namely, Alarnatha temple, Lokeshwar temple, and Chandrabhaga sea beach. The Alarnatha temple is situated atop ‘Brahmagiri’ hill whereas the quaint Chandrabhaga beach is located near the Sun Temple of Konark.