iDiscern | Overawed by the beauty that is Odisha

April may not be the most ideal time to visit Bhubaneswar. But given how much there to see in and around the capital city I had no choice but to just get going. The Indian summer couldn’t restrain the traveller in me.
Now it’s not like I went on a check-every-place-off-my-list spree either. So here’s my list:

The Odisha State Museum: I’ll be honest that I thought of dropping by only because it was a stone’s throw away from my hotel. In retrospect I’m glad it happened and even though I was there on a Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to not find it crowded at all.
The state museum has a well maintained collection but it was the evolution of Orissan scripts at the Epigraphy section, the Patta paintings and the Palm leaf section that left me feeling like a tot in candy store.
You know you're a lover of words when you stand starry eyed at the Epigraphy section inside the Odisha State Museum
N.B.: Given a choice I’d rather be out in the open (read: be in the present) than in a museum (read: travel back in time). But I’m finding that there’s always something quirky and interesting that I learn while I’m at museums. In a jigsaw puzzle kind of way, it provides an insight into history and culture – most of which was either missing from the pages of our history textbooks in school or we’ve simply forgotten about them.

Museum of tribal arts and artefacts:  “Mandua Sum” translates to invisible village deity and is the god of the dead. This was one of the many insightful things I saw and learnt from at the museum.
Odisha is home to 9.7% of the total tribal population in India. The tribal population within the state is at 22.1%. Therefore a stopover at the museum was something I was keen about. Photography is not permitted within the premises though.

The museum is well laid out – wherein you walk around rooms that help familiarize you with the indigenous people’s way of life. There is a collection of the objects and tools the tribals make use of in their everyday life right from wooden guns to bird traps and wine pipes to cow bells. On the outside of the museum there replicas of homes built by each of the tribal communities.
I was left amazed just wondering how much was possible by groups who have no access to the kind of technology and infrastructure that is found in the urban centres. The dexterity with which tools had been crafted and the acumen with which houses were designed or even how the print on fabrics worn were distinct from each other made me realise how ignorant we’ve remained about these things – we merely clump “them” as tribals and reduce all of them to one category of humans we share space on the planet with!

Konark and a stopover at Pipili: Konark and Puri are on everybody’s wishlist, mine included. But then I dropped Puri and decided to visit Konark and return back to Bhubaneswar the same evening. There are a number of buses going to Puri regularly  – one every half an hour. There were no direct buses to Konark (that I could spot) so I hopped into another one at Puri. The entire trip (back and forth) cost me no more than Rs. 120 – quite the steal if you ask me!
This little road trip – about 2 hours – is a very comfortable one and offers you a countryside view. The road is in good condition so that helps a lot. In the section from Puri to Konark the view changes to casuarina and palm trees. You can smell the muggy climate long before you can even see the shoreline. En route to Konark is the Chandrabhaga beach with hues that leave you wondering how you’d never known of this place until now.
Chandrabhaga beach: Will I ever know what is it about the sea that has such a calming effect on me?
Is it those hues?
Or the way the wind gets entangled in my hair?
Or the way the sand feels beneath my feet?
May be it's the way the ways crash at the shore...

The mela like scenario in the vicinity of the Konark Temple

The Sun Temple also known as The Black Pagoda

Etched in stone.. And memory

One of the 4 wheels!

The Konark Sun Temple – also known as the Black Pagoda – is as regale as it’s made out to be. The temple has been designed in the form of a chariot that stands on 24 wheels and pulled by 7 horses carrying the Sun god.
Once you’re off the bus it seemed like I was walking through a never ending ‘mela’. I even thought I’d taken a wrong route. But I hadn’t. The temple is further away and inside – even as the mela like atmosphere lingers on. On my way back I went down memory lane and indulged in some cashew fruit!
The generous man
You should consider stopping over at Pipili enroute from or to Puri/Konark. This little village is renowned for its applique handicrafts. Chatting up with a local store caretaker I learnt that the products in his shop have been made by a women’s cooperative group. This group however is slowly fading away as 50% of its members no longer engage in handicrafts anymore and the other half make do with what they have whenever they can. I met with one of the members – she was an old woman with a welcoming smile on her face. She sat quietly on a chair in the corner – much like the craft itself it seemed to me. The caretaker mentioned to me how mechanization of handicrafts had sounded the death knell for many local artisans who rely on this and this alone to earn some money.

At Pipili

For a small town, this is pretty much where the main road both begins and ends -- Pipili

 Chandipur beach: My time in Odisha also took me a little towards the north. That’s how I happened to stumble upon and read up about a rather interesting beach. Chandipur beach in Baleswar district is unique because the water retreats from 1 to 4 kilometers during the ebb tide. I’d witnessed a similar phenomenon in Daman when I’d been there a couple of years ago.
Chandipur Beach  #NoWaves #NoFilters

Birds adorning the foreground
It’s a delight waking up at 6 AM to walk along the beach with the waves almost nowhere in sight. I say this even though I barely qualify as a morning person! But where your eyes almost deceive you, your ears reassure you. The sound of the waves we associate with the beach can still be heard even though the waves are hard to spot. The beach is clean (or should I say cleaner than most). It makes for a beautiful walk – a walk of solitude if I may say so. The sight of birds flocking in to nibble off things that seemed invisible to my naked eye and fisher folk returning back (yeah, returning back at 6 AM!) with what the sea has been generous with are the only things you’ll have for company.

Train ride from Bhubaneswar to Kalahandi: As someone who seldom does any research prior to travelling simply because the thrill of being surprised by a place remains unmatched, I was vindicated yet again – this time by a train journey. The Bhawanipatna-Bhubaneswar Link Express via Rayagada is not just one of the most scenic train journeys but it’s also one that takes you through the real India. 
Give me this any day to be imprisoned by a cubicle 
Think of it as a jungle safari through a train because you can be assured to be flanked by hills and jungles as they make way for hamlets and fields in a very seamless manner. It’s the kind of stuff that would make you want to toss that book back into your bag just so that you can soak in the hills, the plains and the fields. 

If you've been to Odisha, I'd like to hear about the experiences you've indulged in in the comments below

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