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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Monday, 18 April 2011

April 18th: Bhubaneswar in Eastern India

On April 18th 1982 I was in Bhubaneswar in Eastern India.  As the capital of Orissa and an interesting temple town, Bhubaneswar should have had more tourists, but I didn't see other foreigners and, although I had arrived from Konarak on a "tourist bus", there weren't that many Indian tourists or pilgrims.  It was a pleasant place with the temples, often a thousand years old, laid out in the separate, garden-like  Old Town.

As so often, the most famous temple, the Lingaraj, was closed to foreigners, but it looked spectacular and huge from a distance and there were few places in the old town where it didn't sit in the backdrop.  However there were plenty of other temples to admire.  I liked most the Vaital Deul temple, built in 800AD, finding the Chamunda image special, the misshapen outline etched in white so you saw it when you peered through the darkness into the shrine; there was also an emaciated Bhaisava, the male form of Chamunda.  After a walk the next morning I wrote this:
Bhubaneswar Temple:  My Picture
It was after 7.30am when I started walking along Lewis Road to the old town.  I went first to the Rajarani temple, had a good look at that and its fine carvings; then got a lift in a lorry to the Brahmeshvara temple which had a pretty setting on the edge of town, good architecture and a stunning lingam that is still worshipped, the priest gave me a flower offering.  Then I walked back to look again at the Muktenara temple, one of the finest, red stonework, small-sized with good sculpture, a well and a gateway arch.  Finally of the famous temples I looked at the Parasumesvara temple, the oldest and very fine, more static sculpture but remarkable compared to the old temples of Tamil Nadu.  The back lane to the tank was charming.  Then I saw the Vishnu Anantavesudeva temple which was interesting for its active kitchen and offering hall, it's supposed to be a smaller Vishnu version of the Lingaraj.  Finally I sat at the tankside having chai.  
I visited Bhubaneswar and Konarak as a side trip from Puri, but it took me a long time to get anything much out of Puri.  I stayed in a section of town which seemed to be reserved for the cheap travellers which was not what I wanted.  There was a beach for swimming which was what the cheap travellers wanted but it was a strange affair with deserted buildings, houses and temples rising out of the sand, and hustlers among the fishermen.  The waves were strong but they pushed you towards the beach. 

Finally I made a new approach to the famous Jagannath temple, finished in the twelfth century, and wandered around the surrounding streets.  I wrote this afterwards:
By Jagannath Temple:  My picture
I was taken by a talkative old man for a platform view of the temple.  The main thing I noticed was some carving on the outside of the main tower which seemed original.  He pointed out the main buildings which I don't remember, and told me a story about the foundation and raison d'etre for the temple, relating to Krishna, it's a Vaishnavite place.  We looked from the top storey of a Brahmin's house, as the "monastery" was locked upstairs.  Then I wandered through the old streets behind, which was pure old India, reminding me of Kanchee more than anywhere.  Brahmins sitting on their verandahs with colourful, mainly Jagannathy paintings on the whitewash.  People friendly, the dogs not always so.  One house had a fine carved sandstone facade, carved pigeons mingling with the real ones.  There was a festival for Hanuman, with activity around all the Hanuman shrines, especially a big one where there is a twelve foot high Hanuman beside one of the gates of the temple.  And at one of the local temples there were fairy lights and disco film music.
Bhubaneswar Temple:  My picture
Bhubaneswar:  My picture
Bhubaneswar Temple:  My picture
Beach at Puri:  My picture

Puri:  My picture

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