Exploring Puri

Puri, in Odisha state, along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, is well known for its picturesque beaches, the Jagannath temple and the famous Rath Yatra. It is the gateway to Konark, home to the famous Sun Temple. Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneshwar form the Golden Triangle of Odisha. The city is famous amongst all age groups- the seniors have a religious connection with it as it is one of the Char Dhams or abodes of Gods, viz., Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameshwaram, and Puri. Youngsters and family crowds flock to its beaches for water sports and some fun in the sea. So, for most families, it is a sought-after destination for a mix of spirituality, leisure, cultural heritage and shopping. Read on to know how we went about exploring Puri.

Arriving in Puri

After spending two days in Bhubaneshwar, we leave by 2 pm for Puri. En route, we stop at Pipli and Raghurajpur, the famous art villages of Odisha. There is a separate article on these villages, which you can read here. It is late in the evening by the time we arrive in Puri. We check into our hotel and grab a light dinner at a café facing the beach. The following day, after breakfast we begin exploring Puri.

Sri Gour Vihar Ashram/Mata Matha

We drive on a rough road to the Mata Matha. Most visitors and devotees visit this ashram before paying their respects at the Jagannath Temple. This 150-year-old temple has an ensemble of sculptures of several deities, gods, and goddesses. There are long queues to enter the ashram, and the place buzzes with pilgrims and visitors.

Mata Matha @Rafiq Somani

Swarg Dwar

We next head to the Swarg Dwar, which, when translated into English, means ‘Gateway to Heaven’. It is a crematorium where the funeral pyres never cease burning. The faithful believe that it is best to end one’s life in a holy place like Puri as one can achieve moksha or salvation as the gateway to heaven is open. Several funeral pyres are burning, and the place can be a little overwhelming for those faint at heart.

Swarg Dwar @Rafiq Somani

Puri Beach

The Puri beach is where families flock for leisure and relaxation. The sun, sand and surf make for a perfect holiday at the beach. We see families enjoying camel rides, building sand castles, and swimming while others relax under beach umbrellas. There are kiosks selling coconuts, tea and refreshments. The adventurous are having an adrenaline rush with water sports like jet ski riding, ATV rides and speed boating. Fisherman with their fishing nets and boats are another thing you will notice here. The road parallel to the beach has budget hotels and shops selling sweets, handlooms and other paraphernalia. The night shopping at the beach in Puri is very popular.

Tourists enjoying Camel Ride and Frolicking and Relaxing on Puri Beach @Rafiq Somani

Handloom and Khaja Sweet Shops near Puri Beach @Rafiq Somani

Jagannath Puri History

We next head to the prime attraction of Puri, the Jagannath Temple. Our driver, Pintu, narrates the history and details of the temple. Ananta Varman Chodaganga Deva, King of the Ganga dynasty, built the temple in the 10th century CE at the seashore of Puri. Jagannath means ‘Lord of the Universe’ and is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple is dedicated to the three siblings Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. Balabhadra is the elder brother, Balaram while Jagannath is the younger brother, Krishna. Subhadra is their youngest sister.

The Idols

Unlike other temples where the idols are made of either stone or metal, here, they are made of Neem tree logs known as ‘Daru.’ The idols with a large square-shaped head with prominent eyes are devoid of hands and feet. Every 12 years, the wooden deities are replaced by new ones on a day called Nabakalebara, meaning ‘new embodiment’.  

Lord Jagannath idols, photos and other items @Rafiq Somani

On the way to Jagannath Temple

Grant Road is a wide road that leads us to the temple complex. It is on this very street that the famous Ratha Yatra takes place. Pintu parks the car at the car park and we take a cycle rickshaw to the temple complex. The place is buzzing with shops and kiosks lining the street. Prasad in handwoven baskets, mini cane walking sticks, pictures and idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, conch shells, khaja sweets and other paraphernalia are all on sale. There are budget hotels dharmshalas, where the pilgrims stay. We alight close to the temple complex where there are long queues of the faithful waiting for a darshan.

Dharmshala and Stalls on way to Jagannath temple @Rafiq Somani

Stalls selling prasad and shells @Rafiq Somani

Jagannath Temple

The main temple in Kalinga architectural style is impressive. Within the temple complex are several temples, gardens and wells. In front of the Lion Gate, we can see the Aruna Stamba- a monolithic chlorite stone pillar with the idol of Aruna (Charioteer of the Sun) on the top. Originally, this pillar was originally at Konark Sun temple and was later moved here to its present location. Devotees fold their hands and make silent prayers. Still, others are clicking selfies with the temple background. We pay respects from the outside.

Chappan Bhog Prasad for Lord Jagannath

Lord Jagannath is offered a Chappan Bhog every day. ‘Bhog’ means the ‘food items’, and ‘Chappan’ means ’56’. This offering of 56 food items consists of rice dishes, vegetables, curries and sweets. After offerings to the deities, what is left is called the Maha prasad, which is purchased and eaten by the faithful. 

Jagannath Puri Yatra

The Rath-Yatra or Chariot festival takes place every year for nine days in June and July (Ashadha Month). The deities travel by three separate chariots on the road, pulled by thousands of devotees. A sea of humanity assembles to witness this grand celebration. The deities go to Gundecha Temple for seven days. On the last day they return to the Jagannath Temple.

Gundecha Temple and Mausi Maa Temple

We head back to our car. Our driver, Pintu, next takes us to the Gundecha Temple, where the deities rest for seven days of the Rath Yatra Festival. We also visit the Mausi Maa Temple, or Maternal Aunt’s Temple, where the three deities stop for a while on their return journey, and Poda Pitha or pancake is offered to them. 

Gundecha Temple @Rafiq Somani

Mausi Maa Temple @Rafiq Somani

Bedi Hanuman Temple

Next, we head to the Bedi Hanuman Temple, which in English, means ‘Chained Hanuman.’ It is also called Daria Mahavir Temple. Pintu, our driver, narrates the story behind this temple. The temple was built near the sea to protect Puri city from the sea’s fury. But when the Jagannath Temple was constructed, Varuna, the God of the Sea, wanted to pay his respects and entered the city. The city and Jagannath temple were flooded, causing immense hardship to the locals. When Lord Jagannath got to know of this, he questioned Hanuman about how the sea had entered Puri. Lord Hanuman explained that he was not present at the time and had left for Ayodhya. Lord Jagannath tied Hanuman’s hands and feet with rope and ordered him to keep a vigil over Puri. Since Hanuman’s limbs were tied with rope, he is known as Bedi Hanuman.

Bedi hanuman Temple @Rafiq Somani

Blue Flag Beach/Golden Sea Beach

After visiting the temple, we head to the Blue Flag Beach/Golden Sea Beach. It is the cleanest and best-kept beach in Puri. Blue Flag is a certification awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). If a beach gets this certification, it has met the organisation’s standards for water quality, safety and other parameters. We purchase entry tickets and access the beach. Lounging chairs with umbrellas can be rented by the hour. The beach is clean, with signages and amenities like toilets, drinking water, and changing rooms. Since there is an entry fee, the beach is less crowded and free of litter and stalls. Seeing the waters and sands are clean and sparkling is a pleasure.

Ramchandi Temple

We next proceed towards Konark and stop at the Ramchandi Temple on the banks of the Kusbhadra River, which merges into the Bay of Bengal. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Ramchandi, who some believe is the deity of Konark, while others think it is Mayadevi, wife of Sorya.

As we enter the temple complex, we see shops with stoves, utensils and other paraphernalia. Pintu, our driver, explains that these items are available for rent to families who like to have a day-long picnic here. The place is buzzing with families who have come to pay respects at the temple and have fun picnicking on the beach.

Entrance of Ramchandi Temple @Rafiq Somani

A massive tree near the temple has red cloth pieces tied around it. As we enter the temple, we see faithful lighting lamps and praying. Prasad is being prepared and served. Colourful flower baskets as offerings to the Goddess are being sold. We can see the Goddess in the inner sanctum. On the right we see the Dasa Mahavidyas, or Ten Goddesses, manifestations of the divine mother.

Flower Baskets and Faithful lighting diyas at Ramchandi Temple @Rafiq Somani

Prasad distribution and Dasha Mahavidya at Ramchandi Temple @Rafiq Somani

Chandrabhaga Beach

Next, we head to Chandrabhaga Beach, venue for the famous Puri Sand Art Festival. Come December, scores of artists and tourists head to the beach in Puri for the world-renowned Sand Art Festival. The beach is clean with azure blue waters. We see families swimming and enjoying at the beach. There are kiosks selling shells, toys made with coconut fibre, handwoven mats and numerous other knick knacks. Water sports like ATV rides are available. 

Stalls selling handicrafts at Chandrabhaga Beach @Rafiq Somani

 Closing Remarks

Puri, with its ancient temples, rich cultural heritage and sandy beaches, is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Because of the array of attractions, it has to offer, Puri is popular with all age groups. Spirituality, history, picturesque beaches, and proximity to Bhubaneshwar and Konark make Puri popular among travellers.

We next headed to Konark. Do read the blog here.


Nearest Airport: Puri does not have an airport. The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar Biju Patnaik International Airport, with connectivity to major cities in India.


Puri-Bhubaneshwar: 60 km or 1 hour 15 mins.

Puri- Konark: 37km or 1 hour.

Puri-Raghurajpur: 10 km or 25 mins.

Where to stay: You can do a net search for hotels depending on budget and comfort.  

Travel Tip: The timings of Jagannath Puri Temple are 5:30 am to 9 pm. It can get very crowded so please be prepared to stand in queues. Entry is restricted for Non-Hindus and foreigners inside Jagannath Temple. Before entering the temple, you must leave behind cameras, phones, and leather items. Deposit counters at the temple entrance and even nearby shops offer lockers for safekeeping.

Odisha Driver: Pintu-7978630261. He was not just our driver but also unofficial guide explaining the details of the monuments/places and narratives behind them.