Jagannath Puri Ratha Yatra is an annual festival held at Puri in Odisha. It is said to be the oldest chariot festival in India and the world. The mention of the festival can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita. During the festival, three richly decorated chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Goddess Subhadra are pulled through the streets of Puri. The festival commemorates the siblings annual visit to their aunt’s temple Gundicha Temple. In 2019, the festival will be celebrated on July 4. The chariots are beautifully decorated with paints and motifs. The chariots, temples, and devotees make the festival a treat to the eyes. If you are visiting Puri for Jagannath Puri Ratha Yatra, then let us tell you that the place is powerpacked with several gorgeous places including beaches, temples and national parks, to name a few.
Here’s a look at 10 places in Puri that makes it your next holiday destination.
Konark Sun Temple
Konark Sun Temple is a 13th century temple dedicated to the Sun god which remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather there for the annual Chandrabhaga Mela in the month of February. It is believed that the temple was built from stone in the form of a giant ornamented chariot dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. The temple presents this iconography on a grand scale. It has 24 elaborately carved stone wheels which are nearly 12 feet in diameter and are pulled by a set of seven horses.
Chilika Lake is the located 50 kms from Puri, and is considered India’s largest water lagoon and the second largest coastal lagoon in the world. It is also said to be the largest ground for migratory birds in the Indian sub-continent and hosts over 160 species birds in the peak season. The lake is home to a number of species of plants and animals.
Odisha is where the ancient kingdom of Kalinga used to be. The temple is situated by the Daya river. The hills are popular for two things – Kalinga War and King Ashoka’s transformation to a Buddhist. There are several rock carvings and inscriptions, some of them are done by King Ashoka himself.
Known as the Garden House of Jagannath, the Gundicha temple is situated in the centre of a beautiful garden, surrounded by compound walls on all sides. The temple is built using light-grey sandstone. Except for the nine day Rath Yatra festival, the temple remains empty during the rest of the year.
The Puri beach hosts the annual Puri Beach Festival every year in the month of November and is flocked by Indian and foreign tourists alike. During the annual beach festival, it hosts a numerous sand art displays.
Odisha is home to a number of Buddhist sites. There are several monasteries, temples, shrines, stupas and sculptures all across Odisha.
Bhitarkanika National Park
Located in Kendrapara district in Odisha, Bhitarkanika National Park is surrounded by the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The park is home to salt water crocodile, Indian python, darters, king cobra and other species of flora and fauna. It also hosts a number of mangrove species and is considered the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India. The park also hosts over 200 species of migratory birds that comes to the region from Europe and Central Asia.
Nandan Kanan National Park
Another famous national park in Odisha is Nandan Kanan National Park. The park is home to a number of exotic animals and birds. The park is famous for its white tigers.
Raghurajpur Crafts Village
Raghurajpur Crafts Village is located 15kms from Puri and is home to over 100 craftsmen. These craftsmen are preserving the nine centuries old craft called ‘patachitra’ – the art of scroll painting on cloth. The artisans make their own brushes and colours. The artists are also known for palm leaf engravings, paper mache toys and wood carvings, to name a few.
Gahirmatha beach separates the Bhitarkanika mangroves from the Bay of Bengal and is considered the world's important nesting beach for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. It is the only marine wildlife sanctuary of Odisha. The nestling season is between December and April and sees over seven lakh turtles on the beach during the nesting season.