Saturday, December 30, 2017

Travelogue: Bhubaneswar

I would like to share a news with whoever reads our blog. Me and my Superpartner will be parents (hopefully) by the end of next March or early April, so I’m warning you readers that there might be some baby pictures here and there from now on Open-mouthed smile. 2018 hence is a year I’m looking forward to, maybe slightly overwhelmed. At the beginning of every year, just like everyone else, I do think of resolutions. Sometimes I’m not able to keep up to what is planned for a few months or even weeks and precisely the reason I stopped making resolutions last couple of years. But this year, I want to be back in the game and would like to regularly exercise and do yoga. Let’s see how it goes.

In the first week of this month, we travelled to a city named Bhubaneswar [BBS] which is the capital of an Indian state called Odisha. People travel to this part of the country to witness temples, monuments, beaches and country-sides. It was a short trip of 2 days. He was already there attending a conference at NISER and staying at the newly built IIT-BBS campus. We joined Him over the weekend.

We travelled by a day train on a Friday and reached BBS around 9PM. After a good night’s sleep and a nice breakfast, we started our road trip to twin hills named Khandagiri and Udayagiri. These hills are full of caves. These caves go back as early as 1st century AD and several Jain monks seemed to have meditated and lived in these caves. The caves are named after animals and royals – snake cave, elephant cave(s), queen cave, etc. to name a few. The highlights of these peaks were the white monkeys with black mouths [a species of langurs]. They stayed close to humans and asked for peanuts & bananas – two of the items sold around these peaks, esp. for them. These monkeys understood human gestures of yes / no / please wait a while. It was a delight to watch them cracking open peanuts and relishing the nuts.

Udayagiri

Khandagiri

Langurs 1

Langurs 2

Khandagiri has a beautiful Jain temple, the path to which consists of a flight of uneven stairs first and then a bunch of rocks. After feeding the monkeys and taking photographs, we moved to our next destination – Dhauligiri. This place is popular for its white peace pagoda where the main attraction is an idol of Buddha surrounded by several avatars of Buddha in a circle. Dhauligiri too is a tall peak and is abundant with greenery. This is also the place where the famous Kalinga war was fought and there is an edict of Ashoka. The pagoda apparently was built by the Japan Buddha Sangha in 1970 and we could locate at least a few boards with Chinese characters on them.

Buddha Idol at Dhauligiri

One of the pillars at Dhauligiri

After a climb at Dhauligiri, we shopped for some local handicrafts and spices. In the late afternoon, we travelled to Siddheswara and Rajarani temples. Unlike a typical Indian temple, Rajarani temple has no idol at present but the architecture is worth a visit. We were reminded of Hampi while visiting these temples and strangely we were meeting the same tourist couple in all these places that we visited since the morning. They definitely followed the same itinerary as us and at the last temple, we couldn’t stop laughing.

We went to Nandankanan Zoological Park on Day 2. The Safari was disappointing as we couldn’t spot any white tigers, which the place is actually famous for but instead spotted a lioness. The good part perhaps was that these animals were not being sedated like we felt in Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore. They were ready to be spotted in their designated areas which is a shame because in a safari, we are supposed to see animals in their natural habitat. After the jungle safari where we could locate a lioness, a bunch of dears, a couple of bears, Neelgais, etc., we roamed around the sections of the park spending significant amount of time in the reptiles section. The second day was pretty warm when compared to the first and we were pretty exhausted by 3PM.

Lioness

Turtles

Hippo

We stayed at Prangan by Mango Hotels, a place close to the Railway station and it turned out to be a pretty good experience with us also participating in a Sangeet function (one out of the many musical events organized during Indian weddings) happening in the ground floor of the hotel with loud bangs and thumps & cheery crowds. After that high decibel experience at the hotel, we left for our train trip back to Kolkata by an overnight train from BBS.