Magic By The Sea
Harmony - Celebrate Age|December 2017

From Lord Jagannath to oceanside beauty and green initiatives, Braja Sorensen uncovers the many layers of Puri.

Braja Sorensen

We all have places we go to at certain times of the year, or have holidays earmarked for a particular season or festival time. With Puri, Orissa, the first thing that comes to mind is the annual Festival of the Chariots, the Ratha Yatra, when millions from all over India and the world gather to welcome the Lord of the Universe. It’s always a magical time. But after four visits to Puri in the past 10 months, I can soundly report that any time is a good time to visit this coastal city.

The light and oceanside beauty is the first mystical element that strikes you upon arrival. Waking on the ocean and watching the sun rise and splash the ocean in a rainbow of colours is an experience in itself. Nothing can match the perfect haze-meets-light mixture; the mist over the water as the sun rises; the inexplicable way the ocean can look like a Caribbean tropical isle and not the blue-grey ocean of Orissa. For one magic hour of dawn, the light falls in spectacular ray perfection, and Puri is bathed in a golden-orange light as it wakes.

I was stunned and grateful: as an Aussie girl born on the beach, I long for the sound of waves, the smell of the ocean, and the feel of sand beneath my feet. And Puri never fails to satisfy not only those longings of the child within but those of my mind, heart, and soul: because Jagannath is without doubt the wielder of the magic that happens here.

I’ve been coming to Puri for years, for short stays and long, and usually in January, when the cold chill of Mayapur, West Bengal (where I live), has me longing for the sand and ocean, the warm sun in my bones, and the sense of holiday that a beach—any beach—has the power to cover you with like a veil. There is a peacefulness that surrounds oceanside locations, whether there are crowds of families playing, swimming or lounging on the beach, or an empty stretch pre-dawn; the sense of peace and downtime is more powerful when the ocean is overseeing everything. A favourite area in Puri is the Fishermen’s Beach, down the end of Cakra Tirtha Road, during the early morning hours. Boats dot the ocean waters under the enormously artistic rise of the orange sun; multicoloured fishermen’s boats land on the sands by 6.30 am with their first catch, and, throughout the day, discarded after their work is done, fishing boats lean elegantly and lazily in the sun, waiting for their day to begin again.

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