27 August, 2006

Land of Lord Jagannatha -- Puri

The railway station plan indicated the tourist information office to the left. There was a single room to the left that was being renovated. A gentle man told us that the tourist office was to the left of the exit gate. We walked out of the exit gate and were disappointed to see the office closed. The office was closed on account of Independence Day. We enquired at the book stall for the city tourist map. We weren’t lucky enough to find one. We asked them the direction to the youth hostel. It was about half a Km to the left from the railway station. We walked to the youth hostel and checked in.

“Art of Living” foundation had arranged for an advanced course in the hostel and there were several people attending it. That was proably the reason for the hostel being crowded. We were given a double room whose balcony opened to the sea. We had just enough time to check in and change into appropriate dress to go to the temple. We asked the hostel in-charge for the appropriate fare to reach the temple and hired a cycle rickshaw. We were off to see the temple that I had long yearned to see. Though I am not a very religious person, I enjoy visiting temples.

Puri is also known as Sri Kshetra, Sankha Kshetra, Nilachala, Nilagiri, and Dashavatara Kshetra. Jagannatha has been described as the famous deity of Odra or Utkal. Sri Kshetra is famous throughout the world. It is said that, if one visits Jagannatha Puri dhama he will get the result of visiting all the tirthas. One who sees Jagannatha at Puri need not go to any other place for piligrimage.

The glory of Puri is described thus in Tantra Yamala:
Bharate cotkale dese bhusvarge purushottame
Darurupi Jagannatha Bhaktanamamya pradah

It is mentioned in Mahabharatha that Visvakarma performed a sacrifice. He gave the earth goddess as a present to rishi Ksyapa. The earth was so angry after being treated thus that she disappeared into the nether world. Kasyapa went through a period of penance after which the earth goddess appeared in the form of a “vedi” – platform, near the sea. It is said that the mortal who climbs on the platform becomes strong and powerful. This vedi (platform) of mahabharatha has been identified with the raised platform of the temple where Lord Jagannatha is enshrined.

Sankha Kshetra: This place is named after demon Sankhasura who was killed by Lord Vishnu. Sankhasura was formed from the sweat of demon Madhu. Vishnu killed Madhu when he was on the verge of killing Brahma. Sankhasura wanted to take revenge on Vishnu. He pleased Shiva by his penance and learned Tantra from him. While he was learning Tantra he could hear the recitation of veda. Rishi Yagnavalkya was learning Yajur veda from Brahma at the moment. Sankhasura wanted to learn the recitation and he asked Shiva for the source. Shiva instructed him to go to Brahma to learn the Vedamantra. But Brahma had already distributed the four Vedas among his disciples
Rig Veda – Madhu Chandra
Yajur Veda – Yagnyavalkya
Sama Veda – Goutama
Atharva Veda – Prahalada

So Brahma refused to teach him Vedamantra. Sankhasura was enraged and he took away the four Vedas from the disciples forcibly and hid them in the sea. Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of “Meenavatara” to search the demon in the sea. The demon hid in the Kalpa Vriksha inside the present temple. Lord Vishnu tried to kill the demon. The demon hid in a conch. Vishnu threw his disc to kill the demon. But the conch was so hard that the disc was thrown away to a place called “Chakra tirtha” due to the impact. Finally Vishnu killed the demon with his Brahmastra.

Shiva was furious to learn about the death of his disciple. The demi gods who had assembled to rejoice the death of Sankhasura pleased Shiva by singing “Vedasara Staba” (glories of Shiva). He requested Vishnu to name the place as Sankha kshetra after the name of Sankhasura. The proposal was accepted and the place was named as “sankha kshetra”.

From Purushottama to Jagannatha
Reference to Sri kshetra (abbreviation for Sri Purushottama Kshetra) is found in the accounts of a Chinese traveler t-tsing. It is believed that a region in Burma was named after the famous sacred city. The popularity of the deity increased when Chodagangadeva constructed a grand temple.

Padau Yasya dharantariksham – akhilam nabhistu sarvva disha
Srotre netrayugam ravinduyugalam murddhapi va(cha) dyaur-asau
Prasadam purusottamasya nrupateh ko nama karttum kshamas
Tasyety-adyanrupair-upekshitamayam chakre tha gangeshvarah !!

Who can build a temple for purushottama whose feet are the earth and the entire space his naval.
Whose two ears are all directions,
Whose pair of eyes are the sun and the moon
And whose skull is the sky
So thinking this temple had been neglected by the previous kings,
But Gangeshvarah built it!!

Till the end of 12th C AD, the presiding deity of the sri kshetra was Sri Purushottama. During the period of Anangabhima III the muslims were already powerful on the frontier of Ganga kingdom and posed a danger. The regional hindu powers were also not united. Anangabhima attempted to safeguard the Ganga kingdom by the support of local religious force. For that purpose Purushottama was declared as Lord of the Ganga kingdom and the king himself became the deputy (rout) and ruled the kingdom on behalf of Lord Purushottama. The name was changed to Jagannatha to suit to different sections of religious belief as Buddhists, Jains, Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Saktas.

Memorable ride to Puri

We left Barkul at 8:10AM by auto. We asked the auto driver how long it would take to reach Balugaon railway station. He said it would take a little more than 20 minutes to reach the station. He also informed us that the next train to Puri was at 8:30AM. Just when I was thinking that we could reach the station at the right time, we had to wait for a couple of minutes at the railway crossing. Now the only way we could get the 8:30 AM train was, if the driver could drive in less than 20 minutes. He sped through the village. The children in the village school were participating in the Independence Day school parade.

We reached Balugaon station at 8:30 AM. It is a very small station with just a couple of platforms. We were made to run between the ticket counters to buy our tickets. We met a young lad in his early twenties who was well informed about the train timings. He assured us that the 8:30 AM train would never be on time and we could still get it. It generally arrives half an hour late. He told us to buy our tickets to Puri, board the train headed towards Khorda road and take another train to Puri. Accordingly, we purchased our tickets and sat on a cement bench waiting for our train. Slowly the time ticked by.

There was no sign of the train at 9:00 AM. The young lad walked up to us and reminded us that we had to change our train at Khorda road. We thanked him for his help and continued waiting for the train. We asked the station master when the train headed towards Khorda road would arrive on the platform. He told us that we could take the fast express instead of the passenger train that we were hoping to take. We crossed the foot bridge and went to the platform where the express train was expected. Just when the train arrival announcement was being made, I sighted a Blue Jay on the lamp post. I pulled out my camera and quickly photographed it.

Finally at 9:30 AM the train chugged into the station. We boarded one of the sleeper bogies. Since we had our tickets for the passenger express, we had to get it upgraded to a sleeper class ticket. I went across the length of the train a couple of times looking for the ticket inspector. A cool drinks vendor informed me that the inspector was in the pantry car having his breakfast and it would be a while before I could talk to him. I decided to go back to the compartment where Uma was comfortably seated and wait for the inspector.

The train reached Khorda road station at 10:55 AM. As soon as we got off the train we saw the Puri passenger train on the next platform. We got on the train only to find that it was overly crowded and there was hardly any place for us to stand comfortably. I stood in the aisle. Vendors walked up and down the aisle. Every time some one had to walk in the aisle, I had to move and give way. After a while I was annoyed as people would walk up and down the aisle for no particular reason.

After what seemed like eternity, the train slowly pulled out of the station. There was an elderly woman seated in the compartment who was curious to know our itinerary. She realized we were strangers and asked us if we were pilgrims headed to Jagannath mandir. She told us that leather belts, purse and watches wouldn’t be allowed in the temple premises. She warned us against taking cameras and mobile phones with cameras to the temple. Though she couldn’t speak Hindi very well, we managed to converse for a while. She then asked us if we were students or we worked. My friend replied that we were students studying in Bangalore University. Sometimes it is a good idea to conceal your true identity from strangers if you are traveling alone. She then asked us where we would be staying in Puri. We told her that we would be staying with friends and she assumed that we would be staying in the hostel with friends. Since she presumed we would be visiting Puri with friends she didn’t advise us further. She also told us that the fast express to Puri had been cancelled following the floods in Ahmedabad. The only express train that probably passes through this station is the train from Ahmedabad. But surely there should be express trains from other parts of the country?!

After shuffling on my feet for about an hour I sat on the overhead luggage shelf:). A man seated there until then got off the train. I grabbed the opportunity and occupied the seat that he had vacated.

I invited my friend to join me as there was sufficient place for both of us. She passed my offer. She stood for a little while after that. Few people got off at one of the major stations and she found a place to sit. I got down as well and occupied the vacant seat beside the window.

The train was expected to reach Puri by 12:30 PM. It was one of those journeys that never seemed to end. There were lot of people on train and at times the stench of sweat was unbearable. Since it had rained, the floor of the train was wet too. The train was now inching forward. Few people got off the train and preferred to walk on the tracks. We reached “sakhi Gopal” station (also referred to as "Sakshi Gopal") and one of the passengers asked us if we were planning to visit the “Sakhi Gopal” temple. I told him that we intended to visit only the temples in Bhubaneswar.
He exclaimed “Aren’t you going to Sakhi Gopal? Then your visit to Bhubaneswar isn’t worth it!”
I replied “well... we are here to visit the Jagannath Mandir and all other temples are only of secondary importance to us.”

We didn’t hear any other smart advices from him again. We reached Puri station at about 12:50 PM. We bid good bye to the lady who had given us all the advices that she thought would help us while we were at Puri and walked towards the exit gate looking out for the tourist information counter.

24 August, 2006

Chilka Lake -- Barkul

The bus from Gopalpur to Berhampur would halt every few yards and wait for people to board. The driver, conductor, or the people seemed to be in no hurry to reach their destination. We stopped in a small village market. Sea food is quite popular in this part of the state. Tribal women were selling prawns, fish and crabs in the market. The smell of fish was quite strong and it was rather too revolting. Uma got off the bus to call her parents. I sat there listening to some old Hindi movie songs of the 80s, that were playing on the music system of the bus. I had been hearing only songs sung by Himesh Reshammiya since we had reached Orissa and this was a welcome change! The bus took about an hour and a half to reach the old bus stand at Berhampur (just 16Kms away!).

On reaching, we were disappointed to learn that all the private tour operators had joined in the strike (“indefinite”) and we were once again standing there with no means to reach Barkul. Just then a young man in track pants asked us where we were headed. He was probably returning after his morning exercise. We told him we had to go to Barkul and he suggested we take a private bus. We then asked a few locals how we could reach Barkul. Almost instantaneously people would ask us “Chilika Barkul?” as though there were two places in the state by the same name. A few of them suggested that we take the bus headed towards Rambha get off at “Kalighat” and then take another bus to Barkul. By then a bus going toward Rambha stopped there and the conductor assured that Barkul was just about 10 Kms from “Kalighat”. We should have known better than to believe the conductor. We got on the bus and stuffed our heavy bags in the overhead baggage shelf, and sat on the not-so comfortable seats. I asked a couple of men on bus how far Barkul really was from “Kalighat”. Two men on the bus who seemed to be well informed told us that Barkul was about 20 – 30 Kms from Kalighat. By then the bus had crossed the old bus stand.

The young man in tracks (I prefer to call him the “jogger”) came on his bike looking for us. He was indeed a good man who had returned to inform us that the bus that we were taking wouldn’t go anywhere near Barkul. He told us to take the government bus instead. So we got off the bus again and with the heavy bags on our back began the trek back to the old bus stand.

The “jogger” came looking for us again and told us that there was an OSRTC bus that would leave Berhampur at 11:30 AM. He had also talked to the conductor and requested him to drop us off near Barkul gate (whatever that meant!). He introduced us to the conductor and also the OSRTC officer who told us that we could come back at 11:30 AM and board a bus that would leave from the old bus stand. He also gave us the registration number of the bus that I now have forgotten. It was just about 9:00 AM and we had lot of time on hand to kill.

We went to Nandan hotel and had our breakfast. While paying our bill at the reception, I asked the cashier if we could hire a taxi to Barkul. The cashier (could have even been the manager of the hotel) called up a taxi driver and after talking to him, informed us that we would have to cough up 800/- Rs. This did not appeal to us and we thanked him and left the hotel. It was just about 9:40AM and we had to spend time till 11:30. We strolled past the old bus stand and enquired at a nearby travel agency if we could get a taxi to Barkul. Since the taxi operators too had joined in the strike, the watchman told us that the office was closed. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, we stood in front of the travel agency waiting for the bus. By then the watchman walked over to the taxi stand and returned with another man who seemed to be a driver. The man walked up to us and asked if we were looking for a taxi. When we said, we were; he said it would cost us 700/- Rs. We refused to pay him the hefty amount and he walked away. By now, my legs were aching and we walked in to sit on the steps. It started drizzling and the watchman invited us into the office. We went in and sat in the office, but something didn’t feel right. So we walked out of the office again and sat on the stairs. Another man (taxi driver) walked up to us and asked us how much we were willing to pay. He was willing to take us to Barkul for 500/- Rs. He asked us if he could take another two people with us in the taxi. We were not comfortable with the idea and so we refused to take the taxi.

It didn’t seem like a good idea to sit in front of the office anymore. So we walked into an STD booth opposite the bus stand. I first called the manager of Barkul Panthnivas and asked him if it would be a good idea to take a train to Balugaon. He informed that Barkul was just about 8Kms from Balugaon station and we could get an auto from the station. I then called the railway enquiry and found out that the next train to Balugaon was at 12:00 PM and it would take about an hour to reach the station. I preferred to travel by train where as uma was against the idea. She wanted to take the bus. I was not very sure if we would reach Barkul in less than 2 hours. Reluctantly I waited with Uma at the bus stand for the bus. The bus came to the stand at about 11:00 but we weren’t allowed to board it. The conductor asked us to return by 11:30.

Where were we to sit and wait for the bus? We returned to the STD booth and asked the lady at the counter if we could sit there. She didn’t seem to mind. A young mother walked in with her daughter. We learnt that the little girl was Suhani and her elder sister was Simran. I exclaimed aloud that “Suhani” reminded me of Rani Mukherjee in “Saathiya” and the young girl’s mother smiled and confirmed that they had indeed named their daughters after watching two of the most popular bollywood movies. They had named their daughters after the lead women characters in movies “Saathiya” and “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”.

We saw a few people boarding the bus and decided it was time for us to get on the bus too! We walked up to the bus and asked the conductor if we could board the bus. The conductor told us we could, but we had to occupy seats 31 and 32. These seats were towards the rear end of the bus and I wasn’t sure how rugged the roads would be :(. But did we have a choice? The seat on which I was sitting had some foam missing in the centre and it was not going to be a comfortable ride. The bus finally left Berhampur at about 11:50AM.

The route the bus took was beautiful and I didn’t mind the uncomfortable seat anymore. The conductor finally announced that we were to get off. The bus stopped in front of a dhaba. We got off and walked straight. A signboard directed us to the right. We reached the crossroad where we had to turn right when a car (it probably was an Indica) stopped right beside us and the driver offered us to drop us at Panth nivas. That saved us a walk of about half a kilometer. The driver dropped us at the reception hall and we were finally at Barkul. We thanked the driver and proceed to check in.

We enquired about the package tours that OTDC offered to “Chilika Lake”. The manager informed us that the package tours were all cancelled as it was not the right time to visit Chilika and there weren’t many tourists at the time. He then told us we could hire a boat at 450/-Rs per hour and visit Kalijai Island, Nalbana Island, Rajhans island and sea mouth. We realized it would take us at least 8hrs to cover all the islands. We checked into our room and decided to visit only Kalijai, Nalbana and Rajhans. This would take us about 3Hrs and we would be satisfied watching the palace from the lake as we wouldn’t be allowed to step on the island. We set off in our boat at 3:30PM towards Kalijai Island.

We watched panth nivas from the water. It is in a picturesque location. With Chilika lake on one side and the hills surrounding it on the other side, it is an ideal location for a romantic getaway.

Chilka served as a flourishing port even during the days of the emperor Ashoka. It was the link to other South-East Asian nations such as Java, Sumatra, Indonesia, Borneo, Burma, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and also China. Manikpatna still has traces of that ancient port. The lagoon was probably created when the sea inundated the region, due to a depression on the earth’s crust. Vast areas were submerged and the water could not recede because of a barrier formed by the deposition of sand and other alluvial silts surrounding the water body. Myths and folklore, however, are woven into the fabric of Chilka. The lake lies to the north of Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath. Legend has it that around fourth century AD, invaders came by sea to raid the temples and seize their phenomenal wealth. The priests, being forewarned, cleverly hid the deity as well as the jewellery, thereby foiling the invaders’ plan. The enraged attackers turned to the sea. The sea initially receded, and then it suddenly surged forward and swallowed the army. When the sea receded once more, Chilka was born.

We sped in our motor boat for about half an hour and had our first glimpse of the Kalijai island. The Island of Kalijai is famous as a center of religious worship due to the temple of Goddess Kalijai where a big fair is held on the occasion of Makara Sankranti that falls in January every year

A legend talks about Goddess Kalijai, immortalized in poetry by one of the leading poets of Orissa, Godavari Mahapatra. The village maiden Kalijai was married off to an inhabitant of the distant island of Parikud against her wishes. While going to her new home, a storm whipped up the placid waters, capsizing the boat and Kalijai was swept away. The cyclone is said to have started at the mammu-Bhanaja mountain (or the uncle-nephew mountain calles so for the striking resemblance that the two mountains have with each other.) Her spirit is said to have hovered around the island. The heart-broken villagers renamed the island where she had lived as Kalijai, installed her idol in a temple and began worshipping her, praying for the safety of those who ventured out to the sea.

After offering our prayers at the temple, we told the boatman to take us to the island with the Raja’s palace on it. He said that the manager had only instructed him to take us to Kalijai island and then take us boating on the lake for about three hours and return to Barkul. We told him that we had hired the boat to visit Kalijai island, Rajhans and Nalbana island. After arguing for a while he turned the boat towards Rajhans. On reaching Rajhans, he told us that the islanders had spread their nets around the lake and so we couldn’t venture anywhere near the island. The manager at Panth Nivas had told us that the boat would take us round the island and we would be able to take pictures of the palace. But now, we were disappointed to learn that we would have to go by auto for about four and a half Kms to reach the palace. The manager at Panth Nivas had only informed us that we would be able to get off the boat and visit the palace. We were given an impression that we could view the palace from the boat. We were quite angry now for we felt cheated and so we instructed the boatman to talk to his manager on the walkie-talkie. He passed on the instrument to us and we expressed our anger. Since we were already almost an hour and a half away from panth nivas we were unsure as to what we had to do next. We instructed the boatman to take us to Nalbana island. He was visibly irritated. He probably wanted to return home soon. He told us that we wouldn’t be able to see even a single bird on the island. We asked him if we returned to Barkul immediately would we be refunded the last one hour’s amount. He said we had to pay for the full three hours as the receipt had already been issued. Since we were to pay for the last one hour, we decided we might as well go to Nalabana.
After traveling for about half an hour we asked the boatman how far the island was. He pointed to a watch tower and said that was Nalabana. We were expecting to see a little more than just a watch tower.

We couldn’t sight even a single bird :(. The island was submerged in water following the heavy rainfall the state had received. We only managed to sight a single nest on a lone tree. There was also a ticket booth that looked like a telephone booth :) from a distance.

By then it started drizzling and we had to return to Barkul. The boat rocked precariously in the strong winds. Uma had to shift to the other side of the boat to balance it. We had to hold on real tight. I was sitting at the center and the boat had spewed water on me generously all along. My dress was already wet and now the rain god was showering his blessings too! I didn’t have my raincoat on. I was literally shivering in the cold. Uma wasn’t very comfortable riding without a life jacket. I had to assure her that I had been on water in much worse weather conditions and we would safely reach the shore. Finally we reached the shore at 6:30 PM. The manager of Panth Nivas was standing there waiting for us, to probably find out why we sounded angry on the walkie-talkie. I was feeling cold and had to change into something warm as quickly as possible; else there was the risk of catching cold. Leaving the manager to talk to the boatman, we walked into our room.

We had our bath and changed into warm clothes. We then went to the reception desk to talk to the manager. The manager was probably expecting us. We then told him that we felt cheated as we could neither see the raja’s palace nor go round Rajhans island. He tried to tell us that the package tour was generally only to Kalijai island and Nalabana island, and that he had done us a favor by adding on Rajhans island. I tried explaining the situation to another panth nivas officer who happened to be there at that time. He agreed with us that the manager had not given us complete details. After arguing with the manager for an hour, he finally cancelled the receipt that he had issued and charged us for two hours instead. With the money refunded, we went over to the dining hall and had our dinner.
The next morning we woke up early to watch the life on Chilka. Our room was beside the lake and it was a pretty sight from the balcony. I enjoyed the view for a while. Once there was sufficient day light we took our camera and Handy cam and walked towards the lake. It was August 15th; the day India got her independence. We sang a few patriotic songs and hummed a couple more.

The fishermen were already at work. They were setting their nets to catch the fish. It was a delight watching the serene lake. We sat by the lake for an hour watching the fishermen. One of them even offered to take us on his boat to see a nearby island. I sat looking at the rising sun in the horizon wishing that the clock stopped ticking. Life here seemed to be nothing more than fishing. The cool breeze against the face, the sound of water and the melodious calls of the birds made me wonder why life couldn’t be this beautiful every day. Some birds were hovering around the nets hoping to get their free share of food.

I couldn’t have enough of Chilka lake in one day. I was disappointed that we couldn’t visit Satpada to see the Irrawady dolphins. My next trip to Orissa will be to Phulbani and Khoraput which will include Chilka lake even if it is just for a day during the winter season to see the birds and the dolphins.

20 August, 2006


We reached Berhampur at 12:35 AM on 13th August 2006. Our first destination was Gopalpur On Sea that is at a distance of 16 Kms from Berhampur (Also referred to as Brahmapur). The station was small but clean. We decided to spend the night in the second class waiting room and then proceed to Gopalpur at day break. The second class ladies’ waiting room had a few cement benches but there were only male occupants. We saw a police man on the platform and informed him that were only men in the ladies’ waiting room and expressed our apprehension about spending the night there. He politely directed us to the first class waiting room and told us to spend the night there instead. We paid five rupees to the lady at the door and went into the waiting room. A few women were already sleeping there. There was a single cot and a stout woman had occupied it. A young girl of about 17 years had placed a few chairs together and was resting on them. There was a huge circular table at the centre of the room and a few wooden chairs were placed around it.

There were a few chairs placed against the wall and we stretched ourselves on them. Though it wasn’t very comfortable, we were too tired to complain. Uma fell asleep within a few minutes while I was finding it very difficult to sleep. There were three women in the room who were very loud. I requested them twice to lower their voice but it didn’t have any effect on them. To add to this, two men who seemed to be related to one of the women would walk in every few minutes and I was noticeably irritated. But this didn’t affect the men in the least. They walked in whenever they felt like. Finally at about 5:30AM we woke up, had our bath and got dressed. The water in the bathroom was cold but I had no choice. We left the station at 6:30 AM. The ticket collector at the gate was surprised to see that we had arrived at 12:30 AM and were leaving the station at 6:30AM. He probably was wondering what we were doing for about six hours in the station.

We had to take a private bus to Gopalpur from the old bus stand. After walking for about five minutes we asked a passerby how far we had to walk to reach the bus stand. He informed us that it would take us just about another five minutes. We walked for about half a km and then asked another passerby how long it would be before we could reach the bus stand. He informed us it would take us another five minutes! People in Orissa seem to be fond of the number five! We hired a cycle rickshaw which later seemed to be a good idea as the old bus stand was far away from the railway station. We took a bus to Gopalpur and it took about an hour to cover just 16Kms!!!

Gopalpur is a sleepy little village. Gopalpur got its name from an 18th century temple dedicated to Krishna (Gopala). Once a prominent trading sea-port, during the British Raj, Gopalpur has transformed into a quiet and relaxed place. The crumbling walls and pillars of the harbor, are a witness to its past glory of commercial activity. It has been growing into one of India’s prettiest beach resorts.

Fortunately it wasn’t raining here though it was raining heavily in the other parts of Orissa at the time. It was a bright and sunny day though at times the sky looked a bit clouded. We asked the conductor on the bus to direct us to the youth hostel and were informed to walk straight and we would sight the youth hostel.

There is a pretty little mosque (or was it a madrasa?!) on the way to the hostel. There was also a twin storied building that was in ruins. It could have been a British office as Gopalpur was an important port during the British rule. It reminded me of the old building in the movie “Nagina”…

We passed the old youth hostel on the way to the new youth hostel. It looked like it would crumble any time. We had seen the photo of the new youth hostel on the internet but were still unsure how good the building would be. On arriving at the new youth hostel, we were glad that it was a nice little place situated right beside the sea. We were allotted a double room that looked very comfortable. We checked into the youth hostel and returned to Berhampur to take the bus to our next destination Tara-Tarini and Jaugadh.

On reaching Berhampur we found out that the private buses weren’t plying as the union was on strike. A tourist operator informed us that it was an attempt to depose the travel minister. Surprisingly, the only means of communication in Orissa is private buses. The government buses do not ply to even the places that are popular with the tourists. One of the tourist operators informed us that there was a bus to Bhairavi and we could go there instead as there were more temples in Bhairavi as compared to Tara-Tarini. We decided to take the bus to Bhairavi but then within few minutes all the bus operators joined the strike and so we had no option but to return to Gopalpur . We returned to the hostel and since we were tired, we slept until 5:00 PM. I had read that there was a good light house where we could spend about two hours enjoying the picturesque island. The warden at the hostel informed us that the light house would close to the visitors at 5:30PM. We were a little disappointed as we realized we would probably not be able to reach the light house before it closed. We walked briskly and reached the light house at 5:35PM. We were now only hoping that we wouldn’t be sent away without being allowed to climb the light house. We reluctantly went in and enquired if we could go up and watch. The three men at the ticket counter said we could. This was the first good thing that happened to us since we had arrived at Gopalpur. We paid the nominal entry fee of five rupees and climbed the stairs. It is a pity that we are not allowed to carry our camera with us to photograph the beautiful island. We watched the island from the top of the light house for about 20 minutes and then decided to play in the sea.

It was a wonderful evening and there were a lot of people at the beach. We walked on the shore for sometime and ate ‘chana masala’. It was turning dark and we felt it would be a good idea to return to the hostel before it turned completely dark. We had vegetarian chowmeen in a restaurant and returned to the hostel. I watched the light house from our hostel room for sometime and then fell asleep.

After a good night’s sleep we were all set to go to Barkul. The tour operator had informed us the day before that a private bus would leave to Barkul at 8:30AM. We checked out of the hostel at 7:00AM and took the bus to Berhampur.