Puri and the Indian contradiction
Puri, a small, spiritual beachside town in the eastern Indian state of Odissa has been a relaxing haven for me for the past week. I’ve enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, listening to the noise of the fishing village over the fence and waking up to fresh fruit salad covered in freshly shaved coconut. In summary, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of nothing, but that seems to be the general state of affairs with all travellers here.
The main attraction of the area is the Sun Temple at Konark (pictured at top). The thirteenth century, Unesco heritage listed temple is about 35km from Puri and is well worth the day trip. We hired a motorbike (someone else drove it – don’t worry) and headed out, the almost deserted beaches and small butted villages along they way make the drive it’s own pleasure.
The temple, which is built as a chariot, pulled by 7 heavenly horses is covered in beautifully intricate carvings. There is a lot of symbolism behind all the carvings and design – best explained by Wikipedia if you are interested.
The contradiction of Puri and India in general for me is the mix of absolute beauty, with many things that are not so beautiful. I could easily write a story painting Puri as a lovely beach paradise, but similarly to what I wrote about Varanasi, it would only be half the truth.
The fishing village on the shore of the sea, right outside my hotel is a picture of beautifully coloured boats and women in bright saris, carrying around large baskets of fish on their heads. However if you take a walk in that direction along the beach front you realise that it is also the town lavatory and your idyllic sunset walk also involves sidestepping faeces and the occasional spotting of a dead dog – due to a high population of underfed stray dogs in the area.
I am not writing the above as a criticism, but as what the reality is right here. India is beautiful and dirty, welcoming and scary, relaxed and intense, and it’s all these things at the same time. For me coming to Puri has served the purpose of letting me relax, get out of the pollution and get over my damn cold. I like it here.