Historically, Puri has witnessed 18 invasions over the time by both domestic and foreign invaders and all of those had left subtle traces to its way of life. Once a summer residence of British India (eastern province), the place had been a traditional tourism hot-spot for Indian riches; many of them even set up their temporary home here. You can see old, deserted houses still bearing the sign of their once tranquil lifestyle in a seaside town with golden beaches.
It hardly matters whether you have a certain religious belief or not to visit Puri; the town can offer much more to your curious mind that of a traveler. Its diverse and vibrant living culture and the unparalleled architectural legacy will impress you for certain. Narrow lanes, old (and, at times, in virtual ruins) buildings, noisy market, sound of temple bells, and areas dotted with uncountable number of shrines representing different religious beliefs provide a miniature glimpse of India in its own unique form.
In Konark—a short distance from here—there stands the massive Sun Temple with its mesmerizing glory and jaw-dropping architecture. In many parts, the temple has been damaged by natural and human-inflicted causes; but even then, the temple—conceived as the cosmic chariot of the Sun god—is a must-see attraction in this part of the world. Its history is a complicated amalgam of fact, fiction, and legend, and its religious and secular imagery are both intriguing and thought-provoking. While returning, have a brief stop at Chandrabhaga river confluence to see the sunset. You will be happy to have a brief culinary tour before leaving Puri—visit local markets lined up with shops catering mouth-watering delicacies for which the place is distinctively known for among travel enthusiasts.
Suggestion: Pick your 6-hour day tour
An early start from your accommodation (it can be either from Bhubaneswar or Puri) and head toward the Sun Temple in Konark. European settlers used to refer it as Black Pagoda to distinguish it from the whitewashed Jagannath Temple in Puri. Its exquisite and intricate architecture and sculptures during sunrise have a numbing effect on your mind; I would recommend that you have a prior reading on its architecture and eminent art works. ‘The Sun Temple of Konark' by Anil Dey is a seminal work on this subject and a good read with an impressive number of sketches images. Current state of the temple under constant restoration and maintenance may disappoint a little, but even then, this ancient structure from the Golden Era of Orissa art intrigues visitors from all other the world.
After visiting the temple, your next destination would be Pipli artist village. Local people from this area traditionally produce applique art—a process of cutting colored cloths in various shapes of living things and gods and goddesses and other decorative motifs and stitching them over a piece of cloth. My personal favorite is an array of very bright and colorful lampshades which come in different sizes and brighten up your sitting room while hanging from ceiling. You will head back to your accommodation after completion of the tour.
This tour-day or any day in Puri during your stay can be dotted with taking a dash of local cuisine. The place is known for its mega collection of fish dishes. It is worth to indulge in a gastronomic tour, but please do not throw caution about hygiene in the wind and be safe.
There are several other significant architectural beauties and historical monuments around in this coastal part of India. All can be part of your trip in case you have few days in hand for touring. We can talk about those in another travel-tips article.