The Bay of Bengal and countless devotees flocking the place for a purification dip are the synonyms to the Puri Beach. The beach has continued to be a sacred venue for an endless number of pilgrims coming to pay homage to Lord Jagannath.
With the annual Beach Festival taking place in November, the beach has now become a favorite haunt of both Indian and foreign beach lovers. Located at a mere distance of 35 kms from the Sun Temple and 65 kms from Bhubaneshwar, the beach is an ideal place for an introvert holiday maker for the scarcity of crowd here.
The beaches of Puri are also renowned for the sand sculptures created particularly by the internationally famed Sudarshan Patnaik. The subjects are generally inspired by sculptures covering the temple walls, characters and episodes from the mythology and also the contemporary events. An entire beach stretch can be completely yours given the immense number of beaches in Odisha (Orissa) and a comparatively lower number of fun lovers, the city being a popular pilgrimage point for Indians.
The beach at Puri offers a unique opportunity to witness the striking sunrise and the sunset on the same beach. Often crowded with holiday makers bathing in the afternoon, and enjoying the brightly lit kiosks in the night, the stretches, parallel to the main Marine Drive Road, form the domain of the domestic tourists, with a row of hotels, food stalls and kiosks selling souvenirs.
A comparatively clean and quite place for sunbathing and a relaxed swim can be found at the eastern end. Local fishermen easily distinguishable by their triangular straw hats and dhotis serve as lifeguards on the beach, and take visitors out to sea in their boats to watch the sunsets. On the Chakratirtha side, the long stretch of golden sand is more tranquil and pleasant place to stroll. Take enough precaution while swimming as the currents can be treacherous in Puri.
In Odisha, if you ask anyone to name a beach, invariably the first name that will be uttered is Puri. There are many reasons for this distinction. This beach, generally revered as Mahodadhi by the devout, is an integral part of the temple city and the Jagannath culture. Since Puri happens to be a centre for pilgrimage, the town and beach record the highest number of visitors. Its close proximity to the state capital and other conveniences makes it the most favoured beach destination in the state.
The beach has its many moods – early mornings are calm, and as the day progresses, the activities increase and evenings are the noisiest when the beach assumes the ambience of a mela ground. Children enjoying horse/ camel rides, shrill call of vendors, pavement shops, all join the cacophony of crashing breakers. Day time is ideal for bathing, but Puri beach is not recommended for swimming. One can take the assistance of nolias (fishermen doubling as life guards) while bathing. Men can take a relaxing massage from the many masseurs who frequent the beach. Not to be missed here are the beach favourites – jhalmurhi (puffed rice), samosas and rosgollas. Besides there are carts that sell the day’s catch – golden fried fish, prawns and crabs.
Interestingly, the Puri beach is also a venue for many cultural activities. During the annual Puri beach festival, one can enjoy music and dance programmes here. Sand art carvings can be seen throughout the year. On certain auspicious days, one can witness the ritual samudra arti performed by religious institutions. But if one is looking for quiet contemplations, move away from the main beach front towards the marine drive and you can surely find a solitary spot.