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A very happy festive season to all of you….

My readers must have been wondering about my whereabouts,  Iris has been going article-less for more than a month. Let me assure you that Iris is alive and in search of quality stories (a reader searched for the blog under the search term “Iris, Anne de Plume the girl who died” 🙂 ).  I was on a travel spree for the past one month — went to Odisha, visited Puri, Nayagarh, Dhenkanal and of course Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. During the entire trip I had only one thought — to capture  some moments of my trip through my camera lenses, just for Iris and its readers.

In this article, I present a story in pictures of Odisha — an enigma to most, a “poor” state to some and a place “rich” in natural resources to many. Though I am not a photographer by profession, through these pictures I am “sketching” the Odisha, which I witnessed in my last visit.  It is not a travel guide — of what places to visit and see, rather in this article I share with you the Odisha as I observe it through my lenses. Let us begin with the new face of Odisha.

Fortune towers

Fortune towers

A glimpse of a  corporate complex called “Fortune Towers” in Bhubaneswar. It houses some of the leading corporate houses of the state. Odisha has recently started to witness a corporate boom and corporates too are monitoring the state closely.

The neon-lit roads

The neon-lit roads

A view of the roads of Bhubaneswar at night. The white building appearing as a hazy pagoda is the new Eastern Railways office in Bhubaneswar.

People often ask  about the cuisine of Odisha. Usually people ask that “there is something called “South-Indian” food, “Bengali” cuisine or “Punjabi” cuisine, we have never heard of “Odia” cuisine. What is special in Odisha in terms of food?”  It is difficult to define Odia cuisine per say because Odisha lives in its “everydays”  and according to the rhythms of Jagannath culture and the many festivities associated with this culture. There is a saying in Odia: “barah masa terah jata (12 months and thirteen festivities)”. The special dishes like “Kanika” (sweet-flavoured rices), “Pithas” (a range of homemade snacks sometimes salted and sometimes sweet), and certain curries like “Ghantaa” are just a few of the names that come to my mind. These dishes are  associated with celebrations and festivals listed in the Odia calendar.

Food served daily at homes

Food served at homes

However, what appeals to my sensibility is the food that is served as a part of our daily lives in Odia homes. The platter above has steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee, bitter-gourd cooked in a spices and fried such that it doesn’t remain bitter 🙂 , cauliflower blanched and fried, Green Saag cooked with onion and garlic, a bowl of kadhi with coriander leaves, pickle and Santula” ,which can be of two types: Bhaja santula in which vegetables are fried with onion and turmeric and is dry, or Sijha Santula where vegetables are boiled first and then added to a chhonk of mustard seeds and garlic and a drop or two of oil. My personal favourite is the Sijha Santula.



Try a hot Sijha Santula cooked by grandmoms or moms or aunts when you have a bout of cough and cold. Believe me, it is heaven incarnated as food 🙂 . This Santula is somewhat closer in taste to the Clear Soup.

Let us now move to the roads and first drive towards Puri. However, before we enter the wilderness, there is something interesting these days about the walls and roads of Bhubaneswar. The BMC (Bhubaneswar Muncipal Corporation) has developed an innovative way to enhance tourism and travel.  Walls of Bhubaneswar have been painted with murals, applique works, pattachitras, Odisha handloom patterns and so on. Here is a glimpse of the roads.

Decorations on the walls in traditional modes

Walls painted along the roads in traditional mode

Roads of Bhubaneswar painted with mythological stories

Painted with mythological stories

The Pasapalli pattern on an Over-bridge

A traditional Odia saree pattern designed on an over-bridge

The above picture is  of an over-bridge near Jayadev Vihar square in Bhubaneswar. The  bridge and also the drive way underneath have been decorated with patterns and paintings.

A Huge Billboard written in Odiya for a Food Multinational

A huge billboard written in Odia

The photograph  shows a huge hoarding carrying an ad of a multinational food corporation. It is being given finishing touches by people who  may not even know what the product might taste or look  like.

When you move out of Bhubaneswar towards Puri/Konark, the wide roads start snaking into  serene greenery, glades and large fields dotted with hamlets, chai shanties, handicraft shops, smaller  temples  from times immemorial whose names might also not be known.

Drive Towards Puri: Last Rays of a Setting Sun

Drive towards Puri: last rays of a setting sun

When you drive towards Puri, very close to the Dhaulagiri, you might see a serene “canal” like river, calmly flowing since yore. The river — Daya, famous or rather infamous in history for the Kalinga wars fought in 2nd century B.C.,  has been a witness to one of the bloodiest wars of history. However, when you look at it from the narrow iron bridge, it appears to laugh back at you with a mock innocence. A calm nothingness envelops when you  keep gazing at the river from the iron bars of the bridge.

A sillhoutte of Dhauligiri on the hill at a distance

A silhouette of Dhaulagiri on the hill at a distance

Daya River by the sunset

Daya river by the sunset

Bhubaneswar is called the “temple city” with huge structures like the Lingaraj temple or the Raja-Rani temple. However, if you look at some of these old, sometimes abandoned temples as you drive through towards Puri or for that matter any other place, you might get a feeling that time still stands motionless in some of the places of a 21st century India — said to be young and dangerously dynamic.  There are Buddhist monuments like the Dhaulagiri and Khandagiri, Udayagiri and Ratnagiri which are unparalleled in their beauty. Yet, there is something mystical and mysterious about these smaller, unknown temples that you might encounter anywhere in Odisha.

'Pan' shot of a temple on Puri highway

'Pan' shot of a temple on Puri highway

A typical village temple complex

A typical village temple complex

On your way towards Puri,  hamlets, green fields and coconut trees abound. If you are driving then make sure to stop by and look at the applique works (Chandua) of Pipli or taste the special malpua-dalma at Chandanpur. I have always felt that the most extraordinary things of life are concealed in what appears ordinary. Odisha has famous monuments, structures and tourist destinations. Yet, the beauty of that state is concealed in what appears ordinary when you drive past or walk past these places.

At the end of a long day

At the end of a long day

A Chanty Shanty

A Chai Shanty

Cluster of hamlets shot from a distance

Cluster of hamlets shot from a distance

Pipli Chanduas on Display

Pipli chanduas on display

There are other attractions/distractions as well. Cool clean fresh coconut water from the freshly plucked green-coconut of the coconut trees, is a must if you are an avid nature lover. There are many such coconut-water (paida-pani) selling joints on the way. If you have time and 8-10 rupees, you will be richly rewarded not only with sweet fresh water but also with the fresh malai as a refreshing and healthy snack.

A typical fresh coconut-selling joint

Freshly plucked coconut selling joint

On our way

On our way

Puri is an experience that might be unique for each person in their own ways. For some it offers religion, for some spiritualism, for some it is a honeymoon destination, for some it is a research point on a culture which still baffles in its uniqueness and for some Puri is a family holiday destination that has something to offer to each member of the family. Puri is an enigma not because of its religious or sacred significations but because of its geographical and historical positioning in the map of India. It’s a lands end city, strongly holding on to one major human attribute — faith. I leave the concept of Puri to be explicated by the historians, pilgrims, the artists and tourists. For me, Puri is an experience which is ever-new, an experience which is a part of an inheritance as well as an intense perception of my own collective identity.

The Golden sands

The golden sands

The Grand Road of Puri

The grand road of Puri

Shreemandira through my lenses

Shreemandira through my lenses

(To be continued in Part-2 of “Through My Lenses”)