It was the second day of my adventure. Well, it isn’t really an adventure, more like soul-searching or to be more precise root-searching. So I was greatly inspired by these lines by Anjali (The Little Girl).
“If a man knows about everything in the world but his roots, then he does not know anything at all.”
This got me thinking. The seed was originally planted when she had once mentioned that they were learning about “Pattachitra” and Odissi in college. It was good to hear that these things are taught in universities and in that instant I was filled with pride. Not sure why, probably because I am an Odiya and that most of these things – the art, the places, the dance, everything originated stones throw from where I live. However, somewhere at the back of my mind, it struck me that the things I was proud of – I knew nothing about. Yes, I knew of their existence, and probably some odd trivia, but that did not count.
I was an Odiya after all, it was my root, and I knew bloody nothing. I was ashamed. I mean we have a Chandua hung in our living room, and I have never actually visited Pipili or any of the shops that sell these Chanduas. Moreover, the worst part is that Pipili is just 15 Kms. from my place.
I had never asked. Never questioned. Never curious. Taken all these things for granted. Never really realized how very fortunate I was to have such a legacy. How rich my state was. On top of that, I was to leave for Germany in a couple of months. That is when I thought, I may not be able to cover all of Odisha or learn everything in detail with the time I had, but the least I can do is visit places that are close. I mean I had visited some of these sites before, but that was different. I wanted to do it on my own, alone and see the places. I was never great with people or questions anyways. That will come next. So step-1 visit these places, observe, soak it in and try to learn as much as I can.
I had a borrowed two-wheeler. I had time. The weather had been kind to me since I arrived in Bhubaneswar. The day is hot and very humid, but the afternoons are pleasant. Humid, but pleasant. Plus, if you are from Bhubaneswar, you sort of get used to the humidity anyway. So yeah, I had decided that my escapades would have to be between 3-6 pm because the sun sets early on this side of the world.
Yeah, so that was sort of the back story. Coming back to Day-2. After having covered Khandagiri and Udaygiri Caves, (Mostly Udaygiri, as it was late) on Day-1, I had planned Dhauligiri for Day-2. As planned I left home around 3 pm, made a short stop at Bakul to get clicked for the My Tree Campaign. Wrapped it up in 10 minutes and got out. On my way, I crossed the State Museum, and it just occurred to me, I must have passed it a billion times in the last 27 years and not once, had I went in.
Mental Note – 1: Day-3 First Stop. State Museum.
I am shitty when it comes to direction and for a moment I thought of getting the GPS out, but then I thought against it. I mean what the heck. If I get lost, that’ll be an adventure, plus I had to save battery to click pictures. So there’s that. Dhauligiri is approx. 10 km from my house and on the BBSR – Puri Highway. The Highway at one point in time used to be a single lane road and very poorly maintained, but things have changed especially in the last couple of years. The govt. has somehow invested in tourism it seems. That meant repairing the roads, putting up signboards everywhere. So the poorly maintained single lane road was now a four lane sparkling beauty of asphalt. I couldn’t get lost; there were bloody sign boards every 100 mt.
It was a lovely drive. The wind was just right. Neither too strong nor non-existent. Just right. Due to the showers in the morning, everything looked fresh. The road, the lines of trees by the road, the fields. There was a lot of greenery. I had missed that in Bangalore City.
And the sky. Damn! It was so vibrant so blue so bright, almost felt like a super Hi-def. TV. The clouds were as white as white can be. I would have loved to keep staring at the sky, something I usually do when I am in a car (not driving of course). But then I was riding the bike, and I had to keep my eyes on the road, so yeah back to the road. But I didn’t complain because the scenery by the road was equally beautiful. Plus there were these odd Handicraft Shops selling stone-sculptures. I had seen these sculptures being sold in stores near my house all my life, but never once thought about where they originated. Who makes them? Where do they sell those? What goes into making them? Must take years to learn the skill. What are they doing to preserve this art form?
Mental Note-2: Try to find and visit one of these stores and ask around. (Would be difficult because of the non-existent people-skill, but we’ll see)
Moving on. I found a sign that said Handicrafts and Art Village. I wanted to go in, but then I already had today’s destination in mind. I am slightly obsessive that way. So..
Mental Note-3: Make sure to visit that village.
Riding riding. And then I realized how much I loved driving/riding, but then it had to be that good a road and no traffic. Something I had absolutely missed in Bangalore. Bangalore Traffic. Damn! The one thing I will never ever miss even though it has taught me the virtue of patience and keeping my cool. And then it struck me. (Things have been striking me a lot lately). Pipili – that would be just 5-6 Km.
Mental Note – 4: Pipili First. Dhauli on my way back.
The thing about Pipili village is that, before the new Highway was made, one had to go through the village to get to Puri. So in a way, in my mind, Pipili has always been synonymous with Puri. But now with the new highway, people can completely bypass the village. I don’t know why, but it made me sad. Maybe because, in life, some things should never change, things that keep you rooted to your life your childhood. They are like your totem like the ones from the movie Inception. But this one thing had changed, and I was not prepared for it. I had been through the village several times in the past, but not once stopped. But today I wanted to stop and I did.
It must have taken me around 30 min to get to Pipili. The moment I entered the village, I saw a massive temple to my left. It was a relatively new temple, but I had never seen it before. That surprised me. Couldn’t have been that new. Even though I am not religious, I have always liked temples. They are serene and beautiful. Plus this one was completely deserted. Jackpot! I decided I would stop by on my way back. Again, the OCD kicked in. I passed a government school and a bunch of kids getting back home. I checked my watch; it was the chutti time, yes. I rode until the end of the village and on my way passed the handicraft shops, I didn’t stop then, I thought now that I have come this far I should see the whole of it, in case I miss anything. So I rode until the end of the village, made sure I didn’t miss anything then took a U-turn. Parked my moped at a safe place and then walked towards the Handicrafts shops.
As I walked towards the shops, I could see the shop owners standing outside their respective stores looking at me expectantly. That made me conscious and got me thinking, the bypass must have been hard for these guys. Initially, I had thought I’ll look around all the shops, click photographs might buy a small souvenir, but that instantly changed when I looked at them. It wouldn’t have been right if I had just window shopped like that. So from the distance, I took a couple of pictures of the street adorned with chanduaas, lampshades, umbrellas and what not on both sides in shades of bright yellow, orange, blue, green and red.
Then I got into the nearest store, and the owner immediately approached me “Sir, may I help you with something?” I wanted to say, “No thank you, I am just looking.” But then I actually had intentions of buying a small Chandua that I wanted to gift, so I said, “Yeah, could you show me a little chanduaa with Lord Jagannath’s image?” He was more than happy to show me Chandua after Chandua, each more beautiful than the previous one. It was a difficult choice, but then I finally picked one. I had to.
I picked that moment to ask him for his permission to click pictures around the store, and he immediately said yes. So I started clicking pictures of the various handicraft items in his shop. Paintings, Pattachitras, more Chandua of every size, handbags, wall hangings, swings and what not.
While I did that, the shopkeeper kept me showing new items with the hope that it would interest me. To be very honest I was tempted to buy one from every item, so the moment he tempted me with the Pattachitras, I was sold. I picked two small ones. Then he started showing me lampshades, I wanted to buy one, but then I reasoned with myself – I don’t have a job anymore. MUST NOT BUY!
Then he asked me to wait for a couple of minutes, went back to his storage and got a new set of items. Man! Were they beautiful? Such sophisticated art over palm leaves depicting all the avatars of Lord Vishnu, and then there was one more that was breathtaking where the artist had drawn incepted Ganesha(Ganeshas within Ganesha). I couldn’t say no. I had to take one. But these were expensive – the more intricate the work, the more valuable they were. I wanted to take the one with Ganesha’s image, but it was around 800 bucks, so I picked the one that had five Avataras of Vishnu.
Mental Note-5: That is it. CANT BUY ANYTHING ELSE. SAVE FOR LATER.
The owner took the breach in my temptation as a hint and tried showing me other stuff. But then I politely told him that if he showed me more stuff, then I will end up buying his entire shop. I think he got the message and gave me the bill of my purchase. I paid him, thanked him and left.
On my way back, I made sure to stop by the temple. I parked my bike nearby, took off my shoes and went in. There was no one around. Some Odiya bhajan was playing from a sound system. It was a Hanuman Mandir. There was a place for Havan just before the main altar. The place had several pillars each adorned with sculptures. I’ll get back to them, I thought and went to the main altar.
Once inside, I paid my respects rang the bell and came out. Moved around the place looking at the sculptures on the pillars. One side had the idols of Gods specifically Vishnu and the other side has statues of women. It struck me as odd considering It was a Hanuman Mandir, and he was a Brahmachari. All the women were topless and some in erotic positions. I wondered if this is acceptable, why such a big fuss over Nudity, “Public Indecency” in our country. Anyways, I moved on, the wall that covered the area was also filled with depictions of various mythological events, mostly from the life of Hanuman himself.
I looked around for a little bit and then decided to leave as it would get dark soon.
Within 15 mins, I had reached the exit that would have taken me to Dhauligiri. The thing about Dhauligiri is that the Shanti Stupa is visible from a distance as it is on a hill. And it looks beautiful in the sun. I took the exit and soon was on my way. That stretch is especially nice because of the greenery on either side. I passed a few farms that have rice planted in them I think. There was a temple as well. I thought I’ll stop by on my way back.
Dhauligiri is a hill, and just at the foothill to the left, I saw there was a signboard saying – Rock Edicts of Ashoka. I had been to Dhauli a couple of times before, but never really noticed that site.
Mental Note-6: Visit this place on my way back.
Moving on, I passed a sign that said Handicrafts Bazaar. I was excited to explore the area, so I stopped my bike and went to see the place. One had to take stairs and move down to get to the Bazaar. The place was completely deserted. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the hour of the day, or the site had been abandoned all along because of lack of tourists.
So I carried on. In 10 minutes, I reached the top of the hill. From there I could see a significant chunk of Bhubaneswar. I could see Dayanadi flowing at the foothills and several stretches of farmlands. I parked my bike and went to visit the stupa.
Once at the Stupa the first thing I did was look for a guide because I wanted to learn as much as possible about the place. But instead of guides, there were a bunch of photographers. A couple of them approached me but I just waved my phone at them, and they understood. I felt for them. In the age of cell phone cameras, it must be really hard for them. I wonder how they were able to provide for their families.
There weren’t too many people. A few families, a small group of guys and mostly couples. All busy clicking pictures of each other. I don’t know why, but it made me smile. Standing before me majestically gleaming white was the Shanti Stupa.
I had never actually appreciated how beautiful it looked. As a kid, I used always to imagine the structures on top as dining tables and believed aliens came down and dined there when we were asleep. I miss that innocence.
But before getting up there, I made a beeline towards the board that would have information about the place. I went through it and found it really helpful. For one, I discovered that the Shanti Stupa itself is relatively new compared to the history of Dhauligiri, where Chandashoka had converted to Dharmashoka after the carnage of the Kalinga Wars 2300 Years ago! And the wars were fought on the banks of the Daya river! Holy Shit! That happened in my backyard.
Kalinga was the old name of my state. I don’t know why they didn’t continue with it. It has such a majestic ring to it. Anyways, right opposite this board, there was a stone pillar with some inscription in Japanese. For a second, I imagined the small table underneath the pillar was used to place a Japanese Katana and in the instant, I remembered this is a bloody Shanti Stupa! A sword must have been the last thing on earth that would have been kept there.
Mental Note-7: Need to find out what it says.
Then I went to the top around the stupa capturing the 4 idols of Buddha in his different postures. I don’t exactly remember what each of them stood for.
There were several carvings on the wall around the stupa all depicting scenes from the life of Gautam Buddha himself. As I went around, I tried to relate to them from what I had read about Gautam Buddha in school.
From there I went to the Shiva Temple that is very conveniently hidden behind the stupa. I never even knew it existed. It almost felt like I had stepped into Narnia.
It was time to get back. Near the parking, there was a Sugarcane Juice vendor, and I couldn’t resist. I had two full glasses of Sugarcane Juice. On my way back I saw there was a road that ran down from where the Craft Bazaar was located. I had seen it on my way up but didn’t pay much attention. I had thought it must be the way to a nearby village. For some reason, I was feeling a little adventurous, so I took that road. It went winding down, and led to an old Shiva Temple – Bhairengeswara Temple. I learned that it drew a huge crowd during Mahashivratri.
There was a huge and old peepal tree outside. It was wrapped in thin sarees. I think they were people’s Maansiks. I have always been fascinated by old trees. For some reason, they make me feel protected like a Patronus. It was heartbreaking to see hundreds of old trees uprooted after the Super Cyclone in 2000.
There was a small house outside. I think the temple priest lived there, and maybe his family. This reminded me of my village.
There was some sort of a shrine outside the temple too. People had offered brass Cobras there. These brass crafts are made in a nearby village named Balakati. I ‘ll visit it soon.
From there I headed towards the Rock Edicts of Ashoka that I had seen in the foothills. But on my way, I took a wrong turn and ended up nowhere. But I found this graffitied wall there. These are Traditional Folk Art usually found in remote villages where people make these on the walls of their huts. A few Years ago, the Head of BMC started out a new campaign of beautifying the city. Several local artists were hired and were asked to decorate the walls around the city with paintings – new, old, lost. I’ll try and click those as and when I find them.
Back on track, I reached the Rock Edicts of Ashoka. I took some time to go through the info board. It was kind of interesting. One particular thing that stuck with me was the omission of the SE – 11, 12 and 13.
The edicts were carved on stone and were in Magadhi Prakrit Language and the script being the early Brahmi. On the rock above the edicts, an Elephant is carved out which symbolizes Buddha, the “best of elephants.”
The rest of the area had been landscaped beautifully and was rich with vegetation and cleanly mowed lawns. “Lover’s Paradise,” I thought to myself.
So.. Yeah. That was the end of the Day -2 exploration. But the adventure didn’t end there. While returning as I slowed my bike at a set of rumblers, my bike was suddenly thrown forward. For a second, I couldn’t understand what had happened. I thought I had subconsciously throttled the bike. Only when I fell some 4 feet away by the side of the road (Which was muddy, and relatively softer luckily) that I realized I had been hit by something from behind. It was a car. In no time, the nearby villagers had gathered and were making a fuss. They helped me up. Luckily I wasn’t hurt, only maybe the area of impact was hurting a bit. There were minor damages to the bike. The driver was learning to drive and had confused the brakes for the accelerator. In all the chaos I thought I should be feeling angry. After all, it was not my mistake, and that’s what people do, right? Get pissed off and start beating up the culprit? But I don’t know why anger was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I felt sorry for the driver who was now pleading before the villagers, who seemed more enraged than I was. I tried to calm them down, but they wouldn’t listen. So I said, let’s go to the nearest garage, get the bike checked and the driver can pay for the repairs before the villagers started assaulting the poor driver. He seemed like a good man. So we got out of that commotion and headed towards the main road. After we had been at a safe distance, I asked the man to leave to wherever he was going and that not to worry and be more careful the next time. But he insisted that we get the bike checked so that he could pay me. I don’t know why but I refused. I should have taken the money from him. But I couldn’t. So he asked me for my number and promised that once I get the bike repaired, I should give him a call, and he’ll come and pay for it. We agreed and went in opposite directions.
What an end to the day it was. I was in my first accident that involved an actual collision. It took me around thirty minutes to reach home. I’ll get the bike repaired tomorrow I thought. For a second, I contemplated on the idea whether I should tell about the accident at home because I was sure Maa would freak out but then decided otherwise. I told her about it, and she was relatively calm because I had not got hurt. Surprisingly I got a call from the driver asking if I had reached home safe. It was at that instant I decided I would not ask him for the money to repair the bike.