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Biggest Attraction of Puri, Orissa

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A young boy showcasing art made by his family- Raghurajpur- The Artist Village, Puri, Orissa

A young boy showcasing art made by his family- Raghurajpur- The Artist Village, Puri, Orissa

When we started our Eastern and North Eastern India trip, we experienced two extreme behaviors and totally different mind sets almost everywhere we went. Generally speaking, what do you expect from any place you travel to? My answer to this question would be, “An authentic, original, honest and unadulterated experience”. But sometimes originality is conveniently adulterated and honesty itself is corrupted. And many a times you experience both these extremes at the same place.

One of our first destinations was Puri, the holy city popularly known as one of the old “Char Dham” pilgrimages in India. Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar, known as “Golden Triangle” of Orissa state, are located at the east coast of India.

Millions of pilgrims from all over India come to Puri to visit the famous Jagannath Temple and its “Ratha Yatra”(Chariot Journey festival). Its a no. 1 attraction of Puri. When we decided to visit Puri, we also had a “must see” list in our mind. And Jagannath temple was on the top followed by Golden beach and then Raghurajpur village. We stayed at hotel (Janaki Residency) which was approximately 1/2 km from the temple. Our hotel was on the main street which goes directly to the temple, where most of the pilgrims stay. It has the most number of pilgrim-inns and is the busiest street in Puri.

We heard people praising temples, but our experience visiting Puri town and Jagannath temple was not that great. The surrounding area of the temple was dirty and people generally don’t give a positive vibe. The temple was very large and entry was restricted to Hindus. We felt, the dear Jagannath God is helpless, he is kind but has no control over his Pujaris (priests), who are cunning and try to extract money any which way they can. The pure atmosphere of the temple is contaminated by their conduct. They left us with the feeling of deception and disappointment.

On the contrary, the place no one ever told us about, Raghurajpur turned out to be one of the most unforgettable places in our entire trip especially in terms of genuineness, simplicity and devotedness. What kind of place is this? While doing my research, I had obtained information about Raghurajpur, The Artisan village.

Raghurajpur Heritage village is at about 20-25 minutes distance from Puri. We found an auto rickshaw who was willing to take us to Raghurajpur for a return fair of Rs.225. A  few kilometers before we reached the village, a middle-aged man started following us on his bicycle. We had no idea why he was behind us and felt strange. When our rickshaw stopped at the village entrance, the man also stopped and got off his bicycle. He didn’t say anything to us but gestured to follow him. Curiously, we started walking behind him. He took us to a house, requested us to sit down and offered us tea and water. It was his home and he was an artist. He wanted us to see the paintings made by him and his son painted.

Raghurajpur is a small village – community of artists – of around 120 families. Every member of each family is a born or learned artist. Children learn from their parents who pass the knowledge to the next generation. They specialize in Pattachitra (type of paintings), Palm tree leaf paintings and engraving and Tasser painting (“tasser” is a type of cloth). They use natural colors made from sea shells which they grind to make colors. They use parts of coconut trees as paper material. The quality of art is world class. We had never seen such a detailed work of art before. They use stories from Indian mythology like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Ganesha as themes for their work. They also showcase tribal community, nature through these paintings. We purchased some pattachitras and palm leaf paintings from these artists. How often you get a chance to buy a piece of art from the artist himself?

We observed one common this among all the artists and that is honesty and genuineness. Some of the artists have also received National Awards for their paintings. Their paintings are large and intricate. I think this whole community deserves recognition for preserving their tradition and art.

In spite of all these characteristics, the paradox is, most people only visit Jagannath temple in Puri and not Raghurajpur. There is definitely a scarcity of visitors to visit this place. May be people are not even aware of this place. Its sad that the people of this village are not getting what they deserve, in terms of opportunity, status and justice to their art.

I hope one day there will be a long line up for getting into RAGHURAJPUR!

Here are some moments from our short trip to Raghurajpur:


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