Puri - the coastal town of Odisha famous for it’s ‘spiritual tourism’ (as it is the abode of Lord Jagannath), has transcended beyond that into a vibrant town with a genuine beach culture. Even though just two months ago the town was battered by winds clocking more than
180kmph during Cyclone Fani, it didn’t deter the spirit of people of Puri to bounce back even stronger.
The city was soaked into the religious fervour during the world’s largest car festival - Lord
Jagannath Rath Yatra which saw participation of more than 2 million people. With the largest
tourist footfall in the state, Puri is also the backbone of Odisha Tourism. The recent SEMrush
report finds 58,302 average searches for Puri, making it the top third destination on the travel
list of Indians.
In order to attract more tourists and portray Puri as the vibrant beach town, which it was
during the 80’s, the district administration has implemented a daily beach cleaning campaign
called Mo Beach to transform its pristine shoreline. Initiated by Puri’s district collector Balwant Singh, who also played a crucial role in getting Puri ready post Cyclone Fani, MoBeach (which translates into My Beach) is a campaign that aims at instilling a sense of belongingness and ownership among the local bodies, residents and visitors as well, encouraging them to preserve, protect and promote the beaches.
Furthermore, the district administration has started a unique initiative of bringing together
culture with spirituality on the Grand Road in Puri every week to captivate the people. The
weekly street festival on the iconic stretch is conducted maintaining the spiritual atmosphere
in the Holy Town. Performances of Odissi, Goti Pua and Sankirtan along with intricate
Rangoli designs is mesmerising both the locals and tourists alike. Meanwhile, the delicious
smell of the meticulously crafted Khaja (a popular sweet native to Puri) fills the street early
morning. The batter for Khaja is prepared from wheat flour, mawa and oil. It is then deep
fried until crisp. Then a sugar syrup is made which is known as ‘Paga’. The crisp croissants are then soaked in the sugar syrup until they absorb the sugar syrup.
Despite the rich cultural semblance the city and the state has, none of the destinations have
featured in the 17 iconic destinations announced by the Central Ministry to boost the travel and
tourism sector. Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik has further written to the center to
include atleast 2 sites from Odisha as informed by Odisha Tourism secretary Vishal K. Dev.
Feature image by Asheesh Sahoo.
Taruka is a sports and travel writer. She is a former Asian Games Player and a British Council GREAT Scholar.
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