North India,  Travel,  Travelogue & Art Journal

Yearning for a Boat Ride on Chilika Lake

Day 25 (Y) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z

All artwork is done by Seema Misra, Copyright Lonely Canopy.

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Panthanivas is essential for travels within Orissa. It is a chain of hotels in Orissa run by the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC). For the longest time, these were the most cost-effective and comfortable accommodations available in the tourist and pilgrimage destinations. Growing up in Bhubaneswar, I frequently visited nearby beaches such as Puri, and we always had stopovers at this down-to-earth hotel.

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The Panthanivas stay that remains special is at Yatrinivas Satpada, at the mouth of Chilika Lake. Chilika is the second largest saltwater lagoon in the world. Spread across 1,100 sq. Km, the lake is dotted with small islands. There are several tourist spots around the banks of the lake. The one I like the most is Satpada.

Satpada, nestled on the southern tip of the lake, marks the point where Chilika meets the Bay of Bengal. It is visited by over 150,000 migratory birds during winter. At Satpada, one can watch a host of birds, including the pink Flamingos, Sandpipers, Kingfishers, and Golden Plovers. This lake is also home to the largest number of Irrawaddy dolphins.

An hour’s boat ride takes you to the Muhana, or mouth of the lake, which is guarded by a thin strip of land, known as the Rajahamsa Island. This little island is flanked by sea on one side and the lake on the other. Moore your boat and enjoy a few quiet hours here. Bathe in the sea, have fresh fried fish and prawns from local fishermen, and enjoy the crispy jhal mudhi.

The Panthanivas hotel here is a very basic one – its white walls, red roofs, and old-school garden layouts have a very ‘government bungalow’ feel to it. Warm, salty sea air makes one feel a little down and lazy.

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The double floored, spread out hotel, is functional. Rooms have wooden beds with white linen (a bit train like), cupboards, a table and chair, and an air conditioner that seems to be on the verge of dying. Apart from the December rush, the place remains desolate with a group or two at a time. The most active space in the hotel is the dining room. Fragrant fish curries, fish fries, chicken, and vegetable dishes tempt you to overeat. Just caught Prawns, cooked in delectable coconut milk broth, are irresistible here and complement the views of the sea. There’s the abundance of the days’ catch to choose from.

The hotel, like the people of the state, is not into shenanigans. Everything is simple and basic. Therein lies the true value. Delicious meals, boat rides in Chilika lake, a small nature museum to educate visitors about the bio diversity of the lake(which also plays an educational film), and the fishermen going about their work. This simple life weaves its charms on you … making you forget the more touristy coastal areas.

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The Legend of Kalijai

Kalijai is the protector of Chilika lake. People who live here have much faith in her and regularly visit her temple, located on an island in the middle of Chilika lake.

Pandit Godavarish Mishra, had written a poem about a young girl bride, Jai, from Bankud village. She was travelling to Parikud by boat with father, to be married off. At those time, there was little chance she would ever come home again. Separated from all that was familiar, the girl is heartbroken and weeps throughout the ride. On their way, the boat is hit by a storm, and Jai drowns in the lake. It’s said that she became Kalijai, the protective deity of the lake.

However, this is simply a poet’s imagination. It highlights the trauma young girls were put through – child marriage, abuse, harassment at their husband’s house, and a complete lack of control over their destiny. In the poem, the girl tearfully accuses her father, saying “if this is what you had planned for me (marriage to a guy in an unknown place so far away from home) why didn’t you throttle me when I was born instead.”

As per Hinduism, Goddess Kalijai is Maa Kali, the source and the first ‘Mahavidya’ of “Das mahavidyas.”

Mangaljodi

For those who don’t have the time to travel all the way to Satpada, Mangaljodi is a great option for a day’s outing. This delightful village on the banks of the Chilika is only about 2 hours’ drive from Bhubaneswar. Away from the trappings of commercial tourism, Mangaljodi offers a simple and charming tryst with nature. It is close to Bhubaneswar and boasts of an innovative ecotourism venture. Erstwhile poachers have been successfully converted to conservationists. Spend a day here, in a small round boat, floating along shallow marshlands. You will see a variety of fishes, birds, butterflies, and wildflowers.

Every trip to Chilika leaves me with memorable moments, and I feel as though I will never tire of exploring this wonderful land.

 

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