My First Trip to Keonjhar.
Date: 3/14/2012 7:48:00 AM
2.00 AM. I did not know how I woke up that day. At that time. But I was eager to go to Keonjhar, with friends Abhijit and Baijayanti(accompanied by her sister, her heavyweight brother and a newly wed Bradhna sir and his beautiful wife). True, I did not like it when Abhijit was adamant to take me along, but I gave in beacuse both were good friends of mine, and I like to travel a lot.
I got ready quickly, and packed whatever I got my hands on(I am not that much of a good packer, though.) I put a lot of dry food(thanks to my papa), and somehow got myself ready before 3.00 AM. Abhijit and I, both went to Baijayanti's house, as from there we had to start our journey, in their new Maruti Omni, which they had got from Lalchand Jewelers.
December early mornings, then, were truly chilly. Thanks to my 2 kilo Woodland's full fur jacket, I did not feel that much of a cold. Actually, I was sweating from the inside.When we got out of the city, the driver pressed the accelerator to the full.
We talked about a lot of things during the long journey, most of it being devoted to which places we have been to and which we have not. I was only half interested in these talks, the rest was outside the window of the Maruti.
The overwhelming sense of poverty followed us, a lot of broken down buildings were scattered here and there, small black children were wailing for food, somewhere a marriage procession was going along(blocking half the traffic). There were seldom few cars or motorcycles on the road, barring a few iconic white Ambassadors, a lot of trucks, local tractors hauling garbage or sand and old weak women paving the higway alongside the road. How they got up there, I don't know, but I thought women are doing a lot more than the gentlemen when it comes to getting things done in our state.
We stopped near a big tree that protruded a little into the road. It was giant, and it must have looked like a big monster ready to gulp us down his throat, if we had been there after evening, I thought. A large number of red ribbons were tied to the trunk, and a big bell was hanging down a branch. On one side was a small cabin, which was offering tea and snacks. We had some tea, alongwith some dry food I had taken with me. Then we headed straight to our destination.
It was exhilirating to go through the high, high hills, looking over the valleys below as we climbed into the North - eastern part. The breathtaking views implored us to stop and have some photos clicked.It took a lot of time to cross the valley(ghaati, in Oriya) as the road was not that wide and there were a lot trucks carrying mostly iron.
We also came upon a local bartering market among the valleys and wandered around to experience one of the most basic stories of civilisation - trading goods for others while living within a communistic, supportive community. Well, that's communism from a different perspective, I guess.
We approached at one corner of the market where a huge circle of men and children had congregated, to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out it was a gambling circle. I am not divulging into the game as I do not know anything about it, except the name. There were a lot of materials there, and I am also not divulging into describing as I am not wasting time at these things. We strode out after some time, and got into our Omni and the vehicle started.
As the valley was about to finish, we saw the kings palace(now abandoned) on the foothills. How this had been saved from the illiterate domestic tourists who turn every place into their garbage heap! Gradually we entered the town. Keonjhar town was bustling with people, quite crowded and vibrant. We stopped at a lodge called Labanya. A unique place to stay(now one of the big hotels of the area) I would say. The memories of that night would always be there. Could you imagine, the windows oped to inside! No f'ing sunlight except from the entrance! Well, that was another thing, during late night when Avijit & me were sleeping, suddenly the lights went off. We woke up & were so afraid that we didn't realize that it was 5 o'clock in the morning. It took around 20 minutes to figure out and then we promised not to disclose this to anybody(which eventually our tummy let out!)
As we started walking down the lanes, we could smell the early morning incense stick from local temples, the smell of morning meals made me thoughtful. There was no rush to catch the local train to work, no traffic to get late to the office, no fears to be warned from the bosses. The town was getting ready for the day trade, women preparing to open their paan shops, kids cleaning tea glasses at tea stalls. Was a classic time spent.
After some time we went towards Ghatagaon. Though the road was at a pitiable state, on both sides stood vast stretches of corn & paddy fields, which were a treat to watch. As we approached Ghatagaon, forest areas gradually vanished and we entered a somewhat crowded stretch - Maa Tarini temple on the left, with all the shops along the way, was quite conspicuous. Parked our car on the right side of the highway and went to one of the shops. The shops either sell "dala" (small basket with offerings for worship - coconut, flowers, clothing etc.) or fast food for travellers. The temple is quite famous in whole of the state with people pouring in from far and wide. A few clicks, and we entered the temple. The complex is well maintained and overall clean. The main complex in the center has the idol of the Goddess - Maa Tarini, emerging from the Shiva-linga. Several priests sat on the edges of the open complex who took the "dala" and provide the offerings as worship to the Goddess, and gave back the "dala" with the "prasad". After we offered ours, we went around the complex and witnessed a priest snatching away the camera of a traveller trying to take a snap inside the complex. On a happy note, he did get it back after a brief, somewhat heated argument.
Then we went off to Sanaghagra Falls. Sanaghagra Falls was just 5 km away from the town. Surrounded by deep forest, the cascading waterfall came down with a splash from like 30 meters. It fell with a sound that allured us all and cast its magnifying effect by touching our heart. Amid a calm and cool surrounding of natural rain forest it looked like a fresh bathed spinster. The water was crystal clear and lucid enough to force visitors to jump and take a fresh shower under the flowing stream. The place had arrangements for boating too.
Though we were left with longing hearts, we left off from there doe to dearth of time. The return offered a variety of tiny attractions which included small religious shrines, fresco paintings, tiny waterfalls and above all the panoramic natural views. The terraced villages buzzing with the sweet melodies of the birds took us to a dream land. The simplicity of the tribal folk mixed with the gaiety of their festivals kept us amused. And of course there were the love sparks between the newly wed sir and ma'am. They kept looking into each other's eyes as if nothing else mattered! At times we were busy singing songs and looking elsewhere, they might have hold their hands, in a caressing sort which only a beloved can do.
We were deep into the valleys as dusk followed. Slowly it got dark. With fear in her heart, Baijayanti was nearly shivering. Her big brother, who was driving, started reciting folk tales of the Kali Goddess being born inside a desperate women who dances and pierces metals to her skin. Sites of small forest fires also increased the fear among us. Baijayanti was annoyed and switched on the audio system. We heard lots of songs of Kumar Sanu(who was her favorite singer) and gradually eased ourselves. Whatever be the feeling inside, the view of the full moon from among the hills and trees was mesmerizing.
As the valley ended, we slowed down for late dinner near a dhaba called "Yuvraj Dhaba". As is evident with me, I ate chicken. There were families eating alongside tables where commoners & truckers drank local beer. Then we went off towards Cuttack. The trip back was monotonous and did not give us any more surprises as such, except for another enchanting moonlit night scene by the river Mahanadi at Naraj Dam. We reached home pretty early in the morning at around 3 o'clock and I went off to sleep quickly.
That, was one of the best journeys I had with my friends, although a few more nice and adventurous Keonjhar trips ensued later.