Travel

Where the journey is the destination

A view of the Padmasambhava Maha-Vihar monastery at Jeerang, located at a distance of 80 km from Behrampur in south Odisha. Photo: K.R. Deepak

A view of the Padmasambhava Maha-Vihar monastery at Jeerang, located at a distance of 80 km from Behrampur in south Odisha. Photo: K.R. Deepak   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

The secluded green valleys of Chandragiri and Jeerang hold Odisha’s best kept secrets

Travel is mostly like a dream – imagining yourself in pretty landscapes and turning the chapters of the beautiful canvas of nature, one at a time. As we neared our destination in Odisha’s Chandragiri, it felt exactly like that dream where rolling greens spread like a carpet, floating clouds jealously hugged the mountains alongside and a seamless path ahead dotted with colourful Tibetan prayer flags. The secluded green valley of Chandragiri is a small region cuddled in the lap of Southern Odisha. Located at a distance of about 80 kms from the town of Behrampur, this place houses one of the few Buddhist communities practicing Tibetan Buddhism called ‘Phuntsokling Tibetan Settlement’ that dates back to the early 1960s.

This cross-country trip from Vizag to South Odisha was the supreme example of the journey as the destination. Leaving behind the din of Vizag’s city life as we crossed Behrampur and inched towards Taptapani, known for its natural hot springs, my idea was not to linger anywhere, but to keep on the move.

Numbed by the noisy existence of city life, my nerves were craving to experience the glimmering spaces in the distances that lay between big cities, the road that unrolled before me.

So after a brief night-halt at the resort of Odisha Tourism Development Corporation at Taptapani, we set off to explore the surrounding verdant valleys. While the rains made it a challenging drive to negotiate through winding roads uphill, it also brought about a spectacular transformation of the valley.

The sky slipped lower, scattered rain quickly evaporated on the road, soon after that the clouds melted down sweeping over the road ahead like a wash of colours. Situated at an elevation of about 3,200 feet above sea-level on a plateau of Eastern Ghats, this region is a traveller’s delight, springing up a surprise at every corner.

Driving along the valley with tall trees perched on either sides and an occasional sight of a villager lugging ahead with his cattle, every scene made for a picture-perfect postcard and a reminder of the concept of sustainable living.

An hour’s drive later, we get the first signs of the Tibetan settlement – the lively colourations of prayer flags swinging in the backdrop of a picturesque valley. We had entered Chandragiri. The Tibetan refugees named Chandragiri as ‘Phuntsokling’, which literally means ‘land of happiness and plenty’. It is also a sacred place of Buddhist pilgrims. Over 7,000 Tibetan refugees are settled in five camps in this region, including Chandragiri. Tiny shops of villagers, smiling faces of the Tibetans, fertile fields and orchards and a thin scattering of houses led us to the second Tibetan camp of Jeerang.

We were told by the local villagers that Jeerang was a place not to be missed, for it had one of the main monasteries of the region.

But locating the monastery can be tricky if you miss the narrow road towards the right that leads to it. Once you take the right turn, it’s a matter of few minutes before the scene around you changes dramatically and presents a slice of the northeast with small monasteries scattered about and Buddhist monks walking around. To savour the experience, it is best to walk uphill.

A little ahead of this road lies one of the most spectacular and the largest monasteries of South-east India – the Padmasambhava Maha-Vihar. This newly constructed 75-feet high majestic monastery is built in Otanpuri style of architecture of Nalanda, cocooned amidst the rural landscape of Jeerang.

The five-storey monastery has a huge meditation shrine hall and other small temples, institute and hostels inside the well spread-out complex. It took six long years to build this and was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in the year 2010. The monastery has more than 200 monks.

Various lineage, images of deities and auspicious symbol of Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhist traditions are depicted on the walls of the main prayer hall.

I stood inside the peaceful complex of the monastery, soaking in the tranquility. As the main door of the prayer hall opened, it brought to light the imposing 21-feet-high statue of Lord Buddha. Just then the swollen grey skies opened up. That was one perfect moment of bliss.

Route map: Vizag-Behrampur - Digapahandi - Taptapani- Chandragiri - Jirang

Stay options: The only stay option at Taptapani is OTDC resorts. You can also explore options of homestays at Jeerang.

Travel tip: Make sure to top up your vehicle fuel at Behrampur before heading to Taptapani.

Best season: Monsoon has its own charm, but rains can make it a challenging drive. October to February is an ideal travel season.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 11:44:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/where-the-journey-is-the-destination/article6383156.ece

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