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Atri: 'Hot' place with cool quotient

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BIBHUTI BARIK Published 18.07.11, 12:00 AM

Bhubaneswar, July 17: If your idea of relaxation is a nice soak in a hot spring, then head straight to Atri. Situated within 45 km of the capital, Atri’s sulphur-rich hot spring, which has remedial powers, will provide visitors an excellent way to escape the pace of modern urban life.

The place will also provide first-time tourists an array of interesting elements starting from the history of freedom struggle by the ‘Paikas’ of Khurda to the divine link between Lord Hatakeswar and the hot spring.

During Makar Sankranti, a grand ritual is organised where betel nuts are thrown into one of the ponds near the hot spring. Women who have not conceived after marriage try to find the betel nuts from the holy water. The ones who manage to find a betel nut consume it and, it is believed, that they have the maximum chance to conceive within a few days. Although it may sound strange, villagers residing near Atri and Hatakeswar temple have believed in this theory since ages.

For a short stay near the hot spring, Orissa Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) has constructed a panthasala or guesthouse for tourists. While a twin-bed accommodation will cost Rs 150, accommodation in a dormitory comes at an individual rate of Rs 50. There are four double bed rooms and two dormitories with a capacity to accommodate 20 tourists at a time.

Former in-charge of the panthasala, Sarat Mohanty, who is now with the tourism department, said though people mainly know Atri for its sulphur-rich hot spring, the rituals linked to Lord Hatakeswar should also be highlighted.

“The hot spring is a wonderful natural spa and is packaged with ayuvedic therapies. These days many people from the corporate sector get eager to visit a nearby tourist destination to spend their weekends. So, this place can be converted into a wonderful tourist destination. The advantage is that already the OTDC already has a good infrastructure there,” said Mohanty.

For people who want to just enjoy a bath in the hot spring, four bathing pools - two each for men and women - have been created with outlets from the central hot spring. The rooms inside the panthasala, however, are not supplied with the water of the hot spring. But, if required, through a special service, hot spring water can be supplied to guests staying at the panthasala. The sulphur content in the hot spring is said to be ideal for treatment of skin ailments.

There is also a nice children’s play area in front of the panthasala, making it a perfect weekend destination for the entire family.

While returning from the hot spring, most tourists have a darshan of Lord Hatakeswar, where a beautiful temple with a large pond makes a nice view from the main road. The Makar Sankranti mela of the deity starts a day before Sankranti and continues for a fortnight. During the mela, lakhs of devotees from all parts of the state enjoy the serene and divine atmosphere.

There are many interesting stories related to the pond. It is said that when devotees call a duck named Ramu, it surfaces to collect offerings like rice. Also the ‘baya’ nests are found hanging from coconut trees. with the rapid urbanisation, these nest have absolutely ceased to exist within city limits.

“Seeing the hanging nests on the temple premises is a new experience for any resident of Bhubaneswar,” said dental surgeon Nagendra Bihari Panda, who has a clinic in Khurda.

“The earlier atmosphere has not changed so far. While heading towards the hot spring, one come across the proposed Khurda-Balangir railway line at a distance. This makes for a good sight,” added Panda.

Near Atri and Hatakeswar temple, another interesting place is Jaguleipatna where the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra have palms. Just near the entrance to the temple a huge twin statue of Lord Ganesha and Hanuman make a beautiful sight.

Kaipadar, another place close to the hot spring, is famous for its ‘peer baba’. It is a place of worship for both Muslims and Hindus. It is situated 15 km from Khurda town.

Barunei hills near Khurda provides a nice experience to the tourists with its mixture of serene green surroundings, streams that flows to form a beautiful bathing pond, a temple and last but not the least, tasty country cakes steamed on jack fruit leaves and offered as ‘prasad’ near the deity. The hill is also associated with the rich history of the freedom struggle of the state, especially Khurda, which had the rare distinction of remaining as the last independent fort of the country.

The historic Khoradha Gada (Khurda fort) is nearly 8km from the Barunei hills and it tells the memoir of great warriors of the region. The ruins were once renovated by the state archaeology. People of nearby areas said secret tunnels originate from the fort towards the Barunei hills, which the rulers either used to escape or formulate a guerrilla war strategy.

The red-coloured Nikunja Bihari temple near Khurda town is a state archaeology-protected monument. Legend has it that once British soldiers had fired several rounds of ammunitions and a temple of equal size near its gate was totally damaged. However, due to it sheer strength, the Nikunja Bihari temple remained intact.

There is another temple near Khurda fort. It is believed that before going for war or planning a strategy of defence, the rulers used to visit the Radhakanta Deb temple first.

Further ahead towards the fort are a series of statues of great freedom fighters such as Jaikrishna Rajguru Mohapatra, Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, Madhab Chandra Routray, Pindiki Bahubalendra and Krutibas Patasani.

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