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The land of the Avatars

The land of the Avatars

East, India, Odisha

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

And that is exactly how I stumbled upon the least traveled trail of Odisha. I was on a much needed lazy, long vacation in the eastern India state of Odisha and being holed up in some farm resort was all that I had in mind. Ambitiously enough, I kicked off my tour with a relaxing stay at the seaside holy town of Puri, where apart from eating huge fish meals and long siestas, I did nothing much. Sometimes at sunset, I used to go for long walks on the beach and it was there, that I met a traveller, who told me about Sarat and his incredible array of adventures.

Sarat Routray was a tour guide who specialised in trips deep into the heart and soul of indigenous Odisha and he was much respected for the passion he felt for the land and its people. He lived in the remote city of Jeypore and was an expert in all the indigenous communities of Odisha, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. Later that evening, I looked him up in the ever obtrusive world of internet and the incredible experiences that he offered took my breath away. His trips usually took his clients into the very depths of the Eastern Ghats and they all seemed to be gorgeous eye opening affairs. He introduced to the visitors, the discreetly shy Adivasis or the tribals and made them understand their amazing culture, enchanting mythological connections and mystical shamanic beliefs. Learning about their unique dances, music, art and language was also part of the deal and all these were more than I could resist.

Suggested Read : Dance Like a Man

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A road trip

So, I tossed my lazy vacation plans in the wind, called up Sarat that very night and booked myself an extensive private tour with him. The following evening, I was on an overnight train bound for Jeypore and it turned out to be one of the best travel decisions I had ever taken. Sarat met me at the train station and after a brief tea and breakfast from a rudimentary street side shack, we started our journey into the remote corner of Odisha. The trip started from the mystical tribal district of Koraput and ended at the languid coastal city of Vishakhpatnam. It took more than two weeks to explore the distance by road and those were some of the best days of my life. Driven along in a trusty Ambassador car, I went deep into the hearts of Koraput, Malkangiri and Gajapati districts and the Eastern Ghats charmed me all along.

A long chain of discontinuous hills that run along the east coast of India, the Eastern Ghats stretch from the red earth country of West Bengal down south to the misty hills of Karnataka. Riddled with stunning ruins, awash with diverse natural beauty and weathered by time, the Eastern Ghats house a kaleidoscope of faces, cultures and lifestyles and has the beautiful Indian Ocean bordering it like a lapiz lazuli ribbon. It is also the home of many indigenous communities and is still a remote virginal area. Remnants of many forgotten ancient kingdoms are scattered in its dense jungles and believers are said to have found there, tell tale traces of the Hindu epic Ramayana.

You may like : Dance Like a Man II

Now imagine, all of this being packed into one trip which was never supposed to happen and you will understand why I started my post with the famous John Steinbeck quote. It is true, that best journeys and travel experiences happen when (and where) they are least expected and my Eastern India road trip was once in a lifetime experience. It took me to a world, so unbelievably surreal and primal, that I felt as if I had entered a magical land of the avatars. Now, cheesy as it may seem to be, this experience reminds me of another travel quote worth its salt. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at least to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”. Very few of my travel experiences have been as eye opening as the indigenous Odisha road trip.

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Of a lifetime

TRAVEL TIP – Koraput, Malkangiri and Gajapati districts of Odisha are most renowned for their vibrant tribal life and in the past have been very popular with intrepid travelers, photographers and researchers. However some years back, tourism in Odisha’s tribal belt faced a crushing blow when two Italian tourists got kidnapped by the Maoists (insurgents) and were held for ransom. Although the tourists got freed, unharmed, the act caused too many political complications, recieved a lot of international bad press and put too many travel restrictions on the regions. Even today, tourists (both domestic and international) to Odisha’s tribal district are strictly advised to hire services of professional local tour agencies or guides, follow only the planned and permitted tourist circuit and lay as low as possible.

Photography and videography are strictly prohibited and cameras are banned at tribal markets. Incidents of insurgents roaming these markets looking for photographers and camera totting tourists have been reported and these extremist groups are ruthless. Kidnapping, bombing, burning alive, executing, beheading etc are carried out by the Maoists in that area on intermittent basis and extreme caution needs to be exercised if visiting the Odisha tribal belt.

India is home to around 437 tribes and Odisha has the largest tribal population among all the Indian states. Out of 62 tribes of Odisha, 13 have been identified as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups” which means that still now they exist in very primitive conditions, are hostile to external contact and are difficult to locate. Tribal tours require a lot of caution, restriction and respect. Most of the indigenous communities are warm and friendly towards the outsiders who visit their villages or homes. Visitors are thus, also expected to reciprocate this respect, be aware that they are visiting somebody‘s home and not behave like they are in human zoos.

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Through a hidden India
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Its mysterious ways
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Local bustle
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And shy smiles.
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It was an eye opening experience
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To witness such beauty of
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The Eastern Ghats
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All the way to the Indian Ocean at Vishakhpatnam.
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It was a journey which simply blew my mind
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Welcome to the tribal belt of Odisha.
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To the land of the Avatar tribes.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

 

 

 

 

About the author

Hi! I am Svetlana, a cloud gypsy, a story teller and a Maverickbird. A mother, writer, entrepreneur, traveler, foodie and an animal lover, I am a Super girl from India.

34 Comments

  1. nupurpradhan
    July 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm
    Reply

    Wow! I never knew the Eastern Ghats were so beautiful. Great post and brilliant photography!

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 12:45 am

      Thank you very much Nupur.Eastern Ghats look prettier in monsoon.

  2. Deepak Acharya
    July 19, 2014 at 11:59 pm
    Reply

    Odisha – Perhaps India’s most underrated state (actually my home state). There is no dearth of scenic beauty there.

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 12:46 am

      One of my favorite states of India. I love Odisha.

  3. umashankar
    July 20, 2014 at 12:49 am
    Reply

    Yours posts are always a treat but the images of hinterland Odhisa in this post are haunting. It’s hard to choose a favourite but I adore the one you have titled “of a lifetime”. I can hang it on my wall. With all those Naxal serpents lurking in the nooks and crannies of that state, I’d rather content myself with your beautiful, beautiful post.

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Thank you. Hauntingly beautiful is the apt description of that place. Glad that you enjoyed the post. Hopefully the insurgency can be controlled soon and more people can enjoy its beauty.

  4. Packing my Suitcase
    July 20, 2014 at 6:19 am
    Reply

    Ohh your writing is beautiful and these pictures are stunning… through a hidden India has really caught my attention! 🙂

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Thank you. Glad that you liked the post.

    • Packing my Suitcase
      July 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

      You’re welcome 🙂 I wish you a great week ahead!

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Thank you. You too have a great week ahead.

    • Packing my Suitcase
      July 21, 2014 at 1:51 am

      😀

  5. worldjourneysdiscover
    July 20, 2014 at 8:56 am
    Reply

    magical photos, enlightening post. So much off the beaten track to see in this world. Thanks for sharing.

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      Thank you. Glad that you liked the post.

  6. sarat kumar routray.
    July 20, 2014 at 10:27 am
    Reply

    Hello my friend I just say thank u very much really great command .

    thank u
    your guide

    Sarat.

    • maverickbird
      July 20, 2014 at 10:30 am

      You are welcome Sarat. It wouldn’t have been possible without your help.

  7. Jatin Adlakha
    July 21, 2014 at 3:11 am
    Reply

    Just brilliant work at words…! Wonderful… 🙂

  8. AMITABHA GUPTA
    July 21, 2014 at 12:59 pm
    Reply

    A great trip you had at Orissa. ….and the cover photograph is great!

    • maverickbird
      July 22, 2014 at 3:47 am

      Thank you. It was a great trip.

  9. sb2711
    July 22, 2014 at 8:14 am
    Reply

    Great pics and a great blog. I am looking forward to read more of your posts 🙂

    • maverickbird
      July 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Thank you very much.

  10. amasc
    July 22, 2014 at 5:58 pm
    Reply

    Stunning images and a great piece of travel writing, thank you for sharing.

    • maverickbird
      July 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you for your lovely words. Glad that you liked the post.

  11. worldjourneysdiscover
    July 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm
    Reply

    wow. just wow. as always.
    Hey! I’ve nominated you for the ‘Versatile Blogger Award’! Go here to find out more! (sorry if you’ve already been nominated!)
    https://worldjourneysdiscover.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/versatile-blogger-award-nomination/

    • maverickbird
      July 24, 2014 at 8:56 am

      Thank you very much Andrews. I am highly honoured. This has been a good month for maverickbird, thanks to all your support and encouraging words.

  12. divz @dwindowseat
    July 22, 2014 at 10:29 pm
    Reply

    Beautiful pictures…loved it !!

    http://www.dwindowseat.wordpress.com

    • maverickbird
      July 22, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you very much.

  13. divz @dwindowseat
    July 22, 2014 at 10:31 pm
    Reply

    Beautiful pictures, loved them…

    http://www.dwindowseat.wordpress.com

  14. bhavani2014
    July 23, 2014 at 1:54 am
    Reply

    Lovely pics…….. !!!

    • maverickbird
      July 23, 2014 at 2:02 am

      Thank you very much.

  15. rupam { xhobdo }
    April 18, 2017 at 4:46 am
    Reply

    Amazing pics. Loved to read.

    • maverickbird
      April 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you very much. That had been an epic journey.

  16. Jillian
    April 22, 2017 at 8:52 am
    Reply

    Beautiful Pictures…The last picture is my fav. Also Good article…

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