Attracted by spiritual or earthly pleasures, three types of visitors come to Puri: Hindu pilgrims, Indian holidaymakers and foreign travellers, and each group sets up camp in different parts of town. For Hindus, Puri is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in India, with religious life revolving around the great Jagannath Mandir and its famous Rath Yatra (Car Festival).
Puri’s other attraction is its long, sandy beach and esplanade – an Indian version of an English seaside. Backing this, in Marine Pde, is a long ribbon of old hotels, flashy resorts and company holiday homes that become instantly full when Kolkata rejoices in a holiday.
In the 1970s Puri became a scene on the hippie trail wending its way through Southeast Asia, attracted here by the sea and bhang, legal in Shiva’s Puri. Travellers now come just to hang out, gorge on good food and recharge their backpacking spirit.