Our last stop was at Chandbali and the next one is Chandipur separated by a road distance of 130 Kms. via the town of Bhadrak. Chandbali is not connected to Chandipur by a coastal road. Consequently, we travel by a road which is under repair or reconstruction from Chandbali to Bhadrak. A difficult and tiring drive through a number of villages. On the way, we attend to a tyre ‘pumcher’ before we reach Bhadrak.
Bhadrak is a sizable town, a District Headquarters. What attracts one’s attention is a Dargah on the road as one approaches from the Chandbali side. The Dargah is the final resting place of two Sufi saint brothers.
This place is called Gulshan-e-Ghouspak and consist of a Mosque reportedly built by Allaudin Khilji and the Mazaars of the two saints. The Saints do not claim any antiquity. They came to Bhadrak in the ‘dark days’ (according to the shrine’s website) of 1960s and spread light and relentlessly performed miracles mostly on the medical side. The younger brother who appears to have been more popular died in the year 2013 in Delhi, followed by the elder brother next year. The magnificent edifice of the Dargah came up thereafter.
The importance of these saints lies in the claim that their lineage is through Shaikh Abdul Qadri Jeelani of Baghdad (who was a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad) and hence they belong to the Sufi order of Quadriyya.
Outside the shrine one can see various shops selling the offering to be made at the shrine as well as the take-aways. The business appears to be brisk on both departments.
We continue through the town of Bhadrak and move towards our Chandipur. I will remember Bhadrak forever for one simple reason : at a fuel station they put diesel in my petrol tank and then started suggesting that I am a fool to buy a petrol driven car when diesel is cheaper. I realized my mistake and continued driving with about 6% diesel in the tank.
Chandipur is also known as Chandipur on Sea. It is known for two things: firstly, it is a major military establishment involved in the missile testing facility of the defence department and therefore out of bounds for the general public. The other claim to fame is that the beach here has the longest inter-tidal zone. The sea recedes five kilometers at low tide. This allows the visitors to walk up into the sea as much as they can during the low tide.
It is said that this feature allows a wide range of marine organism to live in this range, especially the shellfish and crabs. One can find a few varieties in the food stalls on the beach and around the village.
There is not much else at the place to be seen. There is a Lighthouse but it is located in the military area and cannot be visited. This one on seen from the beach was initially mistaken by us for a lighthouse but turned out to be a watch tower or a radar.
The most convenient place to stay the night at Chandipur is the Panthnivas, the OTDC facility. The tourism department has built a large visitors area with an amphitheatre overlooking the beach which is always crowded by the day visitors brought in by various tour operators. Our Late President presides over the place gracefully with his rocket station not far away.
As we were looking at the fishing harbours, we are directed to another village called Balaramgadh which is on the banks of the river Budhabalanga, a few kilometres north of Chandipur. The river which meets the sea here has spurred a boat-building industry, perhaps the only one in Odisha.
We visited the place at low tide and hence did not witness any fishing related activity.
We stay the night at the beach and proceed the next day to another seaside place called Chandrabali, again hosted by the OTDC Panthnivas overlooking the ocean and a river. This resort has made the best use of the empty egg shells.
As we approached Chandbali from the Highway to the west, we could, for the first time, see this tall grass being carried around and wondered what it was and the purpose for which it would be used. Upon enquiry it was explained to us that these are the stems of the Jute plant. After removing the fibre for making the gunny bags and other jute products, the stems are sold. The main users are apparently the growers of ‘paan’ who use the steam to make the covering for the paan growing areas as we had shown in an earlier post.
Chandrabali is near to a border place called Chandaneshwar where the state of Odisha ends and West Bengal starts. Chandrabali is on the bank of river Subarnarekha where she meets the Bay of Bengal. The meeting point of the river has created a huge sand bar and a longish lagoon which can be crossed on foot during low tide but needs a boat at high tide. Most tourists prefer to cross the bar and approach the sea. It is worth doing it for the sake of witnessing one amazing creature.
The beach hosts a large number of shy red Ghost Crabs which dot the landscape until you approach them up to about 10 meters when they disappear in their nests under the sand. This is not the only place where this crab can be seen but among all places we saw it, this beach has the highest concentration of numbers.
Here is a short video of the crab at lunch:
The beach looks beautiful at sunset. This place deserves better attention than it gets.
The little forest between the river and the OTDC Panthnivas where we stayed attracts several bird species. Look at this Indian Roller:
And this Green Barbet:
Chandrabali village has a Shiva temple and substantial number of pilgrim visitors but despite its beach has not developed as a tourist place. This is largely because the town in West Bengal just across the border called Digha offers much better facilities and connectivity from Bengal side.
The only other place one can visit with Chandrabali as the base is the Bichitrapur Mangroves which the Odisha Forest Department is trying to develop as a sanctuary. The sanctuary area is a depleted mangrove forest facing the Bay of Bengal which hosts numerous mangrove-oriented species of marine life and birds. The Forest Department hires boats. The people who accompany you were not trained in wildlife viewing and understood only Oriya language, seriously affecting our purpose in visiting the place.
We still manage to see a few crabs and birds.
The Red Ghost-Crabs are found here as well.
The locals use the mangrove forests as their firewood which perhaps lead to the depletion of the mangroves. However, the efforts the people are making to haul the dead (killed?) trees through the muddy waters is indicative of extreme poverty of the people.
Apart from the firewood, the locals also depend for their livelihood on the other products of the mangroves. Among them would be the edible crabs and shellfishes.
The Bichitrapur Mangroves are approachable and may afford opportunities to study the ecosystem closely from the nearby villages.
With this our coastal travel in Odisha comes to an end. Tomorrow morning we make an entry into the state of West Bengal.
Text : Suryakiran Naik
Photographs: Surayakiran Naik & Veena Naik
Videos: Veena Naik