Odisha is hot & humid in the summer months lasting late into June, no doubt about that and few people wait for the arrival of monsoons as fervently as we do. When the men and land stand parched under the intense tropical sun, the heavy greyness of South-western monsoons thunder its way into the state, bringing relief and nourishment along. The change of air also brings with it the smell of first rains falling over the heated earth as Odisha bursts forth in festive colours of Raja in June. Songs, romance and nostalgia ensue forth from the soil.
Now during this time, the cup of steaming coffee and a good book in the rains will have to wait while ‘I’ chase the thundering clouds all over the state.
1) A trip down the south of Odisha by taking the road towards Gopalpur beach front & then moving into the hinterlands of Jirang
The National highway towards Berhampur seems slick and fresh in the rains while the sky above will show all patterns of clouds forming up. Take a trip towards the beach front in Gopalpur at a time when it drizzles continuously. Then keep it simple with some hot tea and snacks that is offered in a shack near the beach, followed by digging up toes in wet sands of the coast. The eternal sound of waves rising and crashing in the ocean is often answered back by rousing thunder in the grey skies. Surely the sound, smell & sight will be enough to wash away days’ of weariness!
When you have had enough of the sea, then move further south. The gentle hills of Jirang in Gajapati district with its sumptuous greenery of corn fields will welcome you into the Tibetan community and the monastery alike. One can find red robed monks scurrying all over this place as soon as the rain gets settled down into an avoidable sprinkle. The small rolling hills look magical against the grey skies. Just turn the wheel of Dharma and watch the vivid sunset!
But to understand the intimate relationship between hills and the rainy clouds, let’s get deeper into the southern part of this state.
2) Eastern Ghats in the picturesque Koraput district
While the rain clouds hang low over the green hills, the summits are hidden from sight and the green slopes are lost in the greys. It’s as if the mountains are trying to peek beyond the heavens. And from within these untouched valleys emanates the morning smoke from tribal hamlets veiled from the outside world. The hills of Eastern Ghats in these southern districts drape themselves in grey clouds and the rains fall almost incessantly all day. Visit the drop dead gorgeous waterfalls of Duduma near Machkund and the Chitrakoot Falls in neighboring Chhattisgarh, which are a sight to behold in monsoons.
3) The mighty Hirakud dam of Sambalpur
A source of all life and joy of Odisha, the great Mahanadi, pauses for a moment at the immensely intimidating dam site and reservoir at Hirakud. The river swells at its borders during July & August, fed by the monsoon downpour. This is truly a thing of great majesty which might turn agonizing in floods for the low lying areas! Watch the river flow in full volume in these parts and if possible stand and watch the gates of the dam open when the reservoir is stretching to its limits. The great gushing of the river will set your heart racing!
4) Chase waterfalls, some of which are greatly known and others that are still virgin!
As the rivers swell and flow with all energy, so do the waterfalls fall with a gust not seen in other seasons of the year. From the gentle and unknown falls in Phulbani area to the known ones in Keonjhar and Sundargarh like Sanghagara, Khandadhar and others, all of these fall in majestic volumes that are often fuelled by the monsoon!
So go and chase the waterfalls, as many as you can BUT let ‘me’ at the same time add a little bit of word for precaution regarding the fun and frolic at these spots in monsoons. There are some stunning falls inside Simlipal National Park but the same remains closed during the rains. They indeed would make for a glorious spectacle.
5) The splendid Kapilas and Saptasajya hills in Dhenkanal
As you’ll walk the hilly tracks of these low lying hills, the water will drip gently from the green foliage overhead and birds will sing joyfully. Once you reach a vantage point, you can actually see the entire countryside below immersed in effects of the rain and cloud. Certainly there are some places that don’t discriminate between clouds, mist & fog.
And soon after this great monsoon road trip, do find some to take a walk in your neighborhood while it drizzles, meet up old friends and plan a get together over a cup of Chai and Pakoras at the friendly Bhaina’s roadside stall. There’s never a better time than NOW to enjoy the rains, so forget the old sayings, simply venture outdoors and watch how the monsoons wash away the lethargy of summer by giving a new life to every green leaf on each thankful tree. May you feel the rain this monsoon and not simply get wet as most people do!