It was a great pleasure and an enlightening experience to tail William Dalrymple on his ‘Temple Trail’ for Odisha Tourism. William, if you don’t already know, is the author of nine books about India and the Islamic world, including City of Djinns (Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Prize), White Mughals (Wolfson Prize for History and SAC Scottish Book of the Year Prize), The Last Mughal (Duff Cooper Prize and Vodafone Award for Non-Fiction) and Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Asia House Literary Award).
He writes regularly for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and the Guardian, and is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literary Festival. On the final day of our journey, I did a quick rendezvous with him
William during his Book Reading session organised by Prelude, Bakul Foundation and IBI
Describe your Odisha experience.
I have had a very good trip and I am thankful to Odisha Tourism and Mr. Vishal K. Dev, Secretary tourism for inviting me over. This is my third trip to Odisha and each one has been lovely. I adored my time in Odisha and was bowled over by the richness of its history, the spectacular sculptures on the temples and perhaps especially the astonishing new Buddhist remains which have been uncovered in the last twenty years. Yet Odisha remains little visited compared to many other far less beautiful and fascinating states. Their loss… I’m coming straight back with my family next winter. I saw Chausathi Yogini temple, Kala Bhoomi museum, Ekamra Kshetra, Konark, State Museum, Chandrabagha beach within a span of four days and intend to explore more next time.
What would be your pitch to people to come to Odisha?
If you have been tired of people on the beaches of Goa and had to cue up for food in any other place, Odisha has miles and miles of virgin beaches, some of the world’s most beautiful temples and some great food. Delicious sea food, Red snapper cooked in a clay oven tastes amazing.
William at the Bhaskareswar temple
Tell us about your most intriguing experience here in Odisha.
I was quite intrigued by the Buddhist trail. I knew a lot about the Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark. The diamond triangle of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri was amazing and Lalitgiri has one of the best museums in India with a lot of extraordinary sculptures and beautifully lit.
William meditating at Lalitgiri
Your favourite Odia cuisine?
Seafood is amazing in Odisha. I loved Prawns and Red Snapper (quite clear in the pic below)