by Aditya Nag

Your otherwise reticent home is abuzz with activity in the weekend. With minds as curious as that of Sherlock Holmes, your nieces and nephews cannot be confined indoors and you are at a loss of ideas to plan a quick weekend getaway. Sounds familiar?

Well! My 12 year old nephew from Boston, Sovan, put me in an identical situation recently. Born in the U.S.A, Sovan always found India and his ancestral home in Odisha an amazing place that was tucked far far away in a land replete with temples, beautiful beaches, lush green hills and hot springs.

As we all sat down to pick a destination to make Sovan’s weekend special, many names cropped up. His parents suggested the tried and tested Puri-Konark route, an idea that we dropped the moment we looked at Sovan’s face who wasn’t even remotely interested. “I don’t want to visit Puri. We did that last year.” he quipped and quietly started typing on his I-pad. “Sovan, why don’t we visit Satpada, you get to see a lot of Dolphins there. It’s gonna be fun kiddo”, suggested one of us. Sovan’s face was as stoic as a Wall Street trader on a bullish Monday,he wasn’t buying any of our ideas.

Now, as Sovan’s favourite uncle, I was under some serious pressure to suggest a ‘bobaal’ plan. “Why don’t we let Sovan plan out our weekend trip.” I said “He has been peering into that I-pad, I am sure he has come up with something interesting to do this weekend.” Almost instantaneously, his eyes lit up and he decreed in a thick American accent “We shall go to this hot spring called Atari, I have never seen a hot spring in my life. I had asked my parents to take me to the Colorado hot springs but they never

find the time. So this weekend we go to Atari. At least I can visit a hot spring and then tell all my friends in school about it.” I came up to him and he promptly showed me the route to the hot spring “It’s not very far you see. We will go there.” he said. I corrected my nephew “It’s pronounced as Atri not Atari, don’t confuse it with that gaming console.” To which he nodded and said “Uncle who plays Atari these days. I am more into Ninetendo Gameboys. We can catch some Pokemon there too.” He said.

Situated just about 50 kms from Bhubaneswar on the Khurda- Nayagarh road, one has to take a left from Baghmari village and head for another 3kms from there. There are only 4 such known hot springs in Odisha and other than Atri and Tarabalu, the others are far away from Bhubaneswar. The roads leading up to Atri are very good right throughout. An early start post breakfast from Bhubaneswar is ideal as it is only 17 kms from Khurda. Once there you’ll find a small but an impressive temple of Hatakeshwara Mahadeva in a serene environment. The hot spring

complex is beautiful, neatly laid out complex, buttressed in an acreage of paddy fields. The hot spring is situated right at the middle with separate places for women and men’s bathing and a nice little OTDC run establishment, which they wish to promote as a health spa destination.

Once at the complex, you see a lone well guarded off by some local priests, the crystal clear water boiling upto the surface. As you peer into the well you see the bubbles of hot water escaping from the underground.

The place will also provide firsttime tourists, an array of interesting elements starting from the history of the freedom struggle by the ‘Paikas’ of Khurda to the divine link between Lord Hatakeswar and the hot spring.

During ‘Makar Sankranti’, a grand ritual is organized where betel nuts are thrown into one of the ponds near the hot spring. Women who have not conceived after marriage try to find the betel nuts from the holy water. The ones who manage to find a betel nut consume it and, it is believed, that they have the maximum chances of conception within a few days. Although it may sound strange, villagers residing near Atri and Hatakeswar temple have believed in this theory since ages.

There is sadly, no cautionary sign or instructions as to, how hot the water is.

The Atri hot spring’s water is known to have healing powers and it can cure many skin and bone ailments. The local priestssay that even consumption of this sulphur rich water can cure stomach ailments. It welcomes people of all faith and religions. Since I had a bad stomach from the previous day I consumed some. Personally I think it’s not a good idea to drink sulphur rich hot water, all it gave me was an aftertaste of gunpowder. “Your innards must be feeling like an engine right now isn’t it.” said Sovan and everyone else laughed as I tried to suppress my grand burps.

Soon we all took a dip into the water and came out quite refreshed. The warm mineral rich water instantly cleanses your skin pores making you feel much younger and energetic after a single dip. I am not making this up, you can check it out yourself. Many people come to Atri, just to take a dip in the ponds that collect the hot spring water and we met a few who claim that even complex ailments like arthritis were cured after repeated bathing at Atri.

There are other small attractions close by as well. Jaguleipatna is another interesting place near Atri and Hatakeswar temples, where the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra have palms unlike the main temple. Just near the entrance of the temple a huge twin statue of Lord Ganesha and Hanuman make for a beautiful sight.

Kaipadar, another place close to the hot spring, is famous for its ‘Pir Baba’. It is a place of worship for both Muslims and Hindus. It is situated 15 km from Khurda town. The Hot spring complex at Atri has the potential to become the ideal place for a weekend health retreat and the Odisha Tourism department should promote this location. A few more creature comforts like an temperature indicator which also shows the mineral content of the water would also be helpful. We did see a slide and a swing probably an addition done by the OTDC but a full-fledged restaurant would be an welcome move to attract the urban crowd of Bhubaneswar.

We all had an amazing weekend. So dear readers do venture out to this quaint little hot spring at Atri next time when you have a few hours to spare. One can just go and come back in a matter of 3 hours… its, that close. So if you are reading right now then we suggest you should head down to nature’s own health spa and get rejuvenated this weekend because it ain’t far away.

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