Puri, an old temple town, is a hodge-podge of architectural styles from many periods. But the Grand Road, the road along which the massive vehicle of Jagannath passes, is lined with buildings from the last century. Early 20th century architecture is very decorative. Even ordinary houses here have ornate plaster work balconies: botanical curlicues and peacocks are common, as are very bright colours. And what I saw were not ordinary houses.
When it comes to the ashrams, the decorations become mesmerizing. Mythological scenes abound. What could be done earlier in expensive stone or fragile earth, was now done in plaster. Some are executed in the then newly popular westernized style picked up from Raja Ravi Varma and his followers, but others recall temple statuary from the region. But the exuberance of the colours is completely local. Driving through the countryside outside Puri you’ll see modest houses painted in the same bright colours, standing out against the greenery of fields. All of the decorations you see here belong to gateways. In the last picture in the gallery above you see one of the gates, a massive made-to-order cast iron affair (interestingly, of all the gates I saw, this was the only one in which the dwarapala was not a lion). The iconography is largely of Vishnu, of course. The small icon of the Varaha avatara (featured photo) was a wonderful example of this style.
Across the road from these ashrams was a building with totally different aesthetic on its frontage. The colours and the style were imitation British. I wondered why it was so different. There was no clue from its current use. It had shops on the ground floor and a hotel in the upper floors. Quite a good spot if you want to take photos of the rath yatra, I thought.