Situated on the coast of Bay of Bengal, Odisha has been the land of rich history and culture since time immemorial. Still, not many are aware of this state's abundant beauty and its treasures, its pristine beaches, rivers, majestic waterfalls and the teeming wildlife of the Eastern Ghat forests. Many lesser-known and well-kept secrets dot the nooks and corners of this rich yet unexplored state.
With great pleasure, we bring forth to you the beauty of Odisha! A tourist's true paradise, where you can relax on beaches, re-visit an era gone by at the many rich and historical sites that this state has to offer, go for pilgrimages in the famous temple cities of Bhubaneshwar and Puri or enjoy the vast ecological treasures at the Chilka lake, Simplipal Tiger Reserve or at the Bhitarkarnika Wildlife Sanctuary.
Odisha, also known by its ancient name – Utkala (as in the national anthem) and Kalinga, was once invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BC, resulting in the famous Kalinga war - the aftermath of which made Ashoka turn toBuddhism.
Kalinga finds mention in the ancient scriptures and the Mahabharata and was ruled by various rulers throughout the history of India, including the Jain king Kharavela, Samudragupta of the Gupta dynasty, King Harshavardhan, rulers from the Ganga dynasty, the Mughals and then finally by the Marathas and the British.
In 1936, Orissa, as it was formerly known, was made into a separate province by the British, and the princely state finally merged with the Union of India in 1949.
Odisha is also known as the land of Lord Jagannath as it is home to one of the most sacred pilgrim sites for the Hindus – Puri.
Places to Visit
Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha, is also known as the 'Temple City' as it was once home to some 700 temples! The history of this city can be traced back to the 7th century BC. Bhubaneshwar, along with Jamshedpur and Chandigarh, are some of India's modern planned cities and were designed by the German architect Otto Konigsberger in 1946.
Some of the famous temples to visit in Bhubaneshwar are Lingaraja Temple, Muktesvara Temple, the Rajarani Temple and the Ananta Vasudeva Temple. The Lingaraja temple, dedicated to Shiva, is the oldest amongst them,
Some of the other places to visit in Bhubaneshwar are:
Udaygiri and Khandgiri caves are home to some ancient Jain monasteries built by King Kharavela that were carved into the caves in the 2nd century BC.
Hirakud Dam is also known as the longest human-made dam in India.
Nandankanan Zoological Park is the first zoo in the world to have successfully bred the Melanistic breed of tigers and the white tiger.
Chausath Yogini Temple, also known as the Mahamaya Temple, is a 10th-century ancient temple that resembles the temples of Khajuraho.
Puri, a coastal city situated on the Bay of Bengal, is located 60 km from Bhubaneshwar. Puri is also known as Sri Jagannatha Dham as it is home to the sacred 12th century Jagannath temple – one of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites for the Hindus.
The city of Puri finds mention in the Hindu scriptures like the Rigveda, Matsya Purana, Brahma Purana, Narada Purana and many others. It is also known by various ancient names like Srikshetra, Purushottama Dhama and Jagannath Puri.
The Jagannath Temple was built in the 12th century by the first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The deities worshipped at the temple are Jagannath (Lord Vishnu), Balarama and Subhadra.
The temple is also famous for the annual Rath Yatra or the chariot festival. The Rath Yatra is a procession of three huge chariots that carry the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra through the Bada Danda, meaning the 'grand avenue' of Puri till their final destination, the Gundicha Temple.
Many other temples inside the Jagannath Temple complex are not to be missed. The Vimala Temple inside the complex is considered one of the most important shaktipeeths, where Goddess Sati's navel fell. The food offered to Lord Jagannath is not considered as Mahaprasad until it is offered to Goddess Vimala.
The temple of Mahalakshmi also has an important role in the rituals of the main temple. It is said that the preparation of Naivedya, which is offered to Jagannath, is supervised by Goddess Mahalakshmi.
Some of the other places to visit in Puri are:
Puri Beach-Renowned for its peaceful and tranquil ambience, the Puri beach is also quite well known for the sand sculptures made here by the internationally known sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik.
Chilka Lake- located 50 km away from Puri, is the biggest inland salt-water lake in the country.
Raghurajpur village is a heritage crafts village located 8 km away from Puri.
Another coastal town situated on the Bay of Bengal, Konark, is also located 60 km from Bhubaneshwar. Konark is home to the 13th century Sun Temple, also known as the Black Pagoda, as it is built in black granite. The Konark Sun Temple was built by king Narasimhadeva-I and is now a World Heritage Site by the Archaeological Survey of India.
The temple has been built in the form of a gigantic chariot dedicated to the Sun God and has twelve pairs of well-sculpted wheels pulled by seven horses. The Konark temple is the perfect example of the Kalingan style of architecture.
The town is also renowned for its annual dance festival, the Konark Dance Festival, dedicated to all the classical Indian dance forms, including the traditional classical dance of Odisha - Odissi.
Situated on the Bay of Bengal in the Ganjam district of Odisha is the coastal port town of Gopalpur. It is also a famous sea beach and a much-visited tourist destination, located 15 km away from Behrampur.
The current port at Gopalpur dates back to when Odisha was also known as Kalinga and was a major centre of trade.
The passive and pristine beach of Gopalpur, with its coconut groves, is a must-visit during the Gopalpur Beach Festival that happens annually in December.
Some of the other places to visit in Gopalpur are:
We hope that this article has got you excited enough to plan for your upcoming holiday to the beautiful state of Odisha. Visit the destinations mentioned here, and do share your experience with us!