Odisha is etched in our minds as that eastern coast state where the iconic Jagannath is worshipped, and where several visitors go to stroll along the beaches of Puri. It may not strike us as a party destination like Goa, but Odisha shares similar characteristics that would make it a perfect destination if you’re looking to spend your holiday on the east coast.
Best known for the iconic Konark Sun Temple, where you have probably seen the image of a charming Odissi dancer pose as Lord Krishna in front of the chariot wheel.
The Konark Sun Temple, dedicated to the sun god, is designed as a chariot standing 30 metres high. The walls are adorned with intricate carvings of deities, mythical creatures and similar expressions of sexuality that are present in the temples of Khajuraho.
Another important temple in the state that is worth a visit is the famedJagannath Temple in Puri. Built by the Kalingas, the temple is devoted to whom it is named after, Jagannath, considered to be the reincarnation of Krishna and Vishnu. Although you might be annoyed by money-hungry priests, staying for the mahaprasad and witnessing the rituals of the inner sanctum of the temple are worth the experience.
The Lingaraja Temple is one of the oldest in this region. It was proposed to be the main site for raising a temple for Lord Jagannath but it was built in Puri instead. The temple is moderately well maintained. The main structure is huge and beautifully sculpted. Although it is situated in a crowded old town of Bhubanewar, there is a car park for the arrival of many tourists.
One of the most iconic festivals is the Rath Yatra in summer (around July – August), which is also celebrated in neighbouring states like West Bengal. The idols of Jagannath and his siblings, Balaram and Subhadra, are placed in a chariot which is then paraded to the Gundicha Temple. It is symbolic of the lord’s annual visit to his birthplace and the abode of his aunt. Every 19 years, the idols (made of neem wood) are replaced by new ones. This known asNabakalebara.
The Konark Festival is a celebration of dance as the temple becomes a venue of the display of various classical dance forms from around the country. This happens in the first week of December. The Konark Dance and Music Festival takes place in February and displays dance and music performances.
The Puri Beach Festival takes place on the Swagadwara beach and is a fantastic display of the Oriya spirit, with dance performances and an exhibition of handicrafts, hand-looms and sand art.
There are several beaches in Orissa where you can enjoy the waters of the Bay of Bengal. The first name that comes to mind is the popular town of Puri. Other beaches include Gopalpur, Chandrabhaga beach, Baliharchandani beach (27 km from Puri), Chandipur beach, Balighai beach (8 km from Puri beach), Balaramgadi beach (2 km from Chandipur beach) and Aryapalli beach.
Goa has the most stunning of waterfalls, the Dudhsagar, but Orissa has waterfalls to match.
One being the Barehipani falls, which is India’s second highest and falls over two tiers.
Another equally stunning waterfall is the Khandhadhar Falls that descends at a height of 152 metres. The water seems to have a smoke-like appearance probably due to the fact that it violently sprays water while gushing down the steep rock face.
The Udayagiri caves are wonderfully carved and were used by Jain ascetics. The caves are cut out into rocks on a hill and are of various sizes and shapes. One has a facade of an elephant while Rani Gumpha is a major attraction due to the sheer intricacy. There are many other caves haphazardly distributed on the face of the hill. The scattered location actually adds to its charm. Apart from the caves, the hill itself is a nice spot of scenic beauty. Monkeys are all over the place, and you can feed them peanuts.
Dhaulagiri is located on the banks of the river Daya, 8 km south of Bhubaneswar. It is a hill with vast open space adjoining it, and has major Edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock, by the side of the road leading to the summit of the hill.
In Kalinga Edict VI, he expresses his concern for the “welfare of the whole world“. The rock-cut elephant above the Edicts is the earliest Buddhist sculpture of Odisha. The stone elephant shows the animal’s foreparts only, though it has a fine sense of form and movement.
On the top of the hill, a dazzling white peace pagoda has been built by the Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha in the 1970s.
The Buddhist Excavation of Ratnagiri has some amazingly beautiful 10th century A.D. excavations which have been preserved well. However, the signage is most preliminary and does not give any information on historical significance of the excavated structures.
There is a museum on the site which is no better than the excavation site. The exhibition galleries also do not provide much information.
6. Tribal heritage
There are more than 60 tribal communities in Orissa. These natives with their traditional ways dwell in the remote, deep forests and hilly interiors. Most of them are in the southwestern part of the state.
Visiting the tribes can be a fascinating experience, but you’ll need to go on an organised tour. Some tribal areas are quite inaccessible and require permits, and the language barrier is ever present. During a tribal tour of Orissa, you’ll get to mix with the local tribal people and learn their lifestyles. Tours run for at least five nights/six days, due to the amount of travel involved.
These areas hold weekly markets where traditional tribal jewellery is sold. The Adivasi Mela is held every year in Bhubaneshar where various tribal communities present the rich mosaic of their culture and heritage.
7. Lake Chilika
Chilika is Asia’s largest brackish water lake and lagoon and is an ecological kaleidoscope in itself. It plays host to several types of fish, migratory birds and if you’re lucky you might just spot a dolphin!
Activities out here include camping, bird watching cruises, and boat trips to the several islands that dot the lake.
8. Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden, Bhubaneshwar
Literally translated as “one mango tree forest”, it is situated on the left bank of the Bindusagar Lake. The features of the garden are raised platforms dedicated to Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha and the historical Buddhist site of Lalitgiri. Ayurveda enthusiasts are encouraged to visit due to the variety of medicinal herbs that grow there. The landscaping has been done beautifully.
9. Nandankanan Zoological Gardens
Literally translated as “Gardens of Heaven”, it is part of the Chandaka forest and is home to several animals like mouse deer, lion-tailed macaques, white tigers, pangolins, crocodiles, as well as tropical flora and fauna.
Credits for the article to : Souvik Ray of India Times Full link here