One of the roads less traveled, one of the states less frequented, probably because there is no snow and ice, there are no mighty Himalayan peaks, no bike trips to Pangong Tso lake, no backwaters and neither this is the Golden Triangle route that tourists frequent when in India. Orissa or Odisha is not on everyone’s to “travel” list because of a number of reasons and because East is probably the most neglected part of India and God knows why when it has much to see!
Odisha has been sort of a black box for the people outside it. So some quick bites first:
- Oldest rocks date back to 3 billion years and our planet is believed to be about 4.5 billion years old
- Jagannath temple is one among char dham considered in India. Puri Temple is the only Dhama(pilgrimage) in India where Folk, Shaiva, Sakta, Vaishnaba cult of worship is done.
- Odisha became the first state in the country to launch special drives to register migrant labourers working in different states
- Rasagolla, famous sweet originated in Odisha although Bengalis are still debating over this :)
- Bhubaneswar, the capital city was the home of over 600 magnificent temples in medieval times. It is called the“temple city” of India. The only city in the world with such highest number of temples inside
- The Sinhala (people of Sri Lanka) are named after Raja Jai Sinha, an ancient Oriya king.
- Hirakud Dam, the fourth largest in the world, is situated at Sambalpur Western Odisha. Hirakud Dam, the longest earthen dam in the world and the largest artificial lake of Asia is situated at Hirakud near Sambalpur
- Odisha hosts the largest arribada, the turtle nesting ground, in the world.
- Odisha – highest producer of hematite ore. Odisha has 25% of Hematite ore of India.
- The dress designer of Michelle Obama, in their visit to India, was none other than an Odia.- Fun fact
- Some of the notable poets, designers, film makers are also from Odisha
“The world is a book and those who don’t travel just read only one page” – St. Augustine
If you love to travel and get an itchy feet then you are better off ticking out one more place from your list. Odisha has a lot of eclectic combination of destinations to visit. Pristine and unpolluted beaches; wild life sanctuaries and national parks; best of archaeological sites rich with history, Buddhist destinations and monasteries and temples and last but not the least some lip smacking food.
- Puri – A large part of my teenage was spent growing up in the capital city and Puri being one of the closest places to Bhubaneswar used to be a regular weekend hang out for i guess most of the people who hail from Bhubaneswar or near by cities. Puri undoubtedly is one of the holiest cities of India and one of the primary reason is having the famous Jagannath Temple( one of the Char Dhaams). The beach city has a rich history boasting about the food and tradition, the Maharaja of Puri, and the beautiful long stretch of a 29 km marine drive connecting Puri and Konark ( aka the Sun Temple). Along this stretch you will find numerous secluded beaches where you could just pitch a tent and spend time, watch the beautiful views along the coast and plenty of marine life. Recently, this stretch has also become a landmark destination because of surfers, yoga centers and other activities booming up. However i strongly recommend not to head to the Puri beach and rather go to beaches on the marine drive. Else you would find the puri beach to be too crowded and it is a tourist trap unless you want crowd of course.
- ChandraBhaga – If you start from Puri and head towards Konark then at the end of this road is the last beach called Chandrabhaga. The beach may or may not allure you but it has a lot of religious significance. It is said that the water of this beach was used to cure Shri krishna’s son Sambhu and hence a lot of pilgrims come every year during monsoon season and take holy dip. By this beach every year towards the end of the year, the famous sand art festival is hosted and participants from all over the world come to participate in this event.
- RushiKulya/Gahirmatha – Known as the only Marine wild life sanctuary, this beach is the largest breeding ground of the olive Ridley turtles. Come November and you can see thousands of turtles coming ashore to start nesting. The beach strategically separates the Bhitarkanika Mangroves and the bay of bengal and there are two other such rookeries along the banks of Rushikulya and Devi River. If you are wild life lover or a nature lover then watching the turtles is a sight to behold.
- Chandipur Beach –
Situated about 15-20 kms from Balasore, Odisha and about 230 Kms from Bhubaneswar this is a quick weekend getaway for many in West Bengal and Odisha. The beach is special because they say the sea recedes every day by 5 Km to the horizon and though this is a problem if you look at it but the views are stunning.
Other beaches – To keep the post short i don’t want to list out everything that’s out there but if you have time on your trip then you could for sure check out Astarang, balighai and some other beaches too.
Odisha has no dearth of temples and there probably are more than a thousand. The temples in and around Odisha are inspired from the Kalinga pattern of architecture and somewhere between 7th to 11th century these patterns reached their pinnacle during the kingdom of various kalinga rulers.These temples are of great archaeological importance. Located on square bases what are known as Vimanas and then curvilinear structures placed on top known as Sikharas. These Vimanas and Sikharas give rise to the main shrine or temple. I can keep writing about the temples but would restrict this to the important ones perhaps.
- Jagannath Temple – You can find loads of pages on google about the temple. Famous because of Lord jagannath and the two siblings and hope for millions of Hindus. Rath Yatra is the famous Chariot festival held each year and people visit the holy land to lend a helping hand in pulling these chariots. The temple serves an awesome meal known as “Abhaadaa” which is the food for lord Jagannath. In the temple the food is prepared by placing 7 pots on top of other and cooked on firewood. The Jagannath temple kitchen is reputed to be the largest kitchen in the world, with 400 cooks working around 200 hearths to feed over 10,000 people each day.This indeed is a place to visit if you are in Puri.
- Konark Sun Temple – I mentioned about the Chandrabhaga beach earlier and just by the beach is the beautiful Sun Temple or the Black Pagoda. Why is it special you ask me? You can ask the same question if you didn’t like Khajuraho. The architecture will make you spellbound. This is an amazing piece of work architecturally and aesthetically. Built in 13th century by King Narasimhadeva, the temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across heavens.The word Konark is made of two words “Kona”/ Corner and Arka/Sun.The Europeans during their voyage named it as BLack Pagoda. That was a bit of trivia.
- Lingaraj Temple – Right in the heart of Bhubaneswar is the Lingaraj Temple, another version among the other Shiva temples named after Lord Shiva’s name “harihar”. This was built during 11th century and special when you visit this during the time of Shivratri.
- Khandagiri and UdayGiri Caves – Earliest of the jain rock cuts and remains found in Bhhubaneswar are in these two heritage sites. There are small hills as you approach the location in the outskirts of Bhhubaneswar. One to the right is Udaygiri a.ka. sunrise hill and to the left is Khandagiri a.k.a Broken Rock Hills. With about 18 different caves and quite a bit of history these sites are nothing short of a textbook and food for thought for the ones who love history. Each of these caves were occupied by one of the Jain tenants. The architecture shows the minimalist Jain living too. If you love the ruins of Hampi and the Ajanta and the Ellora caves then you will love this too.
- Other temples and caves – As I told you before, there are no dearth of temples and in fact Bhubaneswar is also called temple city. It is the gateway to the many temples in Odisha. Some of these temples are Vaital Deul, Brahmeshwar, Mukteswar, Raja Rani and Parasurameswar temple around bhubaneswar. 64 Yogini etc.
Buddhist Destination and Monasteries
Odisha has been ruled by various rulers and Buddhism dates back to ancient Kalinga War in which Mauryan King Ashoka conquered Kingdom Kalinga. There a lot of monasteries in odisha too which people hardly know about.
- Jirang – This is a beautiful village in the Gajapati district of Odisha. This is also the biggest monastery in the entire South Asia and was opened by Dalai Lama himself. If you are done with this place then head to the hot springs “taptapani” located just 50 Km from Jirang.
- Dhauli Sanchi Stupa – Located en route Puri from Bhubaneswar, along the bank of river Daya this is the place where King Ashoka renounced everything and accepted Buddhism after the Kalinga war. Rumours are that the river turned red due to the blood bath. This place gives lovely view of the city and is best for cycling, treks and hikes too. Does the SRK movie Ashoka ring a bell? Parts of the movie has been shot here too.
- Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri – Also part of the diamond triangle “Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and UdayGiri is also known as jewel of the hills. This dates back to the 6th century and is one of the best ruins. It has emerged from various froms of buddhism over time and the recent excavations have revealed two massive Stupas and other shrines, terracotta structures and votive stupas too.Both the sites are just 5 km away from each other.
Wildlife Sanctuary and National Parks
This is the part I love the most. I have been traveling for quite a while now and what excites me is nature and adventure. If you are in Odisha then don’t miss out on these ones.
- Bhitarkanika National Park – famous for the crocodiles and the swampy mangroves, this is a perfect place for an adventure photographer and wildlife lover.
- Chilka Lake – This is the second biggest and the largest brackish water lake in the world. When it is winter in the cold countries birds from these countries come to make this lake their home. The famous bird watcher of India Dr. Salim Ali and many other adventure photographers have spent time here observing and shooting these birds. One can get on a boat and take the trip of the lake and visit an island temple called Kali Jai for historical reasons too. Spend a night at the guest houses and cottages near by.
- Simlipal Tiger Reserve – I am sure people have heard about Jim Corbett but not about Simlipal because it is less marketed but it is equally beautiful and peaceful. The reserve boasts of eco- stays and cottages and has guided trips to spot the tigers and other wild life.
As I said earlier, I can continue as long as i want to but in the interest of this post I will stop here. There are many other things i want to write about because i didn’t mention about them; food, other beaches, eco tourism spots, tribal routes, trek routes etc.but i hope to cover those in some other posts.
So, if you are now tired with the same routes in the North, then it is about time, you head east :) .
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Signing out for now !