Rightly called the Goa of the East, Odisha is a land like no other. Yes, we all know that nature hasn’t been kind to this eastern state but Odisha never ceased to fight back, it never lost its faith and spirit. Perhaps Lord Jagganath’s bounty blessings have given the Oriya people hope to persevere and courage to carry out their desired lifestyle. Not untouched by modernity, the state has bridged the gaps between its past and present by keeping its traditions and culture alive. From its beautiful Odissi dance to the exquisite Talapattachitra, from the magnificent rock-cut caves to the pristine Chandipur beach and from the holy abode of Lord Jagganath to the Nandankanan Zoo, it is unlikely to see a land that flourish so well with paradoxes.
Here are some of the things that you must witness and experience in order to see the real Odisha:
Photo: Rajkumar Seal
Partially natural and partially man-made, the Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves are the landmark in Odisha. Situated in Bhubhaneshwar, these historic caves are ornately carved as to please the eyes of the onlookers. Udaygiri has a group of 15 caves while Khandagiri is an 18 caves complex. The caves are famed for its impeccable sculptures and reliefs and Brahmi inscriptions.
Photo: Deepak Nashine
This 13th century temple has been acclaimed worldwide for its beautiful architecture and intricate carvings. Dedicated to Sun God, most of the parts of this temple now lies in ruins but is still worth paying a visit. Boasting of Kalinga architecture and erotic sculptures of Maithunas this temple excites history buffs and someone who enjoys photography.
Photo: Mike Prince
At a short distance from Konark Sun Temple is the pristine Chandrabhaga Beach. The beach has religious importance as a seven-day fair in honour of Sun God. Devotees from all parts of the country come here to take a dip during the fair. Apart from the fair, the beach is a lovely place to be at with family and friends. Witness beautiful sunset and take a stroll along the shore to best enjoy your time here.
Now, Odisha has got its fame marked by this grand Hindu temple. One of the four holy places for Hindu devotees, Jagganath Temple needs no introduction. Although a non-Hindu is prohibited from entering the temple, it is a pure delight to get the merely get the view of this sacred place from outside as well.
Photo: Supratim Ghatak
Chilika Lake is another important identity of Odisha. This brackish water lagoon extended in an area of 1100 sq km in Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts is probably the largest coastal lagoon in India. The lake is also an ecosystem with a giant fishery resource. One if lucky has the opportunity to spot dolphins here as well. Those who love birdwatching, Chilika Lake could be an ideal place to visit in Odisha. The place also makes an excellent backdrop for some gorgeous pictures.
Dubbed as the ‘City of Temples’, Bhubnaseshwar has a history that goes back to 2000 years. For the delight of history aficionados, Bhubaneshwar offers a beautiful picture adorned with intricately carved temples. Today, what we see is a city that has a perfect blend of architecture from different eras. It indeed brings out the rich colour of Indian culture and makes for an ideal place to learn about vibrant history of Odisha. Amongst the must see places in Bhubaneshwar are Lingaraja Temple, Nandankanan Zoological Park, Raja Rani Temple, Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves.
Raghurajpur is an ideal destination to learn about the rural life of Odisha. No where can you see such a fine assemblage of artwork. The village has an artistic environment that exhibits the diversity of Oriya culture. It is a good platform to get acquainted with the lives of rural people and their fine art culture called Pattachitra. Craft items like palm leaf inscriptions, stone and wood carvings, papier mache, sodhai work, mural painting, wooden and cow dung toys, filigree, applique, terracotta are all created and proudly displayed here.
Photo: Saurabh Chatterjee
Famed for appliqué work, Pipli in Odisha opens its doors for tourists to observe the creative side of Oriya people. The craft involves stitching and embroidering small pieces of colored cloth with flowers, animals, village scene and traditional designs on to a larger base cloth. At Pipli you can shop for decorative Garden Umbrellas, Wallets, Wall Hanging, lampshades, Pouches and Bags.
Sprawling over 400 hectare of land, Nandankan Zoological Park is an apt place in Odisha to take your kids to. Situated in Bhubaneshwar, this zoological park is set amidst Chandaka forest and has a beautiful lake called Kanjia. The park is a home of about 166 species of animals including White Tigers. It also runs an Adopt an Animal project under which an individual can sponsor food and other necessary items for any animal of their choice in the park. It is an interesting place to teach your children the value of wildlife conservation.
Photo: Asish Mohanty
Set at the coast of Bay of Bengal, Chandipur Beach in Odisha is known for its 1 to 4km high rising tides. The beach is situated about 16kms from Baleswar Railway Station in Balasore district. Apart from its amazing high tide rise, Chandipur beach is known for its beautiful sunset view. A pristine beach, it makes an ideal picnic spot and a romantic getaway for many.
Photo: Arnab Bhattacharya
Simlipal National Park reflects the rich diversity of wildlife in Odisha. Situated at in the Mayurbhanj district, Simlipal is a popular elephant reserve. The national park also houses some very pretty waterfalls like Barehipani and Joranda. An enthralling place, Simlipal can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Like Nandankanan Zoological Park, this place also helps in understanding the importance of wildlife conservation.
Photo: Saurabh Chatterjee
Odisha is the home of many tribes who are farmers and food gatherers. These tribes despite their poverty have a rich culture and traditions that include highly developed artistic skills like body painting, ornaments making, weaving and wall paintings. Music and dance also are an important part of these tribes who rejoice at little happiness they can find. To learn about real Odisha, it is advisable to take a tribal tour. Bondo, Didayi, Barogadaba, Kondhs and Dongarias are some of known tribes in Odisha.
A paradise for nature lovers, Bhitar Kanika Wetland is a major attraction in Odisha. The mangroves extend to an area of about 650 sq km river delta of the Brahmani and Baitarani rivers. Home to 55 mangrove species, the mangroves harbor a large population of saltwater crocodiles. The beach called Gahirmatha that separates Bay of Bengal from the mangroves is the nesting hub for Oliver Ridley Turtles in India. There is nothing so enthralling than to take a boat ride amongst the intricate mangroves and sight wildlife.
Don’t confuse this Ratnagiri with the one in Maharashtra. This historic place is famed as a site of Mahavira and an important Buddhist monastery. Ratnagiri is situated Brahmani and Birupa river valley in Jajpur district of Odisha. Once, this place was known as a place for meditation and monastic life. Today, one can see most of sites here in a ruined state but it still elicit the spiritual feel. If you are looking a place that is historic and serene then Ratnagiri is perfect. There are many ways to see Odisha and these are amongst the few. It takes extended holidays and a will to discover this mesmeric land.
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