Odisha, originally known as the land of Lord Jaganath, is a beautiful state full of prehistoric temples, mesmerizing beaches, ancient monuments, serpentine rivers, mighty waterfalls and what not. This state promises a veritable wonderland waiting to spellbind you with its exceptionality. Be it the famous Rathyatra or the distinctive classical dance Odissi, the state never misses a chance to entice you with its uniqueness and the divine feel.
Irresistible places to visit:
Full of wonderments all around, Odisha is blessed in abundance with the natural scenic beauty, calm and composed environs, picturesque hills and historical attractions. The destinations here are easily accessible, well-connected and conventionally beautiful. They speak of either the bygone history or the sanctified aura of the region. Here is the list of the places which add magnificent touch to the priceless natural wealth of the state.
The capital of Odisha popularly known as "Temple city of India" is an important hindu pilgrimage centre. It is believed to be a land to 2000 temples. They perfectly complement its modern buildings and extensive infrastructure with a perfect blend of historic surroundings. It is very famous for the handicrafts like silver filigree, stone and wood carving, patta paintings, bamboo basketry, tie and dye textiles, brass and bell metal work, horn work and many more in its local market.
Temples like Rajarani, Mukteswar, Vishnu, Brahma, and ISKCON are of greater interest here.
One of the most important tourist destinations in Odisha, Puri is a pious place known for its religious importance, architectural magnificence and historical antiquities. Abode to lord Jaganath, Puri is one of the four Dhams in Hinduism. And that is the reason it attracts loads of worshippers specially the Hindus to pay their homage at least once in their lifetime. Jaganath Temple is of major importance in Puri. Endowed temple of lord jagannath of 12 th century A.D. built by Chodaganga Deva is the main attraction at Puri. Being the tallest Temple in Odisha (65 m), it becomes one of the luring monument in the state.
Other worth visiting places in puri are Gundicha , Sunaragauranga, lokanath, Daria, Mahabir, and Tota Gopinath. There are monastries , holy tanks and Raghurajpur Painting village.
Recognition of the Rath Yatra at a global level, acceptance of Odissi as a classical dance form, Orissan School of architecture referred to as poetry frozen in stone and 'the Mahaprasad brotherhood' have no doubt helped a lot to fetch Puri, the status of an internationally known city.
The name of Konark instantly makes you remind the unmatched architecture of the most stunning monuments in the world- THE SUN TEMPLE. It is almost impossible to describe the amazing experience of Konark in words. The legendary poet Rabindra nath tagore also said "Here the language of stone surpass the language of man." Situated around 85 km from Puri, the beautiful Konark Temple is located on the banks of a mesmerising sea beach. Built by King Narasimhadeva in 13th century, the temple is designed entirely like a colossal chariot, carrying Surya across the heavens.
Moreover, it is also famous for its famous jewel -like oriyan art. The carving of the content is combined with lyrical movements and overwhelming tenderness.There are several smaller shrines situated in the neighbourhood of the Sun temple. It is also referred as one of the brightest flame of a dying lamp.
The largest water Lake Chilika - The queen of natural beauty in Asia covers an area of over1, 100 sq. km and is a great attraction for fishing, bird watching, boating too. The atmosphere is serene and undisturbed with the blue expanse of water on one side and range of hills on the other. The whole lake is dotted with the hub of islands.
At the time of winters, numerous migratory birds flock here from far and near. Even the poets weren't able to resist its beauty. Dolphins can also be seen at Chilika mouth near Satpara. Further, the Nalabana Island, 8 km in circumference is the central point for migratory birds and the Kalijia Island is famous for the religious worship. A big fair is held on the occassion of Makara Sankranti.
Taptapani is a lush green forest 50 kms. away from Berhampur, with a hot water spring . The spring is channelised to a pond which facilitates the baths. The name Taptapani has its origin from the combination of two words Tapta meaning ‘hot’ in Sanskrit and pani which means ‘water’. It is a hot water sulphur spring that pouts from a cleft in a mountain of the Eastern Ghats.
Bus service is also available from Berhampur . A pipeline is connected to the hot spring that provides natural hot water inside bathrooms of Panthanivas. Panthnivas of OTDC provides accommodation to the tourists.
On the bay of Bengal, 16 kms from Berhampur lies the minuscule town of Gopalpur . It enjoys the title of being the most popular Beach resort of Odisha. The beach tempts the swimmers and the non-swimmers to dive and take an exploratory bath in it. Watching fishermen pulling their nets adds a local touch to it. This languorous beach with coconut groves, casuarinas and gentle sand dunes is deserted for miles. In the evening many people from Berhampur drive in here to the sea to have a peaceful time sitting on sea shore.
Bhitarkanika - a nature's pardise is the national park In Odisha. Its exquisite biodiversity combined with beautiful terrains and mangrove is undoubtedly one of its kinds. It is located in the estuarine region of Brahmani - Baitrani in state of Odisha. It has 55 different varieties of mangroves and nests around 215 bird species.
Dhenkanal, a town with lush green forests, beautiful temples and hilly picnic areas is one of the major tourist attractions for the nature enthusiasts. The majority of this district is covered with dense forest and a long range of hills, which are home to elephants and tigers. The town is well-connected with Bhubaneshwar and Sambalpur by road and also with the major cities like New Delhi, Raipur, Ahmedabad. The place is also known for numerous temples marking their importance here. The names include: Kapilash Temple, Sri Raghunath Temple, Naganatheswar Temple, Astasambhu Temple, Sri Kanakeswar , Maa tarini Temple and many to catch your spiritual attention.
The festive spirit of Odisha:
With all the traditions, gaiety and high festive spirits, people of Odisha celebrate all the festivals with utter delight and fondness. Some of the important fairs and festivals are given below:
Konark Dance Festival
Organised every year in Odisha, in the backdrop of the sun temples, a Konark Dance Festival is one of the major festivals celebrated in the state. Konark’s Sun Temple is known as a world heritage site and the exquisite 'Natyamandir' of this mesmeric shrine is an attractive piece of architecture with embellished sculptures portraying the dance poses of Odissi.
The Konark dance festival Odisha is organized by renowned Odissi guru Padmashree Gangadhar Pradhan's Odisha (Orissa) Dance Academy in association with the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata at Konark. As the sun sets, the open air auditorium rejuvenates the meaning of life with the sweet rhythms playing around giving a touch of magnificence to the event.
On the day of celebration, the place is entirely filled with the traditional music spreading out the saintly vibes all around and this classical gala takes you through a never-ending bliss. The performances take place in an open-air auditorium against the backdrop of the temples that echoes with the beats of 'Raga' and 'Tala'. Much appreciated dances like Odissi, Bharathnatyam, Chau Dance, Kathak and Manipuri are also performed. The mesmerising sound of Ghungroo, flute and pakhauj gets you in the perfect festive mood. A not-to-be missed Crafts Mela is also organised which serves you a wide range of handicrafts and appetizing cuisines.
This festival serves as a great platform for those who participate and portray the various classical treats from every corner of the country. And it proves to be new modus-operandi for the budding artists who are yet to make their presence felt on an international scale.
Konark festival is held every year from 19th to 23rd February.
Maha Vishuba Sankranti
Also known as Mesha Sankranti, this festival is celebrated when Sun enters the sign Libra. The Odia community celebrates New Year on the occasion. On this particular day, a small pot filled with pana or a sweet drink of Mishri and water is hung on a basil (Tulsi) plant. There is a hole at the bottom of this pot which allows the water to fall from the pot, representing rain. The flour of horse gram chhatua, along with banana and curd, is consumed by the people of Odisha after offering it to the Tulsi plant.
A sweet concoction known as pana is prepared and distributed among one and all. Poetry reading sessions and literary functions are also organized this day. Special offerings are made to Shalagram, Shivalinga, Hanuman, and other deities. In Northern Orissa it is called Chadak Parva. In Southern Orissa the day is celebrated as the end of month-long Danda nata, and the final ceremony is known as Meru Yatra. People all over the state worship Hanuman on this day and celebrate it as his birthday.
Rath Yatra (Puri)
The Puri Rath Yatra attracts more than one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from different parts of the world. The festival is known as the symbol of equality and integration. The devotees start decorating and adorning the raths much before the yatra starts and this when the celebration begins. The three chariots that are the highlights of the entire Yatra are pulled by strings. The 3 deities, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are worshipped within the temple, on this festival they are taken to the streets of Puri so that everyone takes the opportunity to see the deities.
The festival commences with summoning ceremony in the morning and the chariot pulling on the in afternoon is the most enlivening part of the festival. One of the most famous ritual associated with this festival is Chhera pahara, as the the Gajapati King sweeps all around the deities and chariots. He then cleanses the road with a broom (gold-handled) and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder. This custom is symbolic of equality shown as it displays a clear message that all are devotees, be it a king or a common man. This ritual is held on two days, firstly on the Rath Yatra Puri when the three deities go to their aunt’s house for a period of nine days and lastly on the day when they are ceremoniously brought back to the Puri Temple.
This Rath Yatra is momentous in the entire history of Odisha and is witnessed with millions of devotees and visitors flocking together to pay their homage.
Other significant festivals and fairs celebrated in Odisha are: Akshya Trutiya, Chandana Yatra, Raja Festival, Nagapanchami, Ganesa Puja, Baliyatra and many more which add to the festive mood of the state, making it dance to the rhythmic and colorful hues.
Odisha has a culinary food tradition since centuries. Major delights here are of the non- vegetarian and fish which form an integral part of the state’s traditional food. The people here follow a distinctive cooking style which reflects in its tastes too.
The food in region around Puri is sweeter as they use of sugar and jiggery in the ingredients. The Berhampur region has influences of south Indian cuisine and the Gopalpur town has delicious fishes and green coconuts to satisfy appetite and thirst perfectly.
Curries are prepared from prawn and lobsters are made delicious with the spices. Pakhala, khechadi , Palau , dalma , aloo potalo rosco , maccha besara , mahura are the local food items of Odisha that portrays the simpler lifestyle of native people here.
Shopping in Odisha:
Handicrafts and handlooms are the must-shop here as a rich and antique craftsmanship is deeply rooted in the state’s tradition. It is a true legacy of several religions that reflects easily in the Oriyan crafts. The beautiful objects made of seashells are worth buying. They not only serve as a great gift but a nice decorative piece too. Metal crafts have also come up as one of the best items to buy here. The Government emporia are running all over the state.
Next time when you pack your bags and plan your vacation to Odisha, be ready for a nice escape in its evergreen, enchantingly breathtaking natural and historic beauty.