EAST INDIA

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The Seat of Buddhism

Bhubaneswar, the 'Cathedral City' was once the capital of an ancient kingdom. Today this bustling centre for commerce and religious activity is Orissa's modern capital. Having merged its intriguing past so uniquely with its modern aspirations, it forms an integral link in the Golden Triangle that incorporates the holy city of Puri and Konark, for the tourists that flock to pay their homage to the religious, cultural and natural wonders that abound here.

The striking features of the city are the numerous temples and shrines that seem to be all around you. Bhubaneswar's skyline is dominated by some of the most spectacular engineering and artistic feats of its ancient heritage. The imposing spire of the Lingaraj Temple, the quiet beauty of the Vishwa Shanti Stupa and the pink translucence of the Mahavira Jain Temple in nearby Khandagiri, inspire feelings of wonder at their sheer beauty and their cross-- cultural permutations. These three alone offer an excellent insight into the ancient cultural strength of Orissa and are well-worth exploring at greater length. At least four of Bhubaneswar's temples must he on the tourist's agenda, to get a feel of the dynamic artistry and development of their indigenous perfection.

The temples have after all stood testimony to the area's history, which spans 25 centuries. The Lingaraj, the Parsurameswar, the Mukteswar and the Rajarani temples are unique in themselves, not only in their architectural beauty but also in the wonderful sculptures which enhance their presence. An interesting variation figures in the Vital and Brahmeswar temples. Though the Lingaraj is closed to non-Hindus, it can be viewed from the viewing platform constructed alongside.

The State Museum of Bhubaneswar offers an excellent selection of archaeological artifacts, weapons and local arts and crafts and insights into Orissa's natural and tribal history. The museum has world's largest collection of palm - leaf paintings. The Tribal Research Institute Museum with its authentic tribal dwellings, created by the tribal craftsmen is a great place to get a bird's eye view of the State's tribal heritage.

Khandagiri & Udayagiri (Jain Heritage) - The twin hills of Khandagiri & Udayagiri, 8 km from Bhubaneswar, served as the site of an ancient Jain monastery which was carved into cave like chambers in the face of the hill. Dating back to the 2nd century BC, some of the caves have beautiful carvings. The Rani Gumpha ( Queen's Cave), one of the largest and double - storied is ornately embellished with beautiful carvings. In the Hati Gumpha (Elephant Cave), King Kharavela has carved out the chronicles of his reign.

Atri - The Atri hot sulphur spring is believed to have medicinal properties and has become a popular outing spot for vacationers. The drive from Bhuhaneswar (42 km) alone is worth the trip. The countryside is gorgeous. Atri is also famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Hatakeswar.

Dhauli - Just 8 km away from Bhubaneswar looking down on the plains that bore witness to the gruesome war waged on Kalinga by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, stand the rock edicts of Dhauli. It was here that King Ashoka; full of remorse renounced his bloodthirsty campaign and turned to Buddhism. The edicts are a living testimony to the King's change of heart. He urges his administrators to rule the land with justice and compassion. The edicts are so remarkable that they have been excellently preserved, despite the fact that they date back to the 3rd century BC. A sculpted elephant, the universal symbol of Lord Buddha, tops the rock edicts. The Shanti Stupa or the peace pagoda, built through the Indo-Japanese collaboration, is located on the opposite hill.

Nandankanan Sanctuary & Biological Park - About 20 km from Bhubaneswar, Nandankanan was established as a sanctuary in 1979. In effect it was really a Biological Park encapsulated in lush and natural landscape, offering its inhabitants a true feel of their natural habitat. This factor was further endorsed when a wild tigress (Kanan) actually scaled the boundary wall and voluntarily made her home with the Park's tiger population. It was here that for the first time ever, Gharials and white tigers were breed in captivity. Gharial breeding, one of the important projects at Nandankanan, has produced over 200 crocodiles. Nandankanan also runs a Lion Safari and White Tiger Safari. Nearby is the Chandaka Elephant Reserve.

Chilika Lake - Asia's largest brackish water lake, Chilika, is located about 100 km from Bhubaneswar. A narrow isthmus separates Chilika from the waters of the Bay of Bengal. Spread over an area of 1,100 sq. km it was declared a sanctuary in 1987. Winter is the loveliest time at Chilika, with thousands of migratory birds flying in from as far off as Siberia to make their winter sojourn in strange waters. The waters come alive with their raucous cries and colourful plumage as the birds battle to find space to make their new homes. While the lake's Nalbana Island has been declared a sanctuary for its varied flora and fauna, Kalijai Island is home to Goddess Kalijai and the venue for annual Makar mela. Chital and black buck roam freely on the scrubby shores while dolphins gambol playfully in the foam of the churning waters.

Visitors can hire boats at Barkul, Balugaon, Rambha and Satapara to enjoy the lake.

Langudi - The Langudi Buddhsit sites, situated in and around the Langudi hills in the Jajpur district of Orissa is considered as one of the most important Buddhist sites of Orissa, the state which marked a new Buddhist era by changing the imperialistic Ashoka into the patron of Buddhism. The Buddhist sites excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 20th-21st century, reflects the golden days of Buddhism in India through the remains of Buddhist monasteries, the Buddha's images and several stupas, found in and around Langudi.

Langudi is a lower hilly region running from north to south in the plains of the Mahanadi delta in Jajpur district and situated at a distance of 90 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa. Langudi is one of those few places in Orissa, which established a mark in the history of Buddhism in the ancient and medieval era. A home to rock-cut Buddhist stupas and numerous early medieval Buddhist shrines, Langudi has a well preserved place in all the major sects of Buddhism - Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana or Tantrayana.

Buddhist Attractions

Rock-cut Stupas : The rock cut stupas, 34 in number, which were excavated from the northern side of the Langudi hill, are unique examples of the early Buddhist art in India comprising a colossal circular drum, a cylindrical dome and a rectangular 'harmika'.

Buddha's Sculpture : The sculpture of the Buddha in the 'samadhi mudra', where He has been depicted in various postures with half smile on His face, is one of the rarest rock cut images of the Buddha, dating back to the 7th century CE.

Langudi Hill : Langudi hill, which is situated nearby ancient Dantpura - the capital of Kalinga, is a unique collection of Buddhist remains such as monasteries, meditation centres and caves.

The sculptures of Goddesses : The rock cut images of different female deities such as Tara with two arms, a round face with a serene look mild smile and ornaments on the body, and the image of a Mahayana deity, Prajnaparamita with lotus in one hand clearly indicates the importance of female cult in ancient and early medieval period.

Cuttack, the former capital and one of the oldest cities of Orissa is the administrative headquarters of the district. The town is situated at the apex of the delta formed by the rivers Mahanadi in the North and Kathajodi in the South. It serves as a convenient base for touring the various places of interest in the district.

Places of tourist interest in Cuttack

Stone Revetment of Cuttack : The river banks of Cuttack are protected by stone revetment, a great engineering marvel of the 11th century A.D. and a remarkable example of ancient technological skill of Orissa.

Barabati Fort : The ruins of a medieval fort with its moat and gate and the earthen mound of the nine-storeyed palace on the bank of the river Mahanadi are noteworthy. Adjacent to the fort are two modern stadiums.

Temple of Cuttack Chandi : Being the shrine of the presiding deity of the city, the temple of Cuttack Chandi is normally visited by every Hindu visitor.

Quadam-i-Rasool : A sacred shrine both for the Hindus and Muslims, Quadam-i-Rasool, having a compound wall and towers at each corner has inside three mosques with beautiful domes and a Nawabat Khana (music gallery). It is an object of veneration for Hindus and Muslims alike.

Handicrafts of the Region : For shopping and souvenirs, Cuttack is one of the best places in Orissa. The famous silver filigree works with intricate interwoven wires, horn and brass products, tie and dye textiles of Maniabandha and Sambalpur, applique works of Pipli in exquisite cloth designs and the stone works of Puri are preferred most by the tourists.