Orissa - The Land of Temples
Situated on the coast along the Bay of Bengal, Orissa stands for its ancient glory and modern endeavour. Endowed with nature's bounty, a 482 km stretch of coastline with virgin beaches, serpentine rivers, mighty waterfalls, forest-clad blue hills of Eastern Ghats with rich wild life, Orissa is dotted with exquisite temples, historic monuments as well as pieces of modern engineering feat. The land, while retaining its pristine glory, also offers the visitors modern amenities.
Its lush green countryside and fertile plains, tiny hamlets fringed with palm, coconut trees and mango groves offer the charm of rural beauty while the urban pockets, the four cities in particular, with the splendour of modern technology provide the amenities necessary for a comfortable stay.
This wonderful land of fascinating beauty boasts of colourful festivals round the year. Orissa is also the land of unique handicrafts and other excellent artefacts.
Orissa has a long tradition of art and architecture. The early monuments date back to the third century B.C. The remnant of an Ashokan pillar, turned into a Siva Lingam and enshrined in the Bhaskaresvara temple at Bhubaneswar and the lion capital of an Ashokan pillar, presently in the State Museum, speak volumes of Orissa's past glory.
The rock-cut caves of Khandagiri and Udaygiri and the inscriptions recording Kharavela's short but eventful reign during the first century B.C. constitute the second phase of the evolution in Orissan art. The Naga and Yaksha images found in places around Bhubaneswar belong to the post-Kharavela era. The fortification of Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar is yet another monument of ancient Orissa.
Orissa is also known for her exquisite handicrafts. Silver filigree work of Cuttack, horn work of Cuttack and Parlakhemundi and the famous applique work of Pipili deserve special mention. Pattachitra, a form of folk painting of Orissa, is a unique craft. Brass and bell metalware, particularly vases and candle stands, are beautiful and longlasting.
The blackstone bowls and plates of Nilgiri and Khiching and multi-coloured stone statues are other attractions. Silk and cotton handloom products, especially saris are simply bewitching. The Sambalpuri saris and Maniabandhi patas are matchless in their texture and designs.
A heaven on earth is the common description of Puri. Both the devout and the pleasure-seeker bestow such praise on the place. The world's biggest Vishnu temple dividing the skyline through a host of smaller temples overlooking Puri's wide, sprawling, clean, sunny, buoyant, and vibrant beach, which too is one of world's finest of its kind are its chief attractions.
Places of interest in Puri:-
The Temple of Lord Jagannath built during the 12th century A.D. by Chodaganga Deva dominates the landscape for kilometers around. Being the tallest temple (65 metres) in Orissa, it is one of the most magnificent pieces of monuments of India. In front of the main gate stands a 16 sided monolithic pillar (11 metres high), called Aruna Stambha which formally stood in front of the Sun Temple and was brought to Puri during the 18th century A.D.
Some of the other important temples are Gundicha, Lokanath, Sunaragauranga, Daria Mahabir and Tota Gopinatt. There are also a number of holy tanks like Narendra, Markandeya, Sweta Ganga and Indradyumna. There are many Monasteries locally known as Mathas also of touristic interest.
Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, is also popularly known as the "Temple City of India". Being the seat of Tribhubaneswar or 'Lord Lingaraj', Bhubaneswar is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre. Hundreds of temples dot the landscape of the Old Town, which once boasted of more than 2000 temples. Bhubaneswar is the place where temple building activities of Orissan style flowered from its very inception to its fullest culmination extending over a period of over one thousand years.
The new Bhubaneswar with its modern buildings and extensive infrastructure perfectly complements its historic surroundings. With facilities to cater to every type of visitor, Bhubaneswar makes an ideal tourist destination.
Bhubaneswar can be visited at anytime of the year. The period between mid-September and mid-March is considered as the tourist season when the sun is bright and warm, the sky is blue, the air is cool and the weather is generally pleasant. To the visitor, Bhubaneswar is a city of contrasts, co-existence and continuity. There is a happy encounter of past and present in this temple town which has a history of about 2500 years. All religions and sects flourished here.
Konark (lat. 19.53'N; long. 86.06'E) is a small town in Puri distrit. The Bay of Bengal is barely 4 kilometer away. It is 70 km from Bhubaneswar. The name Konark is a variant of Konark which means the Arka (Sun) of Kona (corner), the corner being that of Trikona on the bank of the Kushabhadra.
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Orissan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. The poet Rabindranath Tagore said of Konark that 'here the language of stone surpasses the language of man', and it is true that the experience of Konark is impossible to translate into words.
Excursions in Bhubaneshwar Dhauli (8 km)
Surrounded by paddy fields, the Dhauli hill brings back memories of the historic 'Kalinga war' which was fought around here. It is here that Ashoka, the terrible, was transformed into Ashoka, the compassionate and championed the cause of Buddhism. On the foot of the hill one can see the Rock Edicts of Ashoka and the forepart of a skillfully sculpted elephant hewn out of a huge rock. Dhauli has gained prominence due to the establishment of a Buddhist Peace Pagoda, popularly known as Shanti Stupa, built in the early seventies by the Japan Buddha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha. An old temple of Lord Dhavaleswar, reconstructed in 1972, also stands on the hill-top.
Just two km from the famed Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar lie the ruins of Sisupalgarh. Dating back to the third or fourth century BC, these ruins show that even at that early date there was a well fortified city here, and establish the fact that the Orissan civilization has very ancient roots.
Hirapur (15 km)
Hirapur has the 11th century Hypaethral temple of sixty four Yoginis. It is second of its kind in Orissa and one of four such unique temples in India.
Situated amidst greenery and famous for the hot sulphur water spring, Atri, 42 km. from Bhubaneswar and 14 km. from Khurda, is also a holy place with the shrine of Hatakeswar. A bath in the spring water is reputed to cure skin diseases apart from being a pleasant experience.
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.
City of the Fort situated at the apex of a delta formed by the river Mahanadi on the north and its distributory, the Kathajodi on the south, and located at 14.62 metres above sea-level, the city of Cuttack has a history of more than one thousand years. Geographically, it is between 20-55' E longitude. Hot in summer, humid during the monsoon and dry in winter, this densely populated city is spread over an area of 59.57 square kilometres. Cuttack (or Kataka) was founded by King Nrupa Keshari in 989 A.D.
Chilika is the second largest Brackish water lagoon in Orissa. Spread over 1,100 square kilometres, it runs along the borders of three districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam and finally joins the Bay of Bengal through a narrow mouth.
This vast and beautiful lagoon is known to change colors as the day progresses . A passing cloud or a bright sunny day enhance the beauty of this lagoon. Chilika is known for its rich flora and fauna. It supports an economy of its owm. The local fishermen depend on it for their livelihood.
The lagoon has many small islands scattered across it. Some of them having names like "honeymoon island" or the "breakfast island".
A Launch ride on this lagoon is the best way to explore it.