Orissa, one of the 25 states of India, ranks eleventh in population and ninth in area. Perpetually washed by the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, it lies on the east coast with a coastal length of 482 km. It is bounded by West Bengal and Bihar on the north, Andhra Pradesh on the south, the Bay of Bengal on the east and Madhya Pradesh on the West.
Orissa is a Coastal state; six of her 30 districts, i.e., Baleshwar, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Puri and Ganjam are Situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It contains exquisite temples, superb monuments, inviting beaches, enchanting wildlife and natural landscapes. It is a must on the itinerary of any tourist visiting India.
A thriving centre of art and culture, once the heart land of erstwhile Kalinga Kingdom, Bhubaneswar is presently renowned as the capital city of State of Orissa in India. Bhubaneswar, literally means the Lord (eswar) of the Universe (bhuban), is a hub of historic temples and the city is webbed with many concrete lanes. The present modern city of Bhubaneswar was established in 1946 which is designed by the world renowned German architect Otto Königsberger. The capital city, once known for its architecture and grand temples, is presently a thriving centre for commerce and business. Having blended very nicely its formidable past with its modern aspirations and facilities, it forms a part of the Golden Triangle of holy temple cities Puri and Konark.
Cuttack was the capital of Orissa in the medieval times. The city lies surrounded by the Kathajuri rivers and the Mahanadi. The ancient stone embankment on the Kathajuri river, built in the 11th century by a king of the Kesari dynasty to protect the town from floods, is an engineering marvel. Kodam Rasul, a Muslim shrine contains some holy relics of Prophet Mohammad. About 65 kilometres away are the Ratangiri, Lalitgiri and Udaigiri caves where in ancient times a Buddhist centre of learning was flourished.
The epic in stone (13th century AD), this temple was built on the sea front with water lashing its walls but now the sea has receded and the temple is a little away from the beach. The temple stands upon its enormous 24 intricately carved wheels. The walls of this magnificent ruin have exquisite sculptures covering many aspects of life . Scenes of love and war, trade and court transactions, hunting, catching elephants, sages teaching, childbirth, dancers and mythical figures, all vie for attention on the panels and niches of this immortal work of art. The temple conceived as a chariot hauling the Sun God, across the heavens by the might of seven splendidly carved horses caught in the mute symphony of stone, lies in partial ruins. The Natamandira, a separate enclosure, is still intact. The temple was built by King Narasimha of the Ganga dynasty in the 13th century AD. The Sun God's chariot also represents the seven days of the week and the 24 hours of the day in its concept.
This temple was once the Black Pagoda to maritime visitors to Orissa in ancient times. The temple museum of the Archaeological Survey of India has some rare collection of sculptures from the ruins of the main temple. Today the temple is protected by UNESCO as a World heritage site.
One of the four celebrated religious centers of India, Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath, is also a very popular beach resort. It is the headquarters of the district Puri.
Jagannath Temple : Built during the 12th century AD, this is the tallest temple (65 m) in Orissa. Within its precincts are the smaller temples of Vimala, Lakshmi, Vishnu and innumerable goods and goddesses and the Ananda Bazar, the world's biggest food market. On the outskirts of the city is Sri Lokanath, an honored shrine of Lord Shiva.
It is said that Ratnagiri and Udaigiri were nucleus of Tantric Buddhist and it was from here that Buddhism spread to other parts of India and the world. Ratnagiri finds have been the richest in terms of cultural treasures-two large monasteries, a huge stupa, Buddhist shrines and numerous sculptures are witness to the strong influence of Buddhism in this region. The site also yielded a rich crop of antiquities. A large head of Buddha found on the top of the hill indicates the colossal nature of the original images.
The largest Buddhist site in Orissa Udaigiri caves (5 km from Ratnagiri) contain two spurs forming a sloping terrace which is covered with extensive archaeological remains. At the foot of the hill, there is a colossal image of Lokesvara holding a large lotus. Two separate inscriptions are found incised on it. The peak of the hills contains broken pieces of sculptures and the ruins of ancient structures. Two four armed images of Jatamukuta Lokesvara are also seen on this hill. A little to the south this image a colossal Buddha sitting in Bhumisparsa Mudra can be seen carved in several pieces of stone.
Satkosia Gorge (Tikarpara) Sanctuary
The tiny village of Tikarpara (120 km from Dhenkanal and 58 km from Angul) has one of the splendid settings in the world. It offers some of the most exciting visuals of the Satkosia gorge, India's mightiest gorge, into which the turbulent Mahanadi river crashes with amazing ferocity through 22 km of emerald forests, that seem to change their hues with every bend of the river's meanderings. Apart from offering gorgeous views from the pinnacles of the surrounding hills, there is an excellent potential for angling, boating and trekking around these parts.
The Gharial crocodile population obviously enjoys these exotic environs and has an excellent breeding place in this sanctpary created to protect them.
Best time to visit- October to April
Asia's largest brackish water lake, Chilka, is located about 100 km from Bhubaneswar. A narrow isthmus separates Chilka 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 Chilka, 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.