Location : East India
State Capital : Bhubaneswar
Language : Oriya, Bengali, Hindi, English
Climate : Summer's hot and Winter pleasent
Major Attractions : Konark Sun Temple , Udaigiri and Khandagiri Caves , Puri Beach
Ideal Time to Visit : October to March
A Rendezvous with Orrisa
Imagine a land where the sun illuminates the 'black pagoda', where the sea flirts with the sand and a lake which onsets for a perfect holiday with its avian friends. Orissa also known as Kalinga or Utkala of Mahabharata fame indeed holds an ancient substratum with its splendid temples, glistening golden beaches and prominent architectures. Spread over an area of 1.55 lakh sq km, this state lies in the tropical zones along the eastern seaboard of India . Kissed by the pearly waters of the Bay of Bengal and crowned by the heavily forested hills of the eastern ghats, this dreamland offers a splendid amalgamation of rural tranquility with boisterous modern adroitness. Ductile coastlines, deep valleys of the Mahanadi and the lush paddy fields may conceive a poet within you, but cannot pause you from experiencing the gushing waterfalls, which dive down with a thunder in sanctuaries and forestlands well known for their white tiger safari in the world.
Orissa's misty past comes into focus with the reign of Kalinga war. Ashoka, the great Indian emperor, in 260 BC. capture Kalinga after lot of bloodshed, the aftermath of the war capsized the killing instinct in Ashoka and transformed him into a great apostle of Buddhism. Buddhism soon declined in Orissa, however, and Jainism held sway until Hinduism reasserted itself in 7th century AD. Under the Keshari and Ganga Kings, the Orissan culture flourished and countless temples from that golden era still stand today as evidence to their splendid architectural abilities. The Kalinga School of architecture flourished from the 7th to 13th century AD. The most important monuments of this period can be seen in and around Bhubaneswar and Puri.
Orissa, is located on the eastern coast of India extending to an area of 1,55,707 Sq. Km. The region is embraced by Madhya Pradesh in the west, Andhra Pradesh in the south, West Bengal in north-east, Bay of Bengal in the east and Bihar in the north. Orissa was carved out of its parental state Bihar and got the status of an independent state in 1936. Bhubaneswar , the capital city of Orrisa is one of the most planned modern towns and is accelerating fast to become a cyber city. The capital is also a major pilgrimage center of Hindus.
The entire region experiences a tropical climate as a result of which high temperature is recorded particularly during April-May. Also being on the coastal belt, the sea has a moderate influence on the weather whereas the mountain regions in the Eastern Ghats experience an extreme cold climate. The rich mineral belts lie in the western and northwestern parts of the state. The state of Orissa is also gifted by six important rivers, the Subarnarekha, the Budhabalanga, the Baitarani, the Brahmani, the Mahanadi and the Rusikulya.
Orissa - The "Shrined" State
Orissa is arrayed with numerous monuments and world heritage sites, Konark Sun temple and Jaganath temple are the foremost specimen of architecture splendor in the states. Orissan temples whether it is the mighty Lingaraj in Bhuwaneswar, the Jagannath in Puri, the Sun Temple at Konark or other smaller temples, all follow a similar pattern in architecture. As a rule, an Orissan temple consists of two essential parts: the Deul, where the image of the temple deity is kept and above which the temple spire rises, and the Jagmohana (entrance porch). The design is made complicated in larger temples by the addition of one or more entrance halls in front of the Jagmohana; the Bhogamandapa (Hall of Offering) and Natamandira (Dancing Hall).
There are other exquisitely carved temples in the state, glowing brightly in the aura of magnificent architecture. The Sun Temple at Konark, the magnificent Black Pagoda is without doubt the paragon of Oriyan architecture. Although the temple is partly in ruins, its colossal size and intricate stone artwork, executed with masterly touch and depicting a huge diversity of themes, simply takes one's breath away. Similarly, long before one reach Puri, the 214 feet (65 meters) spire of the Jagannath temple can be seen towering over the countryside. This visual dominance is symbolic of the influence, which the temple commands over almost every aspect of life in Puri.
The Beach Destination
Beside temples, beaches in Orissa are the other magnets that attract its visitors. The region has long coastal belt extending up to 482km, treasuring some of the most pristine white-fringed sand beaches in the world. The shimmering blue waters of Bay of Bengal pay tribute to their splendor.
Puri is the major tourist destination of Orissa, thronged by numerous pilgrims, makes one of the major religiously sacred beach side spots of India . The beach resort of Chandipur is another most favoured seaside vacations pad among beach lovers. Gopalpur-On-Sea, an ancient seaport, is one of the most spectacular and unblemished beaches one should definitely visit, to experience the alluring play of colours during dusk and dawn.
Odissi Dance : Dance is a symbolism of man's joy through rhythmic and artistic movements. This pure energy, when put in a classical mould with rich interests, makes any art form aesthetically appealing and visually delightful. Odissi dance is the typical classical dance form of Orissa and has its origin in the temples. Dealing largely with the love theme of Radha and Krishna , these series of sculpturesque poses with the Rhythm, the Bhangis and Mudras used, have a distinctive touch of their own.
Art and Craft
Orissa boasts of a long and regal cultural heritage. The state underwent many imitations and assimilation because of its universal cult of brotherhood. The adroitness of the Orissan artists is peerless in the world. Famous for its applique items, Pipli attracts thousands of visitors round the year and offers a gala of alluring handicrafts. Silver filigree has been an important export items of Orissa from ancient times and has been a symbol of the summit of excellence reached by Orissa's craftsmen. The exquisitely carved stone sculptures, embellished on the walls of the ancient shrines and monuments, attest the artistry of those sculptors, who perfected the skill through centuries of disciplined efforts. The progeny of these artisans who built the magnificent temples of Mukteswar, Lingaraj, Jagannath and Sun God at Konark, have kept alive the sculptural heritage of their forefathers and their apt hands still continues to chisel and carve exact replicas of the original temple sculptures besides producing a variety of other items.
Fairs and Festivals
Orissa, being a land of blended cultures and traditions inhabits a lot of celebrations round the year. During the festival celebrations the whole environ shimmers with sounds of temple bells, holy songs, chanting of mantras, lights, and the soothing smell of flowers. The pilgrims throng the city all the year round making a more lively and spiritual environment. One grand gala is the Chariot Festival at Jagannath Dham, Puri. The special feature of the festival is, the chariot on which the procession or the yatra takes place. The chariot is pulled by the thousands of devotees by thick ropes across the city.
The Puri Beach Festival is held from 5th-9th November each year and has come out to be the major attraction among the tourists. Conducted by 'Hotel and Restaurant Association of Orissa' (HRAO) along with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, it includes events ranging from fashion shows to varied cultural programs on the beautiful beach at Puri.
The Sun temple at Konark is the majestic splendor of the temple architecture of Orissa. When the sun sets in the horizon and the stars appear in the sky, the open-air auditorium against the backdrop of the Konark temple - a World Heritage Monument echoes with rhythmic dancing beats and melodious rags and tals (beat) which enlightens the whole environ.
Orrisa Tribes - The Comb Collectors
Tribal communities in Orissa differ from all others in many aspects, their distinctive features being clique organization and territorial exogamy, youth dormitory, colourful rituals and folk art, music and dance. The 62 tribes in Orissa vary in their population, degree of refinement and economic patterns. While the Kondhs numbering around nine lakh are numerically the largest in the state, the Santals are among the three largest and advanced tribes in the country. The major tribes living in Orissa are the Santab, Oraons, Gonds and Kondhs.
The tribal communities of Orissa make some of the most exquisite combs, and use them not just to put tresses in place but to ward off evil, flatter a lover and weed out thorns from the body. The tribes are also known for fabricating combs as their occupation. Siredi, as their combs are known, come in two shapes, quadrangular for men and circular for women. No two combs are the same; some are sought for their artistic value, some for the material they are made of (ox and buffalo horns, cloth and even palm sap) and others for their magic powers.
Stone sculptures carve their own niche in Orissa's heritage. From highly decorative idols to utilitarian stone utensils, these craftsmen prove their adroitness in every nook and corner of life. The finest and the most popular craft in the region is the silver filigree work called Tarakashi, process of drawing silver though consecutively smaller holes to produce fine strands of wire, which are then shaped into different designs. Besides, there are articles like Pathuri (stone cups for setting curd) horn artifacts in the form of combs, pen stands, cigar pipes and other beautiful items. A pause at the State Handicrafts Emporium (Utkalika), Bhuwaneswar or the shops at Naya Sadak and Balu Bazaar in Cuttack will give you an exposure to impeccable variety of traditional handicrafts.
How to Reach
The web of air travel is not widespread in Orissa, with just a single airport at Bhubaneswar. However, all the tourist destinations and pilgrim sites in the state are well linked to all metropolitan cities of the country. Bhubaneswar, the capital is directly linked to New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Allahabad, Patna and other places across India. With a commercial port at Paradip, Orissa has also opened her doors via waterways to the nearby countries.