Orissa Tourism

Orissa the land of Oriyas, earlier known as Kalinga, is flanked by the Eastern Ghats on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the East.  This ‘jewel of the east’ endowed with some of the great wonders of India’s cultural and natural heritage, is still largely unexplored and untouched by modernity.  Kalinga was a flourishing maritime kingdom having trading links up to Java, Sumatra, Bali and Indonesia.  In 261 BC, it was invaded and conquered by the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka.  But, the spoils of war changed the heart of Ashoka and he embraced Buddhism. 

Orissa, a kaleidoscope of past splendours and contemporary expression, is Indian in essence, right down to her roots.  Blessed with nature’s bounty, the State is known for its beautiful beaches, mountains teeming with wildlife, waterfalls, hot sulphur springs and Chilika Lake.  Sun Temple at Konark is in itself a reason enough for a trip to India, like the Taj Mahal at Agra or Kailasa Temple at Ellora.  The sacred city of Puri is considered to be one of the four holiest places – “Chat Dhams” and other ancient Hindu and Jain temples attract millions of pilgrims from all over the country.  Great traditional dances and music, exquisite handicrafts, temple architecture and sculpture, the colourful hospitable people and above all the excitement of modern India’s technological achievement in the form of Hirakud Dam and Raurkela Steel Plant are part of Orissa’s resplendent blend of past and present.

The tropical state that flourished during the 13th century on India’s central eastern seaboard, Orissa is famous for its temples, which draw thousands of pilgrims here throughout the year, predominantly to Jagannath Temple in the coastal town of Puri, to worship Vishnu in his avatar as the Lord of the Universe. Architecturally, the Sun Temple at Konark is of even greater significance, with its massive stone-carved chariot adorned with sculptures, rising to carry Surya, the sun god, to the heavens. Even Orissa’s capital, Bhubaneswar (the third point of Orissa’s Golden Triangle), is more important for its enormous collection of Hindu temples—at one time 7,000—than it is as an administrative or industrial center. Orissa remains largely tribal, with many villages still off-limits to outsiders, but the state is also well-known for its “Tribal Tourism.” For the anthropologically inclined, this offers you a chance to get way off the beaten track and meet people who live almost completely on the fringes of civilization. The state is also a good place to pick up crafts, particularly textiles and paintings—even when tending to the rice paddies, the women of Orissa are dressed in glamorous saris. Cottage textile industries are the mainstays for entire villages, which produce beautiful ikat (patterned) textiles, palmleaf paintings, and bright patachitra (cloth) paintings (the best-known of Orissa’s handicrafts). Note: Although Orissa has long, golden beaches that curve around the Bay of Bengal, the infrastructure here is limited and the sea can be treacherous; beach lovers are best off heading for Kerala or Goa.