Exploring the serenity in Odisha

Exploring the serenity in Odisha

9Nikita Sharma, New Delhi

Odisha borders on the Bay of Bengal. The eastern part, close to the sea is more prosperous, with a lot of tourist locations and religious places. The western part is a hilly and forested area, generally drought prone. It is a predominantly tribal belt. However, the western part of the state contains enormous volumes of iron ore and other minerals that promises to herald a major industrialisation of the state.

It is a culturally rich state. The Bhubaneswar-Puri-Konark golden triangle is the pride of the state.

Traditionally, Odisha descended from the historical kingdom of Kalinga. The script for the Odia (Oriya) language derives from the Kalinga script, which is one of the descendants of the Brahmi script. There are a lot of places in Odisha, which are commonly visited by the tourists who come to the state from the other parts of the country.

Major attractions of the area are:

Konark Sun Temple

Designed to be a huge chariot for the Sun God Surya, the intricately carved Sun Temple was constructed in the 13th century. It stands 30 meters high on 12 massive wheels. Erotic carvings similar to those on the Khajuraho temples are a renowned feature. The Sun Temple can be visited on a day trip from either Puri or Bhubaneshwar. However, it’s worthwhile seeing the temple in the late afternoon, after the day trippers have departed, and staying a night in Konark. You’ll appreciate the more peaceful atmosphere. The temple is open from sunrise until sunset. The entrance fee is $5 for foreigners.

Don’t Miss: The Konark Festival if you love classical music and dance.

The capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneshwar is most famous for its temples (there are over 700, mostly devoted to Lord Shiva) including the largest temple in the state — the LingrajMandir. The motley collection of caves cut into the hillside on the outskirts of the city are another popular attraction. They were once home to Jain aesthetics. The most interesting ones can be found at Udayagiri (Sunrise Hill). The complex is open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. If you’re interested in natural medicine, the ethereal Ekamravan garden of medicinal plants is notable and well worth visiting.

Don’t Miss: A sunrise over Udayagiri if you’re an early riser. Numerous music and dance festivals are also held in Bhubaneshwar in January, along with the Adivasi tribal mela.

Puri is located on the beach, but don’t go there expecting a beach paradise. You’ll need to head far away from the center to find an unpolluted patch of sand. Instead, Puri’s appeal lies in its holiness. The imposing Jagannath Temple is only open to Hindus, but the roof of the Raghunandan Library opposite offers decent views. Puri is also a good place to organize tribal tours and day trips.
Don’t Miss: The RathYatra festival, which takes place in July/August each year. It’s the only occasion when non-Hindus can get to see the temple deities. A mere glimpse of Lord Jagannath on the chariot, or even to touch the chariot, is considered to be very auspicious. A Puri Beach Festival is also held every November.

Raghurajpur Handicrafts Village
With a picturesque green setting amongst tropical trees on the bank of the Bhargavi River, Raghurajpur is not only an attractive Indian village but one where every household is involved in a form of handicrafts. There are just over 100 households and 300 artisans in the village. Many have even won national awards for their work. You can wander around, check out the beautiful painted murals on the houses, chat to the friendly artisans and see them in action — and of course shop! Go there on a day trip from Puri, which is around 15 kilometers away.

Don’t Miss: Pattachitra paintings are a specialty in the village, but the artisans make a wide variety of items including alm leaf engravings, stone carvings, woodcarvings, and wooden toys.

Chilika Lake
If you want to spend time amongst nature, head to the remarkable Chilika Lake. Asia’s largest brackish water (a combination of sea and fresh water) lagoon is an ecological wonder spanning around 1,000 square kilometers. It’s full of wildlife, particularly fish and migratory birds from far off lands. There are even dolphins! The Lake also has a number of islands. Grassroutes Journeys offers eco-friendly Chilika Lake camping trips and birdwatching cruises. Also check out Mangalajodi Ecotourism.

Don’t Miss: Exploring Chilika Lake and its various islands by boat. Most departures are from Satapada (where the dolphins are), located at the mouth of the Lake around 50 kilometers from Puri. Other departures are possible from Barkul, Rambha, and Balugaon

Tribal Villages
There are more than 60 tribal communities in Odisha. These ancient people with mystical ancient ways dwell in Odisha’s remote, deep forests and hilly interiors. Most of them are in the southwest part of the state. Visiting the tribes can be a fascinating experience, but you’ll need to go on an organized tour. Some tribal areas are quite inaccessible and require permits, and language is also a barrier. Heritage Tours are professional and knowledgeable. Also try community-based Grass Routes Journeys in Puri.

During a tribal tour of Odisha, you’ll get to mix with the local tribal people and learn their lifestyles. Tours run for at least five nights/six days, due to the amount of travel involved. Or, travel independently and stay at boutique ChandooriSai Guest House in the heart of tribal Odisha.
Don’t Miss: The weekly tribal markets.

Buddhist Sites
You could be forgiven for not knowing about the sacred Buddhist sites in Odisha (Odisha). After all, they’ve only been excavated relatively recently and are largely unexplored. The sites consist of a series of monasteries, temples, shrines, stupas, and beautiful sculptures of Buddhist images. Their rural setting, amongst fertile hills and paddy fields, is both picturesque and peaceful.

Don’t Miss: The “Diamond Triangle” — Ratnagiri, Udayagiri, and Lalitagiri. These three sites have the most important, and largest, concentration of Buddhist remains.

Chandipur Beach
Casuarina trees, sand dunes, and a tide that receeds out for miles all make Chandipur Beach special. This little known beach is the place to come if you want a tranquil beach getaway. Of course, if you’re looking for crystal clear water and golden sand, there are better beaches in India. However, this one is unique! It’s also very safe. Chandipur Beach is readily accessible by train from Bhubaneshwar, and also Kolkata in West Bengal.

Don’t Miss: Walking on the huge stretch of seabed when the tide is out. It’s brilliant for beach-combing. Discover small puddles of water with tiny fish, sea shells, and crabs.

A typical meal in Odisha consists of a main course and dessert. Typically breads (roti, paratta) are served as the main course for breakfast, whereas rice is eaten with lentils (dal) during lunch and dinner. “Dalma” is a special cuisine of Odisha, made of dal& vegetables in very hygienic conditions.The breakfast consists of chuda (poha, flattened rice) and mudhi (muri, puffed rice). Chuda can be eaten either fried or with curd, banana and sugar (called as ChudaaDahi). Mudhi is a famous snack in north Odisha.

Different pitha also form a part of the breakfast menu. The main course in lunch includes one or more curries, vegetables and pickles. Given the fondness for sweet foods, the dessert course may include generous portions of more than a single item. Oriya desserts are made from a variety of ingredients, with milk, chhenna (a form of cottage cheese), coconut, rice, and wheat flour being the most common.

Eat the rasagullas from the dhabas or the little snack stores set in freeways, it comes in yellow, white and brown color and are very delicious. Taste chena pod, another traditional sweetmeat from Odisha. If you enjoy spicy food and are used to Indian cuisine, you can try out the local Oriya cuisine made from Sea food (like Fish, tiger prawns and crab curry prepared with exotic spices). It’s a foodie’s paradise!!!

Getting there
By train
There are regular trains from Delhi, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
By plane

There is an airport in the heart of the city of Bhubaneswar with flights operated by all the major public and private airlines. It is well connected to other major destinations like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru (Bangalore), Hydrabad, Visakhapatanam, Portblair.
Recently Indian Central Government has allowed the Bhubaneswar BijuPatnaik Airport, an international airport status. By Mid-2013 International flights such as Fly Dubai, Air Asia, Silk Air and Air Arabia have evinced interest to introduce international flights from the Bhubaneswar BijuPatnaik Airport (BBPA) to various destinations in the world.

Getting around
By taxi
• Taxis or hired cars are available in important cities and towns.
By autorickshaw
• Private rickshaws cost less than regular taxis but you will have to squash up with whoever else gets inside.

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