The capital of the state, coined as the Temple City of India, Bhubaneswar, the abode of Lord Lingaraj, house more than 500 temples, thus making it an important pilgrimage center. While the hundreds of temples speak about as thousand years of traditions of temples architecture, the gigantic Lingaraj temple of 11th Century AD continues to dominate the skyline of the city. The finest specimen of artistic expressions found in the elegant arch of the Mukteswar Temple (950 AD) is often referred to as the 'miniature gem of Orissan architecture.
Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), despite being one of the most sacred pilgrimage centre has the most popular sea beach on the eastern coast of India. The 12th-century edifice Jagannath Temple with a height of 65 metres built by the illustrious Gang monarch Chodagangadeva, has a magnificent spire which can be seen from a distance of more than ten kilometers in the countryside. Surrounded by a 20-foot high wall, this temple has more than 600 temple servitor and a kitchen that prepared cooked vegetarian Prasad for more than 10,000 people daily and over 25,000 to 30,000 on festival days. The deity Jagannath with Balabhadra and the goddess Subhahdra in the sanctum symbolizes the synthesis of a composite religious culture-the cult of Jagannath-a unique institution of its kind in the world.
Rath Yatra : (Car Festival)
The Rath yatra makes Lord Jagannath's annual journey to His Aunt's house, the Gundicha Temple, situated at a distance of three kilometers from His shrine. A congregation of 500,000-700,000 people vie with each other to pull the chariots. In June/July every year the festival presents a unique picture of 'Jagannath' drawn by a sea of humanity, that keeps the entire nation captivated.
The poetry in stone, build by Narasimhadeve in the 13th century has remained an architectural marvel. Described as the grandest achievements of the eastern school of architecture, Konark is one of the finest architectural efforts the Indian master-mason ever made. Designed as a chariot of the Sun God with 12 giant wheels, each ten feet high, fixed on either side, whirled by seven horses, the Sun Temple is the translation of a Rig Vedic allegory in stone. In the early colonial days it used to be a navigational point for its existence near the sea.
A gigantic shallow lagoon, Chilika, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge, is the largest brackish water lake in Asia. The numerous island, rich biodiversity an unique flora and fauna make it a favored destination. The vast congregations of migratory avifauna consisting of golden plover, flamingo and million other along with the largest number of Irrawadi dolphins make Chilika the most attractive destinations for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
Sambalpur, the gateway to the bewitching western Orrisa has lush green forests, waterfalls and colorful people with a rich tradition and of varied culture. It has been a centre for folk dance and music with a wide range of temples from the early centuries to the last 15th century AD. The Mahanadi river flowing here presents a unique scenic beauty.
Nature has been very kind to Koraput, for very few places in the State are a beautiful as Koraput. The entire district abounds in meadows, lush green forest, valleys, waterfalls, wildlife and colourful tribal people. The colours of Koraput are best demonstrated in the culture festival, Parab, organized annually (by the District Administration) in the month of November. Do not forget to visit the Tribal Museum there to have an interface with the tribal life and culture.
With 480 kilometers of coastline Orissa has some of the most spectacular and virgin beaches.
The surf and the golden sand make the beach at Puri unique. The beach is always buzzing with actions, replete with pilgrims and Souvenir stalls. Swimmers can head to a secluded eastern and western end with precautions against undercurrents. Some of the up market hotels have a beach attached to them.
Gopalpur-on-sea is one of the most pristine beaches in Orisssa. The pillers of an ancient jetty are witness to Gopalpur's maritime past. Clusters of coconut and palm trees, sand dunes overgrown with a casuarinas plantation make the beach a great palace to relax under the sun.
Chandipur is one of the few beaches in the world where the sea plays hide and seek because of the unusual twist of the ebb and flow of water that draws off the sea almost five kilometers away from the shore. This gives the visitors the unexpected pleasure of literally walking fearlessly into the sea. Indeed a unique phenomenon.
Amidst the Jhaun (a variety of pine) forest and near the lighthouse of the Raj period with the famous Sun Temple only two kilometers away, Chandrabhaga continues to remain one of the finest beaches of the country.
Besides, there are other pristine beaches in Rajhans, Ramchandi, Astaranga, Balaramgidi, Dhamra, Keshaphal, Aryapalli, Pati-Sonapur and Balighai which can captivate any visitors.
For the visitors who want to visit the tigers in their dens, elephants in the wild, birds in the lakes, crocodile and giant tortoises in the swamp filled with mangrove forests, Orissa can be the ultimate destination. If pristine beaches, exotic birds, thousands of turtles, fearsome crocodiles, narrow creeks that meander past deltaic islands, mangrove forests is what Bhitarkanika is, then the magnificent dense forest spreading iis what Bhitarkanika dense forest spreading over 2750 square kilometers, rugged hilly terrain, majestically roaming tigers and waterfalls inside the lush green forest is what Similipal Tiger Reserve is. While Similipal, Bhitarkanika, Chgilika, Gahirmatha and Nandankanan are some of the exciting destinations, Sunabeda, Balukhanda, Koraput, Ushakothi, Debrigarh, Baisipali and Hadagarh Sanctuaries are also some of the excellent wildlife sanctuaries in the State.
The Buddhist Circuit
Buddhism in Orissa is as old as the religious itself. The Kalinga war of 261 BC fought at the foothill of Dhauli near Bhuabneswar, the rock edicts of Ashoka three and the present Shanti Stupa (peace pagoda) made by the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha speak about the Buddhist legacy of the land. Archaeological excavations brought to light the flourishing centre of Buddhism in Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri, Udayagiri and the adjacent Langudi hills. This form the 'diamond triangle'. Orissa Tourism is emphasizing to develop these Buddhist sites with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Union Government and State Government, for 'these sites mark the evolutions of Buddhism from the 3rd Century BC to the 12th century AD', says Ashok Tripathy, Secretary, Orissa Tourism, Government of Orissa.
Art And Craft
Orissa's rich tradition of art and craft can itself attract visitors. The classical dance from Odissi, originating between the 8th and 11th century AD and taken from the temple sculptures, has its unique style expressed through various bhangimas and mudras. The martial dance form Chhau and a number of folk dances can keep the visitors spellbound.
A festival of classic dances performed by the celebrate danseuse of the country in an open-air auditorium with the famous Sun Temple as the backdrop is organized by the Department of Tourism annually at Konark. The five-day long festival, beginning from December 1 every year has become quite popular amongst the visitors coming from all parts of India and abroad.
Orissa's own process of weaving textile with remarkable craftsmanship speaks highly of its tradition. Ikat, the gloriously woven, blurry-edged, multi-colored design in gorgeous yarns of silk and cotton has become synonymous with Orissa. The intricate process of tie and dye and weaving the colored yarns produce the most delightful designs in multihued tones, in motifs drawn from the richness of nature, in threads both silken and gold on saris, the traditional wear of India ladies. These are produced in almost all the districts of Orissa, through Cuttack, SAmbalpur, Sonepur, Boudh, Ganjam have their own brand of textile woven by master weavers..
Applique and Pata painting
Appliques of Pipili in Orissa, despite being an old temple art, has found its way to the world market, as also the Pata painting of Raghurajpur. Understanding the immense potential of these, the Government of India has declared these two palaces to be showcased in the rural tourism.
The traditional dhokra work is a typical tribal craft in bronze, by the lost-wax casting method with its metallike feature giving the art object its distinctive beauty. The tribal families in Sadeiberini, a village near Phulbani, Kaimati (Keonjhar), produce this unusual craft. The famous flexible fish is made at Belgunth in the Ganjam district.
Tribes Of Orissa
With 62 distinct tribal groups, Orissa has largest number of tribal's in India. Tribals constitute almost 25 per cent of the total population occupying nearly one-thied odf the inhabitable are which covers 22.014 square miles. Amongest the most noteworthy yet colourful tribes of Orissa, the Kandhas, Gonda, Bondas, Oraon, Kolha, Koya, Gadava, Jhanga, Munda, Ho, Savara, Santhalas, Ho, Oraons and Parajas still prefer to live in the nature with their distinct cultural identities. While their language, dress, art and craft and social customs continues to be a source of intrest for the social colourful people in their natural best in their houses deep inside the forest can be experiences of a lifetime.
The Chandrabhaga beach at Konark is all set to become a prime attractions and the Konark Festival is getting a special impetus. This holds good considering the fact that some very important private players in the hospitality industry have now shown interest in setting up properties here. To give a boost to rural and cultural tourism, visits to the nearby artisans' villages and the cultural activity centres are now being encouraged.
With all these at hand nobody can ask for more in Orissa. Whether it is ecotourism or the adventure tourism on even the health tourism, Orissa offers everything on a platter. A visit to the Regional Plate Resources Center, Daringibari, Harishankar, trekking in the Mahendragiri hill tract and the Ayurvedic massage and treatment by traditional vaidyas can be exciting.