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Things To Do In Orissa
Orissa is an ancient state situated along the eastern coast of India, nestled between the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern Ghats. Apart from being a spectacularly scenic state, Orissa also holds tremendous spiritual and religious significance, and is home to hundreds of ancient temples that are visited by throngs of devotees and tourists alike.
The coastal state of Orissa has a history dating back to more than two millennia and was once known by the name of Kalinga. The heritage of the state’s culture and traditions still lives today in its tribal population and the architectural landmarks that set it apart from other commercial regions. Read on to know more about some of the best things to do and explore while in Orissa.
Explore Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves
A combination of man-made and natural cave architecture, the Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves serve as one of the landmarks of Orissa. Udaygiri consists of 15 caves and Khandagiri has 18 caves in its complex, and are located in the city of Bhubaneshwar. With an impressive collection of sculptures and ancient Brahmi inscriptions that are part of the caves design, they are believed to have been the dwelling of Jain ascetics who used it for meditation purposes, and are known to be one of the oldest groups of rock-cut shelters.
Visit Konark Sun Temple
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Orissa, the Sun Temple, also known as Konaditya or Black Pagoda, is dedicated to the Sun God and was constructed in 1278 CE. It is known worldwide for its impressive architecture and intricate structural carvings. Constructed in the Kalinga style of architecture, it also features a splendid display of erotic Maithuna sculptures.
Visit Jagannath Temple
One of the four holy regions among Hindu devotees, also known as one of the Chaar Dhaams, the Jagannath Temple is one of the most revered sites in the country. A mix of Kalinga, Dravidian and Hindu architecture, the monument is dedicated to Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and also has idols of Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. It is visited by flocks of devotees each year; especially during the festivals when the deities are brought out and carried around in wooden chariots with enthusiastic celebration.
While the temple itself is open only to Hindus, the non-Hindus can get rooftop views from the terrace of the Raghunandan Library for a small donation.
Bird Watching at Chilka Lake
For bird lovers, Chilka Lake is the best place to be during the bird migration season. Species like flamingos, golden plovers, sea gulls and sandpipers can be viewed along the shores of this lake. Spread over an area of over 1100 sq.km across the districts of Khurda, Puri and Ganjam, Chilka Lake is a large ecosystem with abundant fishes and even the occasional spotting of dolphins.
The picturesque setting around the lake is also perfect for family picnics with numerous camera-worthy moments that can be encountered during several parts of the day, along with boating options available on the lake as well.
Famously termed the ‘City of Temples’, the capital city of Bhubaneshwar boasts a history that dates back centuries and is home to hundreds of religious monuments that showcase a variety of architecture from different eras. Most of the temples in the city are dedicated to Lord Shiva and his other forms like Lingaraja, Mukteshwar and Brahmeshwar.
Not restricted to just temples, Bhubaneshwar is also packed with other attractions like Bindu Sarover and Dhaulagiri Hill that justify its title of being the capital of the state.
Shop at Pipli
The creative nature inherent in the people of Orissa can be witnessed in the village of Pipli, situated 16 km from Bhubaneshwar near the district of Puri. It is most well known for the impressive craft of appliqué work; it is designed by stitching and embroidering colored pieces of cloth and small mirrors in different shapes onto a larger cloth, which is then created into various goods like outfits, wall hangings, purses etc. The canopy for the annual Jagannath Yatra is also designed here.
The village contributes highly to tourism in the state and is visited by hundreds of tourists shopping for souvenirs.
Explore Wildlife at Nandankanan Zoological Park
Famous for being the first zoo in India to become a member of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Nandankanan Zoo is spread over 400 hectares of land in Bhubaneshwar and is a great place for family outings. It is home to about 166 species of wildlife and even features an ‘Adopt an Animal’ program where visitors can sponsor food and other essentials for any animal of their choice in the park.
Home to the elusive White Tiger, the zoo is also the first captive ghariyal breeding centre in India. Apart from the impressive wildlife, the zoo also has a lovely lake called Kanjia, where boating can be undertaken as an interesting part of the zoo tour.
Around 200 km from Bhubaneshwar, Chandipur is known most for its pristine beach shores that make for great picnic spots and romantic getaways. An interesting feature about the beach lies in its high tides that can reach up to 4 km in height; on the other hand, the sea recedes to as far back as 5 km away from the beach during ebb tide. With beautiful sunset views and peaceful surroundings, the beach is one of the top things to check out in Orissa.
Visit the Tribal Villages
With over 62 tribal communities, Orissa is home to one of the largest tribal population in the country. Their main source of livelihood revolves around farming, hunting and fishing, with their religion revolving around the worship of nature. The tribes are a creative group of community that displays artistic skills like weaving, body and wall painting and ornament making, and even music and dance that forms an integral part of their culture. Some of the well known tribes of Orissa are Kondh, Barogadaba, Bondo, Didayi and Dongarias; taking a trip to Orissa would prove incomplete without visiting these tribal villages and interacting with the locals and exploring their traditions and customs.
Watch the Crocodiles at Bhitarkanika Mangroves
Spread over an area of 650 sq.km, Bhitarkanika is the second largest mangrove region in the country with over 55 mangrove species. It is also the home of a substantially large population of saltwater crocodiles, along with over 200 species of bird life. Enjoying a boat ride through the dense mangroves and spotting the varied wildlife in the maze of muddy creeks is a fun activity for individuals and families alike.
Orissa State Museum
Established in the year 1932, the State Museum located in Bhubaneshwar is known best for its large collection of palm leaf manuscripts. Apart from the manuscripts, there are also traditional musical instruments, the famous native Pattachitra paintings, and ancient religious sculptures that are part of the museum’s key features, including two life size welcome statues in the Odissi dance posture.