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Tourism
East India (Orissa)
 

Orissa

Orissa has a chequered history which has successfully assimilated and synthesised the best of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultures. Orissa or Kalinga as it was then called was a settlement of non-Aryan and Aryan settlers. It was a formidable maritime empire with trading routes stretching up to Bali, Sumatra, Indonesia and Java. The key to international trade and immense wealth, it was coveted by many rulers. In fact, it was here that the famous Battle of Kalinga was fought in 261 BC, which made the great Mauryan Kshatriya (warrior caste) king Ashoka forsake war. He became a follower of Buddhism and spread the spirit of ahimsa and peace, the message of Buddhism, to Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) and the Far East, Exquisite remains of the Buddhist past still remain in the areas of Udaygiri, Lalitagiri and Ratnagiri.

Kharavela, who came to power in Kalinga, around 1st Century BC, was a staunch follower of Jainism. It is to this period that Orissa owes its Jain art and architectural tradition.


The sophisticated architectural style of the Jain Monastic caves at Udaygiri and Khandagiri are a story unto themselves. During the 7th to the 13th Century AD, Orissa flourished. Trade and commerce increased and along with it evolved its art and architecture. The style of Hindu temple construction, so unique to Orissa also developed around this time.


To understand all that a Hindu temple stands for one must realize that temples in India are not merely abodes of deities but a shradhanjali (offering) to the most sacred. Here a ’darshan’ is a communion between man and his creator. Hence, Orissan temples are characterised by profuse decorations, exquisite carving and ornamentation covering the entire visible area with Gods & Goddesses, kings and queens, animals and flower motifs ranged against each other. They radiate the artist’s inner love and dedication. Orissa is probably the only state where one can study temple architecture in all its successive stages of development.


Enchanting Odissi

Odissi, is the traditional dance form of Orissa and probably owes its origin to the temple dances of the devadasis (temple dancers). Possibly the oldest classical dance form, one must sit through a performance to experience its sheer lyrical grace. Mentioned in inscriptions, it is depicted on sculptures, in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun temple at Konark. In fact in the 1950’s the entire Odissi dance form was revitalized with the help of the Abhinaya Chandrika and sculpted dance poses found in temples. Orissa enjoys a rich tradition of tribal and folk dances as well. Chhau from Mayurbhanj District is a martial dance form reminiscent of Orissa’s earlier maritime tradition. Other folk and tribal dances include Danda Nata, a daylong performance ending in acrobatic sequences, Ranapa or dances in which dancers perform balancing acts on bamboo stilts.


Rare Artistry

Land of dextrous artists and craftsmen, Orissa possesses a rich artistic tradition which enjoyed liberal patronage from the temples as well as the nobility. Diverse and varied, the craftsmen artists of Orissa still retain their indigenousness, trying to refine it to suit a changing sensibility. Be it the applique artists of Pipli or the stone carvers of Orissa, proud descendants of sculptors whose hands chiseled the unsurpassable designs on Orissa’s famous temples, the essential conflict between the traditional and the modern is gradually being resolved. The progressive attitudes of the Orissan artists coupled with hereditary skills zealously perpetuated, has given traditional Orissan arts and crafts like weaving of Ikat, Bomkai and Sambalpuri Saris, stone carving, applique and embroidery, silver filigree work, patta painting and palm leaf engraving, brass and bell metal work, lacquered boxes and toys and basket weaving, a unique place in the connoisseur’s dictionary the world over. A visit to the Raghurajpur artists village and Pipli, near Puri, to see the artists at work is quite a rewarding experience.


Gourmet Delights

The green coconut with its pure water and the abundant sea food from Chilika lake and the sea are as Orissan as pizzas are Italian. Delicious prawns, crabs, sweet water fish, lamb, chicken and eggs cooked by Orissan cooks are widely available gourmet fares, while specialty restaurants serve almost everything. Milk preparations like Rasgulla, Rasmalai, Khirmohan, Rasabali, Kalakand are delicious. Pithas, sweet and savoury are served as local snacks. This is a traditional preparation requiring skill and care. Pithas like Mandas, Kakara, Chhunchipatra are usually domestic preparations much loved by the Orissans.


The Ethnic World of Orissa

Orissa is a modern state with an ethnic past that is still vibrant. Most of her tribes are to be found in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar Phulbani, Sambalpur, Kalahandi and Koraput. As many as 62 tribes exist in Orissa - Kondhs, Koyas, Bondas, Gadabas, Santals, Juangs, Oraon, to name only a few are some important tribes who have retained their individuality and their close bond with nature. From the last week of January to early February, the Tribal Fair at Bhubaneshwar brings together the ethnic world; their art, craft and culture is on display. For those desirous of a closer look trips are arranged by many tour operators from Bhubaneshwar and other cities but it is a hardier trail and more time consuming.

The Tribal Museum (T.H.R.T.I.) at Bhubaneshwar (CRP Square) however is quite comprehensive and provides adequate information on the art, craft, housing and life-styles of the various tribal groups.

Bhubaneshwar - Temple City of The East
Visit the ancient city of Bhubaneshwar (Bhuban being world and Iswar God) and it is a walk down centuries of temple architecture, With 600 temples still extant, temples are to this ancient city as forts are to Rajasthan. It is probably the only city in the world that enables an authentic over-view of the stages of development of Hindu religious architecture. In the fast moving world of today these temples are a gentle reminder of the splendour, the heritage that was once India, It is not hard to imagine what a temple would have been at the time of its patron ruler. Regular dances by the ’Devadasis’ or divine servant girls, rituals and rites, recital of hymns were all an integral part of temple culture. Temples in Bhubaneshwar are built on a common plan as prescribed by Hindu norms. The structure is divided into four distinct parts connected to each other. The external part or the outer chamber is the ’Jagamohana’. The Garbhagriha is the inner sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity. There is also a conical beehive shaped tower which forms the third part – the Nata Mandap and the fourth is the Bhoga Mandap. All visible parts of a temple are sculpted with motifs of priests, kings, courtiers, pilgrims, celestial dancers, couples in embrace, birds, animals or scenes from religious epics and legends.

Udaygiri Khandagiri
7 kms from Bhubaneshwar are the twin hills of Udaygiri and Khandagiri. Built by Kharavela around 1st - 2nd Century BC for Jain monks, they are excellent examples of Jain Cave art. The famous caves of Hathigumpha (elephant cave) in Udaygiri, RaniGumpha (Queen’s cave) also in Udaygiri, with upper and lower stories, spacious courtyards and extremely delicately designed friezes bear witness to the sophistication the architectural styles had attained as early as the first Century BC.

Dhauli
Driving down the Puri-Konark Highway from Bhubaneshwar one comes across Dhauli hill on the banks of the River Daya. Surrounded by the soothing greenery of paddy fields, lies the 3rd Century BC Ashokan Rock Edict, a memory of the gruesome war that transformed Ashoka, the great Warrior into a Buddhist missionary. The Peace Pagoda built in collaboration with the Kalinga – Japanese Buddhist Sangha, on the opposite hill, is completely modern and is an excellent foil.

Puri
The seat of Lord Jagannath, Site of Renowned Rathyatra Festival and one of the most popular sea side resorts on the Bay of Bengal, Puri is an ideal travel destination all the year round.

Konarak

Renowned for its magnificent sun temple, which was constructed by Narasinha Deva of Ganga dynasty of Orissa in mid 13th century, Konark is also a lovely beach resort. It is easily approachable from BhubanesHwar-64 kms & Puri-32 kms by coaches and tourist cars. Regular bus services including conducted sigthtseeing tours are available for Konark from BhubanesHwar and Puri.

In Konark, the "Natya Mandir", the dance hall of the Sun Temple probably remains as the last remnant of the glorious temples of Orissa an extant example of the architectural excellence of the times. Built in the 13th Century, here a collossal image of the chariot of the Sun, drawn by seven horses and 24 wheels symbolises the divisions of time. The main tower of Konark stood as high as 227 feet, superceding both Lingaraja and Jagannath Temples. The Jagmohana (Porch) structure and the tower are both situated atop the stone platform supporting the 24 wheels. The Konark Sun Temple also houses a Natamandira or dancing hall. Only two subsidiary temples out of the 22, that were also situated inside the temple precincts, exist today. The VaishnadeviMayadevi Temple stand to the West of the towers. The Sun temple of Narasimhadeva is a depiction in stone of the life of those times – royal, social, religious and military. The intricate carvings on the walls and wheels of the chariot are unprecedented in history. The fine sculptures depicting Court life, hunting, scenes, celestial deities are epitomes of precision and grace. Graceful sculptures from the world of the Kamasutra, epic of eroticism also adorn the structures. The Sun Temple standing in solitary splendour is the relic of a great past. The history lovers can regale themselves at the Archaeological Museum at the site of the Konark Sun Temple. The majestic Sun Temple silhouetted against the setting sun remains indelibly etched in the spectator’s memory.

Chilka Lake
Chilika Lake, spreading over an area of 1100 sq. kms is the largest brackish water lake in the country and attracts large number of migratory birds besides resident ones. Barkul and Rambha are two places on the lake which serve as the base. Though the lake can be visited throughout the year, October to March is the best season.

Flora: The lake hourbours the "aquatic vegetation" of its own and is typically represents by Algal forms (e.g. Chaetomorpha and Enteromorpha widely distributed algae followed by Lyngbya, Ulva, Cladophora and others like Gloeocapsa, Nostoc, Sprigyra, Oedogonium, Chara, Nitella, Gracilaria etc.), a number of Diatoms/Phytoplanktons and a few species of brackish water submerged phanerogams like Potamogeton pectinatus, Halophila ovalis, Ruppia maritima, Naja faveolata, Hydrilla verticellata and Ceratophyllum demersum etc. Some floating plants like Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes and Azolla pinnata etc. enter the like with flood water but disappear after a few months. The communities of Schoenoplectus littoralis in association with Eleocharis dulce, Phragmites karka, Myrostachya wightii & many other grasses and sedges also exist in shallow muddy areas. Species like Salicornia brachiata, Suaeda maritima, Sesuvium portulacastrum, Phyla nodiflora, Heliotropium curassavicum & some others occur in marshes and salt fields along the edges and other shallow areas. The present scanty littoral and scrub jungles on lake margin, islands and rocky faces are represented by the species like Salvadora presica, Pongamia pinnata, Colubrina asiatica, Cassipourea ceylonica, Aegiceras corniculatum, Azima tetracantha, Pisonia aculeata, Clerodendron inerme, Carmona retusa, Carissa spinarumm, Crateva spinarumm, Meytinus emarginatus, Opuntia dillenii, Ficus sps., Crateva adansonii spp., Lepisanthes tetraphylla, Streblus asper etc. and a number of climbers/twinners and herbaceous ground flora. The dunes & sandy areas of the beaches near lake have the floral composition of their own, favoured in the conditions they offer. The land lying between Sea and Lagoon exhibits rich growth of casuarina equisetifolia, planted by Forest Dept.

Fauna: There is a wide varity of animal life forms representing various groups of Animal Kingdom (ranging from Protozoa, Porifera, Polyzoa, Brachiopoda, Coelenterata, Ctenophora, Isopoda, Echiura, Sipuncula, Chaetognatha, Platyhelminthes, Annelida, Crustacea, Arachinida, Insecta, Mollusca to Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mamals). The more details of some of these fauna arefurnished here.

Around 158 species of fishes and prawns have so far been recorded.Crabs like Scylla serrata & Neptunus pelagicus are the predominent types available here.

Oyster (e.g. Ostrea talpur, Arca, Meretix etc.) occurs in small patches. Nearabout countless types of Amphibians Reptiles viz. Snakes, Lizards, Turtles & Crocodiles. Discovery of Limbless skink (Barakudia insularis), a rare reptile which was reported first time from loose soil of Barakudia island by Annandale (1917), attaches much significance to this place. The Dolphins have been reported mostly near Satapada-Magarmukha area and occasionally between Kalijai and Balugaon. Other mammals reported from small pockets in the surrounding hlls/forests/scattered islands & amidst the vegetation of sandy ridge facing Chilika and Sea include Black bucks (Antilope cervicara), Spotted deer, Fox, Jackal, Hyaena, Jungle Cat, Hare, Rat, Pachyura (an insectivora), Common bat, Otter, Common mongoose, Monkey, Squirrel, Porcupine etc.

Gopalpur-on-Sea
Gopalpur-on-Sea is a quiet and charming sea resort along the Bay of Bengal, in the district of Ganjam, Orissa. It offers secluded environment and magnificent sun, surf and sand for most of the year.

Simplipal

Nestled in the centre of Mayurbhanj, the northernmost district of Orissa is the similipal National Park one of India's better known wild life sanctuaries, covering a large forested area of 2750 sq.kms. The variation in topography, climate and vegetation has supported large varieties of animals, birds and reptiles. Similipal is one of the earliest and finest of India's fifteen Tiger reserves under Project Tiger.

Chandipur
Chandipur (16 kms) away from Balasore Railway Station on Howrah-Madras line of South Eastern ( S.E.) Railways annique beach where the sea water recedes about 5 kms during low-tide and advances to the shore line again during high-tides each day. An ideal beach resort of Orissa.
 

 
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