Orissa, also spelled Odisha (officially), features attractive sightseeing sites, serene beaches and local delicacies.Situated at the eastern coast of India, this state offers several reasons to tempt the travelers appetite. You can stroll along the 500 km coastline or take a boating trip in the Chilka Lake, tourists have wide opportunities to unwind. If you are looking for adventure, trek to Deomali, the highest point in Orissa, camp out in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries or hire water scooters in the Mahanadi River, which is a major river in the state. The thing that makes tourists from all around the country and the world to travel to Orissa, is the 'Golden Triangle of the East' that is a religious journey to the architecturally brilliant temples - Jagannath in Puri, Lingaraj in Bhubaneshwar and the Sun Temple in Konark. Apart from these, there are several other tourist attractions to see and experience. Know more about the state in the Orissa Travel Guide.
How to Reach Orissa
By Air - Orissa's capital city, Bhubaneshwar has a domestic airport, named Biju Patnaik Airport, that is well connected with the major Indian cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Port Blair, Hyderabad, Raipur, Bangalore and Vishakhapatnam. You can avail buses, trains and cars to travel to other tourist destinations in Orissa.
By Rail - Railway stations in all major tourist places in the state makes travel to Orissa easier. Here is a list of the major railway stations and their cities in Orissa:
By Road -If you are traveling to Orissa by road, you can take the following national highways - 5, 5A, 6, 23, 42, 43, 60, 200, 201, 203, 215 and 217. With well connected roadways in the state, your trip to Orissa will not be a problem.
Tourist Attractions: Places to Go in Orissa
On a tour to Orissa, you have a range of places to go to and several tourist destinations to visit. Apart from the aforementioned temples, the state offers the spiritual travelers Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples all over the state. Visitors may find an important temple in all major tourist destinations in Orissa, including Cuttack, Puri, Bhubaneshwar, Sambalpur, Konark and Talcher. Along with this, you can visit Jaugada to see one of the oldest rock edicts by King Ashoka and Dhenkanal for the well-known Shiva Temple. You don't only find here historical architecture but also can witness an impressive example of modern engineering and construction by visiting the Hirakud Dam that is near Sambalpur on the Mahanadi River and is considered one of the longest dams in the world. Apart from man-made marvels, you can head to the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the state to delve into nature's creations like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Flamingo, Olive Ridley Turtle, several species of orchids and numerous other plants and animals. You can also get to know about the tribal life in Orissa and experience various forms of art like music, dance, poetry, literature, sculptural art and sand art in the state. Here are the major tourist attractions in Orissa:
Heritage Buildings in Orissa
Sun Temple - Located in Konark overlooking the Bay of Bengal, this 13th century ferruginous sandstone temple was constructed in the Kalinga style of architecture. This UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like a chariot and is dedicated to the Sun God. Also known as Black Pagoda, its walls have images of gods and goddesses,which are of the same style as seen in the Temples in Khajuraho. You can also visit the archeological museum, situated close to the temple for the preserved fragments of the temple.
Jagannath Temple - This 11th century temple in Puri is an important pilgrimage destination in India that attracts devotees from all over the country and abroad. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who Hindus believe is the Lord of the Universe; this temple is another great example of the Kalinga architectural style. The Rath Yatra, an elaborate chariot festival organized here boosts tourism in Orissa during the months of June or July.
Lingaraj Temple - This temple is one of the best known temples in Bhubaneshwar. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this 11th century religious monument shows the Kalinga style of architecture and its main shrine is made of granite.
Barabati Fort - Built in the 14th century, this fort is situated in the west of the city of Cuttack. At present, even though it is in ruins, you will be able to see its glorious past represented by the intricately carved gateway.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves - These elaborately sculptured caves that dates back to the 3rd century BC in the hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri are located near Bhubaneshwar. The inscriptions and carvings in the caves suggest the theme to be related to the Jain religion. Although there are several caves open to the public, the ones that have attracted most tourists are the cave numbers 1, 10 and 14 in the Udayagiri hill and cave number 3 in the Khandagiri hill.
Museums in Orissa
Odisha State Museum - Located in Bhubaneshwar, it contains artifacts like coins, armor, paintings, sculptures, inscriptions and archeology that showcase the rich traditions of the state. A visit to this museum will make your travel to Orissa memorable and informative.
Museum of Man - This museum in Bhubaneshwar features everything associated with the tribals in Orissa, like their houses, dresses, food, utensils, paintings and culture.
Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries in Orissa
Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary - Enjoy watching around 160 species of migratory birds including Purple Moorhen, Flamingos, White Bellied Sea Eagle, White Ibis and Water Fowls in this inland lagoon in Orissa. Considered the largest lagoon in Asia, the Chilka Lake offers more than just bird watching. Several nearby tourist spots like the Honeymoon Island, Nalabana, Kalijai Temple, Breakfast Island and Barunkuda are worth a visit for their scenic views, wildlife and peaceful environment.
Simlipal National Park - Famous for its elephants, Royal Bengal Tigers, Indian Bisons and orchids, this national park is located in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. While on a tour to the park, do visit the Joranda and Barehipani waterfalls that are known for their heights and picturesque beauty.
Bhitarkanika National Park - Noted for its mangrove ecosystem, saltwater crocodiles, Indian Cobra, 215 bird species and the Olive Rildey Turtles, this national park is located in the Kendrapara district.
Fairs and Festivals of Orissa
Rath Yatra - Celebrated in the month of June or July, this is the most famous festival in Orissa. It features gigantic chariot processions at the Jagannath Temple at Puri.
Puri Beach Festival - This festival, organized by Orissa tourism and hotel industries in the state, features sand arts in the Puri Beach by well known artisans.
Konark Dance Festival - Held in December, this festival has classical dance performances by renowned dancers from India and the world with the Sun Temple in the background.
Kalinga Mahotsav - This 2 day festival is one of its kind, held at the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, also known as Peace Pagoda, in the month of February. In this festival you can watch adept performers doing martial dance in a peaceful manner.
History of Orissa
The history of Orissa dates back to more than 5000 years when the earliest known inhabitants were tribal communities living on the hills. A few tribes of the region are also mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. In those days, the region was called Odra Desa and was restricted to the area around the Mahanadi River and in the lower banks of the Subarnarekha River. The present Orissa state in those days was not a single combined region, but 3 different ones - Kalinga, Kantara and South Koshala. These regions have separate histories and they are evident in the monuments constructed in the individual areas by several ruling dynasties. A major historical event worth a mention is the Kalinga War, which was so bloody that the Mauryan King Ashoka who had actually come to conquer it just like many other parts of India, conquered himself from the evils of the world and turned to the path of non-violent Buddhism. He is much known for spreading Lord Buddha's message in India and many parts of the world.