Dhenkanal - Weekend break from tourist spots #mydiscovery

25th Aug 2019

Where do the locals residing in popular tourist spots go to unwind? After all, the world throngs to their neighborhoods for breaks. The answers are often the best kept secrets of every tourist haven - the spots hidden in plain view on maps as GPS markers. Chance breaks at such spots often open up the gateways to unique experiences.

Odisha is a state synonymous with tourism in India with iconic beaches, temples and forest reserves. The majestic Sun temple at Konark is on the wishlist of most visitors to India while for Hindus their pilgrimage is incomplete without a visit to the Jagannath Temple at Puri. The capital city Bhubaneswar while being the first smart city of India is also a city of temples - a perfect mix of the old and new. With so much for tourists to see around, the question is where do the locals go for weekend breaks away from the prying crowds? A popular option is a day trip to the neighboring Dhenkanal district. And this being Odisha, it encompasses green mountains, dense forests, the great Mahanadi river with ancient and revered temples along miles of rice fields.

Halt 1: Dhabaleswar Temple

Even a few decades back, a visit to the ancient Shiva temple on the Dhabaleswar island in the midst of the waters of the mighty Mahanadi river in tiny ferries was an adventure to remember. Now visiting the temple is a simple crossing over Odisha's first hanging foot bridge. During the monsoons, the feel of the gushing waters of the Mahanadi below one's feet is an experience by itself. The temple for Shiva in the form of Dhabaleswar (White God) dates back to the 11th century and is highly revered amongst locals. Those with time in hand can opt for boating over to the island.

A revered deity

Photo of Dhabaleswara Temple, Paikerapur, Odisha, India by PG

How to reach: An hour's drive from Bhubaneswar (30 km)

Halt 2: Dhenkanal Palace

The next halt is a break at Dhenkanal town nestled amid green hills. The drive along carpets of green paddy fields with rolling hills looming along both sides is a relief to the eyes of city dwellers. A slight detour of 5 km away is one of the most popular picnic spots of Odisha - the Saptasajya Wildlife Sanctuary.

While the Dhenkanal palace has been converted into a hotel, day visitors are also allowed. The views are very scenic from the lawns and rooms. Though not as opulent as the palaces in north India, it doesn't fail to give the visitors a glimpse of the glamorous lives of the royals in the not too distant past. There are many pocket friendly options for having a sumptuous lunch in the town.

Scenic palace needing some care

Photo of Dhenkanal Palace, Court Road, Dhenkanal, Odisha, India by PG

How to reach: An hour's drive from Dhabaleswar (40 km)

Halt 3: Kapilash Temple

Reaching the Kapilash Temple is still an adventure with the options being either a climb of 1352 stone steps through dense foliage or a twisting 5 km drive over the hill with 11 hairpin bends. The adventurous can opt for further trek of 3 km from the main temple to the shabhamandap at the end of the premises. There are several ancient Shiva temples within the compound each with their own legends. As per some local stories it is also the birthplace of Luv and Kush, the sons of Lord Ram. The place teems with monkeys making one believe in the Ramayan connection. On clear days one can get amazing views of the valley beneath.

Hard to reach but worth it

Photo of Kapilash temple, Kapilash Road, Odisha, India by PG

How to reach: About 40 minutes drive from Dhenkanal (25 km)

Halt 4: Joranda

Joranda is the headquarter of a unique sect of Odisha worshiping the shapeless and formless God. The temples and rituals are unique and a completely different experience from the other temples in Odisha. There are no idols in any of the temples. One can pick up amazing sweets and fresh from the field vegetables on the drive back to Bhubaneswar or Cuttack.

The seat of the Mahima dharama

Photo of Joranda, Odisha, India by PG

How to reach: About 40 minutes drive from Kapilash (20 km)

Halt 5: Mundali Bridge

On the drive back to Bhubaneswar via the Athagarh road, one must take a break on the Mundali bridge to view the majestic Mahanadi river particularly around sunset. Locals also pick up the fresh fish sold on the bridge.

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Rolling hills, scenic drive and majestic Mahanadi

Photo of Mundali Bridge, Athagarh Road, Odisha, India by PG