How DID we end up with this plan?! It's still not very clear. I had always wanted to visit Konark. I guess my love for the place began after watching the Malayalam movie "Neelakasham Pachakadal Chevvanabhoomi" (NPCB). But this was happening. This was September 2016. So we had booked the flight tickets. But the package was not confirmed yet. We had been in touch with OTDC- Odisha Tourism Development Corporation. As soon as we received the mail from them- confirming the itinerary- it became real! We were going to Odisha! Our first stop was Bhubaneshwar. But actually it was this very short stop. We had our lunch at "Panthanivas, Bhubaneshwar" and we were off to Dhauli.
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Konark Sun Temple
he major attraction of the town of Konark, this temple is a stunning example of ancient Odisha Temple architecture. The temple was built in the 13th Century during the reign of King Narasimhavarmana I. Samba, the son of Lord Krishna was cursed by him and this made him a victim of leprosy. After this he started practising strict penace and at the end of this he attained the blessings of the Sun God. Lord Surya is the one who is said to have powers of curing all sorts of sking diseases and so did he cure Samba. As a mark of his gratitude and devotion he built the Konark Sun Temple. Next day when he was taking a bath in the waters of Chandrabhaga, a picture of Lord Surya floated to his hands and he took it as an instruction of the Lord. He immediately placed this image in the temple he had built. The temple is huge and is in the form of a chariot which has 12 wheels and being driven by 7 horses. The idol of the Sun God is in a standing posture and the horses are shown carrying him across the heavens. The temple was also called as the 'Black Pagoda' by the British because it was built completely of black granite.
The largest brackish water lagoon of Asia, the Chilika Lake is an awesome place to visit when you are in Odisha. It stretches from Bhusandpur in the Puri District till the Ganjan District and comprises of a beautiful wetland. There are a number of islands here and these are places till where you can enjoy boating and also spend a peaceful and exotic weekend on one of these. The islands include the Nalabana, Kalijal, Honeymoon, Breakfast, Somolo and Rajahansa. The wetland is also a bird- watcher's heaven where thousands of migratory birds, especially flamingoes come here and are a visual treat completely. The Kalijai Temple on the Kalijal island is a popular attraction here where the Goddess Kalijai is worshipped. She is a local deity and Makar Sankranti is celebrated here with great pomp.
Sri Jagannath Temple
In the morning, as the hotel staff had arranged for a Panda(Priests in the Jagannath Temple). He took us to the temples( Shri Jagannath emple and Markhandeswara Temple). The serenity in these temples were just awesome. After early morning prayers, we went for street side shopping. For dinner, enjoyed a hearty "Lord Jaganath's Mahaprasada" meal followed by a comfortable overnight stay at the hotel.
Bhitarkanika National Park
Located in the Kendrapada district of Orissa, the Bhitarkanika National Park is home to the endangered estuarine crocodiles (the largest living reptiles) and the white crocodiles. If lucky, one can also spot pythons which inhabit this area. Bhitarkanika has the distinction of housing the World's largest living crocodile (according to the Guiness Book Of World Records) at 22 feet, how about bumping into that eh! In addition to the big croc there are atleast 1665 salt water crocodiles present in the national park at the moment.
Mainly known as a pilgrim's beach, this is also the place which attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. The ones who come to pay homage to Lord Jagannatha make sure to take a dip in the waters of the Puri Beach. Talking from a traveller's point of view, the views of the sunrise and sunset are awesome here. The relaxed and calm atmosphere of the beach is soothing during a vacation and the sand art displayed especially by internationally acclaimed Sudarshan Pattanaik are a visual treat. There are also a number of shacks here selling fast food and other small items here and there. For a quieter experience you should move towards the eastern end of the beach and just sit there and watch the fishermen at work. High tides are a common trait of this beah so be careful to follow the rules guided to you.
Sambalpur also boasts of the Hirakud dam, the world’s longest dam across the Mahanadi river. There is minaret called Gandi Minar atop which one can enjoy the vast expanse of Hirakud dam with the calm, serene nature all around. It provides a wonderful view and, you can feel oneness with the nature.Both the cities, Rourkela and Sambalpur have retained their natural aura in spite of being industrial towns. You can experience a perfect symbiosis of nature and industry here.
Raghurajpur Artist Village
If you want to explore what the art of Odisha looks like, Raghurajpur is the best place to visit. This is a village hidden amidst palm and betel vines, where artists can make you get lost in the charm of their art. There you find thatched huts with outer platforms where the artists sit and do their work. These are also like their art studios where you can watch them working. Pattachitra or artwork on mud plates is the traditional part and other items of terracotta, papier mache and other stuffs are also made here. The Gotipua is the academy of dance here which polishes the art of Odissi started and nurtured by the Great Guru Shree Kelucharan Mahapatra. Other than this the worship of the loacl deity is also worth a watch here.
Lingaraj Temple :The temple dedicated to Harihara, a combined deity form of Lord Vishnu and Shiva, is one of the major tourist attractions of the city. The central tower of Lingaraj Temple stands at a height of 180 feet and the temple complex contains 50 other shrines. Pandas/Priests at the entry approach for offering puja but we did not avail their service. There were only few people inside, we performed pooja here and poojari gave us a silver bilwapatra. Around the vicinity of the shrine, there are other temples of different gods and goddess.
Nandankanan Zoological Park
The name of this park means the garden of the heavens. This has been declared as a sanctuary and is spread over the Chandaka Forest. The Kanjia Lake is also a part of this park. This park and sanctuary is mainly known for the variety of tigers here, especially the Royal Bengal Tiger and the white tigers. wildlife safaris are the main attractions here and guides and proper security facilities are also available to take care of all the tourists.
The ancient caves of Khandgiri and Udaygiri are some of the finest examples of ancient India's rock-cut architecture. These caves served as residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. The Jain temples in Bhubhaneshwar are at an hour's distance from these caves, and are another excellent example to study the ancient architecture of India.
Raja Rani Temple
Rajarani Temple is built in the 11th Century is the most scenic temple of the city. This temple symbolises Love due to the erotic carvings of women and couples. Currently there are no Gods present inside the temple but it is believed that this temple was also dedicated to lord Shiva. The temple was built using a type of stone called "Rajarani stone" hence taking the name Rajarani temple.
The restaurant lives up to its name and it is for sure a place to dine- out for peace loving people. This restaurant is on the CT Road of Puri and serves everything from breakfast to lunch and dinner at pocket friendly rates. The foreigners are very fond of this place mainly because they serve non- spicy yet tasty food. The muesli breakfast is a must try for a fresh start to the day.
Ashokan Rock Edict
In the rock edicts where Ashoka immortalized himself,it's recounted how the emperor lamented the widespread loss of lives and sufferings of the people of Kalinga during and after the war and how this event brought about a sea-change in the heart of Devanampriya(meaning beloved of the Gods)-a term by which Asoka is referred to in the numerous rock edicts. After the emperor took to the compassionate and non-violent ways of the Buddhist Sangha,the teachings of the Sakyamuni spread out from the confines of the Indo-Gangetic plains to lands beyond-Ceylon,China,Java,Japan,Indonesia and and as far as Greece and the Mediterranean. This royal patronage to the 'Buddha','Dharma' and 'Sangha' may have been a precursor for Buddhist heritage to grow in Odisha. The 13 th Rock Edict at Dhauli in Odisha states that-"Though a great victory has been won over the people of Kalinga but the price at which the victory has come has filled the heart of Piyadassi(Asoka) with grief and remorse.Piyadassi now has come to believe that the true victory over other fellow beings can only be obtained through Dhamma and teachings of Buddha.There is no other victory"(not the exact words but the basic idea of the text) A few summers back while at Leh in Ladakh,I witnessed the 14 th Dalai Lama initiate the proceedings of the 33 rd Kalachakra gathering and little did I know then that my curiosity of the events would take me back in time to a place nearer home in Odisha.Many months later,in the winter of the same year I found myself exploring the half-excavated ruins of the Lalitgiri-Ratnagiri-Udaygiri complex at the borders of Jajpur-Cuttack district of Odisha. But what stories can half buried ruins narrate? Can a place tell it's own story? The excavated sites in-situ at the complex hide many mysteries in it's heart,some of which we can be sure of but many cannot be confirmed.Scholars may stand in perplexity and ambiguity but a curious layman like me needs clarity in facts .The thing I remember before the surreal experience took me was that it was a clear moonlit night and after a day's exploring at the ruins of the Ratnagiri hill top I had returned for a lazy stroll near the ruined monastery late in the nightMainly because I expected the place to talk to me and partly because the stone works look enchanting in the moonlight.While I stared at the dozen odd Buddha heads of varying sizes inside the main compound,I could not help but notice the eyes which seemed content with the knowledge of truth,half closed but not drooping.Those eyes had knowledge and knew peace.It was then that I met someone unexpected.He would have been perfectly in place a thousand years ago,but not tonight. At any other time and at any other place,I would have been startled but not at that moment. An old man had appeared at the beautiful green chlorite gateway of the main entrance to the monastic compound.I don't remember if the man moved or the moon glided over his face,but as light shone on him,I recognized an old and wizened lama who stood there with a smile on his lips.He made a gesture which must have meant that I must follow him to the outer courtyard,because I did that instantly. He sat on a pedestal of rock and asked me to sit near him.Many centuries ago this pristine hill top was residence to more than five hundred Buddhist monks who came here to study ,meditate and contemplate on the path of Dhamma as shown by Buddha himself.Equally extraordinary was finding a solitary lama wandering the ruins in the present day.I had questions and by the look in his 'half closed' eyes ,I somehow knew he had the answers.As the old saying goes -When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears. We were on the verge of a good conversation. Me: Do you live around here or have you come to visit the ruins just like me? Lama: I am a wanderer and these excavated ruins attracted me from afar and I came to see for myself what old promise remains here. Whatever has been discovered and extracted here,has only increased anticipation of great stories buried underneath. Me: You are a scholar then? I almost wished to meet one. Lama: Knowledge is every man's right and not only of the scholar's. Curiosity and wonder are the beginning of all wisdom. Me: You speak of this place holding great promise and anticipation?Can you tell me something about Tantric Buddhism,something for which I heard this place was famous for in ancient times? Lama: When I speak of this place holding great interest,I do so with the knowledge that this ancient land of Odisha is one of the few places in India which had uninterrupted flow of Buddhist culture from ancient times to medieval times.And whatever we see in the Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Udaygiri complex holds great promise because as per Hiuen Tsang's records this was the supposed place for the great Puspagiri University,a place for great learning and scholarship at par with Nalanda or Takshasila. I had heard of Hiuen Tsang and his travels in Indian sub-continent.He was a true-blue traveler in the ancient world ....may have been the very pioneer of serious travel and exploring.And we did not have travel guides or the internet back then to fall back on. Me: So the supposed Diamond Triangle of Buddhism in Odisha lies in these hills of Langudi? Lama: The entire complex of the ruins excavated at the three sites of Lalitgiri,Ratnagiri and Udaygiri separated from each other with short distances is known together as the Diamond Triangle in modern nomenclature of scholars. May be after the historical sites are fully explored ,someday we would name the whole compound as Puspagiri University as supposedly it was known in ancient times. The Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang even describes divine lights emanating from top of the stupas and other magical experiences. So if Hiuen Tsang is right,we shall wait in anticipation of great wealth buried underneath and what we see now may be only the tip of the iceberg. Me: Wealth you speak of? Lama: The knowledge and wisdom accumulated over centuries by our ancestors and the works they have left behind are indeed any Age's greatest wealth. It's not gems and gold I am talking about.And I sincerely believe that the ability to appreciate the cultural and intellectual heritage of the generations gone to dust and to drink at it's fountainhead is what makes a civilization cultured.This is what Newton was talking about when he said about sitting on shoulder of giants and thus seeing farther than any men.That is why we must strive to protect these ruins. The moon was overhead and the place around me was taking a very interesting shape through it's glorious history and it's equally promising future. It speaks of the magic of archeological exploration with time as it's carving tool.A place that was once inhabited by thousands of monks and teachers and where many great seekers came to think about the big questions of life and creation , was buried by the sands of time.A great heritage waits patiently in the wombs of mother earth for some curious explorer to come and unearth it.All historical monuments narrate great old stories but how many can boast of a promising future? A future pregnant with mysterious hopes. The old lama and me got up to take a leisurely stroll around the ruins of Ratnagiri.
This temple is considered to be the oldest existing temple of the city built around 650 AD. Though the Presiding God of this temple is Lord Shiva, this temple is a combination of the Shiva and Shakti. The outer wall of the temple is engraved with the idols of Lord Parsuram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Lord Indra (the king of Gods), Surya and many more Gods. This temlpe adjacent to the Mukteswar temple is one of the most beautiful temples of Bhubaneswar.
The name of the place justifies its beauty. In Hindi, Swargadwar means gate to heaven, though significant because of the cremation ground present just behind to beach, the main attraction is the Beach. Stretched alongside the main road, the beach is a huge part of Puri's main culture. Also, praised for hosting beach festival every year in December. It is not only beautiful because of its nature, it is beautiful because of the art shown by local residents on the sand by making beautiful sand sculptures. ranging from face of goddess Durga to face of Subhash Chandra Bose
Kshira Chora Gopinath Temple
Khirachora Gopinath is another beautiful temple located 9 kilometers away from Balasore built on Vaishnav principles. The temple is popular because of the special milk prasaad called Kheera. The ambience of the temple is filled with pleasant aroma of the Kadamba trees located inside the premises. Odisha is a backpacker’s paradise. The state is rich in culture, food and history that make it a place worth exploring. Chandipur brought me close to one of the unusual wonders because of which the tag of incredible bestows upon India. How to reach BalasoreTrains ply between Bhubaneshwar and Balasore at frequent intervals. It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach and a passenger coach ticket costs you around INR 120. Balasore to ChandipurShared jeeps and private taxis run frequently between Balasore and Chandipur. Taxis charge INR 800 for one way while jeeps charge INR 20 Exploring BalasoreBalasore is famous for its old temples and there are tourist buses by OTDC starting in the morning that take you on a tour of the local temples. The charge for the bus is around INR 200 per person. Follow my journey on Instagram and Facebook
Dhauligiri Shanti Stupa
Dhauli Shanthi stupa : Dhauli believed to be the battleground of Kalinga war is a hillside lying on the banks of river Daya just 8km from Bhubhaneshwar. Kalinga war that took place in 261B.C had lot of implications on Emperor Ashoka's mind ,completely transformed his thoughts and soul after which he embraced Buddhism. It is said River Daya had completely turned red due to the blood of dying soldiers from both sides of Magadha and Kalinga kingdom. This is the site of the Vishwa Shanti Stupa built by Japan Buddha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha. After offering our obeisance to Lord Buddha, we had an aerial view of Daya River