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ORISSA

Sun TempleOrissa situated on the eastern coast along the Bay of Bengal, is an attractive treasure house of cultures and customs, religions and traditions, languages and literature, art and architecture, scenic beauties and wildlife. The state offers diverse habitats from lush green and hilly terrains to coastal plains and rolling river valleys, crises-crossed by the Brahmani, the Mahanadi and the Bansadhara rivers. In its long history spanning several centuries, the region of modern Orissa is today one of the most popular with tourists.

With a documented history stretching back to 2000 BC, it is no wonder that Orissa is dotted with ancient monuments ranging from the ruins of Sisupalgarh to the magnificent Lingaraj and Jagannath temples, from the world heritage site of the Konark Sun temple to the exquisitely carved Mukteswar and other such temples. The various archaeological finds at Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri, Udaigiri and other locations prove that Orissa had also been influenced by Buddhist thought. The state once formed a part of the Kalinga kingdom which is best known in ancient history for its brave resistance against the invasion of the Mauryan King Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C., who ultimately conquered it. That the emperor turned to Buddhism and peace after witnessing the bloodshed in this war is well known. This also formed the turning point in the history of Orissa giving a boost to art and architecture in the ancient kingdom. Jainism too has left its mark on Orissa as the rock cut caves at Khandagiri & Udaygiri as well as remains at other locations show.

Orissa is blessed with around 500 km long coastline and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Chilika, Asia's largest brackish water lake, not only provides a haven for millions of birds, but is also one of the few places in India where one can view Dolphins. The lush green forest cover of Orissa plays host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the famed Royal Bengal Tiger. Amidst the picturesque hills and valleys nestle a number of breathtaking waterfalls and rivulets that attract visitors from all over.

BHUBANESWAR

Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, is also popularly known as the "Temple City of India". It provides an ideal introduction to the rich cultural heritage of the state of Orissa. Bhubaneswar derives its name from the Sanskrit word Tribhuvaneswara, literally “lord of the three worlds” which stands for Lord Shiva or Lord Lingaraj. An important Hindu pilgrimage centre, hundreds of temples have become an integral part of the landscape of the Old Town, which once boasted of more than 2000 temples. The area around Bhubaneswar constituted the famed kingdom of Kalinga, which was conquered after a bloody battle by Ashoka, the great Mauryan emperor. Appalled at the carnage, Ashoka renounced violence and embraced Buddhism. Around the 1st century BC, under the rule of Kharvela, Orissa regained its lost glory and Bhubaneswar again became the center of activities. During this period, monastery caves were constructed of which Khandgiri and Udaygiri are the most important. By the 7th century, Hinduism supplemented Jainism, and Ganga and Kesari kingdoms did a lot for the development of Orissan culture. Most of the kings who ruled Orissa constructed beautiful temples. For a better part of its history, Bhubaneswar remained under the influence of Afghans, Marathas, and the British (till 1947).

Lingaraja Temple: Built in the 10th or 11th century, Lingaraja temple of Bhubaneswar has been described as 'the truest fusion of dream and reality. A rare masterpiece, Ferguson, the noted art critic and historian, has rated the Lingaraja temple as one of the finest examples of purest Hindu temple in India. Lingaraja temple is covered with intricate and elaborate carvings. Sculpture and architecture fuse elegantly to create a perfect harmony. It is believed that pilgrims, who wish to go to the Jagannath temple at Puri, must first offer worship at the Lingaraja temple.

Parashurameshwara Temple: The mid-seventh century dated temple is based on style, as well as on the eight planets, which appear over the door to the inner sanctum. In later temples, there are nine. This small temple shows the early stages of development of the two main Orissan temple components: the beehive-shaped tower (generally referred to as the deul) and the porch in front of the tower (generally called the Jagamohan). The tower is built in successive, inward-tapering stories, marked by “loti” form corner pieces.

Mukteshwar Temple: Built in the year of 950 AD, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mukteswara, is carved with figures of ascetics in several poses of meditation. The highlight of the temple is the magnificent torana - the decorative gateway, an arched masterpiece, reminiscent of Buddhist influence in Orissa.

Vaital Deul Temple: Vaital Deul is the shrine of Chamunda (a tantric form of the Goddess of Kali) or Shakti seated on a corpse. In a dark inner sanctum is the goddess Chamunda, garland of skulls round her neck and flanked by a jackal and an owl. Built in 800 AD, the niches on the inner wall of the temple depict equally startling images along with scenes of tantric rituals. It is the first of the temples to depict erotic sculptures.

Rajarani Temple: Built in 1050 AD, this temple stands alone in a green field and is one of the latest of the Bhuabneswar temples. It is famous for its ornate deul, or compass, decorated with some of the most impressive Oriya temple architecture. Set in a picturesque locale, the temple creates a dramatic image against the setting sun. It is particularly interesting in that it has no presiding deity. The temple's name is supposed to be derived from the red-gold sandstone used in building it - Rajarani being the local name for the stone.

Brahmeswara Temple: Brahmeswara Temple built in 1050 AD, is situated around a kilometer east of the main road. The temple stands in a courtyard bordered by four smaller temples. The temple depicts the mature Orissan style of temple architecture. The deul and the jagmohan are both intricately carved. For the first time in temple architectural history, musicians and dances appear on the outer walls and iron beams find their first use.

Orissa State Museum & Handircraft Museum: The Orissa State Museum is one of the best places to view sculptures, stone inscriptions and bronze-age tools, rare copper plates, palm-leaf manuscripts, paintings, anthropological specimens and musical instruments. The Handicrafts Museum has a good collection of folk paintings, horn toys, brass castings, and sculptures.

Tribal Museum: The Tribal Museum deals with the various aspects of the tribal life and culture in Orissa.

PURI

PuriPuri is the holiest place in Orissa and one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in India situated on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal. Here, the city's activities generally revolve around the Jagannath Temple. The town is divided into two - the old town the main residential area, including the main shops and huge market area. Most nights, the beaches host colourful markets and the city is abuzz with life. Puri is the hallowed seat of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), Subhadra and Balabhadra. One of the four holy dhams of Hinduism, Puri is possibly one of the very few religious sites, which combines the outdoor pleasures of sea and divine beaches with the religious sentiments of 'darshan'. Puri beach is famous for its golden sands, soothing sunbath and the colourful sunrise and sunset. Puri was once a part of Kalinga kingdom that was taken over by Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire. After passing through the hands of various dynasties, the entire Puri region came under the British rule in the year 1803.


Jagannath Temple: Jagannath temple is one of the four sacred Dhams of the Hindu religion. The other three being, Dwarka, Badrinath, and Rameshwaram. It is dedicated to the Lord of the Universe and its name is actually a combination of two words - Jag meaning universe and Nath meaning lord. Built in the 12th century, it is considered one of the tallest temples in India. Built in the Kalinga style of architecture, the temple consists of Jagmohan (hall) and the Deul (main shrine) in its front. The Nata Mandir was built in the 14th century and the Bhoga Mandir was built in the 15th century in the typical Orissan style. With 6000 direct temple servitors, a temple kitchen, which feeds 10,000 people daily (and some 25,000 on festival days), and a central deity who has become the focus of religious life throughout Orissa, the Jagannath temple is truly an institution unique in the world. The famous Rath Yatra (chariot festival) is held every year in June-July as a part of the festival of this great temple. The proceedings commence with the installation of Lord Jagannath, his sister Subhadra, and brother Balabhadra in massive, lavishly decorated chariots and thousands of devotees throng in to pull the three gigantic chariots through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha Mandir, accompanied by the chanting of sacred mantras (incantations) and music. It draws good number of pilgrims from all over the world.

Gundicha Ghar: The Gundicha Ghar or Gundicha temple is regarded as holy as the Jagannath temple itself. It is considered to be the place of Lord's aunt Gundicha. Non-Hindus can walk within the walls and see the beautiful garden, but they are not allowed inside the temple building. According to popular local belief, it is here that Lord stays for 9 days during the time of the famous Rath Yatra. On the day of the Rath Yatra, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra (the brother-sister trio) are ceremoniously taken in attractively caparisoned wooden “rath” from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple. At the garden house, their aunt welcomes them by feeding them padoapitha (specially baked rice cakes). This event is an important part of the famous Rath Yatra festival of Puri.

Puri Beach: Perhaps the only beach worth a visit on the eastern coast of India, Puri has soft white sands, simple people, the sweets and snacks hawkers and widespread waters of the Bay of Bengal continuously washing your feet as you walk. Beach Festival, celebrated in the later part of March or early April, it showcases the best of Orissa's folk and classical dance forms, music and handicrafts. Quite popular among the tourists, it is the best place to witness the cultural riches of the entire state at one place.

KONARK

KonarkKonark is better known for its Sun Temple dedicated to the Sun God or Surya. A masterpiece of Orissa's medieval architecture, it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Konark derives its name from Konarka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konark is actually a combination of two words, Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), which, when combined, means the sun of the corner. Sun has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period. Once a bustling port with good maritime trade relations with Southeast Asian countries, Konark was one of the earliest centres for Sun worshipping in India.

The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Orissan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. Even in its ruined state, it makes one gasp at first sight. The poet Rabindranath Tagore said of Konark that 'here the language of stone surpasses the language of man', and it is true that the experience of Konark is impossible to translate into words. Today it is located two kilometers from the sea, but originally the ocean came almost up to its base. Until fairly recent times, in fact, the temple was close enough to the shore to be used as a navigational point by European sailors, who referred to it as the 'Black Pagoda'.

The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses pull the temple chariot. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at Dawn, Noon and Sunset.

The place has been referred to in the Puranas as Mundira or Mundirasvamin, a name that was subsequently replaced by Konaditya or Konarka. Other religious texts also point towards the existence of a sun temple at Konark long before the present one. The present Sun Temple was probably built King Narashimhadev I of the Ganga dynasty in the 13th century to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple was deserted in the early 17th century after an envoy of the Mughal emperor Jahangir desecrated it. However, there is a legend, which says that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna who was afflicted by leprosy, brought about by his father's curse on him. After 12 years of penance, Surya, the Sun God cured him. Thus, Samba built an exquisite temple in his honor.

Sun Temple - equally as sensational was the rediscovery among the ruins of some extraordinary erotic sculpture. Konark is plastered with loving couples locked in ingenious amatory postures drawn from the Kama Sutra. Just outside the Sun Temple, is the Archaeological Museum that houses many sculptures and carvings found during the temple excavations. The stone images of nine planet deities, the Navagrahas, which were originally set above the temple's ornamental doorways is now kept as a living shrine.

Three kilometers from the temple, is the Konark beach or Chandrabhaga. Not only a walk on the beach is a pleasant experience, people also flock to the place for a holy dip in the sparkling seawaters and roll in the white-grained sands. The Black Pagoda (The Sun Temple), the glorious and majestic edifice, stands frozen with its splendor as the cool blue sea and the rapid waves roll in and out complementing its serenity.

GOPALPUR-ON-SEA

Located in Southern Orissa, Gopalpur is a tiny town of Gopalpur on the Bay of Bengal. This quiet seashore town of Gopalpur is a popular beach resort of Orissa. The deep and clear blue waters instantly provoke those who are good swimmers. The temptation of bathing here is irresistible. White surf splashing on the golden sands makes Gopalpur-on-Sea as one of the finest beaches on the eastern coast. A fascinating haunt for avid beachcombers and sea worshippers, it is a splendid retreat. Originally a small fishing village on the coast of Orissa, it was so named when a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna was constructed some time in the 18th century. North-West of Gopalpur and 50 kms from Berhampur, amidst greens hills of the Eastern Ghats lies Taptapani, famous for its hot water sulphur spring. The water of the spring, believed to have medicinal properties is channelised to a pond to facilitate bathing. The beauty of the rolling tribal inhabited hills is an added bonus while traveling through this area.

CUTTACK

The former capital of Orissa and the oldest city in the region, Cuttack today is a bustling commercial center. Situated on the delta formed by the Mahanadi and Kathjuri rivers, Cuttack assumed significance due to its strategic location. The warlike Keshari Dynasty founded a Kataka or "military camp," here in AD 989. The place was a major river crossing for the busy north-south land route as well as a nexus for the canals that connect Orissa’s interior with the sea. The island proved an ideal platform from which to dominate the region's economy. Orissa's last independent Hindu ruler, Mukunda Harichandan, built a much grander, nine-story palace. The Raja never had much of a chance to enjoy it however, as only eight years after his succession the Mughals and soon after, the Afghans of Bengal, annexed the city. Marathas took over Cuttack in the 18th century, and during this time it expanded further. Lucrative trade with the British on the coast financed the construction of new temples. For some geographical and climatic problems, the capital was transferred to Bhubaneswar after some time.

Cuttack is famous for its stone revetment on the riverbanks, a great engineering marvel of the 11th century AD and a remarkable example of ancient technological skill of Orissa. The medieval Barabati Fort, with its moat and gate and the earthen mound of the nine-storied palace, is situated on the bank of the river Mahanadi. A sacred shrine both for the Hindus and Muslims, Quadam-i-Rasool, has a compound wall and towers at each corner. Inside the shrine are three mosques with beautiful domes and a Nawabat Khana (music gallery). It is an object of veneration for Hindus and Muslims alike. Chandi is the presiding deity of the city and the shrine dedicated to her is on the itinerary of all those visiting Cuttack.

CHILIKA LAKE

Nestling in the heart of coastal Orissa, spread over 1100 sq. km. Chilika is the country’s largest inland lake. Chilka Lake is situated at a distance of 45 km from Gopalpur. Dotted with islands, it has the richest variety of aquatic fauna and is a bird watcher’s paradise when migratory birds arrive in winter. Containing a large variety of fish, the lake provides a livelihood to thousands of fisherman. Hundreds of boats sail out daily on the lake’s blue expanse in search of Mackerel, Prawn and Crab, the sight providing an insight into the pageant of rural India at its colourful best. Enriched by hills all along its arched shape, Chilika Lake’s colour changes with the passing clouds overhead and the shifting sun. The water ripples languidly; occasionally rippling with a gentle breeze across from the Bay of Bengal. Sunset and sunrise are memorable experiences here. Boating and fishing facilities are available in this lake, which is rich in fish. One can view the Dolphins at Chilika mouth near Satpara.

JEYPORE

Jeypore, the commercial nerve center of Koraput district, endowed with falls and forests thronged with colorful wildlife has all such facilities to serve as the convenient base for visiting the places of interest in and around. Duduma, a charming waterfall on the river Machhakund, 70 km from Jeypore is also a place of pilgrimage and rare scenic beauty. Gupteswar which is 58 kms east is a scenic spot with the cave shrine of lord Shiva. The place aglow on the occasion of Mahashivratri. The ShivaTemple with Champak trees at Papaddhandi (52km) is worth visiting. Sunabeda is also a placed of scenic beauty amidst lush green valleys.


TRIBAL ORISSA

Tribal manOrissa can boast of a vast tribal population belonging to diverse races and culture which are at various stages of socio-economic development. It has the second largest concentration of Tribals and constitutes an impressive quarter of the total population of the state.

The tribes believe that their life and work are controlled by supernatural beings whose abode is around them in the hills, forests, rivers and houses. It is very difficult to standardize the Gods and spirits as their composition continually changes when old ones are forgotten with the introduction of new ones. Their Gods differ from one another in composition, function, character and nature. Some are benevolent; some are neutral and some are malevolent. The malevolent spirits and Gods are cared more than their benevolent counterparts as they can bring misery. Illness or misfortune is attributed to displeasure and malicious act of the Gods or ancestors. The sacrifice of different kinds of livestock accompanied by all the rites and ceremonials of fetishism is considered appropriate appeasement. Furthermore, their extremely superstitious nature prohibits the undertaking of any enterprise unless the Gods are first appeased and the omens, after being carefully considered, are adjudged to be propitious. A major portion of the tribal habitat is hilly and forested. The scenery is magnificent, the villages and hamlets are fascinating. Tribal villages are generally found in areas away from the alluvial plains close to rivers. The tribes are quite friendly. Among all the tribes conformity to customs and norms and social integration continue to be achieved through their traditional political organizations. The tributary institutions of social control, such as family, kinship and public opinion continue to fulfill central social control functions. The relevance of tribal political organization in the context of economic development and social change continues to be there undiminished. Modern elites in tribal societies elicit scant respect and have very little followings. And as the traditional leaders continue to wield influence over their fellow tribesmen, it is worthwhile to take them into confidence in the context of economic development and social change.

Ethnic curio seekers, Anthropologists, Sociologists and Missionaries - they have all from time to time tried to penetrate the mystery surrounding the tribes of Orissa. Of these tribes, the most numerous are the Kondh, the Paraja, the Gadaba, Koya and the famous Bonda tribes. Each of these tribes is marked for its own unique culture.

The tribes of Orissa, despite their poverty and preoccupation with the continuous battle for survival, have retained the rich and varied heritage of colourful dance and music forming an integral part of their festivals and rituals. Among them, the dance and music is developed and maintained by themselves in a tradition without aid and intervention of any professional dancer or teacher. It is mainly through the songs and dances the tribes seek to satisfy their inner urge for revealing their soul. Some of the tribal communities like the Bonda and the Gadaba have their own looms by which they weave clothes for their own use. These handspun textiles of coloured yarn are examples of best artistic skill of these people. So also among the Dongaria Kondhs the ladies are very much skilled in making beautiful embroidery work on their scarves. The tribal women in general and the Bonda, the Gadaba and the Dongaria Kondh women in particular are very fond of using ornaments. The Bonda women, who are considered most primitive, look majestic when they wear headbands made of grass, necklaces of coloured beads and girdles made of brass on their bodies. All these are expressions of their artistic quality and aesthetic sense.

The tribal people turn out excellent handicrafts for their own use. The woodcarving of the Kondhs, metal works by the lost wax process among the Bathudis, cane and bamboo basketry works among the Juangs and Bhuyans, are all symbolic of artistic creation

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