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Orissa - Odisha OR its rich culture and ancient temples OR The Soul of India

The Indian state of Orissa lies on the eastern coast, along the Bay of Bengal. The entire state is a tourist destination of sorts where rich cultures and customs, religions and traditions, languages and literature, art and architecture, scenic beaches, and amazing wildlife virtually compete for the attention of the visitors from all over the world.

Many times such tourists are often left confused as to what to see and what to overlook during their stay in the state. And several of such travelers have no option except to return to the state for another visit to cover those attractions which they may have missed on their first visit.

Religious Destinations

Perhaps the most sought after attractions of Orissa are its many religious hotspots. Lingaraj Temple (Bhubaneswar), Jagannath Temple (Puri), Sun Temple (Konark)…these are just the three famed religious hotspots of the state which much inspire the religiously and spiritually inclined visitors. The three above mentioned religious places much interestingly make the Golden Triangle.

Special mention must be made of the Lord Jagannath Temple. This abode of Lord Jagannath is one of the holiest worship destinations of the country and thronged by thousands of people, especially the spiritually and religiously inclined ones, more so during the Rathyatra Festival.

Apart from these and several other famous Hindu temples, there are many Jain and Buddhist hotspots as well in Orissa. Actually, the state is a major Buddhist destination with numerous Buddhist stupas and monasteries which could be found scattered throughout at places, such as Dhauli, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, and Udaygiri.

Wildlife Destinations

Rich and varied Orissa wildlife also keeps the state pretty high on the list of the discerning travelers’ radar. Simlipal, Chandaka, Debrigarh, Nandankanan and Ushakothi…these are just some of the many famed wildlife spots of the state. And so is the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary where Olive Ridley turtles are kept and nurtured. Then there is the famed Chilika Lagoon, a marine, brackish and freshwater eco-system off the east coast. These and other nature hotspots keep the adventurous tourists and wildlife enthusiasts hooked and asking for more.

Wildlife Tourism of Orissa

Among the many attractions of Orissa, its wildlife enjoys an edge of sorts. The reason is not hard to find. The state boasts of a good forest cover and houses some of the most amazing wildlife destinations and forest reserves that one may come across anywhere else in the country, apart from being a habitat to a varied species of flora and fauna – all of which significantly boost the wildlife tourism of Orissa and inspire many visitors to spend their holidays in and around such wildlife and nature hotspots of the state.

Nandankanan Zoological Park, Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary, Ushakothi Sanctuary, Bhitarkanika Sanctuary, Mahandadi Wildlife Division, Simplipal National Park, Ushakothi Sanctuary, Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary…these are just some of the many famed wildlife destinations of Orissa which are a virtual delight for the wildlife and nature lovers who, many of whom sometimes seem to be at a loss as to how and from where to start exploring the many wildlife treasures of the state.

The above mentioned and the other wildlife places scattered all across Orissa house several endangered and regular wildlife attractions, such as Tigers, Leopards, Elephant, Bear, Deer, Sambar, Black Buck and Wolves. In fact, Orissa is famed for its 19 species of amphibians, 110 species of reptiles, 473 species of birds and 86 types of mammals. Over 225 kinds of fish such as Alepes Djedaba, Acentrogobius griseus and Elops Machnata also inhabit the many nature reserves and other wildlife areas of Orissa.

The Nandankanan Zoological Park - one of the well known nature reserves of the state located at a distance of nearly 17 kms from Cuttack and 2 kms from the railway station of Barang - houses a variety of wild animals, such as blackbucks, crocodiles, pangolins, small Indian civets, mouse deer and sambars, apart from panthers.

The Ushakothi Sanctuary - yet another famed wildlife destination at Orissa and situated in Yavatmal at a distance of around 48 kms from the place called Ushakothi - houses a rich and varied species of fauna, including neem, arjun, casuarinas, sal, sandalwood and acacia, apart from several types of fauna such as leopards, tigers, elephants and chitas, besides wolves.

The Mahandadi Wildlife Division - yet another well-known wildlife spot which is situated towards the south of the Mahanadi River -- is home to several species of animals, including tigers, elephants, leopards, striped hyenas, etc. This place is famed for its amazing varieties of flora as well which includes bamboo, bija, sal, asan, palas and rai.

Simplipal National Park - situated in the north-eastern part of Orissa, nearly 320 kms from Bhubaneshwar City and close 250 kms from the Kolkata City -- is yet another renowned wildlife destination of the state and a must visit.

This brings us to the famed nature spot, Chilika Lake – the largest inland lake of Asia. Though not a wildlife spot in the usual sense, it is one of the most important nature spots of Orissa and is much famed for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle also called the Pacific Ridley which is bred here. Chilika Lake is also a haven for the migratory birds and an ornithologist’s delight. Chilika is also home to the famous Irrawaddy or Snubfin Dolphins.

No wonder, wildlife tourism of Orissa is the in-thing and one of the most popular forms of tourism in the region.

Orissa Fairs & Festivals

Orissa has a rich cultural and religious background which often shines through several things and events -- more so via the vibrant fairs and festivals which are exciting in their raw energy, religious passion.

A kaleidoscope of dance, music and Jatras related fairs and festivals -- which are unique to the region and which give an insight of sorts into the rich and varied roots of the state - are celebrated with a passion that is unmatched and pretty infectious.

Literally dotted with shrines and temples across its length and breadth, the state of Orissa hosts numerous temple festivals, particularly those related to Lord Jagannath at Puri, such as the world famed Rath Yatra or the Car Festival.

As the state also houses several tribal communities, the many fairs and festivals in Orissa also include tribal festivals and fairs which are intriguing, bewildering and entertaining – all at the same time. Chaita Parva and Bali Yatra are the leading tribal festivals of Orissa.

This is not to suggest that festivals and fairs in Orissa are only confined to temples and tribes. They are also concerned with celebrating the cycle of life with all its joys and sorrows. In fact, to display the varied folk tradition and cultural heritage of the state, many special festivals are organized in Orissa, including the Puri Beach Festival, Konark Festival and Kalinga Festival.

Fairs and festivals in Orissa also includes other usual religious festivals that are typical to Orissa such as Raja and Kumar Purnima; and the ones which are celebrated at the national stage such as Durga Puja, Maha Shiv Ratri, Dusherra, Diwali.

Top Orissa Fairs & Festivals

Makarmela: Celebrated on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on January 15, this festival sees people worshipping the Sun God in a big way.

Dhanu Yatra: Celebrated during the Pausa month, Dhanu Yatra celebrates Lord Krishna’s visit to Mathura.

Parab Adivasi Mela: This annual cultural event displays tribal culture and traditions in the Koraput district, Orissa. The many tribal groups of the region use this festival as a platform to show their unique arts and crafts.

Kalinga Mahotsav: Celebrated to pay tribute to the Kalinga, the Kalinga Mahotsav or the National Festival of Martial Dance displays the rich traditions of martial art of the country via dance and music.

Konark Music & Dance Festival: This one of the most famous festivals of the state is organized in an open-air auditorium with the world famed Konark Temple as the backdrop. The festival displays the many rich dance forms of the country such as Odissi, Manipuri, Bharathnatyam and Kathak, besides Chau Dance. It is organized every year during the early December.

Joranda Mela: The festival of the people belonging to Alekh/Mahima dharma religion, Joranda Mela continues for three days, during which the Mahima sanyasis congregate to worship Mahima Gosain's Samadhi Pitha. Those who gather here for the fair learn how to get salvation.

Chandan Yatra: This 21-day long festival is celebrated at the Jagannath Temple in Puri. It starts somewhere around April. The activities around the event begin with the observance of the auspicious "Akshyaya Trutiya". This unique festival is also celebrated in Bhubaneswar where the Lord Lingaraja is worshipped on the occasion.

Rath Yatra: The magnificent Rath Yatra -- also called the Chariot Festival -- is celebrated during June-July. Celebrated in the honor of Lord Jagannath, this festival sees the wooden images of Krishna, Balrama and Subhadra being placed in huge chariots, the ropes of which are pulled by the fervent devotees. The mega event witnesses a huge gathering of people from India and abroad.

Puri Music & Dance Festival: Held every year during November at Puri, this festival sees interesting events being organized for the guests. Fashion shows, exhibitions, cultural programs, mouth-watering food and much more form a part of this highly vibrant and colorful occasion.

Baali Yatra: Held on the full moon day, in the month of Kartik, the Baali Yatra witnesses the images of the God Karthikeswar being worshipped and later being immersed in the waters of Mahanadi River.

Bada Osho Festival: Also called the “Festival of Fasting”, Bada Osho Festival is celebrated during the month of Kartik.

These and the other festivals and fairs of Orissa have done much to boost the image of Orissa as a leading tourist destination of India. No wonder, people tour the state in large numbers, round-the-year.

Handlooms, Textiles & Handicrafts of Orissa

Handlooms, Textiles

One of the most famous tourist places of India, Orissa boasts of an amazing heritage -- especially when it comes to handlooms and textiles. In fact, the state and those involved with handlooms and textiles of Orissa produce products which are simply too good and hard to find in the other parts of the country.

When it comes to leading spots which produce an arresting range in tassar silk, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Mayurbhanj and Nuapatna lead the table even while the rare silk fabric made at Nuapatna in Cuttack district embroidered with verses from the Gitagovinda is used to clothe the idols of the gods at the sacred temple of Lord Jagannath.

The Bomkai cotton saris from Ganjam district, which show impact of tribal art and which are embroidered with temple spire patterns on the border, are yet another quality product from the stables of Orissa textile makers and those involved with the field. The shining Khanduas are the other quality products that much dazzle the world.

Interestingly, most of the handloom textiles of the state are woven in bright and strong colors. Though vegetable dyed textiles have somewhat been sidelined now by the chemical dyes, the former still gets a premium.

Handicrafts

Orissa has an age-old tradition of producing wonderful pieces of art by hands. These handcrafts which have few parallels elsewhere define the rich heritage of the state in this domain. Patta Chitra, Metal Work, Sand Art, Stone Carving, Silver Filigree, Appliqué arts these are just some of the many quality works of art that define the Orissa handicrafts and stamp their superiority.

Patta Chitras are miniature paintings, used as wall hangings with religious themes as their subject matter. Legends from the lives of Lord Krishna are usually shown on this particularly treated cloth called Patta. Over the years, this inimitable art form has given birth to a distinct school of painting. This ritualistic art observes a lovely blend of refined art and folk element in the form of rich colors.

Most visitors to Puri take back these pattas as valuable mementos. The village destinations of Raghurajpur and Dandshahi, located on the fringes of Puri, are famed for producing quality pattas. Another well-known handicraft of the state also has its roots at Puri. This involves carving beautiful and lively sand sculptures with only clean and fine-grained sand mixed with just the right amount of water.

Silver Filigree is yet another distinct form of handicraft from the stables of Orissa. Thin wires taken out from beaten silver and foils are employed to make exclusive examples of artistic brilliance. Forms of animals and birds, tiny show pieces, lovely pieces of Jewellery and common articles of daily use, including vermilion receptacles, are made by the highly gifted filigree artistes of Orissa, and these enjoy wide fame across the world, thanks to their unmatched beauty and superiority.

The Appliqué art Of Orissa made out From Cut Clothes and transformed in to a Masterpiece Of art in Form Of Wall Hangings, Lanterns etc is One Of The Most popular form of Handicrafts which is very colorful and yet affordable. Based out of Pipli Village On The Puri – Bhubaneswar Highway The Village draws a Huge Number Of Visitors & art collectors for the colorful display of this unique showpieces.

Tribal & Ethnic Tourism in Orissa

Lately, Orissa has emerged as a leading travel destination in India in the domain of Tribal & Ethnic Tourism. In fact, Tribal & Ethnic Tourism in Orissa has now almost become the USP of Orissa Tourism -- thanks largely to the state’s amazing tribal population whose varied traditions and theological values much interest and inspire the visitors, especially those from abroad.

Groups of travelers from the developed west, chiefly from the European Union (EU), are thronging the state. But, they are visiting the state not to be a part of the so-called poverty tourism but tribal & ethnic tourism. Such visitors are visiting Orissa to see first hand how the ancient tribal groups of the region manage to lead a life of joy regardless of their restricted resources.

Orissa boasts of the third biggest tribal population in India and houses as many as 62 tribes. Many tribal communities -- such as Bondas, Gadabas and Kondhas, not to mention Souras - have chosen to live in their remote hills maintaining least contact with the outside world. And, this has been pivotal in helping these ancient tribal groups to maintain their traditions and theological values.

Besides, many nomadic tribes and hunters, including Birhors, the Stone Age Juangs and their dormitories, the Lanjia Soura’s shamanism are now the topic of research the world over for numerous anthropology scholars. The visitors are also glad to find out how these ancient tribal groups successfully carry on with their traditions and cultural heritage even when the world is changing so rapidly.

Besides, the most fascinating thing is that the visitors with high-ranking backgrounds just love their stay in the many tribal cottages and tents of the Bondas, Dongria Kondhas and Gadabas, not to mention Lanjia Souras.

Many travelers wishing to enjoy tribal & ethnic tourism in Orissa come frequently to the camps right at Peta located in the southern part of Bhubaneswar — an eco camp 20 km from Jeypore located in southern Orissa and renowned for the Paraja tribe; or Pusangia eco camp, 15 km from Baliguda. The camp at Baliguda, which has lovely brick-based huts for tourists, in fact, is a big hit with such visitors.

Wealthy tourists and others with influential backgrounds, post enjoying a comfortable and luxurious life in their countries, are rather glad to find out the beauty of the simple life - minus much intrusion of the modern technology and gadgets.

No wonder, tribal & ethnic tourism in Orissa is boosting the Orissa state tourism like never before. But then nobody seems to be complaining. Certainly not the many tribal groups of Orissa which are more than happy to show their ancient customs and way of living to the outside world even while they proudly accommodate the high profile visitors -- accustomed to living in modern and comfortable surroundings - in their humble mud and brick based huts.
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