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Information about Orissa

Orissa is one of the most interesting states in East India. The State is predominantly rural but industrialisation is changing its face. Bhubaneshwar is the modern capital of Orissa. Orissa is known for the famous Sun Temple at Konark and Jagannath Temple in Puri. Although, Orissa is one of the least visited states of India, it is also easily accessible. Orissa lies just south of the Tropic of Cancer and is very warm throughout the year. The best season to visit Orissa is from October to March. Oriya, Hindi and English are the main languages which are spoken in Orissa.

Orissa Map, Map of Orissa
History of Orissa

The origin of Orissa can be known from its history. In the ancient times, the state of Orissa was known as Kalinga, and is often mentioned in Hindu epics. According to the legend, Kalinga, one of the five sons of a sage, travelled as far as the hills of the Eastern Ghats. While looking down at the valleys below, he was fascinated and decided to settle down here with his people. Since then, Orissa was known as Kalinga. Orissa’s recorded history begins from 260 B.C. Emperor Ashoka installed carved Rock Pillar at Dhuli, only 5 km. from the present capital of Bhubaneshwar. The pillar has stood for almost 23 centuries. The carved inscriptions carry the message of Buddhist principles. Having fought a bloody war with the people of Kalinga and having won it, he repented at the loss of life and the devastation caused by him. He accepted the faith of the people of Kalinga who were Buddhists. The zenith of Orissa civilization reached between the 4th and 13th century under the great builders – Kesari and Gang kings. During their rule, thousands of temples and monuments were built all over the country. The state remained outside the power of Muslim invaders till late 16th century. When the Muslims invaders reached Orissa they destroyed about 7,000 temples that once lined the banks of the sacred lake of Bhubaneshwar. Today only 500 temples are there. In 1803, the British took over Orissa. Since Orissa was not strategically important for them, they did very little to improve its economic conditions. Orissa was divided into 26 vest-pocket sized states ruled by Rajas leaving little scope for economic development. After India's independence, the state was amalgamated into a compact province of Orissa. Now, Orissa is a democratically elected state.

Geography of Orissa

The land of Orissa is a flat alluvial plain. Orissa lies on the shore of Bay of Bengal, and has an area of 1,56,000 square km. In the west are the tablelands of the Eastern Ghats, part of the central plateau and in the midst are the green valleys of five big rivers which flow into the Bay of Bengal. In the upland region and on the upper slopes are the lush green forests that abound in wild elephants, Bengal tiger and other rare species. All the land in Orissa is covered by flat paddy fields, but in some places it is covered occassionally by the low mounds of granite. The delta stretches for 170 km from its northernmost point southwards to the Chilka lake. The Chilka lake is only a few metres deep and covers an area from 900 to 1200 square km. In order to overcome the floods created by the Mahanadi river, the Hirakud Dam was built about 20 kms. northwest of Sambalpur. It is a colossal structure, over 60 m high and so drains an area of 133,000 square km, twice the size of Sri Lanka. The key section is an over 1100 m long masonry dam, with a further earthen dam of over 3500 m. The dam has a 270 MW hydro electric power station and also allows the irrigation of nearly 750000 hectares of high quality land.

People in Orissa
Orissa People, People of Orissa

Most of the people in Orissa are tribes. Most of the tribes lives mainly in the Koraput, Phulbani, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts. There are about 60 tribes who lives mainly in the forest and remote hill regions of the state. Each of these tribes have a distinct language, pattern of social customs and artistic and musical tradition including dances, marriages and religious ceremonies. The tribal folk dances are performed throughout the year in the villages, but mainly, during the festivals in October-November and March-April. The Konds are mostly found in the western districts and are known for the human sacrifice they carried out in the past. Today, they practice animal sacrifice, instead of human sacrifice. The Bondas or naked people of Tibeto-Burmese origin speak an Austro-Asiatic language and live on high hills. The koya lives

in villages in the clearings in the middle of the dense forest and can be distinguished by their headgear made of bison iron. The santals live in the northern districts of Mayurbhanj and Balasore. They speak one of the oldest language of India.

Dances in Orissa

The various forms of dances in Orissa combines rhythm, movement, devotion and its expression. Odissi is the classical dance form which shadows the postures, expressions and lyrical qualities of the carved figures. The Odissi dance gives the viewer an experience that goes beyond words. This dance was performed as a ritual offering in the nata mandiras of the temples by the temple dancers resplendent in their costumes and jewellery. Traditional poses are woven to the accompaniment of talas (cycles) of sung poetry to present a highly stylized and graceful dance genre. The Odissi dance follows strict rules of position for the body, feet and hands falling into postures and attitudes a kin to the figures sculpted in the rock, centuries ago. The folk dances are usually performed during festivals and take various forms like Danda Nata, a ritual dance; Chaitighoda, a traditional fisherman's dance; Paika Nritya, battle dance and 

Orissa Dances, Odissi Dance

Chhau, the masked dance drama that reminds of the Orissa's martial past. The tribal dances such as the ‘Godha’, the Praja wedding dance, and the colourful Gond dances, performed in mirrored and shelled turbans are fascinating. 

Festivals of Orissa

Orissa has its own way of celebrating the fairs and festivals. Some of the famous fairs and festivals of Orissa are the Makar Mela on Kalijal Island, Chilka Lake, the Tribal fair of Bhubaneshwar, Durga Puja, the Car festival of Lord Lingaraja of Bhubaneshwar and the Rath Yatra in Puri. Various pilgrims visit Puri from India and abroad in the Rath Yatra. The three deities, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, are taken in a chariot procession to their summer temple for a week. Their magnificent chariots are drawn by the devotees. The Bali Yatra of Cuttack is another festival which is celebrated on the Kartik Purnima in October-November. In memory of the traders who had set sail for the islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra in the olden days, people go to the Mahanadi river, and bath and sail tiny boats made of pith and paper. From daybreak till late in the evening, a huge fair is held on the river-bank, in front of the Barabati fort for four days.

Temple Architecture in Orissa

The golden age of temple construction in Orissa stretched from the 8th to the 13th century but it achieved the pinnacle of glory in the 10th and 11th centuries. The temples in Orissa represent the development of the “Nagara” style of Indo-Aryan architecture. The temples of Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark represents a remarkable development of the Orissan temple architecture from the 7th century to the 13th century AD. Some of the temples are living shrines, centres of active pilgrimage, worship and faith. The plan of the temple is simple. The temples consists of a tall, curvlinear tower or spire thrusting upwards in a pinnacle and an open structure or porch in front of the entrance to the tower. The taller tower which rises over the main temple and enshrines the deity is known as Deul and the porch is known as Jagamohana. The Jagmohan is usually square with a pyramidal roof. Sometimes one or two more halls are built in these temples and set in front of the porch. They are known as Natmandir and Bhogmandir. The interior of the temple is quite dark and is designed to allow only a glimpse of the presiding deity and to enable the priests to conduct ritual worship. Each exterior part of the temple tower is divided by the vertical, flat-faced projections or rathas. The sculptures in these temples

Orissa Temple

are not easy to describe. The statues represent everything from the sacred to the profane, but every stone used in temple construction has been carved. Birds, animals, flowers and plants, human beings can be seen in various postures in fine details.

Shopping in Orissa

Cigar boxes, jewellery, and decorative trays with extremely intricate silver filigree work, Pattachitra, the folk painting of Orissa, brassware. Papier mache masks, colourufl canopies, awnings and umbrellas with applicaque work from Pipli are some of the famous items which can be bought from Orissa. Orissa is also the home of exclusive silk and cotton handloom saris and fabrics that can be made into dresses, bedspreads, table linen and furnishings.

Cuisine of Orissa

The main crop grown in Orissa is rice which forms the staple food. The traditional meal of Orissa is spicy and comprises of rice, vegetables, pulses, chutneys and pickles. The fresh sea-food especially prawns and the flat pomfret fish are included in the coastal areas. Orissa is mainly known for the sweetmeats prepared from milk. Some of the typical sweetmeats are Rasagolla, Rasamalai, Chenapoda, Khiramaohan, Rajabhoga, Rabdi, Chhenajhilli, Rasabali (both made of milk) and Pitha (cakes). Mahaprasad, the food of the gods, is available only at temples, and is cooked in earthen pots over a wood fire. The steamed food includes rice, dal, vegetables, curry and sweet dishes.

Beaches in Orissa

Orissa is also blessed with quiet beaches that invite the traveler to share their charm. Gopalpur-On-Sea, an ancient seaport, is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled beach resort in Orissa. Today, it is a modern, luxurious beach resort, and offers excellent facilities for surfing and sailing. Chandipur is undiscovered beach resort and here the sea retreats for several kilometers everyday. Balighat is another beach, where the river merges with the ocean. Chilka Lake is situated just south of Puri. Chilka Lake is a place of enchanting beauty. Chilka Lake is one of the largest mixed salt and fresh water lake in Asia. Marshes, lowlands and islands dot the shallow waters. Various migratory birds can be seen along the banks of the lake in winter.

Tourist Attractions in Orissa

The principal tourist attractions of Orissa are the temple towns of Puri and Bhubaneshwar and Konark. These three tourist attractions form a convenient and compact little golden triangle. Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark are easily accessible by rail and road. The Jagannath Temple in Puri, Sun Temple in Konark, Lingaraj and Raja Rani Temple in Bhubaneshwar and Chandrabhaga and Puri Beaches are a few main attractions of the region.

Buddhist Monasteries in Orissa

Buddhism had considerable influence in some parts of Orissa. The three hills of Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri provide an immense Buddhist monastic complex in Orissa. Ratnagiri has the most extensive of ruins. Various excavations have unearthed sculptures and inscriptions belonging to the 8th and 9th centuries. Lalitgiri is known for the discovery of an ancient stupa containing relics preserved in caskets of stone. Its antiquity and silver and gold contents have led to speculation that these are relics of the Buddha. The Ratnagiri stupa is known for the Lokeshwara image, with 8th century inscriptions. The Buddhist influence can also be seen in the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri, where caves cut from rocks seem to form a honeycomb. Udayagiri has the famous Rani Gupha or Queen’s Cave, a two-storeyed structure with a spacious courtyard and elaborate sculptural friezes and Hathi Gupha, the elephant cave.

Wildlife in Orissa

Due to natural abundance, Orissa is an ideal place for wild animals and birds. Orissa has excellent wildlife sanctuaries. Nandankanan is set in the natural wilderness, about 20 km. from Bhubaneshwar. It is a delightful place, and famous all over the world for its white tigers and as the first breeding ground in captivity of black panthers and gharial. Leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, bear, monkeys, and several other types of mammals can also be seen at close quarters, in near-natural surroundings. The Similipal National Park is the most famous national park in Oissa. It was established as one of the India’s Project Tiger reserves and has rich valleys, rolling hills, grand waterfalls and

Orissa Wildlife, Wildlife in Orissa

majestic mountains. Besides tigers, there are panthers, antelopes, India bison, deer, sloth bear, and over 200 species of birds that make this sanctuary truly irresistible. The wildlife sanctuary of Gahirmatha, about 130 km. from Bhubaneshwar, is an unusual place in Orissa. In September each year, various Pacific Ridley sea turtles swim from as far away as South America to make this place an important Pacific Ridley nesting ground in India.

States in East India
Bihar || Jharkhand || Orissa || Sikkim || West Bengal

Information about Orissa
Introduction || History || Geography || People || Dances || Festivals || Temple Architecture || Shopping || Cuisine || Beaches || Tourist Attractions || Buddhist Monasteries || Wildlife Sanctuaries

Beaches in Orissa
Puri Beach || Chandipur Beach || Gopalpur-On-Sea || Chandrabhaga Beach || Paradwip Beach

Cities in Orissa

Bhubaneshwar || Cuttack || Konark || Puri

Distances from Cities in Orissa
Bhubaneshwar || Cuttack || Paradwip

Festivals of Orissa
Basant Panchami || Magha Saptami Mela || Kalinga Mahotsava || Rajarani Music Festival ||
Ashokashtami || Jhamu Yatra || Chandan Yatra || Snana Yatra || Rath Yatra || Durga Puja || Beach Festival || Konark Dance Festival || Shreekhetra Mahotsava

Wildlife Sanctuaries of Orissa
Simlipal National Park || Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary || Nandankanan Wildlife Sanctuary || Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary || Chilka Wildlife Sanctuary
|| Badarama Wildlife Sanctuary || Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary || Chandka Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary

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