The eastern state of Orissa is one of the most diverse and beautiful states in India. Surrounded by West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, Orissa is known for its tribal culture and numerous temples in cities like Bhubaneshwar and Puri. The Rath Yatra that takes place every year in Puri is one of the key driving factors of Orissa tourism, bringing lakhs of people to the city during June and July.
Most Orissa tours involve beaches, temples and rivers. Waterfalls add to the allure of the state while the vivid tribal culture is fascinating to explore. The state may not be as well-developed as others, but it is blessed with abundant natural beauty. Often known as the ‘Soul of India’, Orissa has much to offer its visitors.
Orissa has a flat coastal plain as well as numerous mountain ranges. Several of these mountain valleys have been formed by rivers making the soil rich and fertile. Orissa is also known for its plateaus and uplands as well as its six rivers. Orissa tourism is helped along greatly by the presence of the Chilika Lake which is said to be the largest coastal lagoon in India. The lake is a thriving eco-system and hosts more than 160 species of birds during the migratory season.
Orissa experiences a tropical climate because of its coastline. Summers tend to be hot, but monsoons are cooling. Orissa traditionally has six seasons – spring, summer, rainy season, autumn, winter and a cool season. But typically, Orissa experiences a winter, a pre-monsoon season, south-west monsoon and north-east monsoon.
Some of the defining factors of Orissa’s culture are its food and dance. Orissa’s culinary tradition goes back several centuries and food such as pakhala (a rice-based dish) can be found in every household. Rice and seafood are popular staples here. Food from Orissa is considered to be very healthy because they hardly use any oil while cooking. The other element of the culture here is dance. The traditional Odissi dance is known as the one of the oldest surviving dance forms in India. It has existed for 2,000 years and is even mentioned in the Natyashastra which was possibly written in 200 BC.
Oriya and Hindi
Orissa tourism depends on a few factors such as Puri being one of the holiest cities of Hinduism. The presence of Lord Jagannath Temple draws thousands of devotees to its steps. Puri sees a huge influx of people during the annual Rath Yatra which is when many people decide to go on an Orissa tour. Puri is also known for its beaches and the famed Chilika Lake is also not too far.
Bhubaneshwar is known as the temple city of India and has numerous historic temples and sites which people from all over the country come to see. Some of these temples were built several centuries ago but they have been maintained beautifully and retain their original form for the large part. Temples such as Lingaraja Temple and Parasurameswara Temple are some of the must visit temples of the city.
The Konark Sun Temple - one of the best-known Indian monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and yet another boost for Orissa tourism. While the temple itself is an architectural marvel, it also hosts an annual five-day long dance festival that is grand and majestic. With celebrations taking place against the backdrop of the Sun Temple, it makes for a spectacular sight indeed.
While the temples are always a big draw, Orissa also has several other places to see such as Cuttack, which is considered the cultural capital of the state. Local arts and handicrafts, which are a hallmark of the state, are celebrated and displayed prominently in the city. Cuttack also hosts several festivals and events that make it an attractive tourist attraction for people from all over the country. For instance, the Baliyatra and the Kite Festival are popular events that are held here every year.
Apart from the Puri Rath Yatra, there’s another one that takes place in the city of Baripada, 256 km away from Bhubaneshwar. Baripada is considered to be the Dwitiya Srikshetra, or Second Puri. The Rath Yatra here is decidedly distinct because only women are allowed to pull the Rath of Maa Subhadra. Crowds throng this city during these events. But they come in at other times too. There are several temples which draw devotees here. If you happen to visit Baripada, try to buy the famous Bangripori tusser fabric which you can get in any of the local markets. The Simlipal Nature Park has a tiger reserve and is a treat for nature lovers with its waterfalls, animals, birds and gorgeous red silk cotton trees.
If you love beaches, then Chandipur is one of the cities you should surely visit while on an Orissa tour. The beach here is spectacular and unique because the water here recedes up to 5 km during low tide and people can even take jeep rides on the beach towards the sea. It is surely a surreal experience, and one that should not be missed if you are travelling to Orissa. The sunset and sunrise here are equally gorgeous and create a sense of fulfilment especially if you love the tranquillity that surrounds these phenomena.
If you are interested in travelling to Orissa, do check the SOTC website for exciting offers and deals on holiday packages.