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Orissa Tourism

Inhabited by Aryan and non-Aryan settlers, Kalinga was a flourishing maritime kingdom with trading routes stretching upto Java, Sumatra, Bali and Indonesia. Its immense wealth was coveted by many rulers of the time and, in 261 BC, it was invaded and conquered by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka. However, the carnage and suffering caused by the war left Ashoka deeply repentant. He vowed never to wage war again and embraced Buddhism. So ardent a Buddhist was he that he spread the Buddha's message of peace and non-violence even beyond India's shores to Sri Lanka and the Far East.

Around the 1st century BC, Kharavela, a staunch follower of Jainism, came to power in Kalinga. By the 7th century AD Hinduism asserted itself and for six centuries Orissa flourished. During this period, under the Kesari and Ganga kings, its art and architecture evolved and Orissa successfully assimilated the best of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. The style of Hindu temple construction also developed around this time and hundreds of temples from that period still stand.

The State can be divided into four distinct tracts - the coastal plains, the eastern ghats, the northern plateau and the central hilly region. The northern plateau and the forests of central Orissa are home to 62 different tribal groups some of whom still hunt and gather food. The folk paintings on canvas - the patachitra, and soapstone & wood carvings are well known.

Orissa has its own classical dance form, Odissi, perhaps the oldest in India. It owes its origin to devotional rituals and the dances performed by 'Maharis' or 'Devadasis' (temple dancers) in the beautiful temples of the State. Sculptures of the dance poses are found decorating the walls of temples. One must not miss an opportunity to attend a performance and experience the sublime lyrical grace of the Odissi dancers. The State also has a rich tradition of folk and tribal dances such as the martial 'Chhau' of Mayurbhanj and the 'Danda Nata'.

The three beautiful temple towns Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark, which are the pride of Orissa, form an easy triangle to visit.

Bhubaneswar - Often called the 'cathedral city', Bhubaneswar ('Lord of the Universe') is the capital of the State, and is dotted with some 600 temples built over hundreds of years. It is perhaps the only city in India where one can study the evolution of Hindu temples architecture in all its stages. The city is dominated by the beautiful 11th century Lingaraj Temple, it's spire soaring 54 metres, it's ribbed architecture defying description. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is one of the most prized examples of temple architecture in the country.

The Parsurameswara Temple (650 AD, dedicated to Lord Shiva), Vaital Temple (800 AD, dedicated to Chamunda, a tantric form of the Goddess Durga, or 'Shakti'), the 'gem of Orissan Architecture', the Mukteswara Temple (10th century), the Brahmeswara Temple and the exquisite 12th century Rajarani Temple, which has no presiding deity, are some of the other temples worth visiting.

About 7 km from Bhubaneswar are the twin hills Khandagiri and Udaygiri which have rock caves built for Jain monks by Kharavela (1st century BC). On the Khandagiri hills is a colossal figure of Mahavir Jain.

Lying amidst paddy fields at Dhauli, on the road to Puri, is one of Ashoka's Rock Edicts (3rd century BC) which he used for propagating Lord Buddha's teachings. It has a magnificent elephant carved on top, considered to be the earliest rock cut sculpture of India. And on the neighbouring hill is the serene white Shanti Stupa ('Peace Pagoda') built in 1970 to commemorate emperor Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism. The village of Pipli, synonymous with delicate and extremely colourful applique work, is nearby.


Indian States:

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