After reading about the history and geography of Odisha as well as it’s capital city of Bhubaneshwar, let’s move on to to some of the other cities in the state.
The cultural capital of Odisha and the state’s former capital and its second largest city, is known as an ancient pilgrim centre. This place has forts, museums, lakes, and islands for your viewing pleasure. Make sure you check out the local silver handicrafts which Cuttack is famous for.
The Barbati Fort is a well known fort with carved gateway. Located around 8 km away from the city on the banks of the river Mahanadi, it is a 14th century fort built covering an area of about 102 acres during the Ganga dynasty. The way the fort has been buit means that it provides a beautiful and spectacular view of the modern Cuttack city. It is the earthen mound of the 9 storeyed palace. The monument was built with fortification to protect from enemy attacks. There is a also a temple dedicated to the Katak Chandi in the fort.
Situated on the banks of Kathjuri River, Stone Revetment is an engineering marvel created in the 11th century. These stone walls are constructed so as to obstruct flood water from entering the city. Remember this was built at a time when there was zero technology as we know today, hence is a brilliant example of the technical skills and logical thinking of the ancient Oriyans.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Dhabaleshwar temple is located 37 km away from the main city. It lies on a river island on the river Mahanadi and serves as a popular weekend getaway for locals. This temple, established in 10th century is an important pilgrimage centre and provides a beautiful scenic spot with a serene ambience. You reach this temple from Cuttack using ferries ferries. There is also a foot-over bridge which people can use by paying a nominal fee.
The Odisha State Maritime Museum, overlooking the Mahanadi River, focuses on Odisha’s centuries-old maritime history of boat-building and trade, particularly with Bali, Indonesia. The displays walk you through the Kalingas’ maritime activities, rituals and tools, while the boat shed features river-boat, raft and coracle models from different parts of India. The Jobra workshop gallery introduces the world of sluice gates and boat repair, and an aquarium entertains visitors with marine life from Odisha and the Amazon River.
A district with a rich history and distinct culture, Rayagada has, over the years, mingled with the local tribal culture. This district has many historical places to visit and is known for its cuisine, crafts and handmade products. Located in the south-eastern border of the state close to Andhra radish, this area has not been commercialised with tourists so is still underrated and an undiscovered gem. This district offers dense forests, historical monuments, a peek into the lifestyle of tribal populations and authentic food. Rayagada has been inhabited since before the Mauryan empire controlled this region and has been an essential part of most empires due to its abundant natural resources.
An avatar of Goddess Durga, Majhighariani is accepted as the prime, most important deity in this region. The name originates from the placement of Shakti’s temple in the middle of the fourteenth-century Silavansi king Viswanath Dev’s palace and translates to the one seated in the central room. The Maa Majhighariani temple attracts worshippers from all over the state and the country, especially Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The temple is open from 6 am to 1 pm and then reopens again from 4 pm till 9 pm. While entry is free, to arrange a special darshan can cost Rs. 20, or Rs. 100 for the VVIP darshan. Sundays and Wednesdays witness a more massive footfall, while evenings are generally much less crowded. The festival of Chaitra Parva, which falls in April, is the most crucial time of the year for worshippers of Shiva and Majhighariani, which is also the time this temple is the most crowded. Durga Pooja and Shivratri also see an abundant influx of pilgrims. From the Rayagada railway station, it is a short 20 minute drive away.
The Hanging bridge in the Chekaguda village is the second of its kind in Orissa. Built in 2012, the 151 meters long suspended bridge has brought about 20,000-odd tribal villagers residing in nine panchayats located at the outskirt of the town, closer to the central city, by bridging the two shores of the Nagavali river. Also called the Jhula Bridge, given its construction, it is accessible only by pedestrians, as no vehicles are allowed to go through it. The Nagavali river has since become a tourist spot, and the bridge a tourist attraction, as families come to enjoy the serene environment of the river, the mountains around the valley, and the relative peace. The bridge is accessible all year round without any entry or crossing fee. The bridge is about 3 kms west of the Rayagada railway station, and it takes about 15 minutes to reach there by road.
Chatikona is a small tribal village located around 40 kms north of Rayagada. It is surrounded by the Niyamgiri hills and offers tourists wonderful natural beauty complete with lush green foliage and a fantastic waterfall. Chatikona is a Dongria Kondh tribal village, and one can get to see marketplaces full of tribal arts and handicrafts. The Chatikona Falls attracts a large number of tourists and picnickers, and the Shiva temple near it draws pilgrims from all over Odisha, especially during the period of Shivratri, when it can be very crowded. While it is an all-weather destination, it is advised to skip the rainy seasons as well as the Shivratri month to avoid congestion. There is no entry fee to view the falls. Chatikona is rather easily accessible by road and if you want to take the train, the nearest railway station is Bissamcuttack.
A pilgrim and tourist spot which is slightly further away, around 134 km north-east from the main town of Rayagada, Minajhola is a beautiful confluence of nature and religion. It houses a Shiva temple; at the meeting of 3 state rivers: Vamsadhara, Chauladhua, and Phalaphalia, where the idol is in the form of a fish called Minaketan, hence the name. It is a major pilgrim spot, given that Shivratri here is celebrated with much gusto. Due to its natural beauty, Manijhola attracts a lot of tourists also, to see the confluence of rivers, bathe in them, and picnic along the shore. The road to Minajhola is not very friendly and all-weather and the nearest railway station is Rayagada.
Located around 25 kms from the main town of Rayagada, the Laxminarayan Temple was built by the the Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Ltd., near their factory in Therubali. It was built around 2004 as a place of worship of Vishnu and Laxmi, but also houses Jagannath, Hanuman, Balabhadra, and Shiva idols. Visitors abound from all over, especially more so for Shivratri festivities. A few kilometres further toward Paikapada, one can witness over one lakh Shivling at the Paikapada shrine. These two temples are also crowded during the Jagannath Rath Yatra season that takes place in the humid month of July. The Laxminarayan Temple is usually more crowded on Tuesdays.
Located just 3 kms from Rayagada, Hatipathar is a picnic spot much loved by tourists. It is named so because the Nagavali river flows here through a deep-cut valley, and the two boulders atop these waterfalls look like elephants perched on a hill. October to February are the best time to visit these falls, as temperatures are cooler and rainy season has passed. Surrounded by dense forests, these falls make for the perfect tea-time picnic spots for family and friends.
If you are wondering if Odisha has any hill stations, then Daringbadi is the place to go to. Hidden a state famous for beaches and temples, this hill station lies peacefully at an elevation of 3000 feet waiting to be explored. Replete with pine trees, coffee gardens and splendid valleys, Daringbadi is known as the “Kashmir of Odisha”. A place where you can stay in quaint cottages amidst trees and valleys, the weather is inviting – beating the heat in summers and offering snow in the winter. The place does not only have verdant and thick forests, but is also bountiful in flora and fauna. The best part about this hill station is that you can visit this place throughout the year. The nearest railhead is at Brahmapur from where one can take the bus to the city. This town can be visited anytime of the year, though if you want to catch snow, then check the weather reports between December to February and go around this period when snow is predicted. The key attractions here are the Doluri River, Putudi Waterfalls, Dasingbadi waterfalls, Badangia waterfalls and Hill view Park.
Also known as Brahmapur, Berhampur close to the eastern coast Brahmapur is known as the home of Lord Brahma and is usually known as the silk city- the city which is famous for the lustrous ikkat silk sarees in different colours and patterns. Bomokei patta, named after the village Bomokei where excellent work out of brass and metal is created also is an attraction to the tourists here. Besides these beautiful handicrafts, handlooms and jewelery this city offers some of the best Papads (popadum), pickles, badis and fruits specially mangoes.
Potagarh fort is also known as “the buried fort” as the length of the wall is somewhere between 18 to 20 feet in height and looks dug. This historic specimen of architecture left with the remains of fort houses and buried tunnel specks, has deep water streams on three sides. This fort is on the the river Rasikulya and the Bay of Bengal. Locals say that the fort is haunted and the story is related to the goddess of the fort attacking the King and the King escaping through the tunnels.
Situated around 30 Km away from the main city the Taratarini temple is recognized to be one of the four major Shakti pitha or centre according to mythological texts of Satyuga. This 6000-year-old temple has historical connections and also finds a mention in the Puranas.
Another under-rated town in Odisha, Jeypore which is located in the southern part of the state, is known for offering spellbinding views of rocky outcrops, picturesque waterfalls, and lush green biosphere reserves. Jeypore is the second largest city after Berhampur of South Odisha and locally is pronounced as ‘Joypur’ is the literal meaning of the town is ‘City of Victory’. The highest peak in the state, Deomali, is a popular picnic spot located not very far from Jeypore. This town is home to about 62 affiliated communities such as Gond, Dhruba, Paraja, Koya.
The Gupteswar Temple meaning ‘Hidden God’ is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva temple beautifully hidden amidst caves set atop a huge limestone hill, around 55 km away from Jeypore. The main attraction at this temple is a gigantic Shiva Linga which is said to increase in size each year. According to mythology, the lingam was first discovered by Lord Rama when he was roaming in the then Dandakaranya forest with wife Sita and brother Laxman, and later worshipped it calling it ‘Gupteswar’. Pilgrims from all over the country come here during the Sravana period, because the yearly Bol Bam yatra is held at this place. Devotees walk to the Gupteshwar during Bol Bam yatra to bath in the maha kund, and then chant near the Shiva Linga. The prime anniversary, Shivratri is celebrated by the locals at Gupteshwar.
Another famous waterfall, the Bagara waterfall is a favourite picnic spot for locals. You walk along the ravines and densely vegetated slopes of the winding hills and then suddenly come across the Bagara waterfall which falls from three different waterfalls, descending from a height of 30 ft. in the River Kolaban and is milky white in colour. It is a heavenly sight, especially when you are here for a picnic. This waterfall is easily accessible from Jeypore and you can take a bus, taxi or autorickshaw to get there.
The 157.5 metres high glittering waterfall that has been formed by the Machhakund River is known as the Duduma Waterfall. The site of the waterfall abounds in dense deciduous type forests and the beautiful topography made all the more beautiful by the gurgling stream. An enormous hydroelectricity project has been built around the falls and as a consequence a township can now be seen in Duduma. Machhakund is also an important place for pilgrimage and is known as ‘Matsya Tirtha’. These falls are located at a distance of 92 km from Koraput town and can be easily reached from both Koraput and Jeypore. The best time to visit the waterfalls around Jeypore is just after the monsoon season when you can see them in full bloom. September to November is therefore the best time to visit the waterfalls since the streams shrink considerably with the coming of winter.