Travel Bucket List: India – Odisha Part 3

Moving on to more Odisha towns after the break last week, today’s places include

Puri
When you think of Odisha, the first thing that comes to mind is the Jaganath Temple at Puri and the annual Rathyatra. This ancient city is among the original Char Dhams that hold significance in the Hindu religion. The Char Dhams or four abodes are a set of four pilgrimage sites and Hindus believes that visiting these sites helps achieve Moksha or salvation. The four places are Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri and Rameswaram, one on each nodal points in India. Hindus believe that one should visit these places a t least once in one’s lifetime. The highlight of Puri is the Chariot festival or the Rath Yatra which takes place during the months of June-July and should not be missed. Known as the resting place of Lord Shiva, this ancient city dates back to 3rd century BC.

Sri Jagannath Temple
The Jagannath Temple was built in the 11th century by King Indradyumna. The present temple was rebuilt from the 10th century onwards, on the site of an earlier temple, and begun by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, first of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. The earthly abode of Lord Jagannath, a form of Lord Vishnu, this temple is part of the Char Dham sites and is a very holy pilgrimage site for Hindus. The complex with it’s rich Oriyan architechture consists of the main shrine plys many minor temples. The four gates are beautifully designed with intricate carvings. This temple is famous for its annual Ratha yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three principal deities are pulled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. These gave their name to the English term ‘Juggernaut’. Unlike the stone and metal icons found in most Hindu temples, the image of Jagannath is made of wood and is ceremoniously replaced every twelve or nineteen years by an exact replica. The Mahaprasad in the temple is scrumptious and is something that should not be missed. In one of the largest kitchens of India, the lip-smacking food is cooked in earthen pots for thousands every day and offered to devotees.

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The Jagannath Rath Yatra is a festival much loved in the state and is dedicated to Lord Jagannath i.e. Lord Krishna, his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra. Commonly known as Gundicha Yatra, Dasavatara, Chariot Festival or Navadina Yatra, it is celebrated every year in the month of June or July. During the Rath Yatra, between 400-500 thousand devotees flock to Puri to get a glimse of the Lord as it is believed that those who manage to get a glimpse of the idols will have a prosperous year ahead. The Yatra begins when three richly decorated chariots resembling temple structures are pulled through the streets of Badadanda in Puri. Devotees from all over the world help pull the Lords’ chariots along with the priests. This is considered to be a pious deed, and people even risk their lives in the huge crowd for the chance to serve the Lord. This is the only day when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises, such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities. The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs. The Ratha carts themselves are some approximately 45 feet (14 m) high and are pulled by the thousands who congregate at Puri for this annual event. There are three main chariots carrying three deities that are a part of the celebration. All the three chariots are made of wood and decorated by local artists. Lord Jagannath’s chariot is the biggest of the three having 16 massive wheels and a height of 44 feet. While Lord Balabhadra’s chariot has 14 wheels and a height of 43 feet followed by Goddess Subhadra’s chariot having 12 wheels and a height of 42 feet. Lord Balaram’s chariot is pulled first, then Goddess Subhadra’s followed by Lord Jagannath’s.

This festival has also been mentioned in the Puranas of Hinduism including Padma, Brahma, and Skanda Purana. The Rath Yatra is organized every year due to the belief that every year Lord Krishna visits his birth place Mathura for a few days. In order to fulfil the wishes of the Lord, every year this yatra is conducted with its starting point being Jagannath Temple. The procession’s last destination is the Gundicha Temple, where the wishes of Kanha are fulfilled. Once the raths reach the Gundicha Temple, the deities reside at the temple for a period of nine days where pilgrims are allowed darshan before taking it back to Puri in the same way. The return journey is called the Bahuda Yatra. On the way back, the procession halts at the Mausi Maa Temple (their aunt’s abode) where the deities are served with Poda Pitha (a kind of a sweet pancake). It is a said to be a poor man’s food which was a favourite of Lord Jagannath. The Jagannath Rath Yatra is one of the grandest and oldest festivals celebrated in India every year. The Jagannath Rath Yatra for 202o is scheduled for 23rd June.

Situated near the Jagannath Temple, the Lakshmi Temple is a very important temple owing to the beliefs around the history of this structure. It is believed that the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati happened on the sixth day of the fortnight of Jyeshta and they were invited to this temple by Goddess Lakshmi.

The Narendra Tank is one of the largest tanks in Odisha and is believed to have been built during the 15th century. This tank is considered holy and has a lot of small and big temples surrounding it. There is an island in the middle of the lake with a small temple called Chandana Mandapa.

Puri Beach is one of the finest coastlines in East India, bordering the Bay of Bengal and is located at a distance of 35 km from the Konark Sun Temple. It is often flocked by devotees visiting the beach for a purification dip who come to Puri to pay their homage to Lord Jagannath. The beach is also renowned for the sand sculptures made by internationally known sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik. The sculptures are usually inspired by the art covering the temple walls or other mythological character or episodes. Adorned with fine golden sand and gushing waves, Puri Beach is quite renowned for its peaceful and calm surroundings. The stretch on the Chakratirtha side is much more tranquil and pleasant for a long stroll.

Baripada
At a distance of 256 km from Bhubabeshwar and located closer to Kolkata than the state capital, Baripada is one of the cultural centres of Odisha, situated in the Mayurbhanj district. Its Rath Yatra is considered the biggest and oldest after Puri and thus Baripada is also known as Dwitiya Srikhetra or Second Puri. It is host to the world famous Car Festival (Rathyatra) which allows only women to pull the Rath of Maa Subhadra and gathers huge crowds. In this place, you can see some of the oldest temples in the state. The town also has its own dance form which is quite famous, known as the Chhau dance. Every year in mid April, there is a Chhau dance festival called Chaitra Parva festival for which people come from far and wide to witness. The Chhau dance is a dance form which is indigenous to the region and which has been inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2010.

The Sri Jagannath Temple which is dedicated to the Lord of the Universe, or Lord Jagannath witnesses an inflow of a large number of pilgrims throughout the year. The temple is also known as the second Srikhetra of Orissa and boasts of being one of the oldest temples of Orissa. The Rathyatra that takes place here is also a grand affair and is the second largest after the Puri Rath Yatra. At the same time, the rituals and practices that are followed at the temple are unique and revolutionary. In the Baripada Rathyatra, women devotees are given more priority, and they are allowed to pull Maa Subhadra Ratha. This distinguishing feature separates the Sri Jagannath Temple from the remaining ones and attracts a large number of female worshippers from neighbouring areas as well. This temple which is also locally known as Bada Jagannath, is a beautiful 700-year-old structure believed to have been built by Raja Harihara Bhanja, who was also the founder of the capital city.

At the Jwala Mukhi Temple, there is a blue burning flame is kindled as Goddess Jwala, the goddess of light or fire. The dome of this temple is made of gold which was gifted by Akbar, the Mughal emperor. The temple is situated in lush green surroundings and is a good visit to not only soothe your senses but also your soul.

The Palace of Mayur Bhanj is a beautiful massive white building which depicts an amazing fusion of engineering and architecture and is one of the landmarks of the town. This beautiful palace belonged to the Maharajas of Mayurbhanj which was a princely state during British Raj but was sold to the Orissa government after the independence by the last ruler of Bhanj dynasty. The palace, however needs a lot of renovation and is now divided into two colleges.

At the Baripada Museum get stunned by the some of the rarest artifacts here, like stone sculptures, historical documents, terracotta art pieces and other aesthetic commodities. The musem also has a library which has guide books about the history of the artifacts.

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Sambalpur
Known for its natural splendours, Sambalpur’s landscape is dotted with numerous waterfalls and plush green forests that beckon photography buffs, nature lovers, and adventure enthusiasts. Sambalpur is the gateway to the western part of Odisha and is the biggest city of this region. It abounds in rivers, hills, lush green forests and wildlife. The place also has a flourishing textile and handloom industry popular for its unique patterns and style, especially the Sambalpuri style of Saree. In addition to that, Sambalpur has a flourishing tribal life with an exquisite folk song and dance culture. Sambalpur got its name from Devi Samaleswari who is the main goddess of the region. One can also visit wildlife parks here to enjoy the beauty of nature that Sambalpur has in plenty. The area is known for the world famous Hirakud Dam which is the main attraction for the tourists here.

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The Samaleswari temple is located on the banks of Mahanadi and is dedicated to Devi Samaleswari also known as Jagannath Adishakti, Mahalaxmi and Mahasawarswati. The name of the city is derived from this goddess, Samaleswari as she is the main goddess of the region. On the bank of the river Mahanadi the mother goddess Samaleswari is worshipped from ancient times as Jagatjanani, Adishakti, Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati. The temple is of Sandhara order. These types of temples have a square sanctum enclosed by a gallery of pillars meant for Pradakshina. The Idol of Shree Shree Samalai Devi consists of a large block of Granite rock with an inverted, trunk like projection at the bottom. A shallow cut on her ‘Baraha’ like face symbolises her mouth. Traditional Sambalpuri nose ornament of pure gold hangs down from her imaginary nose. Among the varieties of festivals observed before the goddess throughout the year, three festivals are observed prominently. The first two are navaratra puja during the months of March and April and during the months of September and October. Among these two navaratra pujas which are nine days of continuous worship of the goddess, the second one is observed with a great splendour and devotion. The third festival which is said to be the chief festival of the whole western Odisha region is ‘Nuakhai’. In this festival, the farmers offer the first produce from their lands to the goddess before using it for his personal use.

The Leaning Temple of Huma, dedicated to Lord Shiva was built in the 17th century and is the only leaning temple in the world. In this temple, only the top is leaning while the pinnacle is perpendicular to the ground. It is said that the reason for this could be either earthquake or the flood current in the river Mahanadi. There is a huge gathering specially during Shivratri festival during March.

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The Ghanteswari Temple owes its name to the number of bells that hang in the temple premises. Rows of tiny bells that jingle at the slightest touch form the barricades on either side of the entrance to the temple. The steps leading to the temple are framed by bells all around. A gateway has thousands of bells hung in place by devotees. Within the inner sanctum, bells adorn every possible surface. Bunches of bells adorn the doorway to the inner sanctum sanctorum. The sheer number of bells is because devotees who have had their wishes and requests fulfilled by the Goddess, hang a bell in the premises. The bells in the temple helped navigate boats in unruly weather conditions when the shore was not clearly visible. It served the purpose of a lighthouse.

Constructed across the Mahanadi River the Hirakud Dam is the longest human-made dam in India. Stretching between the Burla and Hirakud hills, the dam is over 56km long was built in the year 1956. The dam irrigates 7,500,000 hectares of land and also generates hydroelectricity. One of the major attractions here is a drive-through road that you takes you 21km over the dam allowing one to admire nature’s bounty. Another striking feature of the dam is the wide expanse of the view that it offers from the Gandhi and Nehru Minarets that are located towards the Northern Facade of the dam. It is also a fantastic site for birdwatching as it is surrounded by abundant water and trees on all sides. Situated near the dam is a hill called Budharaja hill, which is well-known for the Budharaja Temple at its peak. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple offers breathtaking views of the dam.

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Cattle Island is a submerged hill in the Hirakud reservoir. The island was a developed village prior to the construction of the Hirakud Dam. Once the dam reached completion, the villagers living in the surrounding area were asked to evacuate. The villagers when relocating left a few domesticated cattle behind which were a part of the livestock they owned. The cattle over time bred and created a wild species of cattle for which humans are the alien species. Nearly all the cattle are white or cream coloured, lending an ethereal quality to the entire island. The cattle, being wild, are significantly larger and more ferocious than their domestic counterparts. They are believed to be blindly fast and protective of their land. Attempts made by man to capture these wild beasts have been in vain so far. Visit the island to see the remnants of a village recaptured and fiercely protected by nature.

Vikramkhol is a rock shelter or cave dating back to the Mesolithic period (between 3000 and 4000 BC). The caves have some form of inscriptions or art engraved into the walls of the cave. Located 81 km outside Sambalpur within a forested area, the caves are believed to be 37 m long and nearly 8 m high. These caves are not very easy to get to as paved roads have not been put down in an attempt to preserve the area.

Rourkela
Known as ‘Steel City of India’, Rourkela is one of the largest cities of Odisha as well as its commercial capital. The stands nestled amongst natural surroundings, endowed with hills and enriched by rivers. This city is a part of the tribal hub of the Sundargarh district. This city came into focus for having the Rourkela Steel Plant, which introduced CCTV to the continent of Asia for the first time in 1984. It also holds great religious significance due to its prominence in epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

15km from NH215 near Lahunipara is this beautiful surprise of nature. Falling from steep mountain from a height of 244 meters, the Kandahar Falls it emerges like the edge of the sword and hence is named so. These falls are the highest in Odisha. It is not easy to locate Khandadhar, but once here, you can feel your long and mostly uncomfortable journey was worth it.

By the NH23 towards Rajamunda, on the banks of Brahmani about 45 km from Rourkela is the small village of Darjingis. This is a local favourite picnic spot because the river bed at this point is a beautiful golden hue which makes the river glisten like gold. Darjin has a lovely Inspection Bungalow with an amazing garden that faces the river. Another popular spot is Deoghar which is three km ahead of Darjing.

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Earlier known as Parasara Munda, Vedavyas is regarded as a tirtha stal or holy place. It is situated at a place where the waters of rivers Koel, Shankha and Saraswati unite. Because of this, the place is also known as Tridhara Sangaam. Situated at a distance of about 9 km from the city of Rourkela, this place holds historic significance. The Gurukula and Vedic Ashram system of education is a well-known feature of this place. Legend says that the great saint, Maharishi Vyas had scripted the greatest Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, at this very spot. Here one can enjoy a tour of the Vyas Caves which can be toured using boats.

27km away from Rourkela and 25 km from Vedavyas, Ghogar is a gorge on the river Ib. There is also a naturally formed Shivalinga, made of black granite, this Shiva linga is extensively preached by the followers. The temple in this gorge has a history which can be traced back at least five centuries. The temple was constructed by the king of Sundargarh Raghunath Sekhar Deo. The uniqueness of the temple is that till date it is the priests appointed by the people of Bhuyan community that perform worship here.

1 thought on “Travel Bucket List: India – Odisha Part 3

  1. Pingback: Festivals of India: Jagannath Rath Yatra | Memories and Such

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