Tourist Attractions of Orissa
Bhubaneswar, the centre for commerce and religious activities, is Orissa's modern capital. The striking features of the city are the numerous temples and shrines. Bhubaneswar's skyline is dominated by some of the most spectacular engineering and artistic feats of its ancient heritage. The imposing spire of the Lingaraj Temple, the quiet beauty of the Vishwa Shanti Stupa and the pink transluscence of the Mahavira Jain Temple in nearby Khandagiri, inspire feelings of wonder at their sheer beauty and their cross-cultural permutations. The State Museum of Bhubaneswar offers an excellent selection of archaeological artefacts, weapons and local arts and crafts and insights into Orissa's natural and tribal history.
The 11th century Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar represents the traditional Orissan type of temple in its full maturity. The 147 ft high temple dominated the city landscape. Legend has it that Shiva once told Parvati that he likes Bhubaneshwar more than Benaras. Puzzled Parvati went to inspect the city, as a cowherdess. There two demons (Kritti and Vasa) proposed her for marriage. She put up a condition before them to carry her upon their shoulders, to which they agreed. Parvati sat on their shoulders and crushed them under her weight. Seeing this, Shiva created a lake (Bindu Saras) for her wife and took abode there as Lingaraja.
The 10th century 'Mukteswara' temple with its famous stone arch at the entrance, is regarded a gem of Orissan architecture on account of its exquisite wall carvings and lavish sculptures. These adornment include celestial beings, armed processions, and amorous figures. The front of the temple features a beautiful arched epistyle clearly showing a Buddhist influence.Tales from the Panchatantra, written by the Orissan pandit Vishnu Sharma, occupy pride of place here.
Raja Rani Temple
The 11th century 'Raja Rani' temple is an architectural delight. It can be said to be the best example of the traditional Orrisan temple designing. Raja Rani is a 'love temple', covered with demurely erotic carvings of women and couples. Set in picturesque surroundings, the temple is famous for its sculptural embellishments as well as for its unusual design of tower and the absence of a deity. The temple is surrounded by well maintained gardens.
The Parasurameswara Temple
The 7th century Shiva Temple, 'Parasurameswara' temple is a classical example of ancient art of temple designing in India. It is a cluster of about 20 small temples. This temple is the best preserved of all Bhubaneswar's ancient temples. The wall embellishments feature couples, lions, crouching elephants, birds, human figures and floral designs.
The 'Svaranajaleswara' temple is not amongst the most preserved temples, but it has very good and interesting Ramayana depictions. It is situated near Parasurameswara temple.The temple looks very elegant and architecturally cogent.
Around 20 Km from Bhubeneswar, Nandan Kanan is the largest lion safari park in the country. It is especially known to shelter rare white tigers. A beautiful picnic spot with a natural lake, it has a botanical and a zoological garden. In winters, one can see migratory birds. Generally the tigers and other animals here are not caged and are provided with a natural environment.
Puri, also known as "Sri Purusottama Dham" is a sacrosanct centre for Hindus all over the globe for the Jagannath temple and is also known for the good stretch of the beautiful white sand beaches on Bay of Bengal. Thousands of pilgrims visit Puri for the Lord Jagannath temple and the annual Rath yatra festival. The beatifying effect of the temples, wide beaches that offer scenic view of sunrise and sunset, traditional fishing farms where the clasical old methods of fishing are used by the local fishermen and fabulous resorts and hotels makes it a distinctive tourist destination. Overall the calm and cool nature of the locals here makes Puri a peaceful getaway.
The Jagannath Temple
The majestic temple of Jagannath is a major attraction for the tourists visiting Puri. The Jagannath Temple is one of the four most important Hindu pilgrimage sites or the Char Dham, alongwith Dwarka, Badrinath and Rameshwaram. This 65-meter high structure was built in 12th century and stands in the Nilgiri Hills. The Nata Mandir and the Bhoga Mandir were built in the 14th and 15th century. The meals in temple are made out of the donated raw materials only. Non-Hindus cannot enter the Jagannatha temple. The word "juggernaut" is derived from the Jagannath rath yatra (via an English novel).
The Gundicha temple is another important site to visit in Puri. This temple is said to be the home of Lord Krishna's aunt 'Gundicha'. A myth goes that the Lord stays here for 9 days during the Rath yatra in Puri. During the Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are ceremoniously taken in lavishly designed wooden chariot (Rath) from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha Ghar. At the house, the aunt welcomes them by offering them the padoapitha (rice cakes).
Temple of Child Krishna at Indradyumna Tank
The Indradyumna Tank, famous for being related to Lord Krishna, has a small shrine dedicated to King Indradyumna of Orissa. There is a temple of Child Krishna nearby too. It is one of the five sacred lakes of Puri and is situated on the north western part of the Gundicha temple.
Asia's largest freshwater lake (spread in 1100 sq km area) is situated 50 kilometers from Puri. Dotted with many emerald green islands with colorful names such as 'honeymoon islands' and 'Breakfast island', Chilika is home to a rich variety of aquatic fauna. The thrilling sight of dolphins round the year and abundance of migratory birds in winter make it an ideal place for vacations.
Situated 35 km from Puri, Konark is home to the Sun Temple, also called the Black Pagoda. Konark is a must visit for its historical and architectural importance. The Konark beach is said to be one of the finest and most romantic beaches on the eastern coast. Everyday the Sun God rises from the lap of the blue ocean close by and casts Hisfirst gentle rays on the sanctum sanctorum and then circles the temple during the course of the day, illuminating the three magnificent images of the Morning Sun, the Mid- day Sun and the Setting Sun. Konark is a many splendoured gem of Orissan art.
Cuttack is almost an island, situated at the head of the Mahanadi delta and surrounded by Mahanadi river and its collateral, the Kathjuri. Due to its historical importance and the recent commercialization, Cuttack has emerged as a favoured tourist destination. It is a shoppers' paradise with most of the Orissan handicraft items on sale on the streets of Cuttack.
The Stone Revetments
The Stone Revetment, situated on the banks of river Mahanadi, is a fabulous piece of engineering works. One can only feel the height of engineering developments of Orissa during the 11th century. Constructed by the Keshari kings, this fantastic architecture design should not be missed.
On the banks of river Mahanadi can be seen the ruins of the Barabati fort. The fort was built in around 11th century and was reconstructed in 14th century. There is a moat around the fort which had crocodiles and water during its golden days. The fort's interiors have been changed to a modern stadium, but the old charm is still in the aura. Very close to the fort is a beautiful ancient temple of Goddess Katak Chandi, the presiding deity of the city.
The Qadam-i-Rasool Mosque is equally sacred for both, the Hindu and Muslim community. It was constructed by a Hindu ruler for the Muslim community in his regime during 18th century AD. There are three mosques within. The central one contains a stone with the footprints of Prophet Mohammed.
A small but lovely island in the River Mahanadi at around 37 kms from Cuttack. It has a Lord Shiva Temple on a small hill-top. The island is naturally very rich and is a pleasure to the eyes of a visitor.
Khandgiri Cave Sculptures
The caves on the Khandagiri, can be reached either by the walking from the road, or cutting directly across from Hathi Gumpha via steps that drop down from cave 17. The latter route brings you out at caves 1 and 2, known as the "Parrot Caves" for the carvings of birds on their doorway-arches. Cave 2, excavated in the first century BC, is the larger and more interesting. One can find some faint lines in Brahmini script in one of the caves, which are supposed to be 2000 years old. The Ananta Gumpha or Snake Cave has a decoration in the shape of a serpent at the entrance. It contains the best of the sculpture on Khandagiri hill. The best place to wind up a visit to Khandagiri is the modern Jain Temple at the top of the hill. Apart from some old Tirthankars in the shrine room, the building itself was erected during the 19th century on the site of a much earlier structure.
Udaigiri Cave Sculptures
Udaigiri caves occupy a fairly compact area around the south of the hill. Cave 1, the Queen's Cave, is tucked away around the corner. The best sculpture can be seen on the pillars, arches and to the rear of the courtyard, and across the back wall of the upper storey. A long frieze shows rampaging elephants, panicking monkeys, sword fights and the abduction of a women. These carvings are thought to illustrate the life of Kalinga's King Kharavela. Other interesting caves are numbers 3 and 4 - a double-storied cave containing sculptures of a lion holding its prey, elephants with snakes wrapped around them and pillars topped by pairs of peculiar winged animals. The Ganesh Gumpha, has an appearance of the elephant-headed Ganesh on the rear wall of the cell. The ledge at the very top of Udaigiri hill is considered the main place of worship for the Jain monks.
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