Orissa is etched in our minds as that eastern coast state where the iconic Jagannath is worshipped, and where several visitors go to stroll along the beaches of Puri. It may not strike us as a party destination like Goa, but Orissa shares similar characteristics that would make it a perfect destination if you’re looking to spend your holiday on the east coast.
Best known for the iconic Konark Sun Temple, where you have probably seen the image of a charming Odissi dancer pose as Lord Krishna in front of the chariot wheel.
The Konark Sun Temple, dedicated to the sun god, is designed as a chariot standing 30 metres high. The walls are adorned with intricate carvings of deities, mythical creatures and similar expressions of sexuality that are present in the temples of Khajuraho.
Another important temple in the state that is worth a visit is the famed Jagannath Temple in Puri. Built by the Kalingas, the temple is devoted to whom it is named after, Jagannath, considered to be the reincarnation of Krishna and Vishnu. Although you might be annoyed by money-hungry priests, staying for the mahaprasad and witnessing the rituals of the inner sanctum of the temple are worth the experience.
The Lingaraja Temple is one of the oldest in this region. It was proposed to be the main site for raising a temple for Lord Jagannath but it was built in Puri instead. The temple is moderately well maintained. The main structure is huge and beautifully sculpted. Although it is situated in a crowded old town of Bhubanewar, there is a car park for the arrival of many tourists.
One of the most iconic festivals is the Rath Yatra in summer (around July – August), which is also celebrated in neighbouring states like West Bengal. The idols of Jagannath and his siblings, Balaram and Subhadra, are placed in a chariot which is then paraded to the Gundicha Temple. It is symbolic of the lord’s annual visit to his birthplace and the abode of his aunt. Every 19 years, the idols (made of neem wood) are replaced by new ones. This known as Nabakalebara.
The Konark Festival is a celebration of dance as the temple becomes a venue of the display of various classical dance forms from around the country. This happens in the first week of December. The Konark Dance and Music Festival takes place in February and displays dance and music performances.
The Puri Beach Festival takes place on the Swagadwara beach and is a fantastic display of the Oriya spirit, with dance performances and an exhibition of handicrafts, hand-looms and sand art.
There are several beaches in Orissa where you can enjoy the waters of the Bay of Bengal. The first name that comes to mind is the popular town of Puri. Other beaches include Gopalpur, Chandrabhaga beach, Baliharchandani beach (27 km from Puri), Chandipur beach, Balighai beach (8 km from Puri beach), Balaramgadi beach (2 km from Chandipur beach) and Aryapalli beach.
Goa has the most stunning of waterfalls, the Dudhsagar, but Orissa has waterfalls to match.
One being the Barehipani falls, which is India’s second highest and falls over two tiers.
Another equally stunning waterfall is the Khandhadhar Falls that descends at a height of 152 metres. The water seems to have a smoke-like appearance probably due to the fact that it violently sprays water while gushing down the steep rock face.