Orissa, or rather Odisha (the name was changed in 2011) is located close to where the ancient Indian kingdom of Kalinga once stood. One war, several rulers, and a British era later, the historic influences are still visible in the region. Along with its history come breath-taking vistas, natural reserves, beaches, and a fascinating culture complete with elusive tribal communities.
Diverse, colourful, and relatively less-visited, Orissa is home to many religious attractions and events like the famous Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival) of Puri. Apart from attracting travellers on a spiritual journey, the state also offers a lot for adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, art and culture aficionados, and peace seekers.
Places to Visit in Orissa
Orissa is where one can experience fascinating cultures, ancient relics of different religions, delectable cuisine, and a variety of local art and crafts. For the traveller who wishes to spend time sightseeing, Orissa has numerous options. Here are a few absolutely unmissable ones:
Standing strong since 1198, this temple in Puri is a revered pilgrimage site for Hindus. It is built in honour of Lord Jagannath, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and is accompanied by Subhadra and Balabhadra. Interestingly, all the Gods and Goddesses are decorated as per the season and occasion. The magnificent structure has four entrance gates and features exquisite carvings in the inner sanctum. The temple also hosts the grand annual affair, the Puri Rath Yatra.
The Chilika Lake is a nature and bird lover’s paradise as it is a hotspot for various migratory birds and is among the world’s most important wetlands. It also has the distinction of being the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia. This natural wonder is home to a number of small islands, including the Nalabana Island and Satpada Island, where dolphins are often spotted.
The iconic temple in Konark is an architectural interpretation of Surya’s (the Hindu Sun God) chariot. Built in the 13th Century by King Narasimhadeva, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a breath-taking, colossal structure with intricately-carved stone wheels, walls, and pillars. The design features seven horses in addition to twelve wheels, which is meant to carry Surya across heaven.
Bhitarkanika National Park:
Around a million Olive Ridley turtles have Bhitarkanika as a nesting site, just one of the many delights in the region. It is also the second-largest mangrove area in the country and attracts visitors who come hoping to spot various birds, monitor lizards, crocodiles, spotted deer, Indian pythons, and much more.
Fun Facts about Orissa
- The region of modern-day Orissa is also known as Utkala, which is mentioned in the Indian National Anthem, “Jana Gana Mana”.
- This was the first state in India to be formed on the basis of linguistics.
- Odissi, the traditional dance of Orissa, is considered the oldest surviving dance form in India.
- At Puri’s Jagannath Temple, firewood is used to cook food inside seven pots, all stacked on top of another. But the contents of the topmost pot get cooked first, followed by the bottom one.
- Rasgulla, the famous Bengali sweet, originated in Orissa.
- There are more than 62 different tribal groups residing in the state, and each has its unique culture and traditions.
Useful Words and Phrases for Orissa
- Namaskar: Hello
- Kemiti accho: How are you?
- Mu bhal achh:I am fine
- Tuma nama kana: What is your name?
- Mora nama…: My name is…
- Mun bujhi paruni:I don’t understand
- Dayakari: Please
- Dhanyawad:Thank You
- Sahajya!: Help!
- Subha din: Have a nice day
Travel Tips for Orissa
- October to March is the best time to visit Orissa.
- Whenever possible, book hotels and guest houses that are registered with the Department of Tourism in India, Odisha.
- Always carry sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, etc. if you are travelling in the state during summer.
- Rental taxis for sightseeing are available, but you can use private auto rickshaws as a cheaper mode of local transport.
- Hiring a tourist guide is advisable, but choose one authorised by the Government of Orissa and fix his/her fee before starting the tour to avoid hassles later.
- Do not display a lot of cash in your wallet in public places, particularly in front of local guides, taxi drivers, etc.
Local Cuisine in Orissa
Fish and seafood are integral to Oriya cuisine, since the state lies in a coastal region. Lunch and dinner in Orissa usually consist of rice and lentils with curry, while breads, poha (flattened rice), and muri (puffed rice) are eaten for breakfast. Pakhala, a dish that is made from cooked rice that is soaked overnight in water, is a local favourite.
Using Money in Orissa
The Indian Rupee (INR) is the currency that you will be required to use while in Orissa. To exchange money, visit accredited bureaus or nationalised banks if not the airport. There may be currency exchange services available in various places, but ensure that they are legal places as you may have a chance of getting counterfeit cash in return otherwise. It is wise to change your money at the bigger cities like Bhubaneswar and Puri as the smaller towns may not have these facilities. ATM machines are also available at most places across Orissa. Do not carry all your money when visiting popular tourist attractions, but keep loose change handy for temple and museum visits, etc.
Orissa Fact File:
Location: On India’s eastern coast near the Bay of Bengal. It is bordered by West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.
How to Reach: Bhubaneswar’s airport is well connected to major Indian cities; trains ply regularly between Bhubaneshwar and other places in Orissa from various parts of the country. A national highway connects Orissa by road to Kolkata among other neighbouring cities.
Official Language: Odia
Time Zone: UTC+05:30
Food & Drink: Pakhala (a rice-based preparation) and seafood are popular among Oriya people. Desserts to try include rasagulla, chhenna, and pitha.
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