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Orissa - Quick Facts

State Capital: Bhubaneswar

Area: 1,55,820 Sq. Km.

Population: 41,947,358 

Altitude: 52 m above sea level

Season: October to March

Clothing: Summer- Light Cotton; Winter- Heavy woollen

Rainfall: 150 cms average

Average Max Temperature: 360C

Average Min Temperature:160C

Languages: Hindi, Urdu,Bengali,Telugu,Oriya

Kalinga of the Mauryan age and Utkala of Mahabharata fame, popularly known as Orissa today, boasts of splendid architecture and magnificent beaches.Spread over a sprawling area of 1.55 lakh sq kms, it lies in the tropical zones along the eastern seaboard of India. One can find an unmatched blend of rural tranquility with boisterous modern adroitness here. The scenic beauty of the place so much overpowers your spirit that the poet inside you is awakened.

Ancient History of Orissa

The mention of Orissa dates back to 260 BC, the reign of Emperor Ashoka. While spreading the boundaries of his kingdom, the emperor reached the gates of the then Kalinga and invoked its king to fight or flee. In the absence of her father, the princess of the state took reins and fought bravely with the emperor. The war was a true massacre and the bloodshed that took place moved the emperor so much that his killing instinct was capsized. A warrior was thence transformed into a great apostle of Buddhism. Buddhism followed by Jainism held sway until after the reassertion of Hinduism in the state in 7th century AD.The Orissan culture and architecture flourished immensely under the rein of Keshari and Ganga Kings at Orissa. A number of masterpieces of that golden era still stand today as mute evidences to a glorious past.There are some places in the world that are special, and Orissa is definitely one of them. Filled with exquisite temples and extraordinary monuments, home to many thousands of prolific artists and craftsmen; and possessing beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, and natural landscape of often-enchanting beauty, Orissa is a unique and fascinating land that is, nevertheless, still largely undiscovered by tourists.

Orissa is a veritable museum of India's sculptural and artistic heritage and has long been famous to scholars and connoisseurs for the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark (The legendary 'Black Pagoda' of European mariners), for the majestic temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri (renowned for the spectacular Rath Yatra chariot festival), and for the glorious temples of Bhubaneswar. The small but ever-growing number of sophisticated tourists who do manage to find their way to Orissa are generally prepared with some knowledge of these temples, of the delicate Orissan ikat textiles which have been become famous throughout the world, and, perhaps, of the beaches at Puri and Gopalpur on sea. They therefore plan to spend two or three days in Orissa. Even these knowledgeable visitors, however, are seldom prepared for the amazing variety and richness of the treasures that lie waiting to be discovered. If they were, they would have planned to stay for a week. And that would be just a beginning.

Orissa is a place like no other, a glowing green jewel of a state. On the east, 300 miles (482 km) of gentle coastline are open to the Bay of Bengal, while the high hills and mountains of the Eastern Ghats seal the western borders. In between, lie 96,000 square miles (156,000 sq kms) of peaceful, rural beauty. Orissa is home to three mighty rivers and to the largest fresh/salt water lake in Asia, to dozens of the most sacred places of pilgrimage in India, and to hundreds of thousands of small, traditional villages, in which almost all of her 26 million people live. Only four cities have more than one hundred thousand inhabitants, and Orissa's urban and rural population’s alike share a strong sense of the holiness of their beautiful land and of their enduring links with the past.The temples and monuments of Orissa are among the most magnificent gems of religious architecture the world has ever produced. Soaring against the dark sky, clustered by the many hundreds in the ancient holy city of Bhubaneswar, protecting the precincts of small towns and villages, the temples of Orissa are natural museums of the sublime and the divine, as well as the visible manifestations of something strong and enduring which seems to sanctify the entire state. These places of beauty and devotion often still serve as centers of intense religious Activity and fervent festivals, as well as of great artistic creativity.

By Air
Regular flights landing at the only major airport of the city namely Biju Patnaik Airport connect it to all the major cities of the country such as Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Raipur

By Rail
There is a good train network also that connects Calcutta, Puri, Madras, Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Tirupati and Trivandrum to Bhubaneswar by express and super express trains plying to and fro on a daily basis.

By Road
Orissa is well connected to its neighbouring states through a good road network.

The sacred environs of Lord Jagannath temple, the eroticism of Konark's Sun temple, the wondrous caves of Jainism, the mystical monasteries of Buddhism, the paintings of folklore and the weaver's magic; all stand as meek evidences of an eloquent past and continuing golden present of Orissa.Expressions of the soul find way in the form of indigenous theatres namely 'Prahalad-Nataka' or the 'Dhanuyatra' here. Dance and music form an inseparable part of the rich culture of the state. The exotic classical dance of the region evolved from the cult of the 'devadasis' or female temple dancers. Folk dances like 'Chhow' and 'Sambalpuri' along with tribal dances like 'Ghumura' & 'Paraja' leave every spirit truly elated. Then there are fairs like 'Bali Jatra' that come as a reminder of an ancient maritime links with Bali. And to crown it all is the universally-acclaimed 'Rathyatra' of Lord Jagannath which has become an absolute synonym to Orissan culture.

With a simple yet delicious cuisine, Orissa follows a food pattern that is somewhat similar to the neighboring states. Rice, the staple food is paired with vegetables.Due to their deeply religious culture; most of Oriya people practice vegetarianism. But a significant proportion of population yet relishes fish and other sea food delicacies like prawns, crabs and lobsters that are found in plenty at the vast coastline of the state. Cooked with little or absolutely no oil, Oriya food has a less calorific value.

Along with curd and coconut milk, people are very fond of sweets as well. The curd here is rich and creamy and gives the succulent flesh an additional flavor. Not only the seafood but yams, brinjals and pumpkins are also liberally used in curd with mustard seeds giving the whole preparation that extra zing. Pithas are also very popular food items here. These are small cakes both sweet and savory in taste. Chhenapodapitha, the caramelized custard-like dessert is also very popular not only with the locals but with the tourist’s also.While at Orissa, one must manage to have a traditional must, the tasting of 'Mahaprasad' or the sacred food offered as 'Bhog' to Lord Jagannath. The temple has the world's largest kitchen with 400 cooks and 200m hearths that feed 10,000 people daily.

Orissa has an art and craft that are the products of a long historical process in which the spiritual, philosophical and the human dimensions have merged to yield the finest effects of a cultured and civilized life. This art and craft only have made the state a land of rich and diverse artistic achievements. The cultural heritage of Orissa is reflected in its vibrant art forms. Having distinct traditions of painting, architecture, sculpture, handicrafts, music and dance, Orissa boasts of a long and rich cultural heritage.Due to the reigns of many different rulers, the culture, arts and crafts of the state underwent many changes, imitations, assimilations and new creations from time to time. Yet, the artistic skill of the Oriya artists is unsurpassable in the world.

Famous for its appliqué items, Pipli- the fare attracts thousands of visitors round the year and offers a gala of alluring handicrafts. Silver filigree has also been an important export item of Orissa from ancient times and has been a symbol of the summit of excellence reached by Orissan craftsmen. The exquisitely carved stone sculptures, embellished on the walls of the ancient shrines and monuments attest the artistry of those sculptors who perfected the skill through centuries of disciplined efforts. The progeny of these artisans who built the magnificent temples of Mukteswar, Lingaraj, Jagannath and Sun God at Konark, have kept alive the sculptural heritage of their forefathers and their apt hands still continue to chisel and carve exact replicas of the original temple sculptures besides producing a variety of other items.

With numerous religions, ancient temples, local shrines, tribes and an array of sacred places, Orissa observes uncountable number of festivals and fairs round the year. Three different religions flourished on the holy land of Orissa thus making it mandatory to celebrate various religious festivals with great fanfare.

A land of varied cultures and traditions, Orissa automatically serves to be a land of festivals. Religion or folklores, tradition or agriculture and seasonal variations or ethnic dance forms; all Serve to be a setting for the celebration. Orissa celebrates one or other festival every month giving an opportunity to the visitors and alternatives both to enjoy and have real fun. With some of the special rituals attached to each, these festivals add bleft colors to the landscape of Orissa's cultural heritage. Some of the festivals of this land of Lord Jagannath are dedicated to His holy self. Some other festivals celebrated in Orissa find a close resemblance to a lot of festivals of North India; however they are called by different names and are even celebrated in a different fashion. But amazingly, every festivity centers around the prayer sacraments to seek the blessings of gods, exchanging goodwill, distributing sweets, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting. Whatever is the way, each festival really makes the country come alive throughout the year.

Durga Puja and Kali Puja are the two major festivals of the land that showcase the power of the Shakti worship cult in Orissa. Celebrated with utmost earnestness, joviality and eclat, this festival celebrated in the months of September and October truly offer an opportunity for a larger than life type celebration. Other festivals like Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Dola Purnima, Konark Dance Festival and Puri Beach Festival accompanied by some tribal festivals are also celebrated with much gusto here.

Out of all the festivals celebrated in Orissa, Rath Yatra - a grand procession carried out in the honor of the presiding deity of Puri is celebrated in the most pompous way possible.

•        Chandan Yatra
•        Durga Puja Orissa
•        Konark Dance Festival
•        Puri Beach Festival
•        Rath Yatra
•        Orissa Tourist Festivals
•        Orissa Tribal Festivals

If you are in Orissa on a holiday and want to go home with hoards of gifts for family and friends, do not worry at all. Opportunities galore here in the form of myriad craft forms of Orissa.You can choose mementoes and souvenirs from this treasure trove suiting your budget. And the choice can be made from the exquisite silver filigree work of Cuttack to the gaily wall hangings from Pipli, from the intricate paintings from Raghurajpur to the glorious hand woven fabrics from Sambalpur. Bring a sand sculpture from Puri or get a patta chitra, this gift is going to be cherished forever by the receiver owing to its magnificence. The markets of Orissa offer something for everyone.

The textiles having the Applique work on them really prove to be enchanting gifts. An ancient art form of Pipli region, this work has been adorning the garments and decorative pieces since ages. Awesome pieces of jewellery carved out by the filigree artists can be picked form Naya sarak or Balu Bazaar at Cuttack. Images of Gods and goddesses or animals and plants etc. can be picked up from Puri, Bargarh and Cuttack to be presented as small tokens of love top your friends. All the Oriya craft forms are available in abundance in the local markets of its major cities. With these markets flooded with antique gift items, your shopping spree is well taken care of in Orissa.

Bhubaneswar | Balasore | Cuttack | Konark | Puri | Ratnagiri | Jeypore | Raigargh | Simplipal.

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