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.