Orissa is a laid-back yet cultural state that hosts thousands in Puri for the annual spiritual festival, Rath Yatra. Bhubaneswar in Orissa is teeming with Hindu temples, while a visit to Bhitarkanika will bring sightings of crocodiles, lizards, kingfishers and herons.The best time to visit Orissa would be between October to March. The weather is pleasant and it is also an opportune time to watch millions of migratory birds make their way from the north to nest in the lakes and forests of Orissa.The 62 tribal groups account for one quarter of the state's population. These diverse tribal groups in Orissa have maintained a dynamic culture that is expressed in their clothing, music and dance.
Similipal National Park
Similipal National Park is the prime wildlife sanctuary in Orissa. The hills, valleys and gorges along with plunging waterfalls and jungle atmosphere provide striking scenery within Similipal.The jungle is a mix of sal forest and open savanna. The forest is home to extremely rare and diverse flora and fauna.The wildlife in Similipal National Park includes tigers, leopards, pangolins, sloth bears, Indian wolf gaur, chital, mouse deer, flying squirrels, crocodiles, pythons, hornbills, peafowl, hyena, jackal and vultures. The park is famous for the over 400 elephants and the singing hill myena. The elephants frequent the Chahala salt lick, the best location for tourists to spot them!Over 200 species of birds, 29 reptile species, and over 40 mammals including 2,500 deer and 7,000 sambar call Similipal National Park home.Visitors can visit for the day or enjoy an overnight stay within Similipal National Park. Those staying overnight have until 2pm to enter the park.There are two entrances to the park: Tulsibani on the northwest side and Lulung, west of Baripada.
Raghurajpur is artists' village that is noted for its pattachitra paintings. The thatched, brick houses are adorned with mural paintings that are done on specially prepared cotton fabric.This traditional art form features geometric patterns and mythological scenes with exquisite details. The cloth is coated with a mixture of gum and chalk and then polished. Artists then draw animals, demons and gods, flowers and shapes, which are then illuminated with bright colors.This type of painting is an old Orissa art form that has been revived. There are over 300 artists in Raghurajpur and some also produce chitrapothi, which involves etching on dried palm leaves.
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is home to an important mangrove forest containing 63 of the world's 75 mangrove varieties.Rivers such as Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara surround the sanctuary; these rivers are crisscrossed with muddy creeks. Hundreds of crocodiles bask in the sun on the mud flats.There are over 190 bird species in and around Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary including eight species of Kingfisher. Bagagaham Island is home to a large aviary where birds arrive to nest from June until November.Within Bhitarkanika is Gahirmathatha, the protected nesting beach for endangered olive ridley turtles.Dangmar Island is home to a crocodile conservation program and features an interpretive center with interesting information about the sanctuary.
Gopalpur-on-Sea is a seaport village with a laid-back beach, coconut groves and sand dunes for miles. Gopalpur got its name from an 18th C temple dedicated to Krishna.Gopalour-on-Sea is also famous for its annual beach festival. The Bay is a delight for surfer's and excellent for sailing.The biggest attraction in Gopalpur-on-Sea is the peace and quiet, very different from the nearby temple towns of Orissa.A lone lighthouse compliments the beach scene with its red and white stripes and lovely gardens. Visitors can climb to the top for a rewarding view and cool breeze.Nearby are the ruins of an old jetty that was used during medieval times by sailors traveling to Indonesia. The crumbling walls and pillars was witness to the past glory of this ancient commercial seaport.
Chilika Lake is a brackish water coastal lake south of the mouth of the Mahanadi River. Brackish water is saltier than fresh water, but not as salty as seawater. Chilika Lake swells during the monsoon season and shrinks during the dry season.The lake is a famous breeding ground for over one million migratory birds. Migratory birds arrive in October and remain until March. The birds travel from as far away as Siberia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Himalaya. Many aquatic birds congregate within the bird sanctuary on Nalabana Island.Chilika Lake has a diverse range of aquatic life, including 225 species of fish and the rare Irrawady dolphins.
Cuttack is one of the oldest cities in Orissa. The city is more than one thousand years old, and was the capital of Orissa for almost nine centuries, until 1950, when Bhubaneswar was selected.Today Cuttack is noted for its colorful bazaars and world famous filigree work. Filigree is jewel work made with twisted threads usually of gold and silver. The unique filigree work is found in silver, ivory and brass works as well as woven silk and cotton. Shoppers can find saris, brassware, and jewelry along with the filigree work.Barabati Fort, once nine stories tall, stands in ruins with the moat, gateway and some of the foundation still intact.
Dhauli is on the bank of the River Daya, south of Bhubaneswar. In 272 BC, the Buddha Sangha established a Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa) at Dhauli along with a monastery called Saddharma. "Ashoka the Great". It was at this location that Emperor Ashoka, full of remorse renounced his bloodthirsty campaign and embraced Buddhism. The edicts at Dhauli are a testimony to the ruler's change of heart.The Shanti Stupa or Peace Pagoda was built in 1972 through an Indo-Japanese collaboration. The Shanti Stupa is located on the opposite hill from the monastery. The stupa is a round structure with a dome on top.
Ratnagiri has two large Buddhist monasteries that flourished from the 6th to 12th C. Now in ruins, the monasteries feature an elaborately carved gate and the remnants of a stupa.The seashore of Ratnagiri has black sand and the nearby area of Bhagvati Fort has white sand so the sea in this area is named as Black and White Sea.Ratnagiri was also the birthplace of freedom fighter, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. His home, Tilak Smarak, is now a landmark.Fort Ratnadurg, or Bhagvati Fort, is surrounded by sea and within the walls is temple called Bhagwati. The ancient temple is very famous and comes alive during the Navratra festival.
Recent excavations have proven that Lalitgiri was a great Buddhist center. During the excavations, the ruins of a huge brick monastery, the chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa were uncovered.A small museum features gold and silver relics that were discovered. The museum at Lalitgiri displays a number of Mahayana sculptures such as colossal Buddha figures, huge Buddha statues, and statues of Tara and Jambhala.
Pipli is a small town that is noted for its beautiful appliqué work. Residents of Pipli trace back their origins to 1045 when according to belief their forefathers were asked to produce the tailored canopies for the Jagannath Temple. Today, the descendents of those families continue this work as their main vocation.The colorful door and wall hangings are displayed outside shops and during festivals turning the main road of Pipli into a rainbow of colors.
Yogini Temple, Hirapur, India
The Yogini Temple is located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. The Yogini Temple is only one of four remaining in India. It is a small, circular temple built during the 9th C.There are 64 niches in the Yoginin Temple, each containing an image of a Yogini Goddess sculpted from black chlorite.The Yogini cult worshipped the Goddesses in expectation of supernatural powers.
Hot Springs, Taptapani, India
The Taptapani hot spring is located in a densely forested area. The water from the natural spring of Taptapani has medicinal properties and visitors can bathe in the nearby pond or tourist bungalow.Other attractions in the small village of Taptapani are the tribal communities and the scenic landscape.