There is much more to India than the golden triangle. Bhubaneswar, Odisha is the state capital and a city with a 100,000 temples. The city is well connected – less than 7 hours by train from Kolkata or there are flights from anywhere within India.
This is my fourth visit to the city and honestly speaking thoroughly appreciated the beauty of this city on this visit. The city and her people are very resilient as they bounce back quickly after every major cyclone. The huge banyan and pipal trees spread throughout the city also caught my attention.
MUST TRY FOOD
While you are in Odisha, you must try their baked rosagulla (rosagullas are sweet treats traditionally made with paneer and soaked in sugar syrup). The baked ones look nicely roasted on the outside but inside it is still juicy and soft. Another specialty of this place is the Dahi vada aloo dum – this is a vada (savoury doughnut) soaked in yoghurt, topped with boiled potatoes and spices. I really enjoyed the use of mustard oil in cooking in this region and this makes the cuisine very different to other states.
ARCHITECTURE & TEMPLES
You would find typical Kalinga architecture here. The various aspects of a typical Kalinga Temple include architectural stipulations making the towers a striking feature, iconography, historical connotations and honouring the traditions, customs and associated legends.
Some of the temples have no idols (Raja Rani temple built in 11th century is an example) and now boasts of hosting concerts in the grounds in January. Furthermore, it was the Raja Rani temple that served as the inspiration for many other temples that sprang up in Central India.
The ‘Gem of Odishan Architecture’ is the only phrase that goes well with Mukteswara Temple. Built-in 950 A.D, Mukteswara temple is literally a dream realized in sandstone. The temple is said to be the structure, where sculpture and architecture are in synchronization with one another. The design that was followed in raising this temple was different from what usually was practiced as Kalinga style of architecture. Mostly the architecture of the Mukteswar temple has been inspired by Buddhist style.
Lingaraj temple – one of the oldest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva (late 8th century). Its striking feature is the shape of its sanctuary tower. The semi cylindrical shape of its roof, bears an affinity to the Dravidian gopuram of the South India temples. You cannot take any photos inside the temple complex. We had an excellent young priest as guide and he explained that the temple flag is changed every day at 9.30am. It takes a person a minute to scale to the top of the tower (about 11 stories high) to hoist the flag.
Konark Sun temple – Konark is 70 kilometres south of Bhubaneswar. The thirteenth-century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), built-in red sandstone and black granite by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236-1264) of the Ganga dynasty. A World Heritage Site, the temple was built in the shape of a chariot drawn by 7 horses and 24 wheels. Built to honour the Sun God, the temple complex displays enormous wealth, talent, and spirituality. The relief work and sculptural work depicts a mixture of war scenes and the earthly erotic. Restoration work was going on so parts of the complex were closed.
INTERESTING PLACES WORTH VISITING
Dhauli hill is located close to the banks of the river Daya, 8 km south of Bhubaneswar. The Kalinga War (ended 262 BCE) was fought in what is now India between the Maurya Empire under Emperor Ashoka and King Raja Anantha of the state of Kalinga, an independent feudal kingdom located on the east coast, in the present-day state of Odisha and north parts of Andhra Pradesh. The Kalinga War included one of the largest and bloodiest battles in Indian history.
Ashoka had seen the bloodshed and felt that he was the cause of the destruction. Following the conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka ended the military expansion of the empire and began an era of more than 40 years of relative peace, harmony, and prosperity.
The rock-cut elephant above the Edicts is the earliest Buddhist sculpture of Odisha. The stone elephant shows the animal’s foreparts only, though it has a fine sense of form and movement. It is considered as one of the few remains of Mauryan art.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, 6 km west of Bhubaneswar were chiseled out for the ascetic Jain monks, also has some inscriptions describing the exploits of king Kharavel. The caves are partly natural and partly artificial caves of archaeological, historical and religious importance. They have a number of finely and ornately carved caves built during the 1st century BCE. It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela.
Archaeological Survey of India has listed Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in the list of “Must See” Indian Heritage.