Winding lanes dotted with ancient temples is Bhubaneswar, as you see it today. It is a place where spirituality and architecture co-exists. It is a city where both ancient and contemporary faces blend perfectly. A walking tour through the concrete lanes will make you wonder whether this is Khajuraho. The reason is the ornate walls of the temples on which stories from Kamasutra had been carved. With temples spreading all over the city it has earned the name The Temple City.
Today, these temples are a courteous reminder of the rich heritage of India. However, its difficult to imagine that this historic city was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles of India the Kalinga War, which transformed the cruel king Ashoka into a saint.
Photo by Debashis Pradhan
The flourishing art and culture, fine textile of India like Bomkai and Ikat, the vibrant appliqu work and silver-Bidri ware will give you the essence of contemporary Bhubaneswar. Make sure you buy at least one piece of this traditional textile from this city.
Coming back to the topic, the ancient history of India says Bhubaneswar came into existence during the 4th century BC. The archeological remains at Dhauli and the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills give evidence that Jain and Buddhist settlements began in 2 century BC. The fun fact of the story is, this partial natural and partial artificial cave of the twin hills became more popular when the Bollywood hit Asoka, Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor starrer was shot in the midst of this magnificent setting.
Photo by Kamalakanta777
With around 500 temples within the city, you are bound to fall into a trance with the essence of spirituality around you. Religious or not, the magnetism and excellence of these historical temples are going to put you in awe of its beauty. Most of these temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Dont be surprised if your guide says that the sculpture is dedicated to Lord Shiva for every second temple you visit.
Start your tour with Lingaraj temple one of the oldest and biggest temple of the city. Admire the massive 54 meter high spire of the temple dominating the skyline and the brilliant artwork on its walls. Step inside the temple to see the magnificent sculpture that has Hari Har Lingam half Shiva and half Vishnu.
Another remarkable temple is Mukteswara temple as it is said to be one of the finest examples of the transition period of Kalinga architecture. Made of sandstone, the temples walls are covered with the tales of Panchatantra. Take a close look and you will find many sculptures of animals carved on it. Dont miss out to see the ornate gateway and other masterpieces of the temple
The list doesn't end here. Other names like Rajarani temple, Brahmeshwara temple and Parsurameswara temple are a worth visit.
However, the sad part of the story is most of these sites doesnt allow photography. Hence, you can only capture such eternal beauty only with your eyes and mind.
Understanding the culture
As said before Bhubaneswar is said to be rich in culture and art and when it comes to understanding these subjects, you cannot miss the chance to visit the Orissa State Museum. Step inside the museum and will take you on a journey into the past of Bhubaneswar. Its 10 galleries housing innumerable antiques like tools, weapons, manuscripts, weapons and armory gives a glimpse at how several dynasties had ruled Orissa in the past. The traditional and folk musical instruments of the museum also tell you about the transition in the field of art.
As the subject art has come up, how can you forget about the one of the famous traditional dance in the world Odissi whose roots were born from this region of India. History says this dance form was usually performed by the Devadasis (the divine temple dancers girls) to please the temple deity. They had a very unusual lifestyle in the past. They were wedded to the temple deity and hence devoted their whole life in the name of god.
Photo by Madhumita Raut
Apart from this, Ashokashtami festival holds a special field for the tourism of Bhubaneswar. The celebration is dedicated to Lord Shiva where the image of Lord Shiva and other deities are carried from the Lingaraj temple to the Rameshwara Temple. Hundreds of visitors come here to see the chariot in which the deities are carried in the procession.
Visit Nandankanan Zoological Park
Either you are travelling alone or with your family, you can always pay a visit to this biological park of Orissa. Popularly known as the Garden of Heaven, this wildlife park is just 15 kilometers away from the city. It will hardly take you around half an hour by car. Established in 1960, Nandankanan Zoological Park is an open sanctuary surrounded with lush greenery of Chandaka Forest. It houses nearly 67 kinds of mammals, 18 types of reptiles and 81 different species of birds. The best part of the story is the region where you can see white tigers and black panthers are roaming around freely while you are in a cage. Sounds so unique, right?
Photo by Tony Hisgett
When you are talking about Bhubaneswar how you can forget its finger licking food in Bhubaneshwar and special mention - the sweets. Dominated by Orissa food culture, the platter of Bhubaneswar includes the authentic cuisines of Orissa. The protagonist of this platter is rice, either in sun dried form or par-boiled and of course fish, made with different recipes. The sundried rice is usually prepared during festive seasons. If you are travelling Bhubaneswar during any festival and befriended any locals, you will get a chance to taste this staple food of the state. Another popular preparation of rice is pakhal cooked rice soaked in water, overnight. It is one of the favorite food during summer for the locals.
Photo by Subhransu
The menu doesnt end here. Your food is not complete unless you taste the scrumptious dessert. You have a sweet tooth; you will go weak when a plate full of sweet dishes will be served in front of you. Want to know what the menu is? It has the famous sweet Rasgulla - fresh Indian cottage cheese (chhena) served with sugar syrup; Chhenapoda; Pitha (made of rice flour and stuffed with coconut filling); Chhena Jalebi; Malpua; Rasmalai.
Photo by Subhashish Panigrahi
People on diet, think before you decide of not compromising your diet plan. You are going to miss something important.
Love it or hate it, you are bound to fall in love with the majestic beauty of Bhubaneswar. Unless you explore it, you will be left unknown with some of the rich heritage of India.
As Andre Gide said ''Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.''