Odisha is previously known as Orissa, and the old name can still be found all over the state. It is located on the eastern coast of India on the Bay of Bengal. Odisha is rich with tribal cultures and historical places, especially Hindu temples that are over hundreds of years old. The capital city of Odisha is Bhubaneswar, better known as The Temple City of India due to thousands of temples that has been around since ancient times. Although there are only about 50 that still remain today, these are significant archaeological and religious sites, important reminders of the Kalinga civilisations.
The state of Odisha is always known for its dry and dusty environment and scorching heat during summer. Although Bhubaneswar can be visited all year long, the best time to visit is in the winter between November and February, when the temperature comes down to a tolerant 28 degrees Celsius. The winter season is also the best time to enjoy bird watching at Lake Chilika when the local and migratory birds arrive for breeding season.
The following are the 10 compelling reasons why travellers should visit Bhubaneswar.
1. Dhauli Hills
It is recommended that travellers visit the King Ashoka rock edicts that are remarkably preserved since it was first erected in 300 B.C. These edicts record the history of Bhubaneswar involving the vast killings of the Kalinga people by King Ashoka to the point that the river turned red due to this bloodshed. The plains and the river can be seen from the top of Dhauli Hills. Also, travellers can learn about King Ashoka and the Kalinga War in the comprehensive story-telling three-dimensional Lights and Sounds show at Shanti Stupa. There are two shows every evening except Monday – 7:00 p.m. to 7:35 p.m. for English and 7:45 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. for Hindi.
2. Konark Sun Temple
This UNESCO World Heritage Site can transport you back to the 13th century when this temple was located right by the sea shore but now is about 35km away from the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This temple has been known among sailors as the Black Pagoda and has been infamously caused many shipwrecks along the coast due to what is believed to be the powerful aura coming from the magnets within the temple. From the top, this temple looks like a giant chariot. As travellers take a closer look, they can indulge yourselves at the neat carvings on the temple’s stone surfaces. These carvings come in a wide variety of subjects, most notably erotic scenes from the Kama Sutra. According to UNESCO, Konark is an outstanding example of the 13th-century kingdom of Orissa splendour.
3. Museum of Tribal Arts & Artefacts
To learn about a civilisation, you must first learn about the people. There are 62 tribes in Odisha and this museum is where you can learn comprehensively about the people of the state. It houses galleries that display detailed information about each tribe such as traditional dresses, accessories, musical instruments, traditional weapons and agricultural devices. During our visit, we were impressed by the several handicraft ornaments that were made from rice. You can buy some of these handicrafts as souvenirs.
4. Khandagiri & Udayagiri Cave Temples
These twin hills represent one of the earliest groups of Jaina rock-cut architecture in Eastern India. According to the inscriptions found on the cave carvings, the caves of these hills were excavated in the 1st Century B.C. by King Kharavela of Kalinga and his successors who were devout Jainas. There are fine carvings on the walls and along the 33-cuts between the two hills. When travellers climb up to the top of Khandagiri hill, they can join the locals in enjoying the panoramic view of Bhubaneswar.
5. Buddhist Circuit – Lalitagiri, Udhaygiri and Ratnagiri
The Buddhist Circuit in Odisha is a project recently introduced by the authorities in the recent Kalinga International Buddhist This project intends to collect and preserve the holy relics of the Lord Buddha through the developments of museums and various infrastructure, especially within the three archaeological sites in Jajpur: Lalitagiri, Udhaygiri and Ratnagiri. Travellers should visit these archaeological sites now before they become more popular and attract larger crowds. The centuries of artefacts and remains of the temples within this circuit are still being excavated and every single rock and stone carving is truly mind-blowing.
6. Raghurajpur Craft Village
Raghurajpur is a special village located 14 kilometres away from the pilgrimage town of Puri, where the large temple dedicated to Lord Jagganath is situated. This heritage crafts village has become a major rural tourist destination of the state, famous for an art form that dates back from 5 B.C. called Pattachitra paintings made on dried palm leaves. The village is also the birthplace of Gotipua, a traditional dance form from Odisha and the predecessor of the Indian classical dance called Odissi. There are over 120 houses located within the village and mostly decorated with beautiful mural paintings.
7. Ekamra Walks in Bhubaneswar Old Town
Learn the history and background of Bhubaneswar in about less than three hours via Ekamra Walks, which leads tourists along a two-kilometre trail cutting through Bhubaneswar Old Town with an English-speaking guide. At the time this article is written, it is still free of charge. The rendezvous for this heritage trail is at Mukteswar Temple and ends at Odissi Dance School. Bring a hat or an umbrella, including sufficient drinking water because although the walks begin at 6:30 a.m., the scorching heat could be unbearable. Among important historical attractions along the heritage trail are Bindusagar Lake, Mukteswar Temple, the temple kitchen of Ananta Basudev, the great temple of Lingaraj, and the Odissi Dance School.
8. Cruising at Lake Chilika
Lake Chilika is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and very close to the Bay of Bengal, separated only by a sandy ridge. The lake is so large that it spreads over three districts: Puri, Khurda and Ganjam. During our visit, as the lake laid bare under the scorching sun, we had the opportunity to land on Kalijai Island, where pilgrims come every January to pray for the female deities. In winter, we were told that the lake is the best place in India for bird-watching, splashing around in the water and quiet relaxation. Those who are active should go for boating before sunrise to catch it in the horizon when being on water, accompanied by birds flying from all directions.
Chilika is also the place where locals come for seafood like crabs and prawns. It is also the place to witness Irrawaddy dolphins, since it is one of the only two lagoons in the world where the Irrawaddy dolphins can be spotted.
9. Shopping at Utkalika
This part of India have not yet received many international tourists since not many direct international flights land here. Therefore, tourists might find it difficult to find souvenirs and merchandises to bring home, except at the main tourist attractions like Konark Sun Temple and Raghurajpur Craft Village. Thus, the best way to purchase souvenirs and merchandises to bring home is to go shopping at Utkalika Orissa State Emporium, located in a street market called Market Building. There is a wide range of arts and crafts for purchase such as appliqué and patch works, Odisha art textiles, Dhokra castings, the traditional palm-leaf Pattachitra paintings, wood and stone carvings, brass works and more.
AirAsia now flies directly from Kuala Lumpur
AirAsia is now operating direct flights four times weekly and flies about three hours and twenty minutes between Kuala Lumpur and Bhubaneswar, earning it the first international airline in the world to operate direct flights to Bhubaneswar. AirAsia and the Odisha state government are positive about this new route because it is expected to boost tourism and trade between India and Malaysia while continuing to provide better connectivity between countries in South East Asia and India using AirAsia routes.