Odisha is an Indian state on the subcontinent’s east coast, by the Bay of Bengal. It is surrounded by the Indian states of West Bengal to the north-east and in the east, Jharkhand to the north, Chhattisgarh to the west and north-west and Andhra Pradesh to the south. It is the modern name of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE.
The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April 1936, as a province in British India and consisted predominantly of Oriya speakers. 1 April is therefore celebrated as Utkala Dibasa (foundation day ofOdisha). The region is also known as Utkala when mentioned in India’s national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana”. Cuttack remained the capital of the state for over eight centuries until 13 April 1948 when Bhubaneswar was officially declared as the new state capital, a position it still holds.
Odisha is the 9th largest state by area in India, and the 11th largest by population. Oriya (officially spelled Odia) is the official and most widely spoken language, spoken by three quarters of the population. Odisha has a coastline (about 480 km long) and lacked good ports, except for the deepwater facility at Paradip, until the recent launch of the Dhamra Port. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi river delta, supports the bulk of the population.
Odisha is mainly known for its rich culture and the humongous number of ancient temples. The temples of Odisha conform to the Indo Aryan Nagara style of architecture, with distinctive features specific to this region. The best known of these are the Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar, Jagannath Temple, Puri and the Konark Sun Temple. The temples of Odisha exhibit a majestic grandeur. An Oriya temple (Deula) usually consists of a sanctum, one or several front porches (Jagamohana) usually with pyramidal roofs, a dancing hall (Nata Mandira) and a hall of offerings (Bhog Mandira).
The Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar boasts of a 150-foot (46 m) high deula while the Jagannath Temple, Puri is about 200 feet (61 m) high and it dominates the skyline of the town. Only a portion of the Konark Sun Temple, the largest of the temples of the Holy Golden Triangle exists today, and it is still staggering in size.
It stands out as a masterpiece in Odisha architecture. Odisha is also well known for its Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage destinations. North-east of Cuttack, about 10 km (6 mi) from Bhubaneswar, there are Buddhist relics and ruins at the three hilltop complexes of Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, which still bear witness to Buddhism’s fruitful tryst with this region until well into the 13th century and there is Dhauli with a large statue of Buddha which brings international Buddhist tourists to Odisha.
Odisha’s varying topography – from the wooded Eastern Ghats to the fertile river basin – has proven ideal for evolution of compact and unique ecosystems. Thereby creating such treasure troves of flora and fauna that even seem inviting to many migratory species of birds and reptiles. Bhitarkanika National Park is famous for its second largest mangrove ecosystem. The bird sanctuary in Chilika Lake (Asia’s largest brackish water lake) and the tiger reserve and waterfalls in Simlipal National Park are integral part of any eco tourism in Odisha, arranged by Odisha Tourism.
The Gharial Sanctuary at Tikarpada and the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary also feature on the list of avid nature watchers. The city wildlife sanctuaries of Chandaka and Nandankanan Zoological Park are must visit sites for the lessons they teach is conservation and revitalisation of species from the brink of extinction.
Odisha is blessed with around 500 km (311 mi) long coastline and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, not only provides a haven for millions of birds, but is also one of the few places in India where one can view dolphins. The lush green forest cover of Odisha plays host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the famed Royal Bengal Tiger.
Amidst the picturesque hills and valleys nestle a number of breathtaking waterfalls and rivulets that attract visitors from all over. Odisha beaches include Chandipur Beach, Gopalpur-on-Sea, Konark Beach, Astaranga Beach, Talsari Beach, Pata Sonapur Beach, Satpada Beach,Baleshwar Beach, Paradeep Beach, Satabhaya Beach, Gahirmatha Beach, Puri Beach, Ramachandi Beach, Malud Beach, Baliharachandi Beach etc