Odisha (until recently known as Orissa) is on India’s Eastern coast just south of West Bengal. Over 30% of the state is covered by forest and many tribal groups still live in the state. In fact Odisha has the largest number of tribes (62) constituting 24% of the total population of the state. The tribes are mainly concentrated in the Eastern Ghats range of hills.
Bhubaneswar (also called Bhuvaneshwara and in the past a range of other names) is the state capital of Odisha. It is the state’s largest city with a long history extending back more than 2000 years to the Chedi dynasty. Bhubaneswar has magnificent sculptures and architecture alongside a large number (over 600) of Hindu temples making it a great religious centre – it is one of the most visited destinations in East India. The modern city was designed in 1946 by a German architect and is one of the first planned cities of India.
Puri & Konark
Puri (also called Jagannath Puri) has one of the best swimming beaches in the whole of India. It is on the Bay of Bengal about 60 kms south of Bhubaneswar. As well as being a popular beach resort many people visit Puri for the temples – the most famous being the Jagannath Temple built in the 11th century. The annual Ratha Yatra or Festival of Chariots also draws visitors to Puri. This takes place in the summer (usually July) and the deities of Jagnnath, Balbhadra and Subhadra are taken out of the temple and taken on chariots for a procession through the town. Konark, home to the famous Sun Temple – is both a World Heritage Site and one of India’s Seven Wonders. This Buddhist Temple was constructed by King Narashimhadeva I (238 – 1250) and is a mix of Orissan and Dravidian styles of architecture. The temple takes the form of a chariot and is heavily decorated – some of the sculptures are erotic, similar to the temple at Khajuraho. Currently there is no decent accomodation in Konark.
Gopalpur grew from an obscure little fishing village to a prominent trading port during the days of the British East India Company. It was a useful commercial port as the trade in rice from Burma expanded. These days Gopalpur has reverted to being a quiet place with a distinct charm and one of India’s most sought after beaches.