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Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark are three towns in the coastal region of Orissa that are famous for their ancient temples. Bhubaneshwar is the capital of the state of Orissa. Puri is famous as an important pilgrimage center for Hindus. The state has a long coastline on the Bay of Bengal, south of Bengal.

The history of this eastern state in India goes back to more than 3000 years. Before second century BCE it was a powerful kingdom of Kalinga that had maritime trade relationship with nations of the Southeast Asia and Fareast Asia. Many of these nations were originally colonized by people from Orissa. It is interesting to note that Indians in Malaysia are still called Klings, a word that is derived from Kalinga. Nisanka Malla and Parakarama Bahu were two important Sri Lankan rulers that claimed to be descendents of people from Kalinga. Kalinga Magha was a ruler of that country who conquered the Sinhalese Buddhists in northern Sri Lanka and established the Jaffna Kingdom. Some scholars believe that the older name of Thailand, Siam was derived from the Sanskrit/Oriya language word Shyamadesha. There are various theories to prove conclusively that Angkor Wat in Cambodia was founded by migrants from Orissa. The Hindu rituals in Bali have striking similarities to their ancient origin in Orissa. Kharavela, a Jain monarch ruled Kalinga in the second century BCE. His territories extended from Orissa to some areas of present day Tamil Nadu in southern India. The monastic caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri were sculpted during his reign.

The famous victory of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka over the kingdom of Kalinga in 261 BCE was a turning point in the history of Orissa. His disgust over the killing of thousands of soldiers on both sides provoked him to think about the non-violence preached by Lord Buddha and eventually led him to convert to Buddhism. Because of social and trading contacts already existing between Orissa and Southeast Asia, his endeavors to spread Buddhism in these regions were very successful. Rock edicts of Emperor Ashoka were found in the State. Samudra Gupta and Sasanka ruled the Orissa region. Yayati in 795 CE extended Kalinga to Kosala and Utkala to form a vast empire in eastern India. He started the construction of the famous Vishnu Hindu temple of Jagannath at Puri.

The Bhaumakara and Somavamsi rulers from eighth to eleventh centuries CE played a major role in the cultural life of the State. Shaivism dominated the religious scene although Buddhist, Jain and Vaishnavite monuments were also constructed with lesser enthusiasm. The Gangas took over after the decline of the Somavamsis. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinganagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam Andhrapradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the twelfth century. In this period Shaivism began to decline while Shaktism flourished. Further, the religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the monarch Chodagangadeva who contributed in the construction of the great Jagannath temple at Puri. The Gangas were champions of Vaishnavism. It was during the Ganga rule that Orissan architecture reached its peak. Narasimha Dev of this dynasty built the Sun Temple at Konark. The Suryavanmsi and Gajapati rulers who followed the Ganga rulers were great patrons of Vaishnav Hinduism, especially the abstract form of Jagannath. This was a period when the “Bhakti” cult of mystic Hinduism was on the rise. In Bengal and Orissa there was widespread following of the great Bhakti cult saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was the inspiration behind the modern day worldwide movement of Swami Prabhupad – the Krishna Consciousness.

In 1568 the newly converted Islamic rulers defeated the Hindu ruler Mukundadeva and occupied Orissa with assistance from Suleman Karrani of Bengal. The Mughals under Emperor Akbar conquered Bengal and Orissa in 1576. After death of the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the rising Maratha rulers took over Orissa in 1751. In 1803 the British East India Company took Orissa after the Second Anglo-Maratha War and they divided the state into Cuttack, Balasore and Puri areas that were directly under their rule while some other areas were under small princely states with which they had signed individual treaties. After independence of India the new government combined the twenty-four princely states and British ruled territories to form the Orissa State in 1950 on the basis of Oriya language area.

Bhubaneshwar is the capital of the eastern Indian state of Orissa. The city has a population of over a million people. In the pre-Christian era it was the capital of eastern Kingdom of Kalinga that became famous because of its defeat at the hands of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. It was also an ancient shipping and commercial center of trade with nations of Southeast Asia. The Hindi, Sanskrit and Oriya language word Bhubaneshwar literally means the Lord of the Universe. It is also famous as the city of temples.

It is believed that Bhubaneshwar had around 7000 temples on the banks of Bindusagar Lake in the old part of the city. Only a few of these have survived its turbulent historical past. Some of these ancient temples are still in use. The biggest temple in old Bhubaneshwar is the Lingaraja Temple that was built in eleventh century CE. The Temple is dedicated to Shiva and is famous for its Shivratri Festival during February / March when thousands of Pilgrims light Lanterns and meditate during the full moon lit night. The other two most important temple complexes for their architecture and sculptural splendor are the tenth century CE built Mukteshwar Temple and the seven Raja-Rani Temples from twelfth century. Parasurameshwar, Bhaskareshwar and Brahmeshwar Temples are also in the same general area. The Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar boasts of a 150 foot high Deul (temple tower over the Sanctum area) while the Janannath Temple at Puri is about 200 feet high and dominates the skyline of the town. Only a portion of the Sun Temple at Konark, the largest of the temples of the Golden triangle exists today, and it is still staggering in size. It stands out as a masterpiece of the unique architecture of Orissa. The impact of the invasion of the Guptas is seen in the early temples of Bhubaneswar.

The capital city was originally a very well planned city and has retained some of its modern elements despite the rapid unregulated growth of the city and its population. Bhubaneshwar merges its intriguing past with its modern aspirations. It forms the golden triangle of eastern India with Konark and Puri, the seat of the Hindu religious head, Shankaracharya. The Lingaraj Temple of old Bhubaneshwar was constructed in eleventh century CE. The ancient Buddhist archaeological sites of Udaigiri, Rantnagiri, Lalitgiri can be visited in a full-day excursion from Bhubaneshwar with a total circular route of about 90 kilometers or 56 miles. About 8 kilometers or 5 miles from Bhubaneshwar is the great Buddhist shrine of Dhauli that is situated amidst a very peaceful and serene environment. It is famous for its rock edicts of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. After his victory over Kalinga, the Mauryan emperor repented his violent actions and converted to the non-violent teachings of Buddha at this site.

The State Museum of Bhubaneswar has an excellent collection of archaeological artifacts, ancient weapons, local arts and crafts as well as insights into the natural and tribal history of Orissa. It has the largest collection of palm leaf paintings in the world. The Tribal Research Institute Museum with its authentic tribal dwellings, created by the tribal craftsmen is a great place to get a birds eye view of the tribal heritage of Orissa. The Regional Plant Resource Centre (RPRC) has about 500 acres (2 square kilometers) of plantations, tissue culture and experimental laboratory and a huge lake that attracts migratory birds each winter. The two unique features of RPRC are its status for housing the largest rose garden in the country with an area of 20 acres (81,000 square meters) and having the largest collection of Cacti (550 different varieties) in Asia. Bhubaneswar is a shopper's delight. Saris woven by the master weavers in silk and cotton are available in the private shops and government emporium that also offer a wide variety of local artifacts and jewelry made in different parts of the State. The Handloom Weavers Co-operative is worth a visit.

There is a very fast train called Dhauli Express from Howrah Junction station of Kolkata to Bhubaneshwar. Bhubaneshwar is also connected with New Delhi, Kolkata and many other Indian cities by scheduled commercial flights by many domestic airlines of India.

Konark: Another Orissa ruler Narasimha Dev of Ganga Dynasty had the temple complex of Konark near Puri constructed between 1236 and 1264 CE. The remaining ruins of the vast temple are just a fraction of the original temple of Konark. Konark is famous for its Sun Temple on the beach facing Bay of Bengal. It is made of black granite stone. The temple is designed in the form of Surya (Sun god) chariot that is profusely and intricately sculpted both on its exterior and interior. Its entrance has a hall that was used as Natya Mandir or temple dance area. In the month of December each year a festival of Indian classical dances is organized near this temple.

The Sun Temple of Konark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is open from sunrise to sunset on all days of the week throughout the year. The entry fee for foreigners is Rs. 250 or US$ 5 per person, for children up to 15 years of age the entry is free.

Mayadevi Temple, with its entrance facing east, is located to the west of the Sun Temple, is commonly believed to be dedicated to the consort of Sun god but the presence of Sun god in form of Parsvadevata in-situ concludes that this temple was also dedicated to Sun god. Relying on the architectural style it seems to be built in circa late 11th. century CE. This temple of devoid of any deity in its sanctum.

Vaishnav Temple, also facing east, is located in the south-west corner of the Sun Temple complex and was discovered in 1956 during sand clearing by the Archaeological Survey of India. This temple is also dated circa late 11th. century CE. The exterior of the temple is devoid of any decoration and the super-structure of the temple is missing. The images of Balaram, the brother of Krishna, the Hindu incarnation of Vishnu and two Parsvadevatas: Varaha and Trivikrama were found in this temple. The presence of these images confirms its origin to be Vaishnava. These idols were later removed to be preserved in the nearby Archaeological Survey of India Museum.

Puri, the seat of Jagatguru Shri Shankaracharya – one of the four heads of Hindu religion, is about 36 kilometers or 22 miles from Konark.

The temples of this region have some unique architectural characteristics. In general a “Deul” or a typical temple in Orissa has one sanctum in its center, one or several Jagamohana or front porches that usually have pyramidal roofs, one Nata Mandir or dancing hall and one Bhog Mandir or the Hall for offerings.

Pipli Village, near Puri, is a settlement of artisans whose forefathers had received royal patronage to produce artifacts used in the famous Jagannath Temple. Their work most consists of applique craft and the items produced originally included ceremonial umbrellas and other items used in ritual ceremonies in the temple. Their work has now evolved to making items of general tourist interest.

Raghurajpur Artisan Village: This village is located Puri on the road to Bhubaneshwar. The small village in Orissa called Raghurajpur is famous all over India and abroad for its varied and rich traditions of Oriya arts and crafts have been vibrantly kept alive by the skilled villagers. Every one of the 103 family households with about 311 artisans in this village is engaged in some artistic pursuit. Many of the artisans in this village have received national recognition through various national government awards. The works created here are Patachitras, Talapatachitra or palm leaf engravings, stone carvings, papier mache toys and masks, wood carvings, wooden toys, cow-dung toys and tusser paintings. Patachitra is a very typical Oriya painting tradition that has been cultivated for hundreds of years by generations of these families. The artists are called Chitrakaras and their colony is called Chitrakara Sahi. The motifs have drawn inspiration from the famous Hindu Vaishnav Temple of Jagannath at Puri. The artwork of these painters is even now used in various rituals at the famous temple. In the Hindu calendar month of Jyestha (May-June) three patas painted by Chitrakaras are placed on the Singhasana (Deity Throne) inside the Puri Temple during the celebration of Anasara, the fortnight following full moon. The world famous Rathayatra of Jagannath Dev also has valuable contributions of Chitrakaras in the form of painting on the three gigantic chariots. The ancient form of Odissi Dance called Gotipua is another very old tradition that is cherished still in this village of Raghurajpur. The famous Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra, a celebrated master of Odissi dance form in India was born in this village and his initial training in Gotipua tradional dance in this village.

Important Temples in Bhubaneshwar are:

Anant Vasudev Temple
Lingaraja Temple
Mukteshwar Temple
The seven Raja Rani Temples
Parasurameshwar Temple
Bhaskareshwar Temple
Brahmeshwar Temple

Other Temples in Orissa:

Jagannath Puri Temple
Konark Sun Temple

Odissi Classical Dance Form of Orissa

Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra is considered the leading choreographer of classical Odissi form of dance in India. Although there have been some very prominent women Odissi dancers like Sanjukta Panigrahi who is remembered for her interpretation of Odissi dance to depict the ten incarnations of Vishnu, most instructors including Guru Mohapatra were once dancing boys. Odissi ranks among the most important classical dance forms of India with Bharata Natyam from Tamil Nadu, Kathakalli from Kerala and the north Indian Kathak from Uttar Pradesh in general and especially from Lucknow.

4-star hotels:

Mayfair Lagoon - 64 rooms
Trident Hilton Hotel – 59 rooms
Hotel Swosti – 60 rooms

3-star hotels:

Mayfair Lagoon – 70 rooms
The Garden Inn – 87 rooms
Suryansh Hotel – 43 rooms
Panthanivas Hotel – 52 rooms
Swosti Plaza Hotel – 104 rooms
New Marrion Hotel – 52 rooms
Quality Inn Crown – 68 rooms
Hotel Sishimo – 70 rooms

Distance from Bhubaneshwar in Kilometers and Miles:

Cuttack: 25 Kilometers or 16 Miles
Puri: 60 Kilometers or 37 Miles
Konark: 65 Kilometers or 40 Miles
Kolkata: 441 Kilometers or 274 Miles

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