Orissa, located on the eastern coast of India, was established on the 1st of April 1936 as a province. It was previously known as Kalinga, when the Mauryan King Ashoka invaded it in 261 BC. Bhubaneshwar is the capital of Orissa and the language spoken is Oriya. It is the ninth largest state in terms of area (155,707 km²) and eleventh largest in terms of population (36,706,920) in India. Orissa has a historic relevance spanning around 5000 years.
Why Visit Orissa?
The state consists of 30 districts and has 480 kilometers of coastline. Orissa houses the Hirakud dam, which is the longest earthen dam in the world. Tourists from all over the world come to visit the Sun Temple in Konark, Jagannath Temple of Puri and its captivating beach, Ashoka’s rock edict at Behrampur, Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves, Barabati Fort in Cuttack and many more destinations which hold utmost importance in the archeological history of India. The famous Rath Yatra (car festival) is carried out with much aplomb in Puri.
Exploring the Culture of Orissa
Oriya is the language spoken by majority of people in Orissa. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan subdivision of the Indo-European family of languages and bears resemblance to Assamese and Bengali. Orissa has one of the richest and opulent cultural heritages. Its cultural significance is dotted with instances from Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
Odissi is identified as a classical art form in India and is the oldest surviving dance form in India according to archeological evidence. The dance form, which has a tradition of around 2000 years, was extinct during the British period; but it was revived by some of the greatest dance Gurus such as Kelu Charan Mahapatra, Raghu Datta, Mahadev Rout and Pankaj Charan Das after India’s independence.
The famous Ghumura dance is a folk dance in Orissa and claimed by many researchers to be a war dance used by Ravana in Mahabharata. The Kau dance form is a tribal martial dance originated from Mayurbhanj. Mahari, another form, has its origins from the temples in Orissa and substantiates the ‘Devadasi’ cult in Orissa.
Pala is a unique balladry practiced in Orissa which combines theatre, music and poetry. The Gotipua dance is practice to please the Gods. The musical scene is very charming and colorful in Orissa and has been compiled since the sixteenth century and is a combination of Dhruvapada, Chitrapada, Chitrakala and Panchal.
Sand art and structural art have unique renditions in Orissa. It ranges from the famous Rath Yatra or Car festival in Puri, artwork of Pipili, stone utensils of Nilgiri and the varieties of Saris. A majority of people in Orissa are Hindus and the state is a home to many Hindu figures. People here are very religious and many rituals adorn the culture of the state.
The kitchen of Lord Jagannath in Puri is told to be the largest in the world. Typical food in Orissa comprises of Rasgullas, Kheeri, Pithas, Chenna Jheeli, Pakhala, Mudhi and more. Dr. Kalam introduced many of these dishes to the Rashtrapati Bhavan when he was the President of India.
Facts for Tourists
Orissa houses some of the finest beaches and heritage sites. The best time to visit the state is in from December to March. Women are advised to wear decent clothes to temples. Nudity is an offence on beaches. The climate is humid, so cotton clothes are preferable.