Lantern Fish

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The Best of Bhubaneswar – Why You Need to Visit India’s City of Temples

Bhubaneswar, the capital city of the East Coastal state, Odisha, is well-known for its rich history and cultural heritage. A popular winter destination, the city is accessible by road, rail and air. It offers a great experience in terms of history, culture, wildlife, cuisine and shopping. You’ll find the evidence of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain influence on the city in its various temples, the historical caves and the Peace Pagoda. Bhubaneswar is also well-connected to various other popular destinations in the state, including Konark and Puri. If you’re willing to make longer trips, you also have the option of visiting Bhitarkanika Sanctuary and Chilka Lake, where you can marvel at the coastal wildlife.

Commuting within the city is fairly easy. You have the options of renting a cab or taking an auto rickshaw, and the distances are fairly easy to cover. The city also has lots of decent places to stay, but it would be advisable to make hotel reservations in advance.

If you haven’t made up your mind about visiting Bhubaneswar yet, this post is here to help you find a good reason to.

1) The Ancient Temples

Bhubaneswar isn’t called the Temple City for nothing. Besides the larger, famous temples that tourists and pilgrims come to visit, the city is dotted with various smaller temples just as old and fascinating. If this is your first time in Bhubaneswar, make sure you visit the Lingaraj and Mukteswara temples.

Most of the city’s temples are built in the Kalinga architectural style, and are adorned with beautiful stone carvings that make you wonder what else our species is capable of. Many temples are also built as temple complexes instead of a single temple to a particular deity.

Mukteshwara Temple, Bhubaneswara
Carvings on the Mukteshwara Temple

2) The Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves

The excavation of the caves was started by Kharavela in the 1st century B.C., and adorned with carvings and inscriptions. The caves are situated on the Udaygiri (18 caves) and Khandagiri (15 caves) hills, right across each other. They used to serve as the dwellings of Jain ascetics, and are of archaeological, religious and historical importance.

The cells all originally served as the sleeping quarters for the ascetics, but some were later modified into shrines. The most noteworthy caves include the Rani Gumpha and Hathi Gumpha, though all the caves are equally mesmerising.

Carved doorways of the Udaygiri caves
Carvings on the doorways of the caves
Udaygiri caves
Udaygiri caves

3) Dahuli

The site is of great historical significance, as it is believed that the Kalinga War was fought here. Known for the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda) atop the Dhauli Hill and Ashoka’s rock edicts, the place makes for a peaceful stop on your itinerary.

Dhauli is situated about 8 km from Bhubaneswar, and is easily accessible by road. A light and sound show is also organized in the evening, and you may enjoy that as well.

The Peace Pagoda on Dhauli Hill
The Shanti Stupa on Dhauli Hill

4) Nandankanan Zoological Park

Right next to the Chandak forest range, this zoological park hosts a variety of both indigenous and exotic mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The enclosures include both cages and open moat enclosures, and the park offers safaris such as the lion, white tiger, bear and herbivore safaris.

The park is especially known for white tigers and various other species that are unique to this zoo. The park has also successfully bred the endangered gharial, among other species.

5) Textiles and Handicrafts

Odishan textiles have their own reputation, especially the handwoven cotton and silk sarees. The saris come in various types of print and fabric, and are named for their particular characteristics. The ikat saris are made using a tie-and-dye technique, and are much sought after. You will also find a variety in the borders of the saris, ranging from narrow, simple and printed to embroidered.

The handicrafts of the state range from brass work, stone carvings and traditional paintings to palm leaf inscriptions. These make wonderful presents and souvenirs.

The best place to go shopping for the state’s handlooms and handicrafts would be in Ashok Nagar, where you’ll find Boyanika, Khadi India and Utkalika showrooms.

Silk and cotton saris

The Temple City is a lot more than just a city full of old temples- it’s a statement that one can be influenced by a lot of different people and circumstances. It is proof that everything you face and everyone you meet contributes to your identity. So if you’re looking to make a few additions to your own identity, maybe Bhubaneswar can help you.

M.K.

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