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Bhubaneshwar

The day breaks at Bhubaneswar to scores of temple bells proclaiming the advent of the Sun God. The temple shikharas (spires) assume a favourable visibility and human zeal becomes pronounced. The business of the day progresses with religious fervour. Such is the significance of temples in this town that almost the entire life revolves around them. The town lives for its temples, and the temples by the town.

A part of the great northern Indian plains, Agra has a tropical climate. Summers are extremely hot and the maximum temperature can be as high as 45 degree Celsius, while winters are cold and foggy. The monsoon season is marked by heavy rains and high humidity.

Bhubaneswar derives its name from the Sanskrit word Tribhuvaneswara, another name for Lord Shiva. The area around Bhubaneswar constituted the famed kingdom of Kalinga, which was conquered after a bloody battle by Ashoka, the great Mauryan emperor. Appalled at the carnage, Ashoka renounced violence and embraced Buddhism. Around the 1st century BC, under the rule of Kharavela, Orissa regained its lost glory and Bhubaneswar again became the centre of activities. During this period, monastery caves were constructed of which Khandagiri and Udaygiri are the most important. By the 7th century, Hinduism supplemented Jainism, and Ganga and Kesari kingdoms did a lot for the development of Orissan culture. Most of the kings who ruled Orissa constructed beautiful temples. For a better part of its history, Bhubaneswar remained under the influence of Afghans, Marathas, and the British (till 1947).

Sightseeing:

Lingaraja Temple:

The 55-metre-high Lingaraja Temple is a rare masterpiece depicting the high point of Orissan architecture of the 10th-11th century. Described as /”the truest fusion of dream and reality,/” every inch of its surface is covered with elaborate carvings of gods, goddesses, dryads, nymphs and fairies. The temple can be seen from miles away and the sculpture and architecture here fuse elegantly to create a perfect harmony. It is believed that all pilgrims, who wish to go to the Jagannath temple at Puri, must first offer worship at the Lingaraja temple. The temple has two added structures—the Natya Mandir (dance hall) and the Bhoga Mandap (offering platform). It is important to note that non-Hindus are not allowed inside the Lingaraja Temple.

Rajarani Temple:

The Rajarani Temple (AD 1100), set amongst picturesque paddy fields, derives its name from the stone known as the Rajarani. It was built earlier in comparison to the impressive Lingaraja, but what sets apart this relatively small temple is its celebration of the feminine form. Here women are portrayed in a stunning variety of amorous poses and moods reminding one of the temples of Khajuraho.

Mukteshwar Temple:

Perhaps the most ornate temple in Bhubaneswar, the Mukteshwar Temple (7th–8th century AD) has intricate carvings of deities that show the amalgamation of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain styles of architecture. The carvings on the roof, especially the bho motifs of the grinning lion and the monkey, are quite striking. There is a well to the south of the temple in which childless women toss a coin to wish for a child.

Brahmeshwara Temple:

The Brahmeshwara Temple (AD 1050) is situated around a kilometre east of the main road of the city. It stands in a courtyard flanked by four smaller temples and a Shivling. Besides, there are other minor shrines in every corner of the courtyard. Two interesting images are found inside this temple: a well-oiled image of Lakshmi, covered in cloth, and a miniature image of Nataraja sitting on a bull and playing a veena.

Ashokan Edicts At Dhauli Hills:

The famous rock edicts of Ashoka, inscribed in the third century BC, are located at Dhauli, around 8 km from Bhubaneswar. The carnage that followed the Kalinga War transformed the emperor, and he came here some 2,300 years ago to seek salvation. It is also believed that Ashoka set out to preach Buddhism from Dhauli. A white stupa (pillar), built in collaboration with Japanese Buddhists, is located on the hills and can be seen from miles away.

Excursions From Bhubaneshwar:

Chilika Lake:
The largest brackish water lake in Asia, the Chilika Lake is situated at a distance of 121 km from Bhubaneswar. The lake supports a great variety of aquatic birds which arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas, to feed and breed in its fertile waters. The shimmering blue waters of the lake attract large number of tourists to this place year after year. The shoreline presents some exciting trekking routes and beach camping facilities. For those in search of leisure or adventure, Chilika makes for an ideal getaway from Bhubaneswar.

Gopalpur-on-Sea:
Gopalpur-on-Sea is a beautiful and small beach resort located along the Bay of Bengal at a distance of around 180 km from Bhubaneswar. Originally a small fishing village on the coast of Orissa, it was so named when a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna was constructed some time in the 18th century. Apart from its temple, Gopalpur is distinguished for its magnificent beach where boating, yachting, and a seaside run invite visitors to share the expanse and have fun.

Konark:
The Sun Temple at Konark, 65 km away from Bhubaneswar, is a magnificent 13th-century temple. On the shore, Surya, the Sun God, speeding across the sky in a gorgeous chariot has been captured in stone. With its 12 pairs of giant, marvellously sculpted wheels and seven richly caparisoned horses straining their necks to pull the massive weight, the Sun is often described as an allegory in stone — the highest point of achievement in the Kalinga school of architecture.

Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri:
Situated 90 km to the northeast of Bhubaneswar are the isolated hills of the Assia range—Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri. These hills possess the ruins of the most unique Buddhist monastic complex in the world. Recent excavations at Lalitgiri have yielded some evidence of an ancient Buddhist complex. On the basis of iconographical similarities, the chronology of this site now dates back to the Sunga period, i.e., the second century BC. Among the many noteworthy discoveries at this site is an ancient stupa containing relics preserved in caskets of stone. Its antiquity and its silver and gold contents have led to speculations that these are relics of Lord Buddha. Further findings of black polished inscribed pieces of pottery of Ashokan Brahmi script and a number of inscriptional evidence such as Kushan inscriptions, ornamental Brahmi, etc., have corroborated in establishing Lalitagiri as a flourishing Buddhist centre of the second century BC. The excavations at Ratnagiri, on the other hand, have revealed the remains of an imposing stupa, two quadrangular monasteries, a single-winged monastery, eight temples, a large number of small stupas, sculptures, and architectural pieces indicative of an establishment that can be compared with the major Buddhist sites in the world. The site also yielded a rich crop of antiquities. Particularly noteworthy are the bronze and stone images of the Buddha and a host of idols of the Buddhist pantheon. A large head of the Buddha found on top the hill indicates the colossal nature of the original images.

Puri:
Situated on the eastern coastline of the country, Puri is an important town of Orissa, around 60 km from Bhubaneswar. The wonderfully wide beaches, the fishing farms and the superb resorts make it an inviting place for tourists from all over the world. For the Indians, especially the Hindus, Puri has been a popular destination because of the famous temple of Lord Jagannath. The town becomes a hub of activity during the annual Rath Yatra festival when thousands of pilgrims from all over the country flock to participate in this stately event.

Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves:
The twin hills of Udaygiri and Khandagiri, 7 km away from Bhubaneswar, are important sites in the archaeological history of India. There are 18 caves in Udaygiri, of which Hathigumpha (elephant cave) is the most important. Khandagiri, on the other hand, houses 15 caves and gives a hilltop view of the city of Bhubaneswar. Most of the caves inside have a definite Jain influence. They are decorated with statues, panels, and friezes displaying amorous and war legends. The most attractive are the Rani Nur Gumpha (2nd century BC) and Ganesh Gumpha that carry the inscription of Kalinga king, Kharavela, of the Chedi dynasty. Portraits of Kalinga royalty are depicted in the Rani Nur and Manchapuri caves. The other caves illustrate Jain legends, mythology and iconography. The style of sculpture demonstrates a technique quite advanced to its age and is suggestive of the stage of development seen in Sanchi. There is a plethora of frozen scenes in stone such as the hunt of a winged deer and the abduction of a woman.

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