Odisha (formerly Orissa), is an East Indian state situated on the coast along the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded by the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal to the north and northeast, by the Bay of Bengal to the east, and by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to the south and Chhattisgarh to the west. Before India became independent in 1947, Odisha’s capital was at Cuttack. The present capitol was subsequently built at Bhubaneshwar, in the vicinity of the city’s historic temples in the east-central coastal plains. In late 2011 the state’s name was officially changed from Orissa to Odisha. Odisha stands for its ancient glory and modern endeavour. It covers a journey from being the homeland of 67 tribal communities to becoming a sports destination and an investment haven. Odisha remains an enigma, as you traverse from East to West or North to South; every bend has an untold story, an untouched presence, like a surprise that’s waiting to be revealed.
Since its earliest known history, the land that roughly corresponds to present-day Odisha has gone by various names, most notably Utkala (or Okkala), Kalinga, and Odra Desha (or Oddaka), which appeared in ancient literature as designations for particular tribes. At the dawn of Indian history, Kalinga was already a famous and formidable political power. Buddhist sources refer to the rule of King Brahmadatta in Kalinga at the time of the Buddha’s death, sometime between the 6th and the 4th century BCE. In the 4th century BCE the first Indian empire builder, Mahapadma Nanda, founder of the Nanda dynasty, conquered Kalinga, but the Nanda rule was short-lived. In 260 BCE the Mauryan emperor Ashoka invaded Kalinga and fought one of the greatest wars of ancient history. He then renounced war, became a Buddhist, and preached peace and nonviolence in and outside India. In the 1st century BCE the Kalinga emperor Kharavela conquered vast territories that collectively came to be called the Kalinga empire. Kalinga enjoyed a golden age under the Ganga dynasty. The Ganga ruler Anantavarman Chodagangadeva (1078–1147) ruled from the Ganges River to the Godavari River with Cuttack as his capital. He began the construction of the temple of Jagannatha (“Lord of the World”) at Puri. Narasimha I (1238–64) built the Sun Temple (Surya Deula) of Konark, one of the finest specimens of Hindu architectureIt was sometime between the 11th and 16th centuries that the name Kalinga fell into disuse. In its place arose the old tribal name Odra Desha, which was gradually transformed into Odisha (or Uddisha, or Udisa), which in English became Orissa; that spelling persisted until the original Odisha was reinstated in the early 21st century. The language of the region came to be known as Oriya.
Odisha’s forests cover nearly one-third of the state. They are commonly classified into two categories: tropical moist deciduous and tropical dry deciduous. The first type occupies the hills, plateaus, and more-isolated areas within the north-eastern part of the state, while the second is found in the southwest. From northeast to southwest, the density of forest cover generally decreases. Bamboo grows in both forest types, as do tropical hardwoods, such as teak, rosewood, and padauk. Odisha’s woodlands are inhabited by an array of wildlife, much of which is protected in parks and sanctuaries established by the state and national governments. Notable mammals include elephants, gaurs (wild cattle), blackbucks, four-horned antelope, several types of tigers, and various species of monkeys. Peacocks are among the characteristic birds of Odisha’s forests. In the east-central coastal region, Chilka Lake is a breeding ground for many fish and waterfowl.
Odisha has a rich artistic heritage and has produced some of the finest examples of Indian art and architecture. Among the most-notable traditions in the visual arts are mural painting, stone carving, wood carving, icon painting (known as patta), and painting on palm leaves. The state also is widely recognized for its exquisite silver filigree ornamentation, pottery, and decorative work. In tribal areas Odisha has a wide variety of dances. Music of the madal (a type of local drum) and flute is characteristic of the countryside. The classical dance of Odisha, known as odissi, has survived for more than 700 years. Originally it was a temple dance performed for the gods. The movements, gestures, and poses of the dance are depicted in relief on the walls of the great temples. Chhau, a type of masked dance associated with the Mayurbhanj district and adjacent areas in the north, is emblematic of Oriya culture. For the promotion of dancing and music, the Kala Vikash Kendra centre was founded at Cuttack in 1952, and it has continued to be a prominent arts performance and training venue in Odisha.
Odisha (Orissa) is a veritable museum of India's sculptural and artistic heritage and has long been famous to scholars and connoisseurs for the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark (The legendary 'Black Pagoda' of European mariners), for the majestic temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri (renowned for the spectacular Rath Yatra chariot festival), and for the glorious temples of Bhubaneswar. The small but ever-growing number of sophisticated tourists who do manage to find their way to Odisha (Orissa) are generally prepared with some knowledge of these temples, of the delicate Orissan ikat textiles which have become famous throughout the world, and, perhaps, of the beaches at Puri and Gopalpur on sea. Odisha (Orissa) is home to three mighty rivers and to the largest fresh/salt water lake in Asia, to dozens of the most sacred places of pilgrimage in India, and to hundreds of thousands of small, traditional villages, in which almost all of her 26 million people live.
A preferred destination for tourists from across the globe, Odisha (Orissa) is a place where one finds an astute amalgamation of spirituality, religion, culture, art and nature. Tourists flocking Odisha (Orissa) get really enthralled having visited Konark -a masterpiece of ancient and medieval architecture, Puri- a land of pristine sea beaches and nature at her beautiful best.
With a number of festivals and fairs also taking place round the year, Odisha (Orissa) stands as a true land of festivities where the tourists can never get bored of. With the spirit of Buddhism still haunting the very air of the state, Odisha (Orissa) is a place where the language of stone defeats human language.
Traveling throughout Odisha (Orissa) is vivid and full of surprises. The destinations are easily accessible and well connected. The road network, though patchy in the deep remote stretches, is generally good with reasonable facilities. Bhubaneswar is the ideal gateway with air, rail and road links connecting it to major parts of India and also the important centres of the State.