Sambalpur is the gateway to the western zone of Orissa. It abounds in prolific rivers, lavish hills, lush green forests and affluent wildlife. It is a beautiful amalgamation of modernity and culture. Holding a significant historical importance, the place also has a flourishing textile and handloom industry popular for its unique patterns and style. In addition to that, Sambalpur has a flourishing tribal life with exclusive exquisite folk songs-dances and culture. Sambalpur got its name from Devi Samaleswari who is the main goddess of the region. One can also visit wildlife parks here to enjoy the beauty of nature that Sambalpur has in plenty. The area is known for the world famous Hirakud Dam which is the main attraction for the tourists here.
There are also several temples holding great significance, with people coming from all over with a strong sense of faith and the holy deity bestowing happiness and wealth upon the devotees. Sambalpur is the biggest city of western Odisha and is famous for the number of freedom fights that took place here which make this place historically important too.The District covering a geographical area of 6702 sq km, is surrounded by Deogarh District in the East, Bargarh Districts in the West, Jharsuguda District in the North and Sonepur and Angul Districts in the South. The District of Sambalpur has a history full of events including Indian freedom struggle representing the different section of the society. Total population of the District as per 2011 census is 10,41,099.
Sambalpur District experiences extreme type of climate with 66 rainy days and 153 centimetres rainfall on an average per annum. Most of the rainfall is confined to the months from June to October visited by south west monsoon. Mercury rises upto 47 degree C during May with intolerable heat wave and falls as low as 11.8 degree C during December with extreme cold. The rainfall is highly uneven and irregular.
The economy of Sambalpur District is basically dependent on agriculture and secondly on forests. Forests play an important role in the economy in terms of contribution to revenue, Domestic Product as well as dependence of people for livelihood. In the past Sambalpur has been a great centre of diamond trade. Kendu leaf (Diospyros Melanoxylon) is also produced in Sambalpur. Tendu leaf is one of the most important non–wood forest products of Sambalpur and is also called as green gold of Odisha. Lately industrialisation has started in the district and the prime industries of power, alumina and steel have been established. The place is famous for its globally renowned textile bounded patterns and fabrics locally known as Baandha. Sambalpur is famous for its Hand loom textile works, popularly known as Sambalpuri Textile. It has earned international fame for its unique pattern, design and texture. Apart from textiles, Samabalpur has a rich tribal heritage and fabulous forestlands.
The literacy rate of Sambalpur District is 76.91 percent.Indian Institute of Management,Sambalpur University, Gangadhar Meher University, IIM, Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology(VSSUT), VSS Intitute of Medical Science and Research(VIMSAR), Gayatri College of Pharmacy, Dr P.M Institute of Advanced studies in Education, Gayatri College of Management, Gayatri College of Pharmacy, Lajpat Rai Law College, Sambalpur Nursing college are the famous educational institutes in the District.
Sambalpur is a culturally rich city of west Odisha. This city named after Goddess Samaleswari is home to the Samaleswari temple located in the heart of the city. The annual Sambalpur Lok Mahotsav is a great celebration of art and music. The Sitalsasthi Carnival which celebrates Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati's marriage is another major festival of the city. Nuakhai is the most important social festival of the District. Bhaijiuntia festival is celebrated on the Mahastami Day of Durga Puja. The Puajiuntia festival is observed by mothers to invoke the grace of Lord Dutibahana for the long life and prosperity of their sons. Other religious festivals which are observe include Shiva Ratri, Dola Yatra, Durga Puja, Janmanstami, Diwali, Ganesh Puja and Saraswati Puja.
Many eminent personalities have taken birth on the soil of the Sambalpur District. Bir Surendra Sai (freedom fighter), Gangadhar Meher (Poet of nature), Bhama Bhoi (celebrated religious and poet), Satya Narayan Bohidar (Pioneer of Sambalpuri language and grammer), Swapneswar Das (accomplished poet and eminent journalist), Gokulanand Panda (Poet of extraordinary caliber), Sunil Mishra (renowned writer of humour and social satire), Braja Mohan Panda (Educationist of repute) and Laxmi Narayan Mishra (Eminent freedom fighter) are the famous personalities of this soil.
The abode of Goddess Samaleswari -the presiding deity of Sambalpur is one of the most revered temples of the state. The benevolence of the Goddess spreads across Western Odisha up to Chhattisgarh. The goddess is worshipped in various forms across the region. On the bank of the river Mahanadi the mother goddess Samaleswari is worshipped from ancient times as Jagatjanani, Adishakti, Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati. The region in which the temple is situated has a rich cultural heritage. Though the origin of the Goddess is still shrouded in mystery, one thing has been ascertained that Goddess Samaleswari was appropriated as the deity of Sambalpur by the Chouhan King Balaram Dev, who became the King of the region in 1542 AD. The main priest of the Samaleswari Temple is the descendants of the Chouhan dynasty. Apart from tribal influence, the rituals of the temple has an element of tantra as well. She is offered both vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings on specific days.
The abode of Lord Shiva worshipped as Vimaleswara is located on the banks of River Mahanadi, 23 KM from Sambalpur and is a revered place of worship in the region. The highlight of the temple is its leaning structure, not only the main sanctum sanctorum is in an inclined position, but all the other shrines including the boundary wall are in a leaning position within the temple premises. The reason for constructing a leaning structure according to a section of historians is deliberate and has been done to safe guard the temple from the violent currents of Mahanadi and Dhulijore. So while the main temple leans in one direction, the smaller shrines within the premise tilt in the other direction. The main deity of this temple is Lord Shiva. According to legend, there was a milkman who used to cross the Mahanadi every day, to worship Lord Shiva. He used to offer milk to the rock idol of Shiva, which consumed the milk every day. This miraculous incident led to the construction of Huma Temple in the place. The most visited day of this temple is the Shivratri, when a large number of devotees come here for offering milk to the idol of Lord Shiva, present in this temple.
Maa Ghanteswari Temple is situated 33 km south-west of Sambalpur, on the banks of River Mahanadi. Maa Ghanteswari's Temple is one of the most holiest and beautiful places in Sambalpur. As the name indicates, there are bells (Ghanti) everywhere. People offer bell to Maa after their fulfilment of their wishes. A large number of pilgrims visit this place every day from across the state. This is also a very famous picnic spot. The specialty of this temple area is, thousands of bells hanging all around, the only place of its kind in Orissa. It is known as the 'lighthouse without light', built by the early sailors, for whom the bells served as warning against heavy winds. Earlier there were some big size bells on this spot and with the help of wind those were creating enormous sound which made the navigators aware of this treacherous spot and they never came near it. This area being the conglomeration of three streams of water of river Mahanadi, the water current here is very treacherous forming a whirlpool. Now after the construction of Hirakud dam, this spot became safer.
Often treated as one of the perfect day-out spots in Sambalpur, Odisha, Hirakud is historical dam constructed across the River Mahanadi. Of all dams, Hirakud is the longest dam in India. Apart from being a prominent reservoir, this beautiful dam is also a revered tourist attraction in Odisha which is known for its eternal beauty and gorgeous surrounding. From its construction in 1957, this iconic masterpiece is making the country proud by being one of Asia’s biggest artificial lake. Moreover, the 21 km stretch of the dam is ideal for a drive. In the monsoon season, the beauty of the place rejoices and attracts a large number of tourists. There are also two observation tower - Gandhi Minar and Nehru Minar. From these towers, one can have a bird-eye view of the surrounding.
Gudguda waterfall is situated near Kuchinda sub-division. The waterfall around the dense forest attracts the tourists and is one of the most beautiful Picnic Spots. Though Gudguda comes under Sambalpur District, Many people’s flock this place from neighboring towns like Deogarh , Jharsuguda , Sambalpur and even Rourkela too. Journey to this place is very pleasant. This place is fully covered with dense forest. There are many Mango and Lichi Orchards on both side of the roads. It is a very peaceful place away from your hectic and busy life. Before entering to the exact spot one need to cross a small waterfall, which can easily be crossed by any four wheeler. This Place has three Step by step waterfalls, these Waterfall have been beautifully carved themselves through the rocks. The place is also good for Mountain Trekking.
Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary, an important site for in-situ conservation of wildlife and its habitat in the state of Odisha is home to an immense array of biodiversity, a large number of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, odonates, butterflies and spiders are found here. The sanctuary is famous for its sylvan beauty and pristine wilderness. The dry deciduous forests with varied flora and fauna attract the nature-lovers of Odisha and neighboring states every year. The combination of dry deciduous mixed forests with rich wildlife, Hirakud reservior and attractive topographical features are the important features of Debrigarh wildlife sanctury. It is said to be one of the vibrant wildlife sanctuary of the state.