Visit the ancient city of Bhubaneshwar (Bhuban being the world and Ishwar God) and it is a walk down centuries of temple architecture. With 600 temples still extant, temples are to this ancient city what forts are to Rajasthan. It is probably the only city that provides an authentic overview of the stages of development of Hindu religious architecture.
Once the capital of an ancient kingdom, the city still reverberates with the echoes of the past amidst its bustling modernity. Well-known as the jewel of eastern India, Bhubaneshwar marks the merger of the cultures of two millennia. Here, the ancient town and world famous temples exist side by side with the newly constructed capital, consisting of offices, courts, buildings and private residences. It reflects a synthesis of the best of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultures.
Bhubaneshwar is going in for large-scale industrialization, thereby competing with the other industrial towns of the Eastern region. Besides its business connections, Bhubaneshwar is an important destination for sightseers, and tourists can easily arrange excursions to other parts of the state.
There is a variety of exotic handicrafts and delicious seafood. And surprisingly, Bhubaneshwar is one of the least expensive destinations in the entire country.
More About Orissa
The ancient name of Bhubaneshwar is Ekamrakshetra. It was under the powerful kingdom of Kalinga, considered as a favourite resort of Lord Shiva, that Bhubaneshwar became an important centre of pilgrimage. At the peak of their power, the Kalinga Kings suddenly came into conflict with Ashoka, the ruler of powerful Mauryan Empire. Around 260 BC, Ashoka sent a powerful force to conquer Kalinga. Shocked at the resultant carnage, Ashoka gave up war forever and embraced the Buddhist faith of ahimsa. But Buddhism quickly faded under the rule of Kharavela, the third Chedi King and Jainism was restored as the faith among people. Later invasions that followed replaced Jainism with Shaivism and many temples were built at Bhubaneshwar during the 9th century. Muslim incursions later overthrew the Hindu rulers. Thereafter, Orissa was ruled by the Muslims, the Afghans, the Marathas and finally by the British in 1803 AD.
Bhubaneshwar has been built in two parts; on one side is the ancient town with its world famous temples and on the other, the newly constructed capital with its offices, courts and private residences. As the capital of the Kalinga kingdom it had more than 7,000 temples, of which only 500 remain today.
Bindu Sagar Lake: Literally meaning "ocean drop", this large tank is located at the centre of the old Bhubaneshwar city. Pilgrims flock to take a dip in the lake which is supposed to wash away their sins. A tiny island with several shrines can be found at the centre of the lake. Notable among the temples is the Ananta Vasudeva temple, which is worth visiting.
Dhauli Hill: Driving down the Puri Konark Highway from Bhubaneshwar, one comes across Dhauli hill on the banks of the River Daya. Here, surrounded by the greenery of paddy fields is the third century BC Ashokan Rock Edict, a memory of the gruesome war that transformed Ashoka, the great warrior, into a Buddhist missionary. The hill is crowned by the Santi Stupa, a white Japanese peace pagoda, representing five ancient Buddhist virtues.
Brahmeswara Temple: The 11th century Brahmeswara temple is situated amidst calm, green surroundings, at the outskirts of the city. Considered the abode of Brahma, the elaborate ribbed architecture of the temple shows dancing women and Orissa lions attractively carved on the exterior walls.
Handicraft Museum: This museum has a splendid collection of stone sculptures, patta paintings, brass castings, horn toys and famous filigree.
Khandagiri and Udaygiri Hills: The twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri are filled with ancient Jain caves cut from the rocks, which seem to form a honeycomb. These caves were carved out during 1st and 2nd century BC to serve as human habitations for the ruler of Kalinga and his queens. Later, they were used by monks and sages who meditated here. Udaygiri has 44 caves carved out of sandstone. Noteworthy among these are Rani Gumpha or Queen's cave, a two storied structure with a spacious courtyard and elaborate sculptural friezes. The Hathi Gupha, the Elephant cave, records the life chronicle of King Kharavada, the first Oriya ruler, responsible for the expansion of the Kalinga Empire. The entrances to the temples are decorated with ancient Pali inscriptions. Khandagiri has a series of cave temples belonging to the Hindu and Jain faiths.
Lingaraja Temple: The Lingaraja temple dominates the skyline of Bhubaneshwar from as far away as 15 km and exhibits the skill of the Oriya temple architects at its completely mature and developed stage. This temple was constructed in the 11th century AD at the sight of an old 7th Century shrine. Along with the Duel and the Jagmohana, the Lingaraja Temple has two new structures, the nata mandira ( dance hall ) and the bhoga mandapa ( offering hall ). Dedicated to Lord Shiva the 'Lingam' here is unique in that it is a 'hari hara' lingam - half Shiva and half Vishnu. There are 150 subsidiary shrines within this giant temple.
Mukteswara Temple: Bridging the early and later phases of the Kalinga School of temple building, the 10th century Mukteswara temple is truly considered a gem of a temple. The temple is famous for its rich sculpted ornate arch, and the rare interior carvings. The carvings depict tales from the Panchatantra and representations of the whole pantheon of gods.
The Orissa State Museum: A visit to the museum provides an instant overview of Orissa as it was and still is. It has a rich collection of sculptures, coins, copper plates, stone inscriptions, lithic and Bronze Age tools, rare manuscripts written on palm leaves, traditional and folk musical instruments.
Tribal Museum: This museum provides an insight into the tribal culture of India.
Parasurameswara Temple: Built in 650 AD this is one of the earliest temples of Bhubaneshwar. This temple built in the Kalinga style of temple architecture was dedicated to Lord Shiva but there are images of Lord Vishnu, Yama, Surya and seven Mother Goddesses. In typical fashion, it is liberally sculpted with amorous couples, animals and floral motifs. Just south of Parasurameswara temple is the Swaranajaleswara temple. Built in a similar style, the motifs on the walls however differ, depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
Raja Rani Temple: Set amidst picturesque surroundings, this 11th century structure is graceful, elegant and unusual due to the absence of any deity. The feminine form is the subject here, and it is presented in various aesthetic and seductive poses. The temple is known for its unusual tower.
Siddharanya: The sweet water spring here, was once surrounded by a mango grove. Located near the Mukteshwar temple, the spring is also known as Kedar Gouri or Gouri Kunda.
Vaital Temple: It is the shrine of Chamunda or Shakti. Seated on a corpse in a dark inner sanctum is the Goddess Chamunda (a tantric form of Goddess Kali ) or Shakti, a garland of skulls round her neck and flanked by a jackal and an owl. The niches on the inner wall depict equally startling images along with scenes of tantric rituals.
Nandan Kanan Biological Park: Situated between Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack, Nandan Kanan is a patch of undulating and sylvan forest, flanked by the beautiful Kanjia Lake. It has a rich collection of animals, birds, reptiles including the white tiger, black panther and gharials.
Excursions from Bhubaneshwar include Lake Chilika, the hot springs of Atri, Bhittarkanika, Gahirmatha, Similpal, the waterfalls of Barehipani and Jaranda, the crocodile sanctuary at Joshipur and the beach resorts of Gopalpur and Chandipur.
Art and Entertainment:
Places to eat:
How to get there
Air: Bhubaneshwar is connected to Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Vishakapatnam.
Best Season: October to March
Languages: Oriya, Bengali, Hindi, English
Compiled by Pallavi Bhattacharya
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.