Temples, Shrines And Spiritual Places Across Odisha

Odisha is well known for its ancient history, temples, monuments, beaches, wildlife reserves, arts and festivals. The region is also known as ‘Utkala’ and is mentioned in India’s national anthem. The ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE resulting in the Kalinga War, coincides with the borders of modern-day Odisha. The name “Odisha” is derived from the local language Odia (a language derived mostly from the ancient Sanskrit language), which is the official language of the state. Bhubaneswar is the capital and the largest city, and Cuttack is the former capital and the second largest city in the state of Odisha.

Odisha is the haven where spirituality mingles with sanctity. Known as the ‘Land of Temples’, Odisha is an abode to thousands of temples, drawing pilgrims from all across the country. Famously known for the Jagannath Temple at Puri that stands out as a pivot of the Char-Dham pilgrimages of the Hindus, Odisha paints a picturesque view of serenity and piousness. The people of Odisha are known to be devoted to Lord Jagannath, who is considered as a non-sectarian deity and represented differently in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The famous Rath-Yatra draws attention has its fame, recognised by all.

Another example of architectural glamour is the Sun Temple of Konark that stands shining with the glory of the sun-god or Surya. This 13th-century grandeur is now a part of the UNESCO world heritage site. This temple stands with 24 well-sculptured wheels, representing the 24 hours in a day, is led by six magnificently carved horses. The Lingaraja Temple is also regarded to touch upon the realm of inner sanctity. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple stands out as the largest temple in the city of Bhubaneswar. The splendid courtyard comprises 50 small temples that are dedicated to 50 gods of the Hindu religious sects. Pilgrims throng near ‘Temple of Salvation’, or more popularly known as the Mukteswar temple is a spectacular visual delight. Shiva is in the form of Mukta, the Lord of Salvation. To date, it is regarded as one of the finest ‘gems of the Kalinga architecture’.

The relics of Orissa seem to present different stories like the Brahmeswara temple at Bhubaneswar echo Mythological stories whereas Parsumeswara Temple of Bhubaneswar speaks of the stories of Lord Parshuram. Rajarani Temple at Bhubaneswar is made distinct by the use of red and gold sandstones, likely from where the name is derived, and remains an awe to its visitors.

Buddhism was in surge in Odisha during the reign of Emperor Ashoka, which gave birth to a number of Buddhist sites like Dhauli, located on the bank of River Daya, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri etc. Digambara Jaina temple remains the spiritual abode to Jains that ensures the salvation of mind. The Archaelogical Survey of India protects this fine specimen of art.

Fairs and Festivals

Fairs and festivals are a blissful escape from the mundaneness of life. Like other states, Odisha celebrates Indian festivals like Holi, Durga Puja and Diwali, but there are some festivals that remain as a part of cultural dominance to Odisha.

Odisha is widely known for the famous Rath Yatra that happens once every year to represent the iconic journey of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. The magnificent and well-decorated deities of Krishna, Balaram, and Subhadra are taken in a 10-meter square chariot, pulled by numerous men. To celebrate the beauty of the Sun Temple of Konark and the gracefulness of the Odissi dance, the Konark dance festival is celebrated. To mark this extravagant festival, dancers from all over India join in to participate.

Odia people are full of gaiety and happiness, and this is easily identified by the celebration of the Mahabisuva Sankranti, which marks the beginning of the Odia calendar. Devotees adorn the temples of Hanumana, Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu, to grant the positivity and success on their new year. Makar Mela marks the harvest of the new paddy. The Makara Mela is observed annually at Dhabaleswar in Cuttack. This Mela is enjoyed by the enthusiastic crowd, offering prayers to the Sun-God for a healthy life.

The Joranda Mela is celebrated in the Dhenkanal District of Odisha every year, during the month of January or February, on the day of Magha Purnima (full moon day). Monks, ascetics, and devotees join in to pay their devotion and tribute to Mahima Gosain’s Samadhi Pitha. Odisha is a state of wonder, so is the culture, stealing the minds of visitors every year.