The capital of Odisha also known as the “Temple city” is a beautiful amalgamation of the past and the present. While the southern part of the city relives the memories of a glorious past, the Northern part is the harbinger of an exciting future. The name Bhubaneswar is derived from the name “Tribhubaneswar” a name of lord Shiva which literally means “The Lord of the Earth”
Designed by renowned German Architect Otto Konigsberger in 1946, Bhubaneswar is one of independent India’s first planned cities, along with Chandigarh and Jamshedpur. Bhubaneswar replaced Cuttack as the capital of Odisha in 1948. Though officially it became operational as the state capital from 19th August 1949.
The city is a fusion where the old and the new perfectly gel together and infact feeds of each other. The Northern part of Bhubaneswar- with wide roads and planned infrastructure is seeing a flurry of activities in the IT, Business, Education and Health sector making it one of Eastern India’s major economic hub. The high rise residential complexes, corporate buildings and Government offices dotting the landscape with park, malls and recreation joints thrown in the mix, Bhubaneswar embodies all the characteristics of a young vibrant city.
As we move towards the Southern part of the city the pace gradually slows and the high rise residential complex is replaced by residential plots and modern architecture of the corporate offices by the temples which epitomizes the architecture of a bygone era. Bhubaneswar along with Puri and Konark is often referred to as the “Swarna Tribhuja”or the “Golden Triangle”.
Bhubaneswar is forever etched in history as the place where King Ashoka, moved by the death and destruction of war, decided to embrace the teachings of Lord Buddha and became its greatest advocate.
Though the modern city came into existence in 1948, the history of Bhubaneswar can be traced to 1st century BC or even earlier. It was witness to one of the most important events in the face of mankind- The Kalinga War- recorded as one of the bloodiest conflict in the annals of history- but what makes it unique is that the message it propagated aftermath. According to noted historian Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra- “The political history of mankind in reality is a history of wars and no war has ended with so successful a mission of peace for the entire war-torn humanity as the war of Kalinga”.
The Kalinga War
Historically Odisha or Kalinga as it was known then was a feudal republic – the land of fiercely independent and valiant tribesmen who ruled over designated territories. All that changed when emperor Ashoka decided to invade and annexe Kalinga and brings it under the Mauryan Empire. There has been no historical mention of the leader who led the Feudal Republic of Kalinga against Ashoka. The reason for Ashoka invading Kalinga were primarily a couple of things – Kalinga then was a prosperous region who were the first to initiate trade and commerce in foreign lands such as Indonesia, Borneo etc, the people lived in an organised society which followed an open culture and uniform code, it was a treasure trove for art and artefacts. Secondly it was a land of valour and none other than Chandragupta Maurya had failed to annexe Kalinga to the Mauryan Empire.
It has been recorded that the Daya River which flowed near the battlefield had turned red due to the blood of the slain soldiers. Approximate estimates put the number of dead Kalinga warriors to 1, 50,000 and that of the Mauryan soldiers at 1, 00,000, with many more maimed and injured. Inscriptions in Udaygiri caves and literature point to the fact that even women and teenagers took up the sword to defend their motherland against the invading Mauryans.
Moved by the valour of the Kalinga warriors and the dead bodies and sufferings, Ashoka disclaimed war and devoted the rest of his life to Ahimsa and Dharma- thus Chanda Ashoka transformed to Dharma Ashoka.
The war is believed to have been fought in 261 BC; the battlefield is located at Dhauli- which is 8KM south of Bhubaneswar. Ashoka built several chaityas, stupas and pillars at Dhauli, the rocks has Kalinga Edict’s engraved which stands till date.
The Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha built a beautiful shanti stupa- Dhauligiri – in 1972 to commemorate the mission of peace that the Kalinga war could achieve.
Some of Ashoka’s pillars and edicts can also be found in Bhaskareswar Temple located nearby the shanti stupa in Tankapani road.
Brief History of Bhubaneswar
After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, Kalinga regained independence, this time as a full-fledged Kingdom and regained its glory. Kharavela of the Mahameghavahanadynasty which succeeded the Mauryan Empire was the most famous ruler of the region. Kharavela’s inscriptions are recorded in the Hathigumpha caves (elephant caves) at Udaygiri.
After Kharavela’s reign his dynasty disintegrated and subsequently other dynasties of the region gained control of Kalinga. Mukunda Deva II of the Bhoi dynasty was the last homegrown ruler of the erstwhile Kalinga.
The temples sprouted in the region between 7th Century and 14th Century AD. The rulers across the dynasties of the region were followers of Lord Shiva and all the temples were built under the shaivites influence. However the paradigm shifted with the cult of lord Jagannath gaining prominence, vaishnavism became the order of the day.
In 1568 Kalinga fell to the Karanni dynasty of Afghanistan, who resorted to large scale plundering and destruction of temples, they were followed by the Mughals in the 16th Century, the Maratha’s annexed the region around 18th century before it fell to the British colonial rule in 1803 and remained under the British till 1947.
Things to See
When you are in the lap of history as is the case with Bhubaneswar, there is no dearth of activities that one can engage in.
As mentioned earlier it’s the city of temples. Despite the ravages of time and destruction caused by the invaders, the city still has a sizeable number of temples which preserves its rich heritage. These temples made of sandstone represent the best of the Kalinga School of architecture- which flourished from the 7th century AD to 14th Century AD. While its neigh impossible to record each one of them in a book of this nature, we will select a few which have varied architectural styles.
Noted historian James Ferguson described it as “One of the finest examples of purely Hindu temple in India”. The largest temple in the city is believed to have been built by the Somavansi kings and evolved under the Ganga dynasty in the 11 century CE. The presiding deity is lord Shiva known by the name of Lingaraja. The interesting part is that Lingaraja is worshipped as Lord Harihara- a form of Shiva and Vishnu-a telltale pointer to the fact that denotes the evolution of the cult of vaishnavism which swept the region from the 9th century CE.
Located on the side of the Bindu Sagar Lake offers a beautiful resting place by the lake overlooking the temples. Ekamra van is a medicinal plant garden where one can educate themselves on the various natural herbs which has medicinal value.
This miniature yet ornately carved temple marks a watershed moment in the Kalinga School of Architecture, where the architecture and the craftsmanship attain a level of perfection which wasn’t seen before. The temple is believed to have been constructed between 950-975 AD by the Somavansi dynasty. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva known by the name of Mukteswara- which literally means the lord of freedom.
Festival – The Mukteshwara cultural Festival held from 14th Jan to 16th Jan is a big draw.
Built in the 7th Century AD during the reign of the Shailodbhava dynasty is one of the oldest and best preserved temples in the city. The temple follows the Nagara style of architecture which is a form of the Kalinga School of Architecture. The temple derives its name from the penance of Parsuram and the grace of Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as Parasurameswar.
During the month of Ashadha (June- July), Parasuramatami is observed in the temple where the image of Lingaraja is taken to the temple and a feast is organised
Believed to have been built by King Lalatendu Kesari to commemorate the ill fated lovers Kedar and Gouri who eloped against the wishes of their communities. According to the legend Kedar was killed by a tiger and Gouri committed suicide in the pond now located in the temple complex. Even today lovers flock the temple to pray for a blissful married life.
The temple is located near Mukteswara temple and is regarded as one of the eight Astasambhu temples. The residing deity is Lord Shiva known as Kedareswar and his consort Goddess Gouri. On the occasion of Sitalsasti which falls in the month of May- the temple is decked up and hosts the marriage of Lord Lingaraja with Goddess Parvati- the procession starts from the Lingaraja temple and the marriage is solemnised.
Built during the 11 century AD, by the Somavansi dynasty, derives its name from the red and yellow sandstone “Rajarani” used to build the temple. The temple is devoid of any images inside the sanctum and is not associated with any sect of Hinduism though the shaivite influence can be gauged from the decorative recesses in the wall.
One can see the influence of the Khajuraho group of temples in the coy and intricate carvings in Rajarani temple. Historians attribute it to the fact that the Somavansi dynasty migrated to Odisha from Central India.
The temple is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India and the entry is ticketed.
For Indian National – Rs. 15/- per person
For Foreigners – Rs.200/- per person
The Rajarani cultural festival held from 18th Jan-20th Jan is a popular festival.
Built during the 9th century AD is popularly known as “tini mundiya mandira” (the three headed temple)- the temple dedicated to goddess Chamunda belongs to the Khakara group of temples – which are essentially dedicated to goddesses and have a typical style- a truncated pyramid shaped roof sits over a rectangular building. The architecture bears close resemblance to the Gopuram of the South Indian temples.
The temples are located not far from each other in the old town, best way to devour these magnificent heritage sites is just taking an early morning or evening stroll through the by lanes and exploring the place.
Apart from the beautiful Stupa mentioned earlier, The Ashokan edicts are neatly stored in a beautiful rocky garden on your way up the Dhauli hills. There is also a monastery of the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha and a newly constructed Ashoka pillar in the area. Though the entry to the stupa is free and so for the Ashokan edicts and monastery, there is a cess of Rs.30/- for four wheelers while one enters the area.
Dhauli Mahotsav- the three day festival is usually scheduled in the month of Feb (check out the Odisha tourism calendar for the exact dates). The festival features some of the best exponents of Indian classical dance and martial dance performing in a common platform.
Odisha Tourism conducts a light and sound show at Dhauligiri every evening in both Hindi and English at 7.00pm and 7.45pm during the summers and at 6.00pm and 6.45 pm during the winters. The show speaks of the bravery and glory of the Kalinga Empire and the transformation of emperor Ashoka. Renowned actors Bijay Mohanty, Om Puri and Kabir Bedi have lent their voice for the Odiya, Hindi & English version of the show respectively.
It’s a ticketed show – Entry fee for adults – Rs 25/- per person and for kids below 15 years of age – Rs.15/- per child.
One can reach Dhauli by cab, auto or city bus service, the Barmunda-Puri bus no.171 stops over at Dhauli road.
Udaygiri & Khandagiri Caves
Built in 2 century BC by King Kharavela for the Jain ascetics, these ancient caves replete with anecdotes of history carved on the walls literally takes us back in time. It is believed that one hundred seventeen odd caves were originally present of which thirty three remain to this day. The hill was originally known as Kumari Parvat.
Prominent amongst the caves are the Hathigumpha (elephant cave) which bears the inscriptions of King Kharavela, Rani Gumpha and the Ganesh Gumpha- all the caves mentioned are located on the hills of Udaygiri. The caves served as residences for the Jain monks and were equipped with water source in form a small canal which passes through every cave, an ingenious communication system through holes, a place to light the lamps and the tilted flooring which served as a head rest. Many of the caves are double storeyed and its believed that the upper chambers of the caves were used for deep meditation.
The Udaygiri hills come under the purview of ASI and entry is ticketed.
For Indian Nationals- entry fee- Rs.15/- per person
For SAARC countries – entry fee- Rs.15/- per person
For Foreigners other than SAARC countries – Rs.200/- per person
Children below fifteen years of age entry is free
Video camera – fee – Rs.25/-
Khandagiri hill- entry is free. There is an ancient temple regarded as a Shakti peetha wherein goddess Durga and Goddess Kali are face to face and each has twelve hands. One can find the 24 Teerthankar’s of the Jain religion carved on the walls and Yaksha and Yakshini’s of each Teerthankar carved on the wall in a separate cave.
One is advised to take a guide if you are visiting for the first time to get an essence of the place. Guides are available at the ticket counter, but switch on your bargaining cap while finalizing. For a guided tour to both the hills a price of Rs.300-400 should be good enough, while if you just want to take a guide for Udaygiri hills, a price of Rs.200-Rs.250 should be what you should be looking at.
One can reach Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves by cab or auto from the city. One can avail the city bus service, the bus no.504- SUM hospital to Jagatpur, bus no.603, Sai Temple to Kalinga Vihar & bus no. 405- Dumduma to VSS Nagar have stop over at Khandagiri Square.
Museums & Art Galleries of Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar has a host of Museums and Art galleries where you can experience the rich cultural diversity of the state. From the State Museum which has one of the best collections of ancient artefacts that date back to the 3rd century BC to the State Tribal Museum that brings an interesting perspective to the tribal culture of the state, to the Crafts Museum that showcases the amazing craftsmanship of the artisans of Odisha. Read about all of them here.
Shopping in Bhubaneswar
Shopping can be an experience in itself in Bhubaneswar especially for the women. By virtue of being the capital of the state- Bhubaneswar is the hub of the traditional handicraft industry of the state. The traditional specialty items are – Ikat fabrics which can be purchased as readymade garments, fabrics or sarees, Appliqué work locally known as Chandua- though we recommend you to get it from Pipli itself (Around Konark where they are made) - which is just 24 KM from Bhubaneswar on the Puri-Bhubaneswar road, Sambalpuri sarees, dress materials, bed sheets, curtains etc, Dhokra – metal figurines.
The state government run showroom is the best place to buy authentic stuff. Utkalika offers a wide array of the above mentioned items. Location – Shop No-1, Eastern Tower, Marketing Building, Ashok Nagar Timings – 9.30 am to 9.30 pm
Utkalika has a branch also at the Airport
Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation of Odisha
Established to stop the exploitation of tribal’s at the hands of middlemen so that they get proper returns on their produce, and the retail outlets and souvenir shops offers an interesting perspective to buyers. Location – Rupali Square, Shaheed Nagar SC/ST RTI CRPF Square
Orissa Art & Craft
The souvenir shop can also be explored for authentic Odiya handicrafts and artefacts Location- Nr. Panthanivas, Lewis Road
Konark Wood Products
The shop offers a wide range of wooden sculptures also, housed here are articles like toys masks, and carved boxes. These items are perfect for gifting your loved ones and make for perfect souvenirs. Location: 8P, Acharya Vihar main road, Acharya Vihar
A great place to buy authentic Orissa handicrafts like Patta Chitra, Sambalpuri Saree, Chandua of Pipli, sand art, metal work, stone carvings and many more. The ambience and surroundings is nice and if you feel worn out after exhaustive shopping, there are food stalls lined up here that serve traditional foods like chakuli pitha ( looks like an Uppam), chhenna poda( traditional sweet dish made out of cottage cheese but not too sweet) and mutton curry.
Location- Madhusudan Marg, Unit 3
Timings - 10 AM to 9 PM.
Besides the above mentioned outlets, there are a plethora of shopping malls and retail chains across the city, where one can buy branded products to groceries.
Where to Stay
The options are many from budget hotels to high end luxury hotels. Some of them are
Run by the Odisha Tourism Department, this budget hotel offers comfortable rooms. The restaurant offers traditional cuisine along with other menu’s.
Location – Lewis road
Check in – 8 am
Check out – 8 am
Website – www.otdc.in
One can book online by logging onto the website – www.otdc.in.
A property of the Mayfair Group of Hotels is the best known five star luxury hotel in the city, is a visual treat, the beautifully laid out hotel has a lake and beautiful landscape to compliment the beautiful architecture and is equipped with all the modern amenities. The hotel boasts of several in house restaurants to suite the palate -the hugely popular Lemon Grass serving oriental cuisine, Nakli dhaba – craving for North Indian food look no further, Kanika – the Odiya cuisine restaurant, Baron and Baroness bar plus café and tea joints.
Location – 8B, Jaydev Vihar
Check in – 2 pm
Check out – 12 pm
Website – www.mayfairhotels.com
A property of the Trident group of Hotels, the luxury five star hotel is spread across 14 acres with its own fruit orchard and vegetable garden. The elegant rooms are inspired by the traditional architecture of Odisha are complimented by the caring staff. The restaurant offers a wide range of lip smacking gourmets from traditional Odiya cuisine to Thai. The Sea food dishes are highly recommended.
The hotel had a range of recreational activities on offer from a jogging track through the orchards to fitness centre and a bar.
Location – CB1, Nayapalli
Website – www.tridenthotels.com
Phone – 0674-3010000
A property of the Ginger group of hotels promoted by the Tata Group, offers a comfortable stay at reasonable budget, the hotel also has a gymnasium and a café coffee day outlet along with an in-house restaurant.
Location- Oppo Nalco Headquarters, Jaydev Vihar
Check in – 2pm
Check out – 12 pm
Phone – 0674-6663333
Where to Eat
Street food in Bhubaneswar
As famous chef Anthony Bourdain said-“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride”. Mouth watering road side delicacy is an essential ingredient ingrained in every city which has a rich heritage, Bhubaneswar is no exception.
Listed below is a few of the options that one can opt for.
The typical street foods of the city are gup chup (Pani Puri) the ones at station square and near St. Joseph school (nr. Ram Mandir Janpath) , Snacks at the shop just in front of Ram mandir, Janpath, bara ghuguni ( fried cereal with yellow peas or kala chana) near the Court , Chaat at Rupali Square & Kaliash Pav Bhaji at Unit 2 Market building ( entry from Rajmahal square ) are a must try.
Food Street – Location - Just behind St. Joseph School (Near Ram Mandir, Janpath rd) every evening one can see 6-7 food trucks lined up serving anything from biriyani, Schawarma to Mexican food. The food is just delicious and very easy on your wallet too. Many of the food trucks accept card payment.
Shaheed Nagar ( front of Rama Devi College)- offers a eclectic array of chaats and gupchups, the specialty is chicken gupchup.
Master Canteen- Location – B108, Lalchand Market complex, near the railway station- offers a variety of veg and non veg chops and kebabs
KIIT Road - located at Patia just in front of KIIT college gate- is another area where the streets are dotted with restaurants and street food offering a wide variety of gourmets to choose from.
Besides these there are many shops offering mouth watering food. Most of the fast food chains like KFC, Subway, Domino’s , Pizza Hut, et