Odisha , formerly Orissa , is an Indian state located in Eastern India. It is the 8th largest state by area, and the 11th largest by population. The state has the third largest population of Scheduled Tribes in India. It neighbours the states of West Bengal and Jharkhand to the north, Chhattisgarh to the west, Andhra Pradesh to the south, and a very negligible border with Telangana to the southwest. Odisha has a coastline of 485 kilometres along the Bay of Bengal. The region is also known as Utkala and is mentioned in India’s national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana”. The language of Odisha is Odia, which is one of the Classical Languages of India.
The ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (which was again won back from them by king Kharavela) in 261 BCE resulting in the Kalinga War (The lethal war with Kalinga transformed the vengeful Emperor Ashoka into a stable and peaceful emperor, and he became a patron of Buddhism), coincides with the borders of modern-day Odisha. The modern boundaries of Odisha were demarcated by the British Indian government when Orissa Province was established on 1 April 1936, consisting of the Odia-speaking districts of Bihar and Orissa Province. The first of April is celebrated as Utkala Dibasa. Cuttack was made the capital of the region by Anantavarman Chodaganga in c. 1135, after which the city was used as the capital by many rulers, through the British era until 1948. Thereafter, Bhubaneswar became the capital of Odisha.
The economy of Odisha is the 16th-largest state economy in India with ₹5.33 lakh crore in gross domestic product and a per capita GDP of ₹116,614 . Odisha ranks 32nd among Indian states in human development index.
Odisha has a culinary tradition spanning centuries. The kitchen of the Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri is reputed to be the largest in the world, with 1,000 chefs, working around 752 wood-burning clay hearths called chulas, to feed over 10,000 people each day.
The syrupy dessert Pahala rasagola made in Odisha is known throughout the world. Chhenapoda is another major Odisha sweet cuisine, which originated in Nayagarh. Dalma (a mix of dal and selected vegetables) is widely known cuisine, better served with ghee.
The “Odisha Rasagola” was awarded a GI tag 29 July 2019 after a long battle about the origin of the famous sweet with West Bengal.
Odissi dance and music are classical art forms. Odissi is the oldest surviving dance form in India on the basis of archaeological evidence. Odissi has a long, unbroken tradition of 2,000 years, and finds mention in the Natyashastra of Bharatamuni, possibly written c. 200 BC. However, the dance form nearly became extinct during the British period, only to be revived after India’s independence by a few gurus.
The variety of dances includes Ghumura Dance, Chhau dance, Jhumair, Mahari dance, Dalkhai and Gotipua.
The Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar has a 150-foot high deula while the Jagannath Temple, Puri is about 200 feet high and dominates the skyline. Only a portion of the Konark Sun Temple at Konark in Puri district, the largest of the temples of the “Holy Golden Triangle” exists today, and it is still staggering in size. It stands out as a masterpiece in Odisha architecture. Sarala Temple, regarded as one of the most spiritually elevated expressions of Shaktism is in Jagatsinghpur district. It is also one of the holiest places in Odisha and a major tourist attraction. Maa Tarini Temple situated in Kendujhar district is also a famous pilgrimage destination. Every day thousands of coconuts are given to Maa Tarini by devotees for fulfilling their wishes.
Odisha’ s varying topography – from the wooded Eastern Ghats to the fertile river basin – has proven ideal for evolution of compact and unique ecosystems. This creates treasure troves of flora and fauna that are inviting to many migratory species of birds and reptiles. Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapada district is famous for its second largest mangrove ecosystem. The bird sanctuary in Chilika Lake (Asia’s largest brackish water lake). The tiger reserve and waterfalls in Simlipal National Park, Mayurbhanj district are integral parts of eco-tourism in Odisha, arranged by Odisha Tourism.
Daringbadi is a hill station in the Kandhamal district. It is known as “Kashmir of Odisha”, for its climatic similarity. Chandipur, in Baleswar district is a calm and serene site, is mostly unexplored by tourists. The unique specialty of this beach is the ebb tides that recede up to 4 km and tend to disappear rhythmically.
In the western part of Odisha, Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur district is the longest earthen dam in the World. It also forms the biggest artificial lake in Asia. The Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary is situated near Hirakud Dam. Samaleswari Temple is a Hindu temple in Sambalpur city, dedicated to the goddess known as ‘Samaleswari’, the presiding deity of Sambalpur, is a strong religious force in western part of Odisha and Chhattisgarh state. The Leaning Temple of Huma is located near Sambalpur. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Bimaleshwar. Sri Sri Harishankar Devasthana, is a temple on the slopes of Gandhamardhan hills, Balangir district. It is popular for its scenes of nature and connection to two Hindu lords, Vishnu and Shiva. On the opposite side of the Gandhamardhan hills is the temple of Sri Nrusinghanath, is situated at the foothills of Gandhamardhan Hill near Paikmal, Bargarh district.
In the southern part of Odisha, The Taratarini Temple on the Kumari hills at the bank of the Rushikulya river near Berhampur city in Ganjam district. Here worshiped as the Breast Shrine (Sthana Peetha) and manifestations of Adi Shakti. The Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha is one of the oldest pilgrimage centers of the Mother Goddess and is one of four major ancient Tantra Peetha and Shakti Peethas in India. Deomali is a mountain peak of the Eastern Ghats. It is located in Koraput district. This peak with an elevation of about 1,672 m, is the highest peak in Odisha.
The share of foreign tourists’ arrival in the state is below one percent of total foreign tourist arrivals at all India level.
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