The state of Odisha lies on the eastern coastal part of India by the Bay of Bengal. Odisha is completely a unique place on earth owing to its decade long history, enriched wildlife and enchanting music and dance. Odisha tourism welcomes travelers to its articulate culture, the notable sacred Jagannath Puri Temple, the titillating sculptures of Konark Sun Temple and palm & coconut fringed beaches. The state that was under the reign of different rulers belonging to different dynasties & sects left a vast multitude of locals following different religions that came into existence decades ago. The state that was known by different names in the olden times: Kalinga, Utkala, Kongada and Odra-desha still encompasses its rich legacy.
The land of pristine beaches fringed with casuarinas is flocked with numerous travelers at most of the times. Besides offering the most tranquil environs, the beaches are also a perfect place for swimming, surfing and sun bathing. The land is home to an array of beaches with Puri beach being the second most popular beach of India. Some of the other famous Puri beaches are Aryapalli, Balaramgadi, Balighai, Baliharachandi, Chandipur and Gopalpur.
The state of Odisha is home to numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. These protected areas are dwelled with some of the rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The Nandankanan Zoological Park houses a variety of wild animals like crocodiles, blackbucks, pangolins, small Indian civets, sambars, brahminy kites, hill mynas, panthers and many more. While the Bhitarkanika national Park is known for its Mangroves, the Simlipal national park is home to a massive number of Tigers. Apart from this, Ushakothi Sanctuary, Mahanadi Wildlife division, Ushakothi Sanctuary, Satkosia Basipalli Sanctuary are some of the other famous names that protect the wildlife of the state.
Jagannath Temple Puri:
Jagannath Puri Temple is the most popular and divine temple in Odisha. The temple worships Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and Sister Devi Subhadra. The Rath Yatra associated with the temple is a major event in the entire state. The Jagannath Puri temple is visited by numerous Hindu pilgrims who wish to pay their honor to the residing deities.
The temple is built in honor of the child Lord Krishna also known as Gopal. The temple houses a life-size image of the lord with Goddess Radha. The temple is located at a distance of 18 km from Puri on the way to Bhubaneswar.
Konark Sun Temple:
An epitome of the rich architecture of the state, the Konark Sun Temple boasts the skillful arts of the craftsmen of Odisha. The temple was built in the 13th century in honor of the Sun God using oxidized and weathered ferruginous sandstone under the reign of King Narasimhadeva. Besides being one of the seven wonders of India, the Sun temple is also a World Heritage Site.
Gundicha Ghar Temple:
Also known as the Mausi Maa temple, the Gundicha Ghar holds immense significance in the Puri Rath Yatra. During the Yatra, the three deities visit the house of their Aunt and stay for nine days and enjoy the most toothsome delicacies.
Built in the 11th century A.D, the 55 meters high temple is a perfect paradigm of the temple architecture of the state. Built under the reign of King Lalatenu Keshari, the temple is visited by numerous travelers who are on their Odisha tour.
The site holds immense historical significance as it was the place where the Kalinga War took place. It was after this gruesome battle that the emperor was moved and turned forever towards the peaceful preaching of Buddhism.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves:
The Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves were built for the Jain monks under the reign of a Jain ruler known as Kharavela. The region of Khandagiri comprises 19 caves whereas; Udayagiri is home to a total of 44 caves.
Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri:
Built in the 7th century, Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri are famous Buddhist circuit sites. Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri were part of the Pushpagiri University, along with Udayagiri. Ratnagiri was once the site of a Mahavihara, or major Buddhist monastery. On the other hand, the Buddhist complex of Lalitgiri comprises some of the major stupas and monasteries (viharas).
Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival:
The famous annual Rath Yatra is held in Puri is celebrated in the month of June-July. This grand event attracts travelers and devotees from different parts of the globe. The Rath Year marks the annual visit of the residing deities of the Jagannath temple to their aunt’s home i.e., the Gundicha Ghar.
Konark Dance Festival:
Konark Dance Festival is held every year in the month of December at the Konark Sun temple. Organized jointly by the Odisha Tourism and Odissi Research Centre, the festivals promote the varied dance heritage of India. Numerous artists & dancers perform during the Konark Dance Festival.
Puri Beach Festival:
Organized every year in the month of November at the famous Puri Beach, this festival is host to an array of fashion shows, exhibitions, cultural programs. One can also taste some of the delicious cuisines that most of the stalls near the beach sell. The Sand art competition during the festival is the most awaited event.
Kalinga Mahotsav is a two day long martial dance festival which is held every year in the month of February. This festival is celebrated at the Peace Pagoda, the site of the Kalinga War. This grant event aims towards encouraging the people to follow the path of peace and calm and give up fighting amongst themselves.
Durga Puja is celebrated in commemoration of good over evil. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and show by the Oriyas and Bengalis of the state. The main celebrations can be seen in Cuttack, Berhampur, Raurkela, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur, Jeypore and Baleswar. On the last day of the celebrations, the images & idols of the deity are taken in a dramatic procession for immersion that usually falls on the day next to 'Vijaya Dasami'.