Shared cultural and civilization trends within the region of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean have had the palpable effect of turning it into an area of similarities. And Bhubaneswar, with its history of trade routes to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sumatra, Bali and many other nations, binds one to some linkage point. With its majestic architectural heritage, it continues to be of enormous interest to both historians and archaeologists the world over.
Named after 'Bhuban Eshwar' – The Abode of Gods, Bhubaneswar is also popularly known as the 'City of Temples'. The city was once home to 7000 shrines, out of which only 500 remain today.
The city having an average altitude of 45 m (148 ft) above sea level is located in Khurdha district of Odisha state. It is bounded by Nandankanan zoo in the north, Daya river in the south, Kuakhai river in the east and the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary in the western part.
After independence, this city was chosen as the Capital of Odisha in 1948. The famous German architect Dr. Otto H. Konigsberger prepared the Master plan for the new township.
The history of the city can be mainly divided into two eras – the ancient city, which dates back to 4th century BC, and the modern one which began only in 1948. The city acquired prominence in the 3rd century BC due to the Kalinga War near Dhauli, which ended with Emperor Ashoka embracing Buddhism. Close on his path came King Kharavela, who followed Jainism. Thus many of the structural designs around Bhubaneswar seem to be inspired by Buddhist and Jain architecture.
Most of the Orissan style of architecture can be seen in the 'golden triangle' which constitutes of Puri Konark and Bhubaneswar. Setting off from Bhubaneswar, one can romance the beaches spread liberally on the marine drive while witnessing the breathtaking sunrise over the Chandrabhaga, visual splendour of the Sun temple at Konark, the monumental proportions of the Jagannath temple at Puri, and return to see the iconic Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar.
Lingaraj Temple - Built in 11th century AD, the Lingaraj temple is magnificently sculpted with figures of gods and goddesses, kings and queens, dancers and musicians. The temple itself has a spire of 180 ft height, and is surrounded by 64 smaller shrines within the temple complex. Being the popular abode of Lord Shiva, people throng the temple during the festival of 'Shivratri' and also during 'Ashokastami' when the Lord is taken out on a Rath Yatra.
Mukteshwara Temple - The Mukteshwara temple is much smaller in comparison, but has an exquisitely carved stone archway and an intricately designed ceiling in the porch. The temple sculpture showcases many ascetics in meditation poses, and other figures from Hindu and Jain mythology. The temple premises have acquired fame in recent times with the staging of the Mukteshwara dance festival here each year.
Ananta Basudeva Temple - Ananta Basudeva Temple is the only important Vaishnava temple standing at Bhubaneswar, which was originally constructed in the 13th century. Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra are worshipped here. The temple lies on the bank of Bindusagar lake and attracts the maximum crowd during 'Janmashtami'. Stone sculpture depicting Lord Vishnu in 'Varaha avatar' is the main focus of this temple.
Rajarani Temple - Better known as the Khajuraho of the east, the Rajarani temple is unique with its absence of any deity for worship. It is full of erotic sculptures and is famed for having once been the pleasure resort of a local king and queen. The temple premises are quiet and peaceful providing much-needed relaxation to the visitors.
64-Yogini Temple - The 64-Yogini temple in the outskirts of the city is shrouded in mystery and is rumoured to be dedicated to the tantric cult. The temple literally comes alive during sunrise and sunset, and is a popular place to visit during 'Durga Puja' to worship the presiding goddess of 'Mahamaya'.
There are more than 200 Buddhist sites scattered throughout the state of Odisha, with the more famous ones located within a few miles of Bhubaneswar. The largest concentration of Buddhist ruins can be seen about 85 kms away from Bhubaneswar, in the 'Diamond triangle' of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri, which has numerous monasteries, temples, stupas and sculptures of Buddhists.
Closer to Bhubaneswar are the Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves representing the ancient Jain monasteries. There are 33 caves dating back to the 2nd century B.C.E., out of which 18 caves have been excavated on Udaygiri hill while 15 are on Khandagiri hill. There are some double storied caves also.
The Udayagiri caves faces the Dhauli stupa carrying rock edicts of Ashoka, situated about 7 kms away. It is better known as the Shanti Stupa or the White Peace Pagoda.
Other Places of Interest
Odisha State Maritime Museum, Cuttack - The Museum has various galleries along with its ancillary components showcasing the rich maritime history of Odisha. Along with projecting the maritime practices and traditions, vessels and artifacts, glory and achievements from the ancient age to the colonial era and beyond; the museum also displays an aquarium with unique marine life and species found in this part of the globe. The old riverboat construction and repair workshops have been restored at the museum.
State Museum, Bhubaneswar – Dating back to 1932, the State Museum at Bhubaneswar has 11 beautiful galleries, each depicting Archaeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Armoury, Mining & Geology, Natural History, Art & Craft, Contemporary Art, Patta Painting, Anthropology and Palm-leaf Manuscripts.
Nandankanan Zoological Park - The first zoo in India to join World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in 2009, Nandankanan is also famous for its white tiger population. Endangered species such as the Asiatic lion, Indian crocodilians, Sangal lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Indian pangolin, mouse deer and countless birds, reptiles and fish have been breeding successfully at Nandankanan.
Tour and Travel
The city has such variety in store that the tour operators have to categorize the travel programme to appease the traveler and there one finds i) Tribal Tour ii) Wild life Tour iii) Adventure Tour iv) Buddhist Tour v) Golden Triangle Tour vi) Temple Tour vii) Artisan village Tour viii) Chilka Lake Tour and above all Heritage walk through the corridors of heritage sites to feel the pulse of illustrious ancestors.
Bhubaneswar fulfils four criteria to be included in the World Heritage List where sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria:
- The presence of a large number of temples at one location with the culminating architectural marvel of Lingaraj Temple is a sheer case of human creative genius.
- It bears an exceptional testimony to the multi-religious, multi-sectoral holy city and associated traditions that are still living.
- It is a living city having a large historic timeline with continuous traditions and a complete timeline of Kalinga architectural developments.
- It exhibits an important interchange of human values throughout ancient and medieval periods at Bhubaneswar that is manifest in the development of Kalinga architecture.