Odisha is home to some of India’s best kept cultural secrets nestled between the shimmering waters of the Bay of Bengal and the dense forested hills of the Eastern Ghats. Known the world over for its architectural wonders, its ancient temples are some of the finest examples of Indo-Aryan Nagara temple architecture. Also, travel to experience the states Buddhist connection. The earliest references to the Buddha are in the Buddhist chronicles in which his hair relics, and the nail and tooth relics are mentioned. Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang, who visited India in the seventh century, wrote a vivid account of Buddhism flourishing in Odra (the ancient name of Odisha).
Lingaraja Temple – Bhubaneswar, the city of temples, is dotted with shrines around the vast Bindu Sagar lake, the Lingaraja Temple being the largest in the city. Built of red sandstone by King Jajati Keshari of the Somvanshi dynasty, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is sprawled over a 250,000-sq-ft courtyard, skirted by a fortified wall. A unique aspect of the temple is the self-manifested granite linga which is worshipped as HariHara, a combination of Vishnu and Shiva.
Rajarani Temple – The 11th-century east-facing Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar, though bereft of any deity in its sanctum sanctorum, is one of the most beautiful temples representing a unique facet of Odisha’s architecture. It rises to a height of 18 metres. The temple is remarkable for its sculptural excellence, profuse ornamentation, exuberant architectural features and multiple scroll work.
Mukteshwar Temple – The Mukteshwar Temple, constructed in the 10th century, is one of the smallest and most compact temples in Bhubaneswar. It has an exquisite stone archway, and ceiling with an eight-petal lotus inside its porch. The sculpted images of the lion head motif and of ascetics, characters from Hindu mythology, and folk tales from the Panchatantra add to the artistry of the shrine.
Jagannath Temple – Puri, the ancient pilgrimage centre is home to the colossal Jagannath Temple known as the White Pagoda which enshrines Krishna, Subhadra and Balarama. One of the Char Dhams, and Odisha’s largest temple, it was built in the 12th century and designed in the shape of a pyramid. The 214-foot-tall main tower of the temple rises above the inner sanctum. The four gates of the temple—Singhadwara, Ashwadwara, Hathidwara and Vyaghradwara—are so named for the lion, horse, elephant and tiger.
Konark Sun – Temple The Black Pagoda, popularly known as the Konark Sun Temple houses a dozen pair of intricately carved giant wheels hold aloft a mammoth chariot driven by seven galloping horses, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. The construction of the temple began during the reign of King Narasimhadeva of the Ganga dynasty and took 12 years and the effort of 1,200 architects and artisans, to complete. The seven horses represent the days of the week and the 24 wheels are symbolic of the fortnights of the year and the churning of time, while their eight spokes indicate the ancient division of the day and night into eight equal segments.