Part of Odisha’s Golden Triangle, Bhubaneswar, the state capital, deftly straddles two time zones, the old and the new. Take a spiritual walk through the old part to enjoy the quintessential temple town that the city was once. Then return to the new town for more earthly delights. Cave temples, an animal safari park, etc, are some of places that can be seen on an excursion tour. Puri and Konark are the other two arms of the Golden Triangle, which can be easily visited from Bhubaneswar.
The richly carved 11th century Lingaraja temple, dedicated to Shiva, sits in the middle of a huge landscaped area, surrounded by many smaller temples and shrines. The curvilinear tower (deul) rises nearly 180 feet. The architectural embellishments speak of the great heights attained by Odisha’s craftspeople. One of the most revered temples, it is crowded through the day, the number swelling up on festive days. Unfortunately, entry barred for non-Hindus. But anyone can catch a view of the sprawling temple complex from the viewing platform (originally built for Lord Curzon’s benefit) outside the temple. To the north of the temple is the Bindu Sagar, associated with the legends of Shiva and Parvati.
There are several other temples in Bhubaneswar that are worth seeing for their sculptural and historical importance. The Kedar-Gouri Temple dates back to the sixth century. The seventh century Parasuramesvara temple is one of the earliest examples of Kalinga (a former name of Odisha) style of architecture. The mid-10th century Mukteswar Temple is said to bridge the old and new architectural styles prevalent in Kalinga. Another 11th century temple, the Rajarani, apparently takes its name from the red and gold sandstone used in building it; this temple is open to all. The 13th century Ananta Vasudeva Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu but shares many architectural similarities with the Lingaraja Temple. The ninth century Vaital Deul exhibits a deviation from the popular Kalinga style of architecture, and is an example of the Khakara style of temple design followed by the Tantric cult.
Odisha State Museum
Sculptural exhibits ranging from third century BC to the late medieval period, coins from pre-Mauryan days to the royal families of Odisha, illustrated palm leaf manuscripts and many other artefacts that highlight the rich historical and cultural legacy of Odisha are the key attractions of Odisha State Museum (http://odishamuseum.nic.in/), open on all days except Mondays and government holidays. Galleries include archaeology, art and craft, anthropology, armoury, manuscripts, coins, etc. Ticketed entry.
The Tribal Museum, located in Nayapalli, has been developed as a ‘Museum of Man’. Open 10 am to 5pm on all days, except Mondays and government holidays, it throws light on the various tribes of Odisha and their lifestyle, art and culture. Free entry.
It was the sight of Daya River turning red with the blood of slain soldiers that changed Emperor Ashoka of Magadha from a war-mongering ruler to a devout Buddhist. An eight-km drive from Bhubaneswar will take you to the river bank, the Ashokan rock edicts and the hill-top Shanti Stupa or the Peace Pagoda. If you are interested in watching the Light and Sound show, then it is better to visit in the late afternoon. There are usually two 35-minute shows, at 6pm and 6.45 pm, each. Entry charges apply.
If you interested in ancient history and architecture, pay a visit to Sishupalgarh, about five km away from Bhubaneswar. According to eminent historian B.B. Lal, this fort city flourished between 3rd century BC and 4th century AD. Walls of the fortified city, pillars and other ruins are spread over a large area.
64 Yogini Temple
Located about 15km away by road from Bhubaneswar, the 64 Yogini Temple dates back to the early ninth century. The architecture of this temple is rather different from the popular Kalinga school of architecture. Carved into the inner wall of the circular temple are 64 niches; all except one contain a richly sculpted image of a Yogini (goddess) each. It is believed that the cult of Yogini worship was popular between the ninth and 13th centuries.
Udaygiri and Khandagiri
About 30km from Bhubaneswar are Udaygiri and Khandagiri (‘giri’ meaning hills), twin hills that stand almost facing each other. Proceeding from the bus stand, Khandagiri with its 15 caves stand on the left. Udaygiri is on the right. One has to trek uphill to see the caves. Also, beware of the pesky monkey brigade. While the caves of Khandagiri were probably residence of Jain monks, Udaygiri is believed to be the residence of Buddhist monks. The caves and temples of the latter are relatively more ornamental. Two of the most popular caves of Udaygiri are the Haati Gumpha and the Rani Gumpha. From Haati Gumpha, there is a trail that leads to Khandagiri.
About 20 km away from Bhubaneswar by road, the Nandankanan Zoological Park (https://www.nandankanan.org/) is a popular attraction, especially for families with kids in tow. So to avoid long queues at the ticket counters during winter and school holidays, book online (https://www.nandankanan.org/tickets/). The Park, also home to the State Botanical Garden, is open on all days except Mondays; April to September, it is open between 7.30 am 5.30 pm while October to March, it is open from 8am to 5pm. Carved out of the Chandaka forest, the Park also includes the Kanjia Lake. Apart from animal enclosures, the Park also has vehicle safaris (white tiger, lion, bear, etc.). There is also an aquarium, a nocturnal animal house, a water-bird aviary, etc. There is boating and a toy train for exploring the Park. Check with the ticket counter for perambulators and wheel chairs.
Odisha is one of the few states of India that is home to an immense variety of handloom and handicraft. Bhubaneswar, being the capital city, is one of the best places to go shopping for ethnic products. Head to Ekamra Haat located in the heart of the city. Browse and buy from kiosks selling traditional handicrafts and handlooms from different corners of the state. And if you are feeling peckish, try the Odisha special dishes available here. The Utkalika and Boyanika emporiums also offer a wide range of saris and other handloom material, both in terms of choice and price.
Information: One of the best ways to see and know about the temples of Bhubaneswar is to take a guided heritage walk. Ekamra Walks (https://www.ekamrawalks.com/) holds a heritage walk through the old town every Sunday. The walk, starting from the Mukteswar Temple, covers roughly two km stretch in 2-2.5 hours. There is no entry fee but prior registration is necessary. The walk usually concludes with an Odissi dance recital at the Art Vision School of Padma-Shri Ileana Citaristi. Kalinga Diaries (https://kalingadiaries.com/) too organises walks and tours in Odisha, including in and around Bhubaneswar. Odisha Tourism (https://visitodisha.org/tour/) too conducts day-long Bhubaneswar sightseeing tour.