It is not surprising that Odisha, home to such efficient architects and master craftsmen who build hundreds of beautifully carved temples, including the Sun Temple of Konark, will have over 50 varieties of traditional crafts. Many of them have been around for centuries. You should visit a few of the centres from Bhuabaneswar when you're visiting the city for the 2018 Men's Hockey World Cup.
Just 20km by road from Bhubaneshwar is Pipili, a village known for its colourful applique (patchwork) embroidery, which probably had its origin as a decoration for religious purposes. Even today, the famous wooden chariots of Puri’s Lord Jagannath and his siblings are draped with these embroidered cloths. On both sides of Pipili’s main road are rows of shops selling myriad colourful objects, including wall hangings, purses and bags, lamp shades, umbrellas, canopies, etc. In between these shops, you may catch a craftsman at work – cutting colourful pieces of cloth into various patterns such as geometric shapes, flowers or birds, and stitching them on contrasting swatches of cloth, sometimes embellishing the pattern by adding bits of glass.
If you are visiting Puri and appreciate traditional paintings, then a stop at the artists’ village of Raghurajpur is a must. Most homes, with bright murals on the exterior, double up as workshops. This is where some of the best ‘pattachitra’ of Odisha are made. Specially treated stiffened cloth is cut into circular shapes and painted with pictures of divinities. May be you can buy a pack of hand-painted Ganjifa cards. You will find artists executing fine drawings on palm leaf. Bookmarks made of hand-painted palm leaves can be bought for gifting as souvenirs.
Tarkashi or silver filigree of Cuttack (less than an hour’s drive from Bhubaneswar) also makes for excellent souvenirs. Drawn out of beaten silver, the delicate wires are used to make diverse products – ornaments, birds such as peacocks, decorative boxes; even products as complex as the Sun god riding his chariot drawn by seven horses are crafted by these brilliant artisans.
Even though you may not be able to venture to the distant corners of the state for other equally delicate handicrafts, you can visit the emporiums in Bhubaneswar, who stock some of the popular handicrafts. Some of the visually appealing products include lacquer products from Nabrangapur in Koraput, coir craft, wood craft, mats and other products made of ‘sabai’ grass of Mayurbhanj, decorative and utility products made of animal horns from Parlakhemundi, bell-metal or ‘dokra’ products, etc.
Puri and its adjoining areas are also known for their stone craft. One of the widely bought stone crafts is the symbolic wheel of Konark Sun Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that come in many sizes. May be you can buy some of these miniature wheels as gifts or as reminders of your visit to Odisha.
Odisha is also home to varieties of handloom with unique patterns not found anywhere else in the country. It is said that handloom weaving in Odisha goes back to 600 BCE. Traditionally, cotton and silk (including ‘tussar’) have been used by the weavers to churn out fabrics in many hues. Bapta is an indigenous method of weaving silk and cotton. The tie and dye technique of Odisha, known as ‘ikat’ bears proof of the state’s close links with Indonesia many centuries ago. Sambalpur is one of the key places where ‘ikat’ is woven.
Be it the Khandua of Cuttack, Bomkai of Kalahandi, Kotpad of Koraput, Parda of Khurda, Kusumi of Nayagarh or Saktapar and Bichitrapar of Bargarh and Sambalpur, each weaving style has its own subtle specialty.
The Berhampur pattu, the jala (Bomkai) and varieties of silk saris from Sonepur and the Kataki (Cuttacki) saris of Jagatsinghpur are noteworthy too. It is said that paintings on tussar saris owe their origin to the pattachitra paintings of Raghurajpur.
As various corners of the state specialise in these weaving styles, popular emporiums in Bhubaneswar, such as Utkalika and Boyonika, are your best bet for handloom shopping.