Thursday, July 24, 2008

Orissa has a chequered history which has successfully assimilated and synthesized the best of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultures. Orissa or Kalinga as it was then called was a settlement of non-Aryan and Aryan settlers. It was here that the famous Battle of Kalinga was fought which made King Ashoka forsake war. He became a follower of Buddhism and spread the spirit of ahimsa and peace. It is to the Kharavela period that Orissa owes its Jain art and architectural tradition. The sophisticated architectural style of the Jain Monastic caves at Udaygiri and Khandagiri are a story unto themselves. To understand all that a Hindu temple stands for one must realize that temples in India are not merely abodes of deities but a shradhanjali (offering) to the most sacred. Here a ’darshan’ is a communion between man and his creator. Hence, Orissan temples are characterized by
profuse decorations, exquisite carving and ornamentation covering the entire visible area with Gods & Goddesses, kings and queens, animals and flower motifs ranged against each other. They radiate the artist’s inner love and dedication. Orissa is probably the only state where one can study temple architecture in all its successive stages of development.

Enchanting Odissi
Odissi, is the traditional dance form of Orissa and probably owes its origin to the temple dances of the devadasis (temple dancers). Possibly the oldest classical dance form, one must sit through a performance to experience its sheer lyrical grace. Mentioned in inscriptions, it is depicted on sculptures, in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun temple at Konark. In fact in the 1950’s the entire Odissi dance form was revitalized with the help of the Abhinaya Chandrika and sculpted dance poses found in temples. Orissa enjoys a rich tradition of tribal and folk dances as well. Chhau from Mayurbhanj District is a martial dance form reminiscent of Orissa’s earlier maritime tradition. Other folk and tribal dances include Danda Nata, a daylong performance ending in acrobatic sequences, Ranapa or dances in which dancers perform balancing acts on bamboo stilts.

Rare Artistry
Land of dexterous artists and craftsmen, Orissa possesses a rich artistic tradition which enjoyed liberal patronage from the temples as well as the nobility. Diverse and varied, the craftsmen artists of Orissa still retain their indigenousness, trying to refine it to suit a changing sensibility. Be it the appliqué artists of Pipli or the stone carvers of Orissa, proud descendants of sculptors whose hands chiseled the unsurpassable designs on Orissa’s famous temples, the essential conflict between the traditional and the modern is gradually being resolved. The progressive attitudes of the Orissan artists coupled with hereditary skills zealously perpetuated, has given traditional Orissan arts and crafts like weaving of Ikat, Bomkai and Sambalpuri Saris, stone carving, appliqué and embroidery, silver filigree work, patta painting and palm leaf engraving, brass and bell metal work, lacquered boxes and toys and basket weaving, a unique place in the connoisseur’s dictionary the world over. A visit to the Raghurajpur artists village and Pipli, near Puri, to see the artists at work is quite a rewarding experience.

Gourmet Delights
The green coconut with its pure water and the abundant sea food from Chilika lake and the sea are as Orissan as pizzas are Italian. Delicious prawns, crabs, sweet water fish, lamb, chicken and eggs cooked by Orissan cooks are widely available gourmet fares, while specialty restaurants serve almost everything. Milk preparations like Rasgulla, Rasmalai, Khirmohan, Rasabali, Kalakand are delicious. Pithas, sweet and savoury are served as local snacks. This is a traditional preparation requiring skill and care. Pithas like Mandas, Kakara, Chhunchipatra are usually domestic preparations much loved by the Orissans.

The Ethnic World of Orissa
Orissa is a modern state with an ethnic past that is still vibrant. Most of her tribes are to be found in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar Phulbani, Sambalpur, Kalahandi and Koraput. As many as 62 tribes exist in Orissa - Kondhs, Koyas, Bondas, Gadabas, Santals, Juangs, Oraon, to name only a few are some important tribes who have retained their individuality and their close bond with nature. From the last week of January to early February, the Tribal Fair at Bhubaneshwar brings together the ethnic world; their art, craft and culture is on display. For those desirous of a closer look trips are arranged by many tour operators from Bhubaneshwar and other cities but it is a hardier trail and more time consuming.

Bhubaneshwar is the temple city of the east. The ancient city of Bhubaneshwar (Bhuban being world and Iswar God) is a walk down centuries of temple architecture. It is probably the only city in the world that enables an authentic over-view of the stages of development of Hindu religious architecture. In the fast moving world of today these temples are a gentle reminder of the splendor, the heritage that was once India. Regular dances by the ’Devadasis’ or divine servant girls, rituals and rites, recital of hymns were all an integral part of temple
culture. Temples in Bhubaneshwar are built on a common plan as prescribed by Hindu norms. All visible parts of a temple are sculpted with motifs of priests, kings, courtiers, pilgrims, celestial dancers, couples in embrace, birds, animals or scenes from religious epics and legends.
Area: 65.03 sq km. Altitude: 45 meters (146 ft.) Temperature (deg C): Summer - Max.38, Min.27.1. Winter - Max.28.2, Min.15.2. Rainfall: Mid June-September 60 inches (152 cms). Languages Spoken: Oriya, Bengali, Hindi, English. Best season: October to March.
Excursions: Dhauligiri- 8 kms, Udaygiri Khandagiri- 8 kms, Nandan Kanan Zoo- 25 kms, Chandipur- 16 kms, Pipli- 29 kms, Atri Springs- 42 kms, Sun Temple, Konark- 65 kms.
Reach - By Air: Connected with Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Varanasi, Raipur and Vishakhapatnam.By Rail: Directly connected with Calcutta, Puri, Madras, Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Tirupati, Trivandrum.By Road: Calcutta- 480 kms, Chilka Lake (Barkul)- 130 kms, Cuttack- 32 kms, Gopalpur- 184 kms, Konark- 64 kms, Madras- 1225 kms, Puri- 62 kms.

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