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Bhubaneswar: An Itinerary of Ancient Temples and Other Special Places to Visit

Photo by Patrick Horton (Mukteswar Mandir)

Odishan temples, museums, caves and culture

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Bhubaneswar is an ancient city in Odisha added to by modern planned developments outside its historic old centre. Bindu Sagar, a large lake, is the spiritual centre of the old city with some 50 temples in its vicinity. In total the city has some 600 temples.

Temples

Lingaraj Mandir

This 54m-high temple, dedicated to Tribhuvaneswar (Lord of Three Worlds), is acknowledged as the jewel of Odishan temple architecture. It is old. Parts date back 1400 years but most is about 1000 years old.

The main gate is guarded by two mustachioed yellow lions but non-Hindus cannot pass. For them there is a viewing platform outside the wall that fortunately gives a wide ranging view of what’s inside. The main tower looms to a height of 55 metres and your guide will inform you that daily a temple priest climbs up the outside to change the flag that flutters on the top.

Lingaraj Mandir
Lingaraj Mandir (Photo by Patrick Horton)

Mukteswar Mandir

Mukteswar Mandir is one of the most ornate temples in Bhubaneswar with intricate carvings showing a mixture of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu styles. There is a separate and beautifully sculpted archway in golden sandstone. Over the road is Parasurameswar, one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, although it has been substantially rebuilt.

Mukteswar Mandir
Mukteswar Mandir (Photo by Patrick Horton)


Museums

Museum of Tribal Culture

This visit is pretty much essential for anyone going to the tribal areas. Over five rooms the museum displays mannequins wearing the variety of different tribal costumes while wall cabinets show off ornaments, weapons including homemade guns, household implements and musical instruments. Occasional demonstrations are given of tribal artwork.

Regional Science Centre

This centre makes understanding science easy. There are a number of practical displays and is geared as much for children as adults. A prehistoric park has life size dinosaurs and explores the evolution of life.

Odisha State Museum

This museum is a treasure trove of artefacts highlighting the history of the state and the dynasties that ruled here for centuries. It houses an excellent collection of palm-leaf manuscripts, Bronze Age tools, scroll paintings, folk musical instruments, and Buddhist and Jain sculptures.


Outskirts of Bhubaneswar

Udayagiri & Khandagiri Caves

These are excavated rock caves in twin hills, 18 caves in Udayagiri Hill and 15 in Khandagiri Hill. Excavations were started 2000 years ago and were added to in the next 1000 years. Most are open shelters and were used by Jain monks. Some of the entrances are adorned with intricate but now time-worn carvings.

Udayagiri & Khandagiri Caves (Photo by Patrick Horton)

Nandankanan Zoological Park

If you don’t get to spy a tiger in one of the wildlife parks then come here; you’ll also get to see white tigers. The Zoo also has rare Asiatic lions, which can only be seen in the wild in Gir National Park in Gujarat. Then there are rhinoceroses, a variety of reptiles, monkeys and deer.

Nandankanan Zoological Park (Photo by Patrick Horton)


Around Bhubaneswar

Pipli

This town, 16km south of Bhubaneswar is renown for its brilliant appliqué craft, wall hangings, bags and hanging canopies. Displayed outside the shops, they turn the main road into an avenue of rainbow colours.

Pipli (Photo by Patrick Horton)

Dhauli

The warlike emperor, Ashoka (268 – c. 232 BC) was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in battles to defend and expand his empire. So shocked by his reputation Ashoka converted to Buddhism in penitence.

On his order edicts on righteous behaviour were carved into rocks and on columns throughout his land. One such carving is at Dhauli, 8km south of Bhubaneswar. Nearby noticeboards provide English translations of his words. On top of a nearby rock is a carved elephant said to be one of the earliest sculptures in India.

The huge, white and lovely Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda) is on a nearby hill. Japanese Buddhists built it in 1972. The stupa has a mushroom-like dome and is decorated with stone panels bearing Buddhist emblems. One panel shows Ashoka renouncing war by offering his sword to Buddha. A stunning evening sound and light show (daily at 7pm except when raining) illuminates the story of Ashoka.

Dhauli
Dhauli (Photo by Patrick Horton)

Cuttack

Once the state capital, Cuttack, 27km north of Bhubaneswar, is renown for its lace-like, silver filigree work (tarakasi). Visit Mohammedia Bazaar where you can see the pieces being made. In addition saris, horn and brassware are manufactured in Cuttack. The 14th-century Barabati Fort, about 3km north of the city centre, once boasted nine storeys, but only some foundations and moat remain. The 18th-century Qadami-Rasool shrine, in the city centre, is sacred to Hindus as well as Muslims (who believe it contains footprints of the Prophet Mohammed).

Cuttack
Cuttack (Photo by Patrick Horton)


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At A Glance

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