The eastern Indian state of Odisha is going all out to promote its Buddhist circuit and beaches along with wildlife sanctuaries, apart from the already popular destinations of Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
Buddhism in Odisha
Buddhist tourism in Odisha has observed the opening up of some new vistas by recent findings from excavations. Although many Buddhist monuments already exist in the state, these newly identified sites with Buddhist remains have also added to the charm of Odisha.
With the ‘Diamond Triange’ of Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri hills, located 90 kilometres from Bhubaneshwar and 60 kilometres northeast of Cuttack, the Diamond Triangle attracts many Buddhist tourists from Asia and beyond every year.
Ratnagiri in the Birupa river valley in the district of Jajpur, is a famous Buddhist centre. For lovers of art and architecture, lay tourists as well as special groups, Ratnagiri offers a large brick monastery with beautiful doorways, cellar, sanctum with a colossal Buddha figure and a large number of Buddhist sculptures. There is a smaller monastery at the place along with a stone temple, brick shrines and a large stupa with numerous smaller stupas around.
The majestic ruins of the huge brick monastery, the remains of the chaitya hall, votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa at the apex of a small rugged sandstone hill dominate the rural greenery around. In addition, the museum displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of colossal Buddha figures, huge Bodhisattva statues, statues of Tara, Jambhala and others. The discovery of caskets containing sacred relics, probably of the Tathagata himself, from the stone stupa at the top of the hill, further enhances the sacredness of the stupa as well as of Lalitgiri for Buddhists around the world.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves command a unique position in the field of history, rock-cut architecture, art and religion. The caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri are essentially dwelling retreats of the Jain ascetics. Udayagiri provides visitors a grand sight with its newly excavated monastery complex that must be reached through a long stairway. The unexcavated area poses a mystery to archaeologists, art lovers and lay visitors alike with prospects of the hidden treasures that lie buried.
Into the wild at Bhitarkanika National Park
Considered as one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries of Asia, the Bhitarkanika national park is special due to reasons more than one. Housing the dynamic and salt tolerant species of trees—the Mangroves, Bhitarkanika has a luxuriant green, rich and pulsating ecosystem. Located in the estuarial region of Brahmani Baitarani, in the north-eastern place of Kendrapara district, the sanctuary is home to over 215 species of birds, including winter migratory birds from Europe and central Asia. Another rarity that the sanctuary has to its account is the inhibition of its ecosystem by the Giant Salt Water Crocodiles and numerous varieties of other animal species. The attraction is also rich in avifauna, reptilian and mammalian population.
Sun, sea & sand at Gopalpur
Located at a mere distance of 16 kilometres from Berhampur, this seaport can be a real retreat to sea lovers. Ideal for both sailing and surfing, the beach is isolated and remains undisturbed by day trippers. Avid beach combers have time and again declared the beach as one of the finest ones at the eastern coast. Watching Gopalpur’s endless empty shoreline getting swarmed with fishermen with their handnets full of catch is interesting to while away time in the stunning stillness. Beautiful objects made of seashells available in abundance are worth buying souvenirs. Sand sculptures made by local artists are a feast to the eyes.
Satkosia gorge is a unique feature in the geomorphology in India. Located in the districts of Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh and Boudh, Satkosia gorge sanctuary with sylvan beauty and excellent natural features is an attractive destination for scientists and nature lovers. The area supports dry and moist deciduous forests and moist peninsular Sal forests and is stronghold of tiger, leopard, elephant, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, mouse deer, nilgai, sloth bear, wild dog along with varieties of resident and migratory birds. A major attraction of the sanctuary is the gorge, river Mahanadi, the Gharial Research and Conservation Unit at Tikarapada, hill slopes and boating.