Orissa is a captivating state with diverse, vibrant living cultures and an unrivalled architectural legacy. It’s where mighty temple chariots carrying powerful deities are pulled through city streets by a heaving throng of devotees, where serene stone carvings of exceptional beauty continue to be excavated from early Buddhist sites and where Adivasis (tribal people) maintain remarkable traditions that predate many of the great empires of the subcontinent.
Orissa is also celebrated for its natural heritage: elephants and tigers crash and prowl through the Eastern Ghats at Similipal National Park, a key tiger reserve. Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest lagoon, hosts the rare Irrawaddy dolphin as well as millions of migratory birds, including pink flamingos. Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has dolphins, a surfeit of birdlife and monster crocodiles. In January masses of olive ridley turtles pull themselves up onto Orissa’s long beaches to lay their eggs; two months later, thousands of tiny hatchlings crawl to the sea.
Ancient civilisations and tradition resonate through contemporary Orissa. Witness the grand Sun Temple of Konark, a dream of genius adorned with a storyboard of Orissan life. Modern artistry is no less adept with stone carving, painting, silverwork and textiles in abundance.
Many of Orissa’s attractions are clustered along the coast where weary travellers can also find inexpensive seaside retreats. Inland there’s a different India, where tribes live precariously on the edge of mainstream society, yet manage to retain their colourful, fascinating traditions.