"Ganesh Puja” to be celebrated by Lucknow Oriya Samaj on 13th September 2018

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A trip to Odisha (Part - 2)
In the previous issue of ‘Nirmalya’ we went on a trip to the coastal Odisha. Now let us head northwards.

Odisha, the land of endless beaches, scintillating sea waves, swaying coconut trees, spiritualism, lilting music, mesmerising odissi and tantalising sea food! What wonders lie hidden in its heart, will take aeons to unfold. You have to be there, soak in its special flavours, to discover the wonderful land of Lord Jagannath.

In the last issue of NIRMALYA, we had a tryst with the beauty of coastal Odisha - the world famous triangle of Puri – Konark - Nandankanan. Once back from this trip, a feeling comes to mind that “I have seen Odisha”. But opening the atlas will leave you aghast! “My God! I have seen just the coastal areas!”, is what will hit you! You need to go back once more to Odisha to cross the turf left untraversed.

Come and explore the nature's beauty in northern Odisha. This comprises primarily the districts of Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar. The gateway to this exotic voyage is Bhubaneswar. From here, after a cruise of around 150 kms on the beautiful NH-5, I reach Baripada. My target is to discover the inland treasures of this eastern State.

The flora and fauna of Similipal

The town of Baripada, situated in the foothills of the Similipal mountain range, does have all the necessary elements for a lovely holiday. The main spot is the bewitching and enthralling Simlipal National Park. This, in nature's thick forest with extensive grassy lands and meadows, meandering rivers, sparkling waterfalls, cloud kissing hill peaks, roaring tigers and trumpeting tuskers, fleeing deer and flying squirrels is one of the biggest tiger sanctuaries in India. This national park is home to 501 plant species and has been declared as a tiger reserve long back in 1956. It has leopards, sambhars, barking deers, chevrotains, bears, monkeys, hyenas, porcupines, Gaurs and elephants. It is also the house of extinct reptilian population, including the mugger crocodiles.

For entry to the park, a permit is required; which can be obtained from Baripada. There is a rest house inside this dense forest at Chahala, which deserves at least a night's stay. At night, when one is cozily settled in, it is both terrifying and exhilarating to hear piercing alarm calls – the shrill notes of a cheetal and the bellowing of a sambar, indicating the presence of large predators like leopards and tigers. During day time, one can decipher the foot prints of big cats and elephants.

Other than the swaying gait of elephants, chirping of birds and shining of foliages of sal and tropical forest trees, the place is full of numerous scenic spots as it gives rise to many perennial rivers like Budhabalanga, Khadkei, West Deo and East Deo. The undulating landscape of the region holds the cue for the prevalence of many virgin waterfalls. It is a memorable experience to snap a spectacular view of the park from Barheipani, which does have a nice waterfall. The Joranda waterfall from a height of over 150 metres touches the ground on the gorge perpendicularly. The waterfall in Deokund, a beatific spot amidst green forests is nearby. The hill top temple of Goddess Ambika is a special attraction of the place. Besides, it is really exciting to relish the picturesque beauty of a small waterfall at Sitakund.

Khiching, an ancient village has a fabulous temple, constructed using black stones during the tenth century. The height of this Maa Kichakeswari temple is around 100 feet and adjacent to it, there is a small museum harbouring historical specimens of sculpture and art. The green valleys of Nawana, the crystal look of water at Lalung and the lovely beauty of Ramatirtha transport you to an ethereal world.

Eco-tourism and a tryst with the Tribals

After some relaxation, it is the time to move on to the district of Keonjhar. Surrounded by hills and forests, the climate here is hospitable throughout the year. This place presents an exotic mix of natural beauty along with intoxicating peace and the serenity of humming rivers. This is the house of prominent tribal communities like santals and mundas. A visit to this place can allow one a peep into their rich traditional tribal culture, their folkways and their way of life. A trip to this part of Odisha is also significant from the point of view of eco tourism.

For the spiritual inclined, there is no dearth of religious experiences. The ancient temples of Lord Jagannath, Vishnu, Siddha Jagannath, Siddha Kali, Brahmeswar Mahadev on the banks of river Vaitarani in Gonasika, Kushaleswar in Deogaon, Baladevjew in Keonjhargarh, Murga Mahadeva and the Tarini Shrine at Ghatagaon will bestow you with blessings.

Keonjhar is also the land of falling waterfalls. The 500 ft waterfall amidst dense forest at Khandadhar, a modest Sanghagara waterfall and the most popular Badghagara waterfall are the prominent ones. Another major attraction here is Guptaganga. This is the place where the Vaitarani River goes underground just before it springs to the surface again. The emergence point of the Guptganga resembles the flared nostrils of a cow and as a result has vital religious significance.

On the Beaches of Bay of Bengal

Now, it is the time to pack up. But can I really miss the beauty of the sea beaches? Do I need to go to Puri or Gopalpur for a view of the waves? The answer to both these questions is a NO! I should not forget that the soothing waters of the Bay of Bengal surround the whole of eastern Orissa.

Chandipur-on-sea, famous for modern India's most invincible missile test range, is also home to one of the best sea beaches of India. The beach at Chandipur is unique in the sense that here the waters recede five kilometres offshore and proceed rhythmically at a regular interval everyday. The sand-dunes, green with wild creepers and the casuarina whistling with the breeze, accentuate the tourist's senses.

Other places to visit in the Balasore district include the holy shrine of Lord Chandaneswar, where devotees flock in hundreds everyday and in thousands on festive occasions like Nilaparva (in the month of April). Just nearby, there is a small sea shore city called Digha. A one night stay here can really put one in sync with Nature. The confluence of river Budhabalanga with the Bay of Bengal at Balaramgarhi and the boating in Chandbali are memorable experiences.

Odisha Unlimited!

Ah! So you think that the trip to Odisha is finally over? But if you flip through the Atlas again, you will realise that you have not even traversed through half of the State! The areas lying towards the south and west of Odisha are beckoning you with open arms. There lies 'God's own land', where human habitation has not yet wreaked havoc on the natural visage. Some of these places are Daringibadi (Kandhamal) - the 'Kashmir of Orissa', the gorgeous landscapes of Sunabeda (Koraput), the Gupteshwar temple (Malkangiri) and the glittering waterfall of Duduma (Koraput).

To fully explore Odisha is life's most cherishing experience. Not only is a trip to the State really exciting, but it also introduces us to our rich cultural heritage. Odisha has everything that nature has to offer to the human race. And man has kept pace. From gourmet recipes (particularly non-vegetarian) to internationally acclaimed handicrafts, handlooms, martial arts, culture and preservation of Olive Ridley Turtles, this is the place which has it all. Then why has Odisha not become one of the most favourite tourist destinations in our country? To the modern intelligentsia, the answer to this may lie in the need to build adequate infrastructure or in the lack of publicity. But, the answer is quite simple. Any deliberate attempt to make a place a tourist destination destroys the nature's fabric and hence, a place in its natural get-up needs to be relished. So, before it is too late and so-called 'development' takes over to tell you that 'you have missed the bus', Rush to Odisha!

Trapti Mishra


Damodar Mishra