Unexplored Heritage of India: A Odisha Photo Story - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Unexplored Heritage of India: A Odisha Photo Story

Rich Culture of Odisha through its Sand Art

We all know about the rich heritage of India that dates back many thousands of years. While there are many popular heritage destinations strewn all across the country, there are some lesser known ones too. I like to point your attention to the state of Odisha that has many such unexplored heritage gems. From some of India’s oldest cave temples to shadow puppetry, from ancient Buddhist sites to 2500 year old art forms, from some of the most intricate temple architecture to some of the oldest maritime trade centers and from beautiful sand art to some of the most graceful dances, Odisha seems to have it all. This photo story aims at bring these unexplored heritage gems to light. Thank you Odisha Tourism and Times Passion Trails for letting me experience them up close and in real.

Do plan a holiday to Odisha, India’s best kept secret, if this article piques your interest!

Above photo: Odisha is the home of world renowned sand artist and Padma Shri awardee Sudarsan Pattnaik who has represented India in over 60 international sand sculpture championships. Hailing from poor family and with the blessings of Lord Jagannath, it was at Puri beach that Mr. Sudarsan Pattnaik honed his art. If you happen to be in Puri, do visit his Sudarsan Sand Art Institute.

Shadow Puppetry, ancient heritage of Odisha

Above photo: Said to have originated sometime in 5th century B.C in India, Greece or China, Shadow puppetry still exists in Odisha. Called Ravana Chhaya, these shadow plays of Odisha, portray the abduction of Sita, the Quest for Sita, Mahalaxmi Katha and many other mythological and contemporary stories. It is from Eastern and Southern India that such shadow puppetry find its way to South East Asia and East Asia, possibly during the reign of King Ashoka and the Chola Kings, both of whom were extremely strong sea farers.

Stunning Filigree work on the walls of the Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Above photo: Considered to be the gem of Kalinga architecture, the Mukteshwar temple dates back to 950 AD. Preceding both the Lingaraj and the Rajarani temples of Bhubaneshwar, the Muktesvara temple is the only temple in this region that has a torana or porch. It is full of lattice work and intricate carving and sculpting. It is believed that many artisans of the later years took inspiration from this temple for their designs.

The beautiful and large Buddha statue at Ratnagiri ruins, Odisha

Above photo: Somewhere in the 5th to 6th century AD, there were Buddhist monasteries and universities in Odisha where Buddhist monks focussed on their monastic life and meditation studies. Ratnagiri, along with Lalitgiri and Udaygiri is part of the Pushpagiri Buddhist maha vihara is believed to have the birth place of all the preachers of Buddhism. It is from these Buddhist universities that Buddhism is believed to have traveled to China, South East Asia and the far east. Such massive Buddha statues and many votive stupas can be seen all across Ratnagiri ruins.

Konark Sun Temple - Sound and Light Show

Above photo: The UNESCO World Heritage Konark Sun Temple is something that most of us are aware of. It you are not, just look at the back of the new 10 rupee currency note and you will see it. This magnificent Sun temple is a stunning work of art, creativity, size and technological brilliance. The evening sound and light show at this temple is a great way to rewind the years and understand the why, how and when of this temple. While some of the story is factual, the other bit is folk lore and mythological. Nonetheless, a captivating 35 minutes in front of one of India’s best temples.

The traditional Chandua umbrella

Above photo: Have you seen the colorful umbrellas that protect the Lord Jagannath, Balram and Subadhra from the elements during the Rath Yatra? That umbrella is the work of artisans from a small village called Pipili and their craft is called Chandua or Indian applique work. What started as a craft to decorate the gods has now evolved into wedding shamianas, bags, wall hangings, lamp shades, umbrellas and so much more.

Stupa at Lalitgiri - one of the earlier signs of Buddhism in India

Above photo: One of the earliest sites of Buddhism in Odisha, it is believed that Buddhism was practiced, preached and taught unbroken from the 3th century BC until the 10th century AD.  While a big stupa still stands intact even today, many brick and stone based remnants adorn the rest of the landscape. Stupas, sculptures of Buddha, Avalotikeshvara and Tara can also be found here.

Traditional Kitchen of Anant Basudev Temple, Bhubaneshwar

Above photo: For over 700 years, the Anant Basudev temple in Bhubaneshwar has cooked food in their temple kitchen and offered it to the temple gods. There were wars, famines, fires and many other calamities during these 700 years, but the temple never once shut down its kitchen. This temple built in the 13th century overlooks the Bindu Sagar lake and is just a stone’s throw away from the famous Lingaraj temple.

Vibrant looking Goti Pua Dancers of Raghurajpur

Above photo: Present day Odissi classical dance forms have been influenced by this dance form that originates in the village of Raghurajpur and where boys dress as girls and show a combination of grace, strength and acrobatics through their dance. Gotipua, which means ‘single boy’ in Odia language, is a traditional dance form of Odisha where young boys dress as women to praise Lord Jagannath and Lord Krishna.

Tarakasi artisan in one of the old areas of Cuttack, Odisha, India

Above photo: More than 500 years old, Tarakasi is a type of silver filigree work that flourishes in the old parts of Cuttack even today. Rich in patterns, Tarakasi jewellery specializes in necklaces, toe rings, anklets and arm jewellery. Based on mythological themes and traditional designs, they are heavily sought after by temples and pandals to decorate their gods, by Odissi dancers and during marriage functions.

Saora art depicted at the entrance of Tribal Art Museum, Bhubaneshwar

Above photo: Odisha is land of many indigenous communities or tribes and each tribe adds a bit of rich heritage to this state. Like the famous Madhubani art from Bihar and the Warli art of Maharashtra, the Saura (Saora) tribe of Odisha, considered to be among the most ancient tribes of India, have their own unique art form that is referred to as Saura art. Saura art uses clear geometric frames and shapes, natural dyes and raw materials that they can find in the earth around them. Originally used to paint the walls of their homes, they were use extensively in festivals and cultural occasions. Today, they can be found in everything from T shirts to wall hangings, mugs, lamp shades and more.

Beautiful carvings at 7th Century Parasurameswar Temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Above photo: When you go on your Bhubaneshwar heritage walk, you will walk through a maze of temples. Apparently, these temples were like prototypes before the final work product. You will notice many small temples next to the finished and more prominent one. You will see this trend at Muktesvara, Raja Rani, Linggaraj and Parasurameswar temples. Such practice ensures that the final temple is a work of true class. See for yourself in this beautifully sculpted wall of the 7th century Parasurameswar temple.

Boat at Odisha State Maritime Museum, Cuttack

Above photo: Many of you would not know, but Kalinga was considered a gateway to the east in the 3rd to 1st century BC, thanks to the maritime ambitions of King Ashoka and the Maurya and Kalinga empires. The kings used it for maritime trade then. Buddhism spread far and wide thanks to this maritime trade. Then, the British got on to that maritime bandwagon. And we continue to utilize it even today. Paradip and Gopalpur on sea are some of the main port locations. In Cuttack’s Odisha State Maritime Museum that was opened in 1869, you can see all of this rich maritime history right from the days of King Ashoka and how it has been documented in all the religious scripts and documentation of that era.

Famous Rasagola of Pahala, Odisha

Above photo: For a very long time, I thought West Bengal was the home of the Rasgulla, till I visited Pahala and learnt of its rich history with chenna based products, especially Chenna Gaja, Chenna Poda and Rasgulla. Even though, this is in dispute, there is a lot of folklore and history that says that Odisha’s first Rasgulla was made at Pahala. West Bengal’s Rasgulla is different from the one made in Odisha and is considered to be a variation of the Odisha Rasgulla. You have to try out these milk based desserts for an authentic Odisha holiday experience.

Tala Patra painting created by one of the artisans of Raghurajpur, Odisha

Above photo: Most of our ancient scripts in India have been written on palm leaves. After all, this leaf and the inscriptions on it are believed to exist for many centuries. The artisans of Raghurajpur too use palm leaves, a blunt metal pencil and soot to make beautiful paintings. These paintings are called Tala Patra or Tadopatra and are believed to withstand the true test of time. Mythological stories from Hinduism and Buddhism are usually portrayed here.

Ruins of stupas and viharas of 7th century Udaygiri Buddhist Civilization, Odisha

Above photo: Along with Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri, Udaygiri forms the Pushpagiri Buddhist university. In this picture, you can see the ruins of Udayagiri with living quarters for the monks, meditation rooms, large school premises, a well laid out drainage system and a stepwell to draw water. Some of these ancient brick structures have withstood the test of time and are a treat for all heritage lovers.

Udayagiri Caves - an ancient cave temple marvel of Odisha

Above photo: Udayagiri caves near Bhubaneshwar are home to some of the oldest living cave temples of India. Dating back to 2nd century BC, both Udayagiri and Khandagiri that is right opposite it, is made up of finely ornate and well sculpted figures. They were initially built as residence for Jain ascetics during the reign of King Kharavela.

The man who makes Papier mache toys, Raghurajpur, Odisha

Above photo: Along with Patta chita, Tala Patra and Goti Pua, Raghurajpur is home to yet another handicraft. There are a group of artisans who make toys and small figures with papier mache, waste products and cow dung. Faces of gods are the usual theme, but sometimes regular birds and animals are also made using these raw materials. Once the product is done and ready, it is then colored using natural dyes.

Odissi Dance Performance during Times Passion Trails Evening Dinner

Above photo: You cannot come to Odisha and not watch a traditional Odissi classical dance performance. The grace with which they enact Krishna Leela and Ram Leela is a treat for the eyes. In case you didn’t know already, this is an ancient dance form and is believed to have originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha. If you watch closely, you will notice that many sculptures of dancers in these temples are in this dance position.

Plaque at birth place of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Cuttack

Above photo: Did you know that Netaji Subash Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack? We all know his Bengali roots, his fight for freedom, his revolutionary thoughts and his skills in money, law, articulation, flying and strategy. All of this started in Cuttack where he was born. Today, his birth home is preserved as a museum and shows various facets of his life.

The stories of Lord Ganesha depicted through the Patta Chitra miniature art of Raghurajpur

Above photo: One of Odisha’s best handicrafts, you can say that I have kept the best for the last. Pattachitra is that 2500 year old art form that once began for the gods and then evolved in so much more. Stories of Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Durga, Buddha and so many others have been made on this hand made cloth using colors and products that are found naturally in the land of Odisha. These paintings can last for hundreds of years without losing even a bit of their brilliance. Today, the Pattachitra enjoys iconic status and they are even replicated on silk sarees for custom orders and marriages.

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