Bhubaneshwar Heritage Walk: Lose yourself in 1300 years of temple and cultural magic - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bhubaneshwar Heritage Walk: Lose yourself in 1300 years of temple and cultural magic

The stunning Linagaraj temple of Bhubaneshwar

Some of India’s richest art, culture and history is depicted in its gorgeous temples. These temples, which have weathered the test of time, speak of amazing stories from our glorious past. One such group of temples that speak beautiful stories are the temples from the Kalinga empire that are located in Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha.

Bhog ready to be served to the lord at Ananta Basudev temple, Bhubaneshwar

These temples, which are part of a cultural and heritage trail in Odisha are best explored by foot and that too early in the morning. On my recent cultural holiday to Odisha, I ended up going on one such morning heritage walk with Ekamra Walks (run by the government of Odisha) and boy was it an enlightening experience.

When  you enter this part of Bhubaneshwar old town just before sunrise, most of these temples are shrouded in mist. And as the sun rises up, these temples make a grand appearance from under the mist and a diverse set of people go about their yoga, walking, jogging, morning shopping at the street food markets and offer their prayers to the lord.

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

And then there are some like us who are in the old town with a spring in our steps, a sparkle in our eyes and a camera in our hand, eager to explore the art, history and culture of these utterly beautiful temples.

Early morning market scenes in front of Lingaraj temple, Bhubaneshwar

This two hour long Bhubaneshwar heritage walk begins at 10th century Mukteswar temple that is considered the gem of Odishan architecture and from there meanders its way through narrow lanes lined with trees and old structures to the 7th century Parasurameswar temple, Kotitirtheswar temple, Bindusagar lake, the busy kitchen at Ananta Basudev temple, the British era Dharamshala, the colorful street market called Ratha Danda, the elevated platform offering a panoramic view of the Lingaraj temple campus, 13th century Sari Deul temple and matha before finishing the walk at Vaital temple and the herbal medicinal garden called Ekamravan.

While the entire heritage walk offers a splendid experience, there are some highlights that you should not miss. And more so, you should keep your ears open and listen to your Ekamra guide when you are at these spots.

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

These highlights are:

1) The stunning archway, intricate carvings, sculpting and filigree designs at Mukteswar temple

2) The preparation of the morning bhog in the temple kitchen of Ananta Basudev temple

3) The view of the Lingaraj temple from the elevated platform

4) And the fact that most of this Bhubaneshwar old town was a prototyping ground for the temple architects of that era, which you can see through the many small temples built in such a small area

The arched gateway that greets visitors entering the Mukteswar Temple of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

While you will spend most of your time at Mukteswar temple as this is the most beautiful and well preserved temple, I loved every bit of the Bhubaneshwar heritage walk and hoped to spend quality time almost at all pit stops.

Lingaraj Temple in the early morning sun

The mythological stories of the formation of Bindu Sagar lake, the sheer early morning cooking action at Ananta Basudev temple, the simple charm of the dharamshala for the pilgrims, the colorful vegetable sellers and the locals haggling for the prices, the sheer divinity at Lingaraj temple, the tantrik practices of Vaital temple and so many other rich experiences can be made while walking though this paragon of beautiful history.

Bindu Sagar Lake, Bhubaneshwar

This heritage walk run by Ekamra and their very knowledgeable guides make the overall cultural and heritage experience so much richer. Not only can you stare at the beautiful pieces of stone, but you can even listen to their astounding meanings and stories when explained by the Ekamra guides. And some of these stories will really blow your mind and certainly captivate everyone’s imagination.

Mukteshwar Temple and pond covered in mist

And once you get a good lay of the land and get to understand its hidden riches, you can make many other morning trips just to amble around 1400 years of heritage and may be even indulge in some quality photography and videography.

Lion-Elephant combo animal on the walls of Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneshwar

You can either go on this temple walk at the beginning of your trip or at the end after exploring Puri, Konark, Cuttack, Chilika lake and other hotspots. Or you can even do it on a short weekend trip to Bhubaneshwar. But, whatever you do, do not miss out on experiencing this rich temple heritage from India’s glorious past. It is a must experience for all temple, art, culture, heritage and travel lovers!

Traditional Kitchen of Anant Basudev Temple, Bhubaneshwar

Key points to remember:

1) Bhubaneshwar can get quite hot during the non winter months. Hence, it is recommend to carry a hat, umbrella, a small bottle of water and sunglasses to protect yourself from the elements.

2) Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking about 3 kms in total.

3) Wear decent clothing as most of these places on the heritage trail are still working temples.

4) No mobile phones, cameras, leather goods and bags are allowed inside Lingaraj temple. There are lockers where you can keep your belongings for safekeeping.

5) Non Hindus are not allowed inside Lingaraj temple.

The musician and his tabla - Bhubaneshwar heritage walk

Timings for the Bhubaneshwar Heritage Walk organized by Ekamra

The temple walk is organized every Sunday at 6:30 AM. The walk is free of cost, but one has to register online at Ekamra Walks website.

Their other heritage walks:

The Khandagiri and Udayagiri cave walk is organized every Saturday at 6:30 AM.

The Musueum walk at Kalabhoomi is organized every Sunday at 3:30 PM.

The intricately carved ceiling of Mukteshwar Temple, Odisha

How to get here:

Bhubaneshwar is well connected by air, rail and road with all of India and thus reaching this city isn’t a problem. The Bhubaneshwar old town is just a 10 minute drive from the airport and easily accessible from most places in the city.

Standing proud - Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Best time to go on this heritage walk:

It is best to start this walk just before sunrise to make the best use of lack of crowds, good weather and for street market action. One can also go around sunset time for a different experience.

Summers in Bhubaneshwar can get seriously hot, so it might be prudent to plan your trip during non summer months. The heritage walk is a joy during the rains and the cold winter months.

Garbha Griha - Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneshwar

Where to stay:

Bhubaneshwar has plenty of stay options – from luxury hotels to traditional homestays and budget guest houses. If you wish to visit the temples often, it is advised to stay closer to the old town.

Bhog being prepared at Anant Basudev temple, Bhubaneshwar

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) The ancient cave temples of Udayagiri and Khandagiri

2) The coastal temple town of Puri

Early morning magic at Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneshwar

3) The Sun temple of Konark

4) The chandua artisans of Pipili

5) The heritage village of Raghurajpur

Plethora of small temples in the Mukteswar Temple complex, Bhubaneshwar

6) The sound and light show at Dhauli Stupa

7) The authentic Odisha Rasgula experience at Pahala

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