Named after the Hindu deity ‘Tribhubaneswar’ or ‘Lord Shiva’ this city of temples is a significant Hindu pilgrimage centre. Owing to its status as the state capital of Odisha, it is well connected to the rest of India via air link, roadways, and railway system. The city landscape is dotted with impressive temples and stone sculptures, as well as new-age buildings having modern amenities. Due to its historical significance, cultural heritage and modern outlook, Bhubaneswar is an ideal destination for the tourists from India and abroad.
Here’s our list of 8 highly-recommended tourist sites you should visit when enjoying your stay in Bhubaneswar:
1. Lingaraja Temple
It is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar and one of the most popular temples in India. This 11th century-old temple is dedicated to ‘Lord Harihara’, a combination of ‘God Vishnu’ and ‘God Shiva’. There are many mesmerizing sculptures of Hindu deities, kings, Queens, courtesans, musicians, and hunters, inside the temple. The main temple is 180-feet tall and the entire temple complex houses nearly 64 smaller shrines. Only visitors who belong to Hindu community are allowed inside the premises. However, others can revel in its architectural splendor from outside.
2. Rajarani Temple
Situated about 3 km from the Lingaraja Temple, this 11th century-built ornately decorated temple really provides aesthetic pleasure to all its visitors. Various beautifully-carved smaller spires surround the spectacular main temple tower or ‘Deul’. This temple is made up of the unique red-and-golden sandstone named Rajarani, and hence its name. There are numerous erotic human images etched on the temple along with elegant carvings of birds and mirrors. Every year, in the month of January, this place serves as the venue of government-sponsored cultural program called ‘Rajarani Music Festival’.
3. RPRC Cactus Garden
Located on the Ekamra Kanan Road, this place is a part of Regional Plant Research Centre (RPRC). There are nearly 1050 varieties of cacti cultivated and planted here. You can visit this place to jog, take a stroll, or have a picnic outing. However, no pets are allowed inside this garden.
4. Parasurameswara Temple
Constructed in 650 A.D. this small architectural wonder is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar. It has images of 8 planets over the door to its inner sanctum, unlike other temples of the region where you will find images of 9 planets, instead. The beehive-shaped ‘deul’ or temple tower has a unique rectangular porch or ‘Jagamohan’. The walls of the temple are decorated with sculpted images of Hindu deities, elephants, and scenes from Hindu mythology. It also has skylights and latticed windows to allow light and air in.
5. Mukteshwar Temple
Built in 950 A.D. this elegantly designed small temple is an example of both old and new phases of Kalinga temple architecture-style. The arched gateway or the ‘toran dwaar’ of the temple is unarguably its most beautiful part. In fact, the entire temple is decorated with exquisitely-carved images of deities, female figures, ascetics, Buddhist monks, Jain munis, and lion-head motifs. You will also find sculpted figures and scenes from ‘Panchatantra’, especially those of the monkeys. We suggest you to attend the annual ‘Mukteswar Dance Festival’ which is held in the month of January, to simultaneously enjoy artistic and cultural grandeur of Odisha!
6. Utkalika Odisha State Emporium
Run by the state Department of Handicrafts, this place is indeed a paradise for handicraft lovers, art connoisseurs, and shoppers alike. You can view and buy myriad varieties of handicrafts, textiles, and traditional decorative items of Odisha, at a fixed price. Items on display and sale include Pattachitra paintings, coir crafts, dokra castings, silver filigree items, horn works, lacquer jewelry, stone and wood carvings, bamboo baskets, and objects made from brass, silver, and bell metal. You can also shop for beautiful attires displaying appliqué and patch work or ‘Dongria kandha’ embroidery, at a reasonable price.
7. Pathani Samanta Planetarium
Set up by the state government, this place aims to spread awareness about astronomy, outer space, and astrophysics among the public. There are many shows organized here such as night-sky watch, poster shows, and audio-visual programs. You can also view a variety of astronomical instruments on display. This institution also offers financial aid and research support to scientists who wish to conduct research on space science and technology. Interestingly it provides bathroom facilities as well as food-selling counters. You can visit this place between 2 pm and 5 p.m.
8. Khandagiri and Udaygiri Caves
The twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri houses various rock-cut tunneled caves with intricate sculptural carvings. These were built as multi-storied apartment complex for Jain monks, around 1st B.C. by the Kalinga King Kharavela. There are a total of 15 such caves in Khandagiri region whereas Udaygiri contains 18 caves. The famous ‘Hathi Gumpha’ or ‘Elephant Cave’ of Udaygiri site has lithic inscriptions about King Kharavela’s military feats, public welfare works, and cultural patronage. According to historical data, the king and his queen were connoisseur of arts and music. The two-storied ‘Rani Gumpha’ or ‘Queen’s Cave’ also has a spacious courtyard and beautiful sculptural friezes. It is connected to the isolated and well-preserved ‘Ganesha Gumpha’ via a walkway. Almost all the caves are decorated with elaborate carvings of human, animal, deities, and other decorative forms.
You can also visit these lesser known but equally visit-worthy places in Bhubaneswar, namely, Kalinga Stadium, Museum of Tribal Arts, Science Park, and Fortune Tower, Happy Journey!