Friday, 3 June 2016, 11:45:17 am

There are some places in the India that are special, and Odisha is definitely one of them. Filled with exquisite temples and extraordinary monuments, home to many thousands of prolific artists and craftsmen; and possessing beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, and natural landscape of often-enchanting beauty, Odisha is a unique and fascinating land that is, nevertheless, still largely undiscovered by tourists.

Odisha is a veritable museum of India's sculptural and artistic heritage and has long been famous to scholars and connoisseurs for the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark (The legendary 'Black Pagoda' of European mariners), for the majestic temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri (renowned for the spectacular Rath Yatra chariot festival), and for the glorious temples of Bhubaneswar. The small but ever-growing number of sophisticated tourists who do manage to find their way to Odisha are generally prepared with some knowledge of these temples, of the delicate Orissan ikat textiles which have been become famous throughout the world, and, perhaps, of the beaches at Puri and Gopalpur on sea. They therefore plan to spend two or three days in Odisha . Even these knowledgeable visitors, however, are seldom prepared for the amazing variety and richness of the treasures that lie waiting to be discovered. If they were, they would have planned to stay for a week. And that would be just a beginning.

Odisha is a place like no other, a glowing green jewel of a state. On the east, 300 miles (482 km) of gentle coastline are open to the Bay of Bengal, while the high hills and mountains of the Eastern Ghats seal the western borders. In between, lie 96,000 square miles (156,000 sq kms) of peaceful, rural beauty. Odisha is home to three mighty rivers and to the largest fresh/salt water lake in Asia, to dozens of the most sacred places of pilgrimage in India, and to hundreds of thousands of small, traditional villages, in which almost all of her 26 million people live. Only four cities have more than one hundred thousand inhabitants, and Odisha urban and rural populations alike share a strong sense of the holiness of their beautiful land and of their enduring links with the past.

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