Odisha is the land of temples and tranquillity with a cultural vibrance that distinguishes it from all else. Its shores witnessed the great Kalinga war, which marked the beginning of the Buddhist faith. A spiritual retreat to the state is sure to rejuvenate the heart and mind of any pilgrim searching for peace and mindfulness. By Manya Saini

Some of the nation’s finest spiritual pearls lurk in the coastal state of Odisha, home to some of the most revered temples in the country. A journey to the divine in the state is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to feel the fervour of a temple prayer and the gentle lull of a stupa, connect to nature in its thick forests and feel the meditative calmness of water on its beaches. A spiritual trip through the state would be incomplete without a visit to these places.

1. Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri

 

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Odisha has been touted the land of Lord Jagannath, the master of the universe and the pilgrim town of Puri is the centre of the Jagannath mystic belief system. One of the char dhams of the Hindu faith, it is the only shrine in India where goddess Subhadra, sister of Lord Krishna is worshipped alongside her brothers. The Nilachakra or the blue wheel is located on top of the temple with a local belief that if one sees the chakra made of eight metals or asta dhatu, it is equivalent to seeing the Lord in person. The holy idols inside the inner sanctum carved out of wood are revered by pilgrims across the world. The main temple is considered an architectural feat with it being constructed in such a way that the shadow of the main temple does not hit the ground at any time of the day.

Getting There 

The best time to visit the temple is during the annual Devasnana Purnima festival and the Chariot Festival, which happens in June/July. Devotees believe that blessings are bestowed by the god on all who come to see him as he enters the street and grants wishes.

Puri is well connected by frequent trains and buses to all major cities of the country. The closest airport is located two hours away in Bhubaneswar. The best hotel to book your stay in the area near to the temple complex is Mayfair Heritage, Puri.

2. Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar

 

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The grand temple city of India is home to the country’s most historic and revered shrines, foremost among them are the Lingaraj Temple, Parasurmeswara Temple, Mukteshwara Temple, and Rajarani Temple. The architectural and cultural marvels are centuries old and form the heart of the local religious life.

Locals believe that Lord Shiva preferred the city of Bhubaneswar over Benaras and has resided in the holy Bindu Saras Lake for eternity. The edifice of these sites is carved with intricate stonework that embellishes the main sanctum with folklore and mythology. Every year almost 200,000 pilgrims visit the city to celebrate the Mahashivratri festival amid much fanfare of chanting, flowers, lanterns, and lights.

Getting There

The city is well connected by plane, train, and roadways, with the closest airport being the Biju Patnaik International Airport. The best hotels in the city are the Mayfair Lagoon and Trident Hotel Bhubaneswar.

Visit the temple city between October to February to enjoy pleasant and temperate weather.

3. Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri – The Diamond Triangle of Buddhist Pilgrimage of Odisha

 

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Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, and Udaygiri together form the diamond triangle of Buddhist Pilgrimage in the state, visited by millions of devotees. There are three monasteries and eight temples in the area that date back to as early as the 6th century AD. The relics in the museums of these sites have caskets believed to carry the bones of Gautam Buddha. The artefacts and ruins of these sites date as far back as the 1st century marking the origin of the religion of Buddhism. Apart from Indian Buddhists and pilgrims, visitors from China, Japan, and Indonesia also frequent the three complexes.

Getting There

The closest airport from the sites is located 90 kilometres away in Bhubaneswar. People choosing to travel by train should consider arriving in Cuttack, which is approximately 55 kilometres away and stay at Pal Heights Mantra hotel in the city.

The best time to visit the sites especially if you are looking to trek through the hill ruins is between October to March.

4. Konark Sun Temple, Konark

 

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The Konark Sun Temple is the grandest temple of its kind in India, designed in the distinct shape of a chariot. The stone facade of the shrine is engraved with thousands of mesmerising images of gods, mythological creatures, birds, and animals. The shrine is dedicated to Surya, the sun god, it also carries vibrant sculptures of goddess Durga, and Shiva Linga, which the locals believe fulfil the wishes of the devotees. Large parts of the UNESCO world heritage site are now in ruins but intricate artwork, iconography, and imagery also carry erotic Kama and Mithuna scenes.

Getting There

The best time to visit this wondrous site is during the five days of the Konark Dance Festival held in December.

Book your stay at the Lotus Eco Resort Konark to enjoy the shrine and the surrounding pristine beaches to the fullest. The site is approximately 30 kilometre from Bhubaneswar Airport and is well connected by train and road too.

5. Dhauligiri Shanti Stupa, Bhubaneswar

 

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A significant landmark of Odisha’s composite culture and Buddhist heritage, the Dhauligiri Shanti Stupa is located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar close to the riverbank of Daya. The site was built by the Odisha Government in collaboration with the Kalinga Nippon Sangha to commemorate the famous Kalinga War fought along the riverside around 261 BC, which resulted in the foundation of the Buddhist faith by Emperor Ashoka. The stupa has four large idols of Lord Buddha and it records his life through exquisitely carved stone slabs. The site transports pilgrims to the beginnings of Buddhism with a series of ancient rock edicts situated along the hill.

Getting There

If you are someone looking for a tranquil wellness retreat to feel the philosophical teaching of Buddhism come to life, book your stay at the Hotel Trident Hilton, Bhubaneswar. The hills are located on the outskirts of Odisha’s capital city and can be reached by road, train and airways.

The best time to visit the site is during spring months when the lush green agricultural lands come to life.

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