If the south was scenic and seductive, the west turned out to be wet, wild and wonderful with the water bodies providing a perfect backdrop to the wild countryside in the second segment of our road trip in Odisha. And of course, the trip was interspersed with some cultural landmarks. Join us for a photographic experience of this land.
Leaning Temple of Huma
Situated on the bank of the mighty Mahanadi, this temple is one of the only two temples in the world that has a tilt or lean to its structure. The edifice of the temple, dedicated to Lord Bimaleswar, has an almost 14° lean to it. Interestingly, there are a few smaller temples in the compound that also have a bit of slant, but they deviate in the opposite direction to the main temple. This phenomenon has both fascinated and baffled archaeologists and researchers alike and has been attributed to everything from displacement in the bedrock upon which it is built and weak foundations, among other theories. The temple was built in the 1600s and is a prime example of the Kalinga style architecture.
The Hirakud Dam project was initiated in 1947, making it one of the first major damming undertakings in Independent India’s history. It was completed a shade over 10 years later, resulting in the formation of the Hirakud Reservoir. It has a catchment area of a staggering 83,400 square kilometres and is the world’s longest earthen dam. This dam helps controlling floods, provides irrigation to farmers in nearby regions, and has industrial uses too.
Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary
With the Hirakud Dam offering a sensational backdrop to the forest, Debrigarh plays host to leopards, sloth bears, bison, langurs, spotted deer, and more.
Weavers of Bargarh
At the Bargarh weavers’ settlement, you could witness the intricacy and flair of the region’s signature ikat weaving technique. A complicated tie-dye approach sees the yarn submerged in dyes and then masked using thread to create pretty patterns and complex designs. Once this process is complete, the yarn is woven together to form the final sari. Even with a team of skilled artisans divvying up the responsibilities, this process can take up to a month or more to complete. The result is well worth the wait, though, as the saris we saw looked amazing. In fact, some of the examples we witnessed had been anointed with National Awards from the Government of India’s Ministry of Textiles.
Maa Samaleswari Mandir
Dedicated to the goddess Samaleswari, the Maa Samaleswari Mandir in Sambalpur town is a beautiful example of what granite, lime, mortar, and other architectural elements can accomplish. The majestic pillars, soaring steeple, and peaceful ambience meld to offer a special tribute to Odisha’s beloved Devi Samaleswari.
Baghamunda Nature Camp
Our forays into the wilderness had only begun with Debrigarh, as our next destination was the Baghamunda in the bountiful Satkosia Tiger Reserve. We spent the night at the freshly renovated Baghamunda Nature Camp which is set amid picturesque hills in the Angul area. Of course, when in a forest, some wildlife exploration is a given. Only it is not your standard four-wheeled safari experience here.
Ecotourism at Tikarpada
Here you get to venture out on an exciting boat safari as part of the Odisha Eco-Tourism experience. As you motor through the astounding Satkosia gorge, you can spot gharials, muggers (marsh crocodiles) and saltwater crocodiles in the waters around you. We saw a mugger cutting through the river and even caught a turtle sunning itself on a rock. There is also wildlife to be found in the jungles on either bank, with tigers, pangolins, leopards, and wild cats all residents of Satkosia just waiting to be spied.
The western region of Odisha clearly had a lot to offer. We enjoyed some cultural sights, some fascinating temples, and a couple of dense and regal forests. With smooth tarmac and intoxicating vistas to be found along the routes that we covered, we felt quite vindicated by our decision to hunt for Odisha’s hidden treasures by road rather than any other means of transport. Our adventures in this magical state do not end here, though, as we have one more leg traversing through central and northern Odisha still to come. Stay tuned.
Text: Harket Suchde & Sujith Gopinath
Photography: Nitin Suryavanshi & Tally Talwar