Odisha has a very rich cultural heritage, historical monuments, ancient temples and heritage sites. Bhubaneswar, the capital, plays a very important part in building up the cultural tourism of Odisha. The state is home to a lot of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, built about 2,000 years ago and some of which are UNESCO-approved world heritage sites.
Here are the top 15 historical places or heritage monuments in Odisha
Jagannath Temple, Puri
The Jagannath Temple was constructed in the Puri seashore by King Indradyumna. The present temple was rebuilt from 10th century onwards, on the site of the earlier temple, and begun by Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, the first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. The Puri temple is famous for its annual Ratha Yatra, or car festival, in which the three principal deities are pulled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Unlike the stone and metal icons found in most Hindu temples, the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are made of wood and replaced ceremoniously every twelve or 19 years by an exact replica. Puri is one of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites.
Sun Temple, Konark
The Sun Temple of Konark is a world heritage site. Located about 35 km to the northeast of Puri, on the coastline of Odisha, the temple is one of the major tourist attractions in the state. The 12th century temple is attributed to King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. Dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya, what remains of the temple complex has the appearance of a 100-foot high chariot with immense wheels and horses, all carved from stone. Once over 200 feet, much of the temple is now in ruins. The structures and elements that have survived are famed for their intricate artwork, iconography, and themes, including erotic scenes. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984, it remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela around the month of February.
Sisupalagada is situated in Khurda District, and houses ruined fortifications. It used to be the capital of ancient Kalinga. It is identified with Kalinganagara of Kharavela and Tosali of Ashoka. It is one of the largest and best preserved early historic fortifications in India, with the earliest occupation both inside and outside the later site’s northern rampart around 7th to 6th centuries BC.
Dhauli town, located 8 km away from Bhubaneswar, is famously known as the “The Land of Kalinga War”. Some of the ancient temples and a beautiful Peace Pagoda are also situated in this beautiful town on the banks of river Daya.
Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves
The Khandagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar, also known as Cuttack caves, cover a large area including ancient temples from the 2nd Century. These artificial caves consist of beautiful carvings, thus holding a huge historical significance.
This is the first and the foremost place a tourist must visit while on a trip to Odisha. Located in the old part of Bhubaneswar, the temple covers a massive area and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, as Lingam — a phallus of Lord Shiva is believed to have appeared here.
The Brahmeswara Temple is located in Bhubaneswar. It was the first temple to portray its outer walls with the figures of dancers and musicians. The temple dedicates itself to worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Ananta Vasudev Temple
The Ananta Vasudev temple in Bhubaneswar was built in the 13th century. Lord Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra are worshipped in the temple. The temple with its beautiful carvings attracts a large number of tourists every year.
Barabati Fort is a 989 AD fort built by Markata Keshari of Somavamshi (Keshari) dynasty in Cuttack. The ruins of the fort remain with its moat, gate, and the earthen mound of the nine-storied palace, which evokes the memories of past days. Today, it sits next to the modern Barabati Stadium, the venue of various sport events and cultural programmes. There is also a temple dedicated to Katak Chandi, the presiding deity of the city, not far away from the fort.
Chausath Yogini Temple
The Chausath Yogini Temple in Hirapur is also called the Mahamaya Temple. The 10th century classic temple is located 20 km from Bhubaneswar and promotes the Yogini Culture in India.
The Ranipur Jharial is located 104 km away from the Balangir District. It is considered a pure and pious place to worship different types of faiths.
The Harishankar Temple in Bolangir is also known as Sri Sri Harishankar Devasthana. It is a pilgrimage site where Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are worshipped. The scenic beauty with a waterfall and a stream of flowing water is said to attract a lot of tourists here.
Nrusinghanath Temple in Bargarh is situated near the foothills of Gandhamardan Hills. It consists of two sections: One is dedicated to Lord Nrusinghanath and the other to Lord Jagamohan.
Humaduma, in Tabada, is popularly known as the Leaning Temple of Huma and is a major tourist attraction in Odisha.
Patalganga in Nuapada is another famous tourist spot in Odisha. It contains a small lake, where people can worship as it is considered as holy as River Ganga.