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Orissa

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The highly cultured tropical state of Orissa lies along the northeast coast of India, on the Bay of Bengal. Its main attractions are the exquisite temples of the capital, Bhubaneswar, sacred Puri along with its long sandy beach, and the huge Sun Temple at Konark. Also increasingly popular these days are the Adivasi (tribal) areas of the southwest (25% of Orissa's population is indigenous) and the national parks to the north.

Orissa at a Glance
Date of formation 1 April 1936
Capital Bhubaneswar
Area 155,707 km²
Population
 - Total
 - Density

36,706,920(2001)
235.7/km²
Literacy rate
 - Total
 - Male
 - Female

54.63%
62.66%
40.45%
Urbanization 14.97%
Orissa map
* Wander around the myriad Hindu temples in the capital, Bhubaneswar
* Witness the Rath Yatra, one of India's most spectacular festivals, in the holy city of Puri
* Marvel at the erotic carvings of the mystery-shrouded Sun Temple at Konark
* Spot birds among the mangroves from your boat at Chilka Lake, one of Asia's largest
* Watch fishermen hauling in the catch at Gopalpur-on-Sea
* Spot elephants, tigers and crocodiles in the tropical forests of Simlipal National Park

Orissa has a long tradition of art and architecture. The early monuments date back to the third century BC. The remnant of an Ashokan pillar, turned into a Siva Lingam and enshrined in the Bhaskaresvara temple at Bhubaneswar and the lion capital of an Ashokan pillar, presently in the State Museum, speak volumes of Orissa's past glory. The rock-cut caves of Khandagiri and Udaygiri and the inscriptions recording Kharavela's short but eventful reign during the first century BC. constitute the second phase of the evolution in Oriya art. The Naga and Yaksha images found in places around Bhubaneswar belong to the post-Kharavela era. The fortification of Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar is yet another monument of ancient Orissa.

Orissa is also known for her exquisite handicrafts. Silver filigree work of Cuttack, horn work of Cuttack and Parlakhemundi and the famous applique work of Pipili deserve special mention. Pattachitra, a form of folk painting of Orissa, is a unique craft. Brass and bell metalware, particularly vases and candle stands, are beautiful and longlasting. The blackstone bowls and plates of Nilagiri and Khiching and multi-coloured stone statues are other attractions. Silk and cotton handloom products, especially saris are simply bewitching. The Sambalpuri saris and Maniabandhi patas are matchless in their texture and designs.

Orissa's coastal plains rise gently inland to the hills of the Eastern Ghats. The state is rich in minerals and is a big exporter of iron ore, but it is often destabilised by natural disasters. Flooding in the Mahanadi Delta, which used to occur regularly, has been much reduced by the building of the Hirakud Dam, near Sambalpur.

Tragically, a devastating cyclone lashed the state's coastal areas in October 1999. Officially, 9524 people died (the unofficial estimate is atleast 50,000), and about one million were left homeless. The tidal waves, some of which reached 15 km inland, destroyed thousands of hectares of crops, and the subsequent salinity and irrigation damage caused a drought. Many villagers simply starved. Floods and droughts continue annually in the region, and rebuilding lags seriously behind schedule. Orissa blames the World Bank; the World Bank blames local corruption.

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