East India's tribal heartland

The coastal state of Odisha, although one of India’s oldest inhabited regions with a history of over 3,000 years, is also one of the country’s yet undiscovered areas. Most tourists don’t really go beyond the classic Bhubaneshwar-Puri- Konark circuit, commonly called the Golden Triangle of the East. Bhubaneshwar has the famous Lingaraja Temple; Puri hosts the annual Ratha Yatra fair where a huge, wooden chariot of Jagannath is pulled by thousands of people; and Konark is home to the unbelievably beautiful Sun Temple of the 13th century, built entirely in black granite. Dance aficionados also throng to Konark for the annual dance festival every December.

Odisha, though, has much more to offer. This is the region where Kalinga, one of India’s oldest kingdoms flourished. It was in the War of Kalinga that Ashoka, one of India’s greatest kings, devastated by the tremendous loss of life, turned Buddhist and abandoned war. Odisha has remarkable wildlife reserves like Simlipal Reserve, known for its tigers and elephants; Bhitarkanika where birds, crocodiles and other wildlife abound; Chilka Lake, the country’s largest estuarine lagoon, with a huge population of marine and freshwater birds, many of which are endangered. The most fascinating part of Odisha’s history is its rich tribal culture, with more than 62 tribes, the state’s socio-political context is heavily influenced by its tribal past.

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