Orissa: A Memoire (Part 1: Cuttack and Bhubaneswar)

Odisha is a land of wonders. A place to explore, a place to discover new things and meet new people. While may of us have heard about the state, very few of us have actually visited or even bothered to look it up on the map. I am sure many people would be Googling around while reading the post. So let me help you on your search adventure by giving a brief introduction about Odisha.

Odissi Dance

Odissi Dance

Odisha formally known as Orissa,is an Indian   state on the subcontinent’s east  coast, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April 1936, as a province in and consisted predominantly of Oriya speakers. Odisha is bestowed with rich natural resources with many iron and aluminum based industries in the state. On the cultural side the state is home to Odissi (Orissi), the oldest surviving dance form in India with an unbroken tradition of 2,000 years. Music also plays an important role in the life of Oriyas. Orissi music is more than two thousand five hundred years old and comprises a number of categories. Of these, the five broad ones are Tribal Music, Folk Music, Light Music, Light-Classical Music and Classical Music. Anyone who is trying to understand the culture of Odisha must take into account its music, which essentially forms a part of its legacy.

With my brother outside my Grandparent's house in Sambalpur

With my brother outside my Grandparent’s house in Sambalpur

Well that is a brief (or not so brief) introduction of Odisha. Well my childhood memories more or less revolve around my visits to Odisha during my school’s summer vacations. Over the years it became more or less a ritual. Taking a train to the small town of Sambalpur to  spend valuable time with my paternal grandparents, giving a tearful goodbye, taking an overnight bus to Cuttack for a visit to my maternal grandparents. A family get-together with my cousins at Cuttack was surely the most fun part of my trip. I still can’t remember a day when we had spent the entire day within the secured quarters of my grandfather’s residence.  One of the reasons I always looked forward to my visit to Cuttack was for Chenna Podo (Paneer Cake). People with a sweet tooth you really, I mean really need to try this. I have been told many times by my mother that when I was 5 years old I gulped down an entire kilo of the sweet at one go. I was surely born for this sweet.

A visit to Odisha was an incomplete ritual without a visit to my Aunt’s house in Bhubaneswar. While my memories of Bhubaneswar are not as vivid as that of Cuttack and Sambalpur, I fondly remember my Aunt’s chicken biryani and prawn curry. An occasional visit to  the Bhubaneswar club was  always welcomed for foodies like me and my brother. Bhubaneswar has been widely talked and written about as the city of temples. It is home to some of the more famous temples like Lingaraj Temple, Muktesvara Temple, Rajarani Temple, Ananta Vasudeva Temple. My relatives have told me I have visited some of these temples, but honestly I don’t remember a thing; you see I am not what you call a very religious man. I am not a person who would visit a temple early in the morning on the day of my birth or before exams or on any occasion for that matter. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) I fondly remember my visits to the amusement park, NICCO Park in the city. I have spend many fruitful fun hours there enjoying the rides, the food and the company of my loved ones.

NICCO Park, Bhubaneswar Main Entrance

NICCO Park, Bhubaneswar Main Entrance

It has been a few years since I have visited Odisha, I miss the food, my relatives, the whole idea of exploring new places, meeting new people. A visit to Odisha is surely on my bucket list for the coming year.