Orissa, the lush green state, girdled by the Bay of Bengal, has seen some of the best fusion of traditional Indian art in its many temples and monuments and has been able to preserve much of it, in an environment natural to its wonder and attractions. Odisha (formerly Orissa), an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal, is known for its tribal cultures and its many ancient Hindu temples. The capital, Bhubaneswar, is home to hundreds of temples, notably the intricately-carved Mukteshvara. The Lingaraj Temple complex, dating to the 11th century, is set around sacred Bindusagar Lake. Heavily forested, and isolated, Orissa was once famous for its majestic battle elephants. But life in Orissa revolved around temples, and that the Oriyas lived lives free of strife, is evident from the fact that the state has few forts or fortified palaces to its credit, indicative of centuries of peace and harmony. The Odisha State Museum is focused on the area’s history and environment. It was in Orissa, that Buddhism found some of its strongest exposure, and cult following. However, it was Hindu art that dominated the landscape, eventually, and resulted in the profusion of temple traditions, that have endured till now.
Most of the state’s attractions are close to each other, and convenient access is provided out of the state capital, Bhubaneshwar. The capital itself is an intriguing amalgam of the old and the new, an emerging modern Indian city, that is steeped in the roots of the traditions of its glorious past, without being overwhelmed by it.
Orissa, situated in the north-eastern part of the Indian peninsula, is bound by the Bay of Bengal on the east, West Bengal in the northeast, Bihar on the north, Madhya Pradesh on the west and Andhra Pradesh on the south. The state extends between the latitudes 17°49′ North and 22°34″ North and longitudes 81°29′ East and 87°29′ East.
Ancient Orissa had a number of important ports such as Paloura, Tamralipti and Dharma along Orissa’s 482 km long open coastline. It is little wonder then that a flourishing maritime trade existed between Paloura (now Puri) and the Indonesian islands. As a result, the influence of the Pali language and Buddhism spread, in due course, to Southeast Asia. The old Buddhist connection with these regions is visible in the ‘Peace Pagoda’ built by the Japanese Buddhists in this century and the Dhavateswar temple on the Dhauli hilltop near Bhubaneswar.
In its long history spanning more than just the present millennium, the region of modern Orissa was known by different names at different points of time-Kalinga, Utkala, Kongada and Our-Desha.