Tales from Orissa - The Place of India’s Past
To witness cities, malls or modern infrastructure, this is not the part of India to which you would come to, but the Indian state of Orissa is more of a place where you would be transported thousands of years back in history while watching its unreal architecture, making it hard to believe that such details on a monument are indeed possible, that creating a structure which depicts faces of life in every possible way is real and that probably there is no end to what a human mind can create from something as simple and as basic as a piece of rock!
Orissa is that place of India where you would find an eye for imagination, which you probably thought never existed. This is the place where India’s past comes to life.
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The state of Orissa, is also known as the land of temples as there are centuries old structures located at every corner of the city, with its capital city Bhubaneswar being home to more than 700 ancient ruins which existed on the site once upon a time. One of the most magnificent structures in India, known for its rich architecture, is the Sun Temple of Konark, is located in this Indian state.
The Sun Temple of Orissa is dedicated to the Sun God, with its walls on the outside adorned with large chariot wheels from all directions, representing the chariot of the Sun God, as per ancient literature. The marvelous structure has walls adorned with intricate carvings, making it impossible to imagine creating such art on stone, and is one of India’s UNESCO heritage sites.
The Konark Temple was built in the times of the Ganga Dynasty of the East, around 1200 CE, with only its ruins visible today. The cause of the temple's destruction to date remains a mystery, with many attributing the same to foreign invasions. Nevertheless, the old structure tells a story of its own as one stands before this architecture from thousands of years ago, standing in grandeur till today.
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There would hardly be a state in India without its own artform, hence the country being called the land of diversity is not without reason. The Indian state of Orissa has its own centuries old classical dance form, the Odissi dance, with roots in ancient India and its depiction found in many scriptures. The dancers usually portray a story from Hindu scriptures and are publicly performed during festivals.
One unique aspect of Odissi dance form is that it originated in the temples of Orissa centuries ago, with the dancers depicting a mythical story or devotional songs through their performances. Even the carvings found in many historic places in the state suggest its relevance in the ancient Indian classical dance styles.
Odissi is one of the dance forms in the country found to be slowly disappearing due to its lack of reach to the masses, however a few well known experts of the dance form continue to revive the art of the state through many ways.
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A Dance of Shadows
One of the popular dances of the state, although being native to the neighbouring state, is the Chau dance, showing martial arts and folk traditions, where the dancers dress up in masks of various forms to perform a series of events through expressions.
Mayurbhanj, located in the northern part of Orissa is a place popular to witness the dancers portraying various martial arts skills. The Chahu dance gets its name from the literal meaning of the term which translates as shadows, as the dancers perform using face masks to portray a range of expressions, hence hiding their actual appearance. And what do they make the masks from? Just mud, water and organic paints.
The Sun temple of Konark is built in such a way that the rays of the sun would reach the three sides of the temple at three different times. Dawn, noon and the evening sun light up the intricate walls of the temple, making the place blessed as different faces of the sun appear in the sky.
The temple is perceived to be a gigantic solar chariot with huge decorated wheels on four sides acting as sundials, and the chariot being dragged by seven rearing horses.
Food of Orissa
Given its tribal culture and archaeological brilliance, mainly observed through a number of temples located in the state, the food from Orissa is most simple in nature and can be experienced for real when you see the simple meal being served on Sal leaf plates, mainly used for serving food at traditional places. It couldn’t get more sustainable than this!
The most famous dessert in the Indian subcontinent , which is more of a gift to the rest of the country, is a syrupy dessert named Rasgulla, a tiny sweet dumpling dipped in light sugar syrup. The sweet which originated in this eastern state, is one such dessert which can be found in any Indian sweet shop within the country and abroad.
The staple food of the place consists of an assortment of vegetables and spices, where a traditional cuisine from Orissa would consist of a no oil, no fried meal, reflecting its raw nature and a way to experience this age old land of India right from its plate!
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