I checked my watch and it was only 6:30am. The sun rises early here I thought to myself.
This morning I would be participating in the Ekamra Heritage Walk, a guided tour of 14 points of interests that dot the city, including 7 temples. In fact, Bhubaneswar is referred to as the Temple City of India because of the number of temples located in the area.
Since this was my first time in India I thought this walk would be perfect for me. It serves as an introduction to those not familiar with the Hindu religion and a chance to stroll through the city and get an insight into the local life as the tour weaves through the alleyways of the Old Town.
The tour starts off at the Mukteswar Temple, a 10th-century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer of worlds. Pay close attention as the guide points out some interesting facts about the temple and you’ll soon understand why this particular temple is known as the Gem of Odisha architecture. Trust me, it is truly an amazing piece of construction.
A short walk away from the starting point is the Bindusagar Tank, the largest body of water in Bhubansewar. The water source is used for rituals but the locals also use it for their day-to-day use as well, from cleaning to bathing.
Located nearby is the Lingaraj Temple, one of the oldest temples in the city and also the largest. This particular temple complex is dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and Vishnu. From my vintage point I could see four sections that make up the temple: the vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), natamandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings).
I didn’t know what to expect from the tour but once it started, I realized I was bombarding the guide with my questions. I was enthralled by the stories and legends associated with the religion and to some extent the architecture that I probably annoyed the other participants with my questions.
Another point of interest is Ratha Danda, a street market where fresh produce is sold. I honestly would not have noticed the giant chariots parked at the roadside because the vendors had taken over it. But there they were much like giants silently waiting to be awakened from their slumber to grace the devotees during the chariot festival of Lord Jagannath. Oh, how magnificent they would look during the procession! I made a mental note that I must return when the festival is at full force.
This is probably not part of the walk but I was brought to Art Vision Dance Academy founded by Ileana Citaristi, an Italian-born Odissi and Chhau dancer based in the city. It was here that I was introduced to the dance known as Odissi, a major ancient Indian classical dance originating from the Hindu temples of Odisha. I was captivated by the grace and power of the dancers, poetry was in motion and I dare not blink for fear of missing out.
My walk through the old part of Bhubaneswar is nothing short of enlightening and it’s a great way to get to know the city. Try it for yourself and you’ll also get a chance to talk to the locals and get a better understanding of the culture.
EKAMRA HERITAGE WALKS
- ADMISSION: Free
- WHEN: Every Sunday morning (0600 AM)
- DURATION: 2-3 hours walk, flat terrain, moderate walk, less than 2km
For more info and how to register for the tour, please log on to ekamrawalks.com.
EXPERIENCE BHUBANESWAR: AirAsia offers the lowest fares to over 130 destinations. Book your seats, accommodation, holiday packages and activities now at airasia.com.