Orissa played host to one of the richest periods in Indian temple construction, most strikingly preserved in the magnificent Sun Temple of Konark, which acted as a beacon for sailors for nearly a millennium. Its intricately carved, sensual sculptures continue to mesmerize modern-day travellers, while the great and architecturally astonishing temples of Bhubaneswar and Puri draw pilgrims in their millions from across India - climaxing each summer with the electrifying Rath Yatra festival. Meanwhile, holiday-makers from Kolkata have enjoyed Puri's broad and sandy beaches for years and backpackers find rest and respite in the shady cafés and mellow guesthouses.
More than 2000 years ago, the fertile delta on which the modern capital Bhubaneswar stands witnessed one of the most significant battles of India's history, when the Emperor Asoka, having massacred his Kalingan opponents, converted to Buddhism and laid the foundations for one of the great empires of world history.
Inland, Orissa's beautiful hills, home to the Adivasis (tribal peoples), are among the least densely populated and most densely forested regions of India. Beneath them lie rich resources of iron ore, coal, bauxite and other minerals, but despite some mining activity much of the interior retains its remote charm. Weekly
(markets) draw tribal communities together in a medley of colour, ornamentation and palm wine, reinforcing a culture and tradition that predates most others of the subcontinent.
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