Whether you spell it Orissa or Odisha, a journey through this fascinating state bordering the Bay of Bengal will take you through the heart of an India less travelled – from the pinnacle of East Indian temple architecture to the living culture of the subcontinent’s oldest tribal communities.
In the fertile paddy fields of the Mahanadi Delta, lose yourself among the ruins of thousand-year-old temples whose soaring towers seem to vibrate with spiritual energy. Or get swept up in a riot of colour and sound at Puri’s Rath Yatra festival, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather to pull the idol of Lord Jagannath through the streets on a huge wooden chariot.
Wildlfe lovers can search for the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin on Chilika Lake, camp amid the pristine forests of Satkosia Gorge, and sail mangrove creeks teeming with birdlife in Bhitarkanika National Park.
But for really getting back to the land, head for the hills in southern Orissa, home to India’s greatest density of adivasis – the “original people” of India, who still maintain tribal traditions that stretch back to time untold. Trek with your tribal hosts on tracks that have been used for centuries, meet members of eight different tribes at colourful village markets, learn traditional craft skills, and dance the dhemsa until dawn with your new found friends.