I am sincerely thankful to my friend Aditya Velamuri for taking some exceptional snapshots.Connect with him in Instagram as aditya_vvn and as Aditya Velamuri in Facebook.
Bhubaneshwar,the capital of Odisha, known as the city of temples is now the most modern city of Odisha which has been recognized by the Government of India as one of the Smart cities. While the city is developing in a rapid way, keeping itself at par with the modern architecture of an elegant township, it still holds as an important destination to visit some major Ecological sites and historical towns of this country. Among the numerous historical and ecological trails in this state we decided to combine both, which can make up for a perfect day trip from the capital city. As we started from Bhubaneshwar we proceeded towards Nandan kanan road for our first destination which is Dhabaleshwar temple. We needed to cross the Kathajodi river and then drive along the fertile plains of the Mahanadi river in Banki road. If tourists are visiting this part of Odisha in the monsoons one can see a substantial amount of increase in the volume of the two rivers in Cuttack. In the rest of the year due to heavy civilization, the river remains dry with vast stretches of river bed sands.
The first glimpse of the huge river basin can be seen from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Setu which connects to Cuttack Athgarh road as shown in the picture above.The bridge leads us to the Mahanadi river basin from Kathajodi river.
Only 25kms from Odisha’s old capital city Cuttack, Dhabaleshwar temple is a delight for devotees of Lord Shiva.This ancient 12th century temple is white in color and it owes its origin to a miracle performed by Lord Shiva.It is believed that once a thief stole a black calf from the village and hid himself up in the temple premises as angry villagers tried to chase him.He prayed to Lord Shiva and listening to his prayers Lord Shiva arrived as a sanyasi and saved the thief by bringing the calf as white in front of the villagers. Seeing a white calf the villagers spared the life of the thief and from that day the thief understood that stealing is a crime so he devoted himself to the services of Lord Shiva .Hence the temple got its name as Dhabaleshwar .In the local language Dhaba means white and eshwar means Lord .The temple was renovated into a shrine complex by the king of khurda in the 12th century and since then it has become a famous holy place for lacs of people who come here every year.
The Odisha government built the first ever hanging foot bridge to go to the island inside the Mahanadi river where the temple complex is situated.
The 250 feet long suspension foot bridge can accommodate 600 persons at a time. A walk through the bridge and then walking barefoot on the marble stones of the temple stimulates a spiritual feeling in every traveller’s mind. Inside the temple numerous priests can be seen offering flowers and incense sticks, and the devotees ringing the bells hanging from the ceiling to create a spiritual sound.Due to its mystic and moral mythological background the temple must be visited by anyone visiting the capital of Odisha. The journey through the suspension bridge over the mighty Mahanadi river also adds a sense of adventure to the trip.
Proceeding further along Banki road the landscape soothes our eyes with the greenery Of Chandaka forests and the serene breeze from the fertile plains adjacent to the Mahanadi river.
A short diversion from the state highway leads us to a tranquil place on the banks of Mahanadi called Devi Dwara. The shore of the river here is marked with rocks,small temples and a huge banyan tree which provides respite for the travelers travelling here in the hot and humid times of summer.Devi dwara is an island situated inside the river which can be reached by manual boats.Though I could not find any clue to reach the island which may be due to the rise in the level of water in the monsoon season,instead I found a panoramic view of the river from the spot.According to the locals the place looks majestic and provides a serene effect at the time of full moon with a clear sky full of stars.The spread of the two rivers like numerous roots of a tree in Cuttack provides a unique geography to the delta town while the religious temples in the fertile land along the rivers makes the trip in this part of Odisha both spiritual and scenic.
Temples at Devi Dwara.
In this modern civilization the availability of freshwater ponds or lakes has become near to extinct due to acquisition of the lands by the high rising buildings.But due to recent awareness of protecting the biodiversity,government has taken huge steps in protecting waterways and lakes.The example of which we find while visiting Anshupa Lake in Athgarh district of Odisha.
Just 2 hour journey from the capital city of Bhubaneshwar,this lake is the largest freshwater lake in the state and provides a large breeding ground for various species of migratory birds that flock here in the winters. OTDC Eco tourism has also built bamboo cottages which provides accomodation for travellers on the nearby Saranda hill.
Bamboo cottages built by OTDC Eco tourism on Saranda hill top
The lake is 5km long and is situated on the banks of Mahanadi river which is the largest river in Odisha. The lake has an entry point at the downhill of Saranda hill where a beautiful park has been built.In order to have a panoramic view of the lake one has to visit the site of Odisha Eco tourism where a watchtower has been built .On a clear sunny day the view from the watchtower becomes magical as the sun sets into the hills of the Athgarh forest and on the other side the reflections on the lake become kaleidoscopic. Though we missed the opportunity to catch a clear sunset due to the monsoon clouds ,but we were gifted with a view of utmost greenery in the vicinity of the plains surrounding the lake.
From the watchtower the different colour of the water of Mahanadi and the lake is clearly visible which adds to a photogenic moment.Boating facilities are also available inside in the park.From the park the lake can be seen covered with numerous water lilies which are abundant throughout the lake.To capture the actions of numerous birds one has to enter the park and go near the lake and patiently wait for the birds that feeds on the fishes and algae of the lake.
In the north west of Anshupa lake lies the remnants of an old dynasty who once ruled major parts of Odisha. The Keshari dynasty built a fort surrounding the lake,and archaeologists believe that it belongs to 10 th century A.D.Now only a well and a closed ammunition cell are the remains of the lost history which is now maintained by OTDC eco tourism.Much of the Saranda hill is still unexplored and who knows many such remnants of lost civilizations can be discovered. Remnants of an ammunition cell.
Remnants of a Well constructed by the ruling dynasty of Saranda fort.
View of the lake from the Watchtower
The road from Cuttack to the hill top of Saranda hill is pretty smooth which runs through the state highway leading to the Athgarh forests. As Athgarh forest is on the other side of the hill,so elephant crossings are frequent along the highway.If one is lucky they may see herds of elephants coming down from the forest in search of rice grains in the villages situated on the banks of river Mahanadi. A day trip to Athgarh provides complete satisfaction for nature lovers and bird watchers in the form of Anshupa Lake,while the historians may find the Saranda hill more interesting.