April 1 is celebrated as Utkal Divas in the Indian state of Odisha. It marks the formation of Odisha as an independent state. On this day, in 1936, it was separated out of Bihar and Orissa Province and was demarcated as the new state along with some parts of Madras Presidency. The state got its name from the Odra or Udra tribes that inhabited the central region of the present day Odisha.
The state has a glorious cultural and historical relevance. Historically, it has been known by different names such as Kalinga, Utakal, Udra, Toshali and Kosala. It has been a prominent state since the time of Mahabharata. There has been frequent mentions of this state in the ancient history.
It has been ruled by many powerful kings during different time periods. Odisha was a formidable political power during the rule of King Brahmadatta and was known as Kalinga sometime between the 6th and 4th century BCE. In 4th century BCE, it was conquered by Nanda Dynasty and then invaded by Ashoka, the Mauryan king. It flourished under the Ganga dynasty in 11th century and has always remained the citadel of Hindu culture, history, religion and architecture since then.
Odisha is a place of religious and spiritual significance for many Hindus as it has several temples that are sacred pilgrimage destinations. The most popular one is 12th-centuy old Jagannath temple. Jagannath Puri is regarded as one of the most important four dhaams or sacred places. It attracts many tourists and devotees. Located at Puri, Jagannath temple was built in the year 1078. It is devoted to Lord Vishnu and is known for the famous Rath Yatra or Chariot festival.
Some of the incredible facts about the temple are as follows:
1. Historically, Puri is known as “Sri Kshetra”, the wealthy land. It was invaded 18 times by Hindu and Muslim rulers who desired the temple’s treasures.
2. The flag atop the temple always flows in the opposite direction of the wind.
3. The shadow of the main Gopuram is not visible in the daytime.
4. Priests observe the ritual of climbing a 45-storey building to change the flag.
5. No birds fly above the Jagannath temple.
Along with temples, Odisha also features a picturesque view of beaches.