Orissa: Of Gods and Mortals is the result of almost two years of research and putting together a wealth of information that highlight the state as a major tourist attraction. Orissa abounds with great cultural and historical wealth apart from its rich and diverse natural heritage. Incredibly rich in temples, arts and crafts, Orissa is also home to much of nature‘s splendour in the form of its beaches, luxuriant wooded sanctuaries, breathtaking waterfalls and giant lakes. Despite the inevitable march towards modernisation and progress it remains in many ways an antique land. This book is an attempt to promote Orissa as a significant tourist destination and also to fill-in a gap that exists by way of visual images of various aspects of Orissa in one place.
Arunjeet Banerjee turned his back on concrete over a decade ago when he first visited Corbett National Park with an amateur camera. Here began a journey which would take him across forests, deserts, marshlands, backwaters and mofussil India. After almost a decade of literally making the wild his second home, he now focuses on travel destinations, shooting the common with the rare. His write-ups and pictures have been published by leading travel magazines of the country. His aim is to showcase India to its people and abroad as a destination of choice and to bring out the quintessential Indianness of his country, be it destinations, landscapes, people, nature, religion or culture. He is the Director-in-Charge, Finance and Accounts of A H Wheeler & Co. (P) Ltd., a leading book retail company.
My affair with Orissa started with an assignment from India Today Travel Plus and I shall remain ever indebted to them for having introduced me to this wonderful state. Its ancient history, beautifully sculpted temples, pristine beaches, lush forests and friendly people have created a very special niche in my heart. These memories of repeated visits over the last three years keep coming back to me again and again, filling me with immense joy.
Faced with an assignment, I, like many enthusiastic travel photographers, wanted to showcase Orissa from a perspective that was not yet conceived of. My pictures had to be different from other photographers. This made it imperative to research the available visual history on Orissa. I thought it was going to be a simple task. Unfortunately, when I started out with my research, I found a total lack of collated visual information on all aspects of the state at one place. There were books which dealt with specific aspects of Orissa such as textiles and tribes but none at all that focused on, and highlighted, this gorgeous state as an important tourist destination especially considering the fact that Orissa possesses practically everything that a tourist might be looking for and is still comparatively unexplored, far out from the reaches of the mad rush that other tourist spots experience.
My research on Orissan visual history remained a dream and I had to make do with whatever was available at that point in time. At the same time I felt there was a definite need for a visual reference on Orissa, one that would highlight the immense tourism potential of the state so that people can get a sense of what the state has to offer—a kind of armchair travel book (as opposed to a traditional guidebook) with pictorial rather than textual depictions of places. Thus, the book took birth during one my trips to Gopalpur when, sitting out one morning on the beach at sunrise I wondered why this state was neglected in comparison to the others where tourism and related infrastructure is concerned. Rupa and Co. very kindly agreed to publish it and kept egging me on to complete the project.
This is a humble effort to showcase my photographs of this amazing land of Lord Jagannatha without whose blessings, my effort would never have fructified. I offer this book to Him and the people of Orissa. While I have tried to incorporate as much visual reference as possible, I know for certain that there still is a lot of scope for further inclusions and improvements. I would welcome suggestions from my readers as I firmly believe that a successful book evolves over time through the implementation of constructive feedback from its readers.
India in miniature could aptly describe Orissa, for it encapsulates a legacy of the highest I traditions as well as cultural and religious diversities. Incredibly rich in arts and crafts, it is also home to much of nature’s splendour in the form of its beaches, luxuriant wooded sanctuaries, breathtaking waterfalls and giant lakes. Despite the inevitable march towards modernisation and progress it remains in many ways an antique land. Archaeologists have excavated sites here that pre- date the birth of Jesus Christ and anthropologists list as many as sixty—two prevailing tribes, many of whom are still in the most primitive stages of civilisation.
Located between the parallels 17.49-N and 22.34-N latitudes and meridians 8l.27—E and 87.29-E longitudes, Orissa is bound by the Bay of Bengal on the east, Chhattisgarh on the west and Andhra Pradesh on the south. To the north lie the states of West Bengal and Jharkhand. It encompasses a total area of over 155,707 sq. km. with a vast coastline of approximately 450 km. The coastal region of Orissa stretches from the River Subarnarekha in the north to the river Rushikulya in the south. Aptly referred to as the ‘Hexadeltaic region’, the area is gifted with six rivers that form several deltas of varied sizes. The major rivers of the state cut deep and narrow valleys, further adding to the magnificent landscape.
Three—fourths of the entire state comprises mostly hills and mountains of the Eastern Ghats, and the average height of these is about 900 m above sea level. Forming the western slopes of the Ghats are the eroded plateaus, the Panposh—Keonjhar—Pallahara comprising the upper Baitarani catchment basin and the Nabrangpur-Jeypore plateau comprising the Sabari Basin. Within the wooded forest, one can rind numerous waterfalls either at the point of origin of Orissa’s major rivers or at the foothills.
Various lakes apart from the Chilika divide the landscape further adding to the picturesque setting. Ansupa, a sweet water lake, located in Banki in Cuttack district is 3 km in length and l.5 km in breadth. Sara, another sweet water lake located near Puri, is 5 km long and 3 km wide. Spread over 134 acres is Lake Kanjia in Nandankanan near Bhubaneswar.
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