Friday, 11 December 2015

Sambalpur: The little known sleeping town of Western Odisha

My association with Sambalpur can be stretched back to the mid 1970s when I used to be a school going teen-ager. The town derives its name from its presiding deity Maa Samaleswari enshrined in a temple called Samalai Gudi on the banks of Mahanadi, erected by the Chauhans in the mid 16th century. The town finds reference in  Ptolemy's text as Sambakala, a diamond trading centre in 2nd century AD. The history of Sambalpur is enriched with the reigns of several famous dynasties like the Guptas, Sarbhapuriyas, Marathas and the Chauhans. The British occupied the region in the beginning of the 19th century. The area has witnessed many uprisings against the Europeans during the British rule. A district head quarter town and an important commercial centre, it is famous for its textiles, particularly its handloom silk Sambalpuri sarees. Due to its unique pattern, design and texture, the Sambalpuri sarees are internationally famed. 


Deity of Samaleswari
This small town popularly known as the capital of Western Odisha had produced some great revolutionaries like Veer Surendra Sai during the British Regime but  somehow  failed to produce good politicians after independence. The result is obvious- the town saw negligible infrastructural development. The longest earth dam(4.8Km) was constructed over river Mahanadi in the late 1950s and two tiny satellite townships developed on either end of the dam, namely, Hirakud and Burla. The dam created a huge reservoir which looks like a ocean and is a feast for the eyes of the tourists. But lack of governmental initiative and drive has resulted in many people not even being aware of this panoramic  spot let alone visiting it.

Around Sambalpur the following attactions are of prime importance.
  • Hirakud Dam - world's longest dam is situated over River Mahanadi. The Gandhi Minar and Jawahar Minar at both ends of the dam with well maintained gardens are also lovely places to visit.
    Hirakud Dam
  • Huma - the leaning temple of Shiva is the main attraction in this scenic village.(32 KM).  
  • Cattle Island - one of the exciting tourism sites of the district. The place is very popular with nature lovers and is situated in the reservoir of the Hirakud Dam.
  • Ghanteshwari - a temple well known for the presence thousands of hanging bells situated on the banks of river Mahanadi in the village called Chiplima ( 25 KM)
  • Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary at Badarma (50 KM east of Sambalpur on NH6) is a densely forested area providing habitat to a wide variety of wildlife.
  • Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary adjoining Hirakud Reservoire is also a great picnic spot.

Market Place in the Town
Burla is known as the education hub of western Odisha with three great institutions namely Veer Surendra Sai Medical College, Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology and Sambalpur University situated within a radius of 2 Kilometres. The advent of the Head Quarters of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited in 1992 has added to the intellectual glamour of Burla and Sambalpur. Hirakud on the opposite side of the dam is home for HINDALCO, the alluminium plant of the Birlas taken over from INDAL.

Sambalpur University
Sambalpur retains its classic sleepy charm, even in the face of rapid, albeit unplanned expansion and a deluge of retail establishments particularly during last decade. Some of the houses along the old part of Sambalpur are still maintained, and used, like they were, a century ago. Sambalpur has several tourist attractions both in and around the town. Inside the town there are several temples of worship. Prominent among them are the Samaleswari Temple, Pataneswari Temple, Budharaja Temple on a hill top in the heart of the town etc. The Samaleswari temple represents the finest Chauhan style of circumvallation round the sanctum. The image of Samalei is a unique sculpture and appears to be a primitive deity worshipped by the local people.

Sambalpur is well connected with major cities of India and has a well networked transport facility for commercial and public transportation. Sambalpur is connected with Cuttack by NH42 and 288 km from Cuttack. NH6 runs through Sambalpur and is now a six lane highway. The State Highway No. 10 connecting Rourkela to Sambalpur is now a four lane highway covering the distance of 150 Kms. Sambalpur has five railway stations, viz. Sambalpur Junction, Sambalpur Road, Sambalpur City, Hirakud and Maneswar. The Sambalpur Divisional Office of East Coast Railways is situated in the town. The town has direct rail services to Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Vizag, Mumbai, Delhi Chennai, Bengaluru, Allepey etc.  The nearest airports are at Bhubaneswar (312 Km) and Raipur (260Km). A new airport has been planned in Jharsuguda (50KM) and once it is constructed Sambalpur can be reached easily by air also.

The roads inside the town are also broad and with pavements. One enjoys driving in this town though there are limited parking spaces available. Rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available for local transport. A few town buses also ply in the town for convenience of the public. There are several budget and good hotels in the town as well.

I would like to appeal to all my readers who might be planning a trip to Odisha not to restrict themselves to the golden triangle of Bhubaneswar-Puri-Konark but to make Sambalpur a part of their itinerary.  I can assure you that you will relish the scenic beauty and the sambalpuri silk sarees and of course the rich cultural heritage of western Odisha.

PS: The images of this post have been taken from the following sources:

This post is specifically written for Tata Motors and their #madeofgreat Zonal war campaign.

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