Sambalpur serves as the gateway to the bewitching western zone of Odisha, abounding in lush green forests, colorful wild-life, exquisite array of hills, waterfalls of streaming pearls, rich tribal life and culture, folk songs and dances and a variety of monuments. Sambalpur has its own contribution to the cultural formentation of our country.
Sambalpur is famous for its handloom textile works which has earned international fame in recent times. The textiles for their unique pattern, design and texture commonly come under the patent of Sambalpuri . It has also got some rare places and items which are somewhat unique in nature.
Nature has been bounteous to Sambalpur in more than one way. The wide diversity of flora and fauna in and around Sambalpur is an eloquent testimony to Mother Nature’s generosity.
Sambalpur is endowed with much natural splendour unspoilt by modern Tourism. It is fascinating to be in the midst of nature in all its glory. There are many places of interest.
Hirakud Dam ,The Longest
Only 15 kms. north of Sambalpur, the longest dam of the world stands in its lone majesty across the great river Mahanadi, which drains an area of 1,33,090 Sq.Kms., more than twice the area of Shrilanka. The bulk of Hirakud dam contains earth, concrete and masonry materials ‘sufficient to make a road 8 metres wide and pave it from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Amritsar to Dibrugarh in Assam’. From horizon to horizon the resorvoir forms the largest artificial lake in Asia with an area of 746 Sq.Kms. and a shore line over 640 Kms. A twenty-one Kilometres drive on the dyke offers a unique experience of calm serenity and majesty of nature. One can enjoy the sight of mighty Hirakud dam and the fantastic expanse of water from the top of the revolving minarate called Gandhi Minar.
Cattle Island, A Natural Wonder
Exists in one of the extreme point of Hirakud Reservoir, a Natural wonder. It is near to Kumarbandh village of Belpahar-Banharpali range which is about 90 kms from Sambalpur town. But if someone travels through a motor lunch from Hirakud dam it is quite nearer about 10 kms in the river. The island is nothing but a sub-merged hill and prior to Hirakud Dam construction, was a developed village. The specialty about the island is the inhabitants, only comprises of cattle group of animals. During the resettlement period, villagers left some of their cows and bulls and when the dam construction is over the cattle settled down on the hill-top. By the passage of time the nearby area filled up with the reservoir water and gave the shape of the hill-top looks like an island. Being away from mankind, the cattle are wild in nature and they never allow themselves to become the prey of human-beings. As they spend whole of their life on the hill filled up with dense forest, their shape and size are quite bigger in comparison to the normal cattle. All are of white colour except a very few. Very swift like other wild animals. People living adjacent to the island sometime try to catch them, but rarely succeed in capturing those animals. We always hear about the cattle as the pet animals, but here is a contradiction, they can be also wild in nature. The responsible factor being the surrounding atmosphere.
Huma, The Leaning Temple of Lord Shiva
A village in the Sambalpur Subdivision, situated on the left bank of the Mahanadi, 23 kms. south of Sambalpur. The village contains the Leaning temple dedicated to Lord Siva, which was built in the reign of Baliar Singh, the fifth Raja of Sambalpur. The worship of Siva is said to have been initiated by a milkman(Gauda), who daily crossed the Mahanadi to a place on the bank where the underlying rock croped out. Here he daily offered his dole of milk, which was at once drunk up by the rock, and this miraculous circumstance led to enquiries, which ended in the construction of the present temple. Huma is a place of pilgrimage, and is also visited by strangers out of curosity to see the different kind of fish in the river. A great fair takes place at the foothill in March every year on the occasion of Sivratri. The presiding diety is Bimaleswar Siva. The special type of fish found here are called as ‘Kudo’ fish. They are said to be so tame that they will eat sweets and other foods from the hands of those who bathe close to the temple. During auspicious days they are called by their names and given the ‘prasad’ of the God. Here nobody tries to catch them as they are believed to be the assets of the God. Now about the main point of attraction i.e. the tilted structure of temple. From the investigation and interviews performed by our team, nobody able to give satisfying reply. The surprising thing is, the main temple tilted to one direction and other small temples tilted to some other direction. And within the temple complex i.e. within the boundaries of temple, everything found to be in tilted condition including the boundaries. Now again the angle of inclination is not changed since last 40/50 years as said by the villagers and priests. However the structure is tilted may be due to some geological reason, may be the earth crust is un-even in structure. About the inclination, its not possible to judge whether the angle is in a increasing trend or not. For that some sort of measurement mechanism should be given to analyse it very correctly as it is done in leaning tower of Pissa.
Bells Galore, Ghanteshwari
As the name indicates there’s bells and bells and bells wherever your eyes reach. 33 kms south-west of Sambalpur and on the bank of river Mahanadi, it was playing an important role for navigation in the past. It was called a light house without light!. One temple is also existed here, the Goddess called by the name Ghanteswari from which the place got its name. Earlier there were some big size bells on this spot and with the help of wind those creating enormous sound which made the navigators aware of this trechorous spot and they never came near it. This area being the conglomeration of three streams of water of river Mahanadi, the water current here is very trechorous forming a whirlpool. Due to this many boats were drowned while nearing this spot. Here the wind blows quite heavily and with the help of it the bells producing sound. Now after the construction of Hirakud dam, this spot became safer. The specialty of this temple area is, thousands of bells hanging all around, the only place of its kind in Odisha.
A combination of both Hirakud Dam and Huma Temple is Chiplima, about 37 Kms. from Sambalpur. An ideal picnic spot, Chiplima is known for a natural fall (24.38 mts. In height) harnessed for generating electricity. It is also known for harbouring “Ghanteswari”, the presiding deity of the place. Moreover, the State livestock Breeding Farm and Agricultural Farm are located here.
A spot of an altogether different hue is Ushakothi wild life Sanctuary, 43 Kms. North-East of Sambalpur on NH.6. Stretching for more than 130 Kms., the Sanctuary harbours Elephants, Tigers, Gours, Sambars, Black Panthers, Deer, Spotted Deer, and Wild Bears etc. The two watching towers located near the saline tank inside the Sanctuary enable the visitors to catch a view of these animals.
Sambalpur also boasts of a pilgrimage-cum-sight seeing spot. Kandhara, 78 Kms. from Sambalpur in Rairakhol Sub-Division, is the birthplace of Poet Bhima Bhoi, the great propounder of Mahima Dharma or alternatively known as Alekha Dharma. One can visit the Kandhara village where Bhima Bhoi had fallen down and by the grace of God, was rescued.
Hatibari, the karma bhumi of padmashree Dr. Isaac Santra is situated amidst Forest about 24 Kms. to the South of Sambalpur. It has its importance for the Leper Home started by this great Leprosy Worker, who left the world an aura whose humanitarianism captured the imagination of the people and filled them with genuine love for mankind and endowed them with tolerance and mutual respect.
The old township of Sambalpur is a land of temples – the temples of Liakhai, Madanmohan, Satyabadi, Bariha, Brahampura, Dadhibamana, Timini and Gopalji Revals the influence of Vaishnava tradition in Sambalpur. Also the people are worshippers of both Shiva and Shakti. The Shiva Temple atop Budharaja Hills, Maneswar Shiva Temple at Maneswar, Gupteswar, Balunkeswar, Loknath alongwith the temples of the Goddess Samaleswari, Pataneswari, Batmangala, Budhimaa, Mahamayi etc. symbolize the co-exsistence of the Shiva and Shakti. The silent leaning temple of Huma challenges the architectural technique of the leaning tower of Pisa. The two Mosques and the two Churches in the Town speak of the secular outlook of the people of Sambalpur.