On first impression, BHUBANESWAR, with its featureless 1950s architecture, may strike you as surprisingly dull for a city whose history stretches back over two thousand years. Beyond the confines of the modern planned city, however, the backstreets and wastegrounds of the southern suburbs harbour the remnants of some of India's finest medieval temples, made all the more atmospheric by the animated religious life that continues to revolve around them, particularly at festival times.
During the fourth century BC, when Bhubaneswar was the capital of ancient Kalinga, Ashoka erected one of the Subcontinent's best-preserved rock edicts 5km south of Dhauli. Under the Chedis, Kalinga gained control over the thriving mercantile trade in the region and became the northeast seaboard's most formidable power.
Bhubaneswar then went into decline, re-emerging as a regional force only in the fifth century AD, when it became an important Shaivite centre. Coupled with the formidable wealth of the Sailodbhavas two centuries later, the growing religious fervour fuelled an extraordinary spate of temple construction. Between the seventh and twelfth centuries some 7000 shrines are believed to have been erected in the sacred enclave around the Bindu Sagar tank.]]>