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Black Tigers & Ancient Temples Put Odisha’s Mayurbhanj On Global Tourist Map

Mayurbhanj gets a place in Time’s Magazine list of greatest places to visit Similipal Tiger Reserve is the only place in the world to house Rare black tigers The Mayurbhanj’s traditional Chhau dance is already on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list
Indian Masterminds Stories

World renowned Time Magazine’s list of 50 World’s Greatest Places of 2023 had two entries – Ladakh and Mayurbhanj. Ladakh has been a popular choice among travellers, but Mayurbhanj’s inclusion sprang a surprise. Curious people have been Googling for this lesser-known destination in Odisha.

The magazine says that Mayurbhanj was chosen for its ‘rare tigers and ancient temples’. It’s pristine natural and cultural beauty contributed to its charm. With its rich flora and fauna, Mayurbhanj is an adventurer’s delight.

1100-year-old Kichakeshwari Temple or Khiching Temple (Credit: Social Media)

Speaking to Indian Masterminds, the 2012-batch IAS officer and Mayurbhanj collector, Mr. Vineet Bhardwaj said, “It is a matter of great pride for us that our district has been given a place on the world stage. There is a pristine and undisturbed natural beauty to Mayurbhanj. The biggest attraction, the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), located in the heart of the district, is famous for its excellent biodiversity.” 

IAS Vineet Bhardwaj, Collector, Mayurbhanj (Credit: Social Media)

ONE WITH THE NATURE

STR is often called the heart of Mayurbhanj. Declared one of the nine Tiger Reserves of India in 1973, it is the second-largest biosphere reserve in Asia. It is listed under the UNESCO network of biosphere reserves. It is the only Tiger Reserve in the country with melanistic tigers or black tigers. Other attractions of the district are camps in Barehipani, Jamuani, Kumari, Gurguria & Ramtirtha, or the Barehipani, Joranda and Uski waterfalls. 

RICH ANCIENT & CULTURAL HERITAGE

Mayurbhanj is home to the 1100-year-old Kichakeshwari Temple or Khiching Temple. The ancient temple Ambika and Jagannath temple at Baripada attract visitors from all over the world. Culturally, the world-renowned Chhau dance folk dance is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Simplipal Tiger Reserve (Credit: Social Media)

Mayurbhanj’s Chhau is different from the Jharkhand and Bengal versions, as it is performed without masks, making facial expressions clear and prominent. The city is also famous for black stones, found near the Khiching temple. The Sabai Grass products made by traditional craftsmen from the city are exported to foreign countries.

NEW-FOUND FAME

People believe that state government’s efforts to improve tourism might have impressed the Time magazine’s team during their visit.  Also, the inputs from foreign tourists might have worked in favour. “Perhaps the Time’s team found this place better on many parameters,” says the Collector.

Rare black tiger at Simplipal National Park (Credit: Social Media)

The recognition has created an opportunity for the administration to improve tourism infrastructure, develop tourist villages, and showcase local culture. A team from the tourism department recently prepared a blueprint on how to improve all the tourist spots especially old temples. 

Mr Bhardwaj said, “We are preparing tourist packagein a way that they can get everything at one place. They will not only be visiting the place, but also be indulging in various activities.” 

Mayurbhanj Natural Beauty (Credit: Social Media)

THREAT TO NATURE?

Locals fear that increased footfall could be a challenge to maintain Mayurbhanj’s natural beauty and ancient heritage. Similipal Reserve administration for example, has restricted the number of daily vehicles to only 60 to safeguard the Reserve’s delicate ecosystem.

The Belgadia Palace at Mayurbhanj (Credit: Social Media)

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