Eastern India boasts some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes in the subcontinent, and a cultural life as vibrant and distinctive as any in Asia. Its two dominant natural features are the vast chain of Himalayan peaks rising to the north, and the mighty river delta to the south where the silt-laden Ganges and Brahmaputra flow into the Bay of Bengal. Between the two unfolds the alluvial plain of West Bengal itself, whose fecundity and strategic position, exploited by a string of powerful regional dynasties in medieval times, first enticed European traders to settle in India.
It is to admire the grandiloquent piles left behind by the Raj on the banks of the Hooghly at Calcutta, where the British established their first capital in India, that most foreigners venture east today. But the remains of much older kingdoms survive upriver, languishing amid the rice fields and fringes of small towns where, if you’re lucky, you might encounter troupes of wandering Baul musicians performing at country fairs, or on the trains trundling north towards the Himalayas.
To the southeast of Kolkata, Odisha is today a relative backwater, but in ancient times was the heartland of a powerful empire built on maritime trade. Some of India’s finest carved stone temples bear witness to the wealth and sophistication of ancient Kalinga, and the medieval kingdoms that followed in its wake.
A wealth of vibrant crafts traditions have for centuries been sustained by the region’s shrines, including palm-leaf manuscript art, appliqué, ‘lost wax’ metal casting and sculpture. Another reason to visit this culturally fascinating region are the indigenous and tribal minorities who inhabit the interior forests.
Whichever itinerary you follow in eastern India, you’re guaranteed a journey with frequent surprises, great variety, world-class monuments and glimpses of traditions that are fast disappearing.
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Places to visit in East India
Bhubaneshwar has been Odisha’s capital since the dawn of history in the subcontinent, when the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka defeated the local Kalingas in a bloody battle, and then erected a series of carved-stone edicts declaring his remorse – ...
Some of the most beautiful and richly embellished temples in eastern India are to be found 93 miles north of Kolkata at Bishnupur, the former capital of the Malla rajas. Made of laterite stone and brick faced with finely carved terracotta,...
Kaziranga National Park
Tracking tigers on elephant back is a cliché of Indian travel, but there are only a few parks these days where you can enjoy this magical experience. The most famous of them is Kaziranga, on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in Assam. Enc...
Kolkata, or ‘Calcutta’ as it was known prior to 2001, is the capital of West Bengal state, and India’s third largest city, with a population of approximately 14.1 million. The trading post originally founded by the East India Company in th...
Until its rediscovery by British archeologists in the Victorian era, the Sun Temple at Konark, just up the coast from Puri, lay under a sand dune. It must have been a large one, for the great “Black Pagoda”, as the mighty sandstone pyramid...
The coastal state of Odisha (formerly ‘Orissa’) in eastern India is now something of a backwater – very traditional in its outlook, predominantly rural, with a large Adivasi (‘tribal’) minority inhabiting the forests of its hilly hinterlan...
The most popular living shrine in Odisha is the colossal Jagannath Temple in Puri, one of the Char Dams, Hindu India’s four holiest places of worship. After a purifying dip in the surf, aided by local lifeguards, pilgrims stream through it...
East India Experiences
It’s said that 30 million people travel on India’s railway system every day – a statistic not hard to believe if you’ve ever scrambled though the mêlée of porters, chai wallahs and passengers trying to board a long-distance express out of ...
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