When I received an invite a month ago to explore a town called Jajpur, I had to look up twice to see if it was actually Jaipur in Rajashtan or did they actually mean Jajpur city. Little did I know that this place bore so much history and is now being developed to be a big cultural & heritage city in Odisha
A fast developing town in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, Jajpur is situated on the banks of the River Baitarani and approximately 100 kilometers from the state’s capital of Bhubaneswar. Jajpur ,despite it’s small size plays an important historical and cultural center in India, and is home to a number of significant religious and cultural landmarks.
Famously known as the ‘ancient capital’ of Odisha, every nook and comer of Jajpur district, is dotted with historical monuments, temples, shrines, holy places, and Buddhist monasteries. Its glorious past and a rich repository of handicrafts make it India’s hidden gem. The artistic handicrafts and magnificent temples present a glimpse of Jajpur’s historical grandeur, while waterfalls, surrounding hills, three serenely dancing rivers- Brahmani, Baitarani, and Kharashrota soothes the soul and promise a refreshing sojourn.
History of Jajpur
Jajpur has a rich and ancient history, dating back to the 6th century BCE. According to legend, the town was once known as Viraja Kshetra, and was believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga. The town was also known as Jajnyapur during the time of the Mauryan Empire, and was an important center of trade and commerce.
In the 7th century CE, Jajpur became a prominent center of Hindu worship, with the construction of the famous Biraja Temple dedicated to the goddess Durga. The temple is considered to be one of the Shakti Peethas, or sacred shrines of the goddess, and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
During the medieval period, Jajpur was ruled by the Keshari dynasty, and later by the Ganga dynasty. The town was also a center of Buddhist learning, and is believed to have been visited by the famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang in the 7th century CE.
In the 16th century, Jajpur came under the control of the Mughal Empire, and was later ruled by the Marathas, before finally becoming part of British India in the 19th century.
Jajpur finds mention in the ancient texts of Mahabarata’s and Brahman Purana as one of the pirtirthas, a place to offer pindas to ancestors. Jajpur is derived from Yajnapura, which translates to the place where Brahma performed a Vedic sacrifice.
Ancient Capital of Odisha
Historically, the city of Jajpur was the capital of Odisha under Bhaumakaras and Somavamsis kings from 8th to 12th centuries CE. Under the patronage of King Yajati of Somavamsa dynasty, Jajpur became the nerve Centre for political and cultural activities in the region. Having been ruled by multiple dynasties with varied religious influences, Jajpur’s culture is a vibrant one that celebrates diversity. And this unique cultural vibrancy is evident in its religiosity, architectural heritage and handicrafts.
Cultural Landmarks in Jajpur
Jajpur is developing on a rapid scale towards getting accreditation from two important tags
- HACT – Heritage Arts Culture Tourism
- UCCN – UNESCO Creative Cities Network – for Crafts
Jajpur is home to a number of significant cultural landmarks, including several ancient temples and shrines. The Biraja Temple, mentioned earlier, is one of the most famous temples in the town, and is dedicated to the goddess Durga. The temple is also one of the Shakthi Peeths in India The temple is believed to have been built in the 13th century CE, and is known for its impressive architecture and intricate carvings.
Another important temple in Jajpur is the Ananta Vasudeva Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is believed to have been built in the 13th century CE, and is known for its elaborate carvings and sculptures.
Heritage Sites in Jajpur
Jajpur is also home to the Ratnagiri and Udayagiri Buddhist Caves, which date back to the 7th century CE. The caves are known for their impressive rock-cut sculptures and carvings, and are considered to be among the most important Buddhist sites in eastern India.
The Ratnagiri monastery in Jajpur district of Odisha was believed to be a Buddisht establishment. It has an isolated eminence which ensure the monks seclusion for the serene and calm atmosphere necessary for monastic life. It’s proved that this monastery dates back to the 5th Century and witnessed a lot of growth in terms of religion, art , architecture till the 13th century.
Both Ratnagiri and Udhayagiri are ASI(Archaeological society of India) Protected sites
Odisha Handicrafts & Handlooms in Jajpur City
In addition to its religious and cultural landmarks, Jajpur city is also known for its traditional handicrafts, including textiles, pottery, and metalwork. The town is home to a number of small artisan workshops, where visitors can see these crafts being made by hand.
In particular, the following 5 products stand out of Jajpur:
- World Famous Tussar Silks – for Sarees, dress materials and Stoles
- Handicrafts made out of Golden Grass including baskets, coasters, wall hangings etc
- Bamboo Craft, Pottery & Terracotta
- Stone carved Items
The popularity of the Tassar silk art by weavers in Gopalpur has received Geographical Indication tag by Govt of India.
How to reach Jajpur City
All major cities have direct flights connecting to Bhubaneswar. One can reach Jajpur through a cab from Bhubaneswar in just 2-2.5 hours (100kms). Cuttack , is also closer to Jajpur at just 75kms away
Odiya is predominantly spoken in Jajpur, but you can easily manage your way around by speaking English or Hindi.
If I have to name one dish that you need to try in Jajpur or in Odisha, it’s definitely the Chhena Poda. It’s a dessert made out of cottage cheese and a local delicacy here
Jajpur is located in a picturesque region of Odisha, and is surrounded by natural beauty. The town is situated on the banks of the river Baitarani, and surrounded by lush green forests and rolling hills.
One of the most popular natural attractions in Jajpur is the Bhitarkanika National Park, approximately 80 kilometers from the town. The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including crocodiles, turtles, and a variety of bird species.
Another popular destination for nature lovers is the Jajpur Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located just outside the town. The sanctuary is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including deer, leopards, and a variety of bird species.
Jajpur – Odisha’s Best Kept Secret
As the tagline goes, there are so many cities in India that needs our attention. However sustainable , responsible & rural tourism is also about promoting such local communities and cultures. Jajpur definitely deserves a place in that list of places as a strong heritage & cultural city in Odisha.
Here’s some more information from the Jajpur Tourism page in Odisha’s site