Eastern India is the home of the sacred River Ganges and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last area of land that extends beyond Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.
In no time at all the stimulating bustle and heat of Calcutta is left far behind, opening out to the cool and luscious mountains of refreshing Darjeeling. Encounter the mighty range of the Himalayas in Sikkim, the one-horned rhinoceros in wonderful wildlife reserves, then dream of a forgotten age in the ancient holy towns on the plains of rural India.
Calcutta is the largest city in India, indeed one of the largest in the world. Established as a British trading post in the 17th century, the city rapidly grew, acquiring a life and vibrancy of its own. Its glory is still reflected in the buildings of Chowringhee and Clive Street, know as Jawaharlal Nehru Road and NetajiSubhash Road respectively. It is a city which leaves no-one indifferent-fascinating, effervescent, teeming with life, peoples, cultures. The impact can be a shock at first; the rickshaws, cars, brightly painted lorries, trolley buses, the cries of the street vendors, labourers hard at work on the construction of the vast underground railway, the noise and colour of the huge New Market, the bustle of the crowds…but soon the jumbled impressions will sort themselves out. For those who don’t wish to fly, try taking a train to Darjeeling from Calcutta. The last leg of the journey from New Jalpaiguri takes place on a miniature railway which winds through deep jungles, tea gardens and pine forests. It is one of the great journeys of the world. Darjeeling is an unspoilt, English-style hill station straddling a mountain slope and surrounded with high green hills covered with coniferous trees, with massive drops into the enchanting valley below. It commands a stunning view of Kanchenjunga (8586 metres), particularly from nearby Tiger Hill, and the sunrise which breaks over the mountains is one of the most beautiful on earth.
Orissa, the eastern state of the Bay of Bengal, has a rich tradition of classical dance, music, silverware, handicrafts and sculpture. The three great temple towns of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark constitute, like Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, a “Golden Triangle”, but here with the emphasis strongly on tempels – temples of the most glorious and stunning kind. Bhubaneswar is the capital of Orissa and the Temple City of India. Seven thousand temples once ranged around the sacred Bindusagar Lake in Old Bhubaneswar; about five hundred of them are still standing.
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Orissan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. The poet Rabindranath Tagore said of Konark that ‘here the language of stone surpasses the language of man’, and it is true that the experience of Konark is impossible to translate into words.
The massive structure, now in ruins, sits in solitary splendour surrounded by drifting sand. Today it is located two kilometers from the sea, but originally the ocean came almost up to its base. Until fairly recent times, in fact, the temple was close enough to the shore to be used as a navigational point by European sailors, who referred to it as the ‘Black Pagoda’.
One of the four celebrated religious centers of India, Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath needs no introduction. According to tradition Puri was once a thickly wooded hill inhabited by the Sabaras (Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian tribes of the Austric linguistic family). The sunny beach at Puri is one of the finest in the world. Watching the sunrise in a symphony of colours is a wonderful experience. It is one of the most popular sea-side resorts where visitors from any part of the globe can comfortably relax.The Temple of Lord Jagannath built during the 12th century A.D. by Chodaganga Deva dominates the landscape for kilometers around. Being the tallest temple (65 metres) in Orissa, it is one of the most magnificent pieces of monuments of India.