Svanir (meaning ‘Own Nest’) is an eco-friendly wilderness homestay hiding in plain sight on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. Four spacious cottages constructed from locally available material, mimic traditional tribal architecture and provides for an ideal getaway for the weary traveler.
Why Stay with Us:
- Svanir is located in a rural setting away from the mad city rush, providing a peaceful environment for guests to relax and connect with nature.
- The homestay is a labour of love for the family, with every aspect of it designed to promote sustainability and eco-friendliness. The cottages are built using locally-sourced materials, and the homestay features many conservation features like rainwater harvesting and greywater harvesting and drip irrigation systems.
- We employ and train locals and aim for ‘inclusive development’ by employing all our staff from our neighbouring village.
- Stay with a local family; Our most memorable trips have been where we had the opportunity to stay with locals. Locals are passionate about their city and often share insights that a cut and dry city guide might not be able to provide. When visiting a new city we often have apprehension about food, stay and what not to miss. It will be our pleasure to share with you our experiences and make your stay as comfortable as possible.
The temple town of Bhubaneswar probably developed around the Lingaraja Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to historians, it’s said the city had originally 7,000 temples built over 700 years. At present only about 200 survive encompassed by the modern ‘smart city’ with its lofty aspirations. Bhubaneswar also bears witness to Buddhism’s fruitful tryst under Emperor Kharavela. His artistic accomplishments are glimpsed at the impressive Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, about 6 km from the capital. Three monasteries at Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri, about 100 km from the capital have also been excavated and are worth your time when travelling here.
Apart from temples, the city has a number of India’s top academic institutions, information, biotechnology parks and perhaps is the only capital city in India with a wildlife sanctuary within its city limits. Spurred by the rich tribal heritage of the state, Bhubaneswar has two dedicated museums where visitors can see and experience what the state has to offer in terms of their unique ethnic lifestyle, art, culture and handicrafts.
Keeping Svanir as a base in Bhubaneswar several easy going itineraries are possible to discover the rich beauty of Odisha.
Day 1 Bhubaneswar
After a early breakfast head to Old Town to see why Bhubaneswar is know was the Temple town. Visit to Lingaraj Temple, Muktesewar Temple, Pasuramenswar Temple and Raja Rani Temple.
( Try Dahi Vada Aloodum and vada outside Lingraj Temple. This light snack is Odia favourite street food )
Visit to the Herbal Garden is a nice way to end your time in the Old Town. From here you can view the peak of the Lingaraja Temple from across the holy pond of Bindusagar.
Recommended add on : 64 Yogini Temple, (20mins drive from Old Town)
The 64 yogini temple is a type of ancient Hindu temple, dedicated to the worship of the yoginis or the manifestations of the mother goddess in Hindu mythology. The temple gets its name from the 64 carved stone or black basalt figures of the yoginis arranged in a circular pattern around the main shrine.The temples are believed to have been built between the 9th and 12th centuries and are characterised by their unique circular shape and open-air design.
Stop for lunch at Odisha Hotel to try authentic Odia cuisine. From here head straight to Kala Bhoomi.
The museum celebrates the craftsmanship of our artisans by putting on display their breath-taking masterpieces.
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If your feet are tired after walking around the museum, rest with a cup of coffee at Bocca Cafe.
Our next stop is the Tribal Museum.
The museum gives an insight into the life of a tribal. On display are immaculate replicas of tribal huts of various tribal communities and artefacts collected from different tribal groups in Odisha.
( Note: The gardens outside the museums are no less than a flower show)
End the day at Ekamra Kanan Botanical Garden with a cup of Koraput coffee.
Day 2 Puri & Konark
Early morning drive to Puri (2hrs) to see life outside the most visited temples in India; the Lord Jagannath Temple. But before reaching Puri will make a stop at the artisan village of Raghurajpur.
This artist village known for its Pattachitra paintings, palm leaf engravings, and traditional Odissi dance and music. Interact with the local artisans, watch them create their masterpieces, and even purchase unique artworks as souvenirs.
From the temple, we head to Blue Flag Beach to spend some time admiring the beautiful coastline. (officially ranked as one of India’s cleanest beaches )
Have lunch at Nimantran (authentic Odia Cuisine) overlooking the beach.
Bhojohori Manna: Bhojohori Manna is a renowned chain of restaurants that specializes in Bengali and Odia cuisine. It offers a range of traditional dishes, including Prawn Malai Curry, Bhetki Paturi, and Aloo Posto.
(Note: Don’t miss the famous Chhena Gaja when in Puri.
Chhena Gaja is a popular sweet made with chhena (cottage cheese), semolina, sugar, and cardamom. It is deep-fried to achieve a golden brown color and then soaked in sugar syrup. You can find delicious Chhena Gaja at sweet shops in Puri, such as Nrusingha Sweets.
From Puri we leave for Konark driving along the beautiful marine drive to see the Sun Temple (1hr)
On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, bathed in the rays of the rising sun, the temple at Konarak is a monumental representation of the sun god Surya’s chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses.
Optional: Sound and Light show at Konark. ( around 7pm)
Watch the Sunset at Chandrabhaga Beach (15mins from Konark Temple) before heading back to Bhubaneswar.
Day 3 Wetlands of Manglajodi
Today is an early start (around 04:30 am) to head to the magical wetlands of Manglajodi. We will be carrying a packed breakfast to enjoy when meandering through narrow creeks on a county boat. The drive to Manglajodi takes about 1hr30mins.
Mangalajodi is a small village in Orissa situated at a distance of about 70 km from capital city Bhubaneswar. This village on the banks of Chilika Lake renders an eye-catching scenic beauty and attracts visitors for its vast wetlands with many migrating birds. Take a tour on county boats in meandering through narrow marshy waterways spotting variety of migratory birds which flock to Chilika during winters ( November- March )
After arriving at the jetty we transfer to country boats where along the boatman we have a trained guide from the local village who are experts in spotting birds and take you right into the thick of things for you to spot a ‘lifer’ or that elusive action shot.
After the morning boatride for about 2 hrs, you have the option to have brunch at one of the local restaurants or wait for sometime at a dormitory before going again on the lake. This time the ride seems even more magical since the light is softer and the morning fog if any has completely disappeared. By the time you return to the jetty, is almost sunset and you will be able to get some breathtaking silhouette shots of birds against the setting sun.
Return to Svanir for an early dinner and compare notes from the day.
Full day excursion to the artist Village of Nuapatna and Dhokra works (1.5 hrs drive)
Another interesting excursion that travellers love, is to spend a day at the weaving village of Nuapatna, located about 60 kms away from the homestay. Immediately upon arrival, there is thread everywhere you look. Houses after houses in this village are engrossed in the making sarees which can take anywhere between one week to several months to weave depending on the complexity of the design. A saree fabric can be up to 12-metres long, which is far too long to fit inside a house. In order to bind, dye and dry the warp threads, weavers take their work to the streets. The designs on the textiles are inspired by ceremonial and meaningful imagery. You can spend several hours gazing over one saree as geometric designs, figures and even mythological stories are woven into its pattern. On a particular trip to Nuapatna we accompanied a guest from North India who was coming to see the progress of a saree which she had commissioned. The design had Pali inscriptions which pronounced themselves along the border of the fabric, while the main body had symbols representing the festival of Ratha Yatra (Chariot Festival at Puri) .
It’s not just the finished product, but the handloom weaving process itself that is intensely spiritual. Working from raw material to swaths of cloth, these artisans do everything themselves. And with exclusively hand-powered tools! The traditional craft dates back centuries, and has been passed down through generations. The artisan’s practice has virtually remained the same during this time. It hasn’t been corrupted by the modern world and its many demons – the fast fashion industry, excessive consumption, capitalism, (ugh) NFTs. It’s pure. From start to finish, it’s not trying to be anything besides what it says it is. The drive back from this quaint village is also interesting as we drive parallel to the vast Mahanadi River, which is the lifeline of Odisha. If you haven’t overstayed your time at the village, we stop at the bank of the river to enjoy a beautiful sunset sipping freshly made masala chai.
Full day excursion to the Buddhist circuit of Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri & Udayagiri
As the story goes, two Ukkala (part of present- day Odisha) merchants, Tapassu and Bhallika, were on their way to Central India with 500 carts of honey. On their way they met Buddha, who had gained enlightenment only a few weeks ago in Bodh Gaya. The merchants offered honey and rice cakes to Buddha and were gifted with eight strands of his hair in return. Through this chance encounter, Tapassu and Bhallika not only became the first Odishan Buddhists, they also introduced Buddhism to their homeland. It is also believed that the merchant duo later went to Ceylon and then Burma to promote Buddhism. In fact, the eight strands of Buddha’s hair currently enshrined in the magnificent Shwedagon Stupa at Yangon is believed to have been brought over from Kalinga to Burma by none other than Bhallika himself.
Buddha perhaps never set foot in Odisha. However, he would have had little to worry about the spread of Buddhism in the State. Odisha (with its various parts referred to historically as Odra, Ukkala, Utkala and Kalinga) had subsequently become a seat of Buddhist teaching and learning. After Buddha’s death. Buddhism dispersed across Odisha’s landscape through learning centres and monasteries. Located in caves and hills next to steady flowing rivers, they provided much needed isolation for meditation and dis- course. According to the Buddhist text, Mahaparinibbana Sutta, one of Buddha’s body-relic (ie, saririras) was his left canine tooth that was given to the Kalinga kings. It is this very tooth relic that later made its way across the sea to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), hidden in the hair oma- ment of Hemamala, daughter of Kalinga king Guhashiva. When I had visited the ornamentally opulent Dalada Tooth Temple in Kandy, this Odisha connection was unknown to me.
Though the spread of Buddhism from India to South and South-east Asia is well known, Odisha’s significant role in that transmission remains unfamiliar to the majority of the people in the State. It is understandable. The epie Kalinga war and the pyrrhic victory that converted Chandashoka to Dhammashoka had pressed the reset button in Odisha’s history turning over a new leaf, Ashoka made Buddhism a State religion and made significant investments in Buddhist sites in India. Thus ensured mushrooming of Buddhist monasteries in Odisha. *
* The museum at Lalitgiri & Ratnagiri remains closed on FRIDAY.