The Sambalpur Division is named after the town of Sambalpur which derives its name from the presiding Goddess Samalai, whose image was found by Balaram Dev, the first Chauhan Raja of Sambalpur, beneath a simul (silk cotton) tree in the middle of 16th Century. The town of Sambalpur is much older. The Greek geographer Ptolemy (2nd Century AD) in his book "Geographike" refers to a town "SAMBALKA" situated on the bank of the "MANADA" identified today with modern Sambalpur on the banks of the river Mahanadi.The French traveller Tavernier's writing in the 17th Century also refers to "Sambalpur" as a region rich in diamonds obtained from the most ancient mines.
Edward Gibbnon (1737-1794) in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" state that Rome was being supplied with diamonds from the mines of "Sumelpur" in Bengal which is the present Sambalpur in Odisha (Formerly Orissa).In the recent history Berar's Maratha rule Raghuji invaded Bengal after reducing Nagpur's Gond King Burhan Shah to a puppet. This obtained him the cessation of Cuttack, Chanda, Chattisgarh and Sambalpur. Which were added to his dominions between 1745 and 1755.
In 1803 the British Army defeated Raghuji II and by the Treaty of Deogaon - Cuttack, Southern Berar and Sambalpur were ceded to the British. These territories "Lapsed" to British rule under Dalhousie's infamous doctrine in 1853 when Raghuji II dies without heirs. In 1861 Sambalpur became part of the Central Provinces with the Commissioner at Raipur. A district Magistrate has been at Sambalpur from 1854 and a Revenue Commissioner from 1944.Prior to the construction to the Railways the main trunk route east of Nagpur was the Great Eastern Road from Nagpur to Cuttack via Raipur and Sambalpur.
AN ancient centre of diamond trade, Sambalpur is famous for its tie and dye textiles; folk dance and music; and also for the Hirakud Dam, one of the longest mainstream dams in the world.
Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary : This 130 sq. km forest has wild elephants, leopards, bisons, black panthers and many more species of animals and birds. There are watch-towers for visitors for viewing the animals. The sanctuary is 48 km east of Sambalpur on N. H. No. 6.Huma’s Leaning Temple is 32 km from Sambalpur. It is a Shiva temple on the bank of Mahanadi.
Nrusimhanath : Famous for its 15th century temple, Nrusimhanath is 164 km from Sambalpur via Bargarh. The place is also known for its waterfalls. There is a Panthasala ( Tel. No . 72436) for accommodation.
Pradhanpat : The Pradhanpat hill with its pictursque waterfall offer a rare scenic beauty. These falls are close to Deogarh, a district headquarters town- 96 km from Sambalpur.
How to get there : Sambalpur has direct train links and bus services.
Where to Stay :
OTDC’s Panthanivas, Tel : 21482. Tariff : Rs. 200 to Rs. 500/- for AC and Non-AC double-bed rooms. Other Hotels (Telephone numbers in brackets ): Ashoka Hotel (21010), Chandramani Lodge (21440), Hotel Apsara (21366), Hotel Li-N-Ja (21301, 22860), Hotel Nataraj (20456), Hotel Sujata (21403, 22112), Hotel Tribeni (20354, 22297), Hotel Upahar (21558, 21308), Hotel Upahar Palace (22519) and New Bombay Lodge (20422, 20988).
Assistance : Tourist Office, Sambalpur, Tel : 20318, Gram : ODISHATOUR; Tourist Counter, Sambalpur Railway Station, Tel : 21661; Tourist Counter, Jharsuguda Railway Station, Tel : 62630.
The old township of Sambalpur is a land of temples - the temples of Liakhai, Madanmohan, Satyabadi, Bariha, Brahampura, Dadhibamana, Timini and Gopalji Revals the influence of Vaishnava tradition in Sambalpur. Also the people are worshippers of both Shiva and Shakti. The Shiva Temple atop Budharaja Hills, Maneswar Shiva Temple at Maneswar, Gupteswar, Balunkeswar, Loknath alongwith the temples of the Goddess Samaleswari, Pataneswari, Batmangala, Budhimaa, Mahamayi etc. symbolize the co-exsistence of the Shiva and Shakti. The silent leaning temple of Huma challenges the architectural technique of the leaning tower of Pisa. The two Mosques and the two Churches in the Town speak of the secular outlook of the people of Sambalpur.
The important historical relics in the district of Sambalpur are the temples built by the Chauhan rulers. The splendour of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Art and Architecture had reached its climax in 13th century much before the advent of the Chauhan into Sambalpur region.
The Pataneswari temple of Sambalpur was built by Balaram Dev, the first Chauhan ruler of Sambalpur in the last part of 16th century. It consists of a sanctum with a enclosed circular count. The Pataneswari Deity is the temple of Goddess Kali.
The Samalai Temple in the town represents the finest Chauhan style of circumvallation round the sanctum. The image of Samalai is a unique sculpture and appears to be a primitive deity worshipped by the local people.
In the district of Sambalpur a large no. of Shiva temples were built during the Chauhan period. The most important amongst them were the Asta Sambhus in the un-divided Sambalpur district as detailed below:-
1. Bimaleswar of Huma (Now in Sambalpur District)
2. Kedarnath of Ambabhona (Now in Bargarh District)
3. Biswanath of Deogaon (Now in Bargarh District)
4. Balunkeswar of Gaisama (Now in Bargarh District)
5. Balunkeswar of Maneswar (Now in Sambalpur District)
6. Swapneswar of Sorna (Now in Bargarh District)
7. Bisweswar of Soranda (Now in Bargarh District)
8. Neelakntheswar of Niliee (Now in Bargarh District)
The Bimaleswar Shiva Temple of Huma
On the river Mahanadi the temple is found in leaning condition. It was built by Maharaja Baliar Singh. The rest of the temples were constructed during the reign of Ajit Singh and his sons Abhaya Singh. All these temples are of great artistic beauty.
There is discovery of a no. of copper plates in the District of Sambalpur. The earliest available one is the Kudopali copper plate dated the 13th regnal year of Mahashagupta, a Somawan Monarch of 10-11th century AD. In village Themra under Sambalpur two copper plates grant issued by Maharaja Joyestz Singh and his chief queen Rajeswari Ratna Kumari have been brought to light. These have been written in Sanskrit language and in Oriya script. The first plate records donations of the village Sodarja to one Divyasimha Mishra on the occasion or a lunar eclipse in Sambat 1847. The second plate records that Ratnakumari granted Themra village to Divjasimha Mishra in Sambhat, 1861.
Hirakud Dam, The Longest (15 km)
Only 15 kms. north of Sambalpur, the longest dam of the world stands in its lone majesty across the great river Mahanadi, which drains an area of 1,33,090 Sq.Kms., more than twice the area of Shrilanka. The bulk of Hirakud dam contains earth, concrete and masonry materials 'sufficient to make a road 8 metres wide and pave it from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Amritsar to Dibrugarh in Assam'. From horizon to horizon the resorvoir forms the largest artificial lake in Asia with an area of 746 Sq.Kms. and a shore line over 640 Kms. A twenty-one Kilometres drive on the dyke offers a unique experience of calm serenity and majesty of nature. One can enjoy the sight of mighty Hirakud dam and the fantastic expanse of water from the top of the revolving minarate called Gandhi Minar.
Cattle Island, a Natural Wonder (90 km)
Exists in one of the extreme point of Hirakud Reservoir, a Natural wonder. It is near to Kumarbandh village of Belpahar-Banharpali range which is about 90 kms from Sambalpur town. But if someone travels through a motor lunch from Hirakud dam it is quite nearer about 10 kms in the river. The island is nothing but a sub-merged hill and prior to Hirakud Dam construction, was a developed village. The specialty about the island is the inhabitants, only comprises of cattle group of animals. During the resettlement period, villagers left some of their cows and bulls and when the dam construction is over the cattle settled down on the hill-top. By the passage of time the nearby area filled up with the reservoir water and gave the shape of the hill-top looks like an island. Being away from mankind, the cattle are wild in nature and they never allow themselves to become the prey of human-beings. As they spend whole of their life on the hill filled up with dense forest, their shape and size are quite bigger in comparison to the normal cattle. All are of white colour except a very few. Very swift like other wild animals. People living adjacent to the island sometime try to catch them, but rarely succeed in capturing those animals. We always hear about the cattle as the pet animals, but here is a contradiction, they can be also wild in nature. The responsible factor being the surrounding atmosphere.
Huma, The Leaning Temple Of Lord Shiva (23 km)
A village in the Sambalpur Subdivision, situated on the left bank of the Mahanadi, 23 kms. south of Sambalpur. The village contains the Leaning temple dedicated to Lord Siva, which was built in the reign of Baliar Singh, the fifth Raja of Sambalpur. The worship of Siva is said to have been initiated by a milkman(Gauda), who daily crossed the Mahanadi to a place on the bank where the underlying rock croped out. Here he daily offered his dole of milk, which was at once drunk up by the rock, and this miraculous circumstance led to enquiries, which ended in the construction of the present temple. Huma is a place of pilgrimage, and is also visited by strangers out of curosity to see the different kind of fish in the river. A great fair takes place at the foothill in March every year on the occasion of Sivratri. The presiding diety is Bimaleswar Siva. The special type of fish found here are called as 'Kudo' fish. They are said to be so tame that they will eat sweets and other foods from the hands of those who bathe close to the temple. During auspicious days they are called by their names and given the 'prasad' of the God. Here nobody tries to catch them as they are believed to be the assets of the God. Now about the main point of attraction i.e. the tilted structure of temple. From the investigation and interviews performed by our team, nobody able to give satisfying reply. The surprising thing is, the main temple tilted to one direction and other small temples tilted to some other direction. And within the temple complex i.e. within the boundaries of temple, everything found to be in tilted condition including the boundaries. Now again the angle of inclination is not changed since last 40/50 years as said by the villagers and priests. However the structure is tilted may be due to some geological reason, may be the earth crust is un-even in structure. About the inclination, its not possible to judge whether the angle is in a increasing trend or not. For that some sort of measurement mechanism should be given to analyse it very correctly as it is done in leaning tower of Pissa.
Bells Galore, Ghanteshwari (33 km)
As the name indicates there's bells and bells and bells wherever your eyes reach. 33 kms south-west of Sambalpur and on the bank of river Mahanadi, it was playing an important role for navigation in the past. It was called a light house without light!. One temple is also existed here, the Goddess called by the name Ghanteswari from which the place got its name. Earlier there were some big size bells on this spot and with the help of wind those creating enormous sound which made the navigators aware of this trechorous spot and they never came near it. This area being the conglomeration of three streams of water of river Mahanadi, the water current here is very trechorous forming a whirlpool. Due to this many boats were drowned while nearing this spot. Here the wind blows quite heavily and with the help of it the bells producing sound. Now after the construction of Hirakud dam, this spot became safer. The specialty of this temple area is, thousands of bells hanging all around, the only place of its kind in Odisha (Formerly Orissa).
Chiplima (37 km)
A combination of both Hirakud Dam and Huma Temple is Chiplima, about 37 Kms. from Sambalpur. An ideal picnic spot, Chiplima is known for a natural fall (24.38 mts. In height) harnessed for generating electricity. It is also known for harbouring "Ghanteswari", the presiding deity of the place. Moreover, the State livestock Breeding Farm and Agricultural Farm are located here.
Ushakothi (43 km)
A spot of an altogether different hue is Ushakothi wild life Sanctuary, 43 Kms. North-East of Sambalpur on NH.6. Stretching for more than 130 Kms., the Sanctuary harbours Elephants, Tigers, Gours, Sambars, Black Panthers, Deer, Spotted Deer, and Wild Bears etc. The two watching towers located near the saline tank inside the Sanctuary enable the visitors to catch a view of these animals.
Kandhara (78 km)
Sambalpur also boasts of a pilgrimage-cum-sight seeing spot. Kandhara, 78 Kms. from Sambalpur in Rairakhol Sub-Division, is the birthplace of Poet Bhima Bhoi, the great propounder of Mahima Dharma or alternatively known as Alekha Dharma. One can visit the Kandhara village where Bhima Bhoi had fallen down and by the grace of God, was rescued.
Hatibari (24 km)
Hatibari, the karma bhumi of padmashree Dr. Isaac Santra is situated amidst Forest about 24 Kms. to the South of Sambalpur. It has its importance for the Leper Home started by this great Leprosy Worker, who left the world an aura whose humanitarianism captured the imagination of the people and filled them with genuine love for mankind and endowed them with tolerance and mutual respect.
Nrusimhanath (165 km)
The temple of Vidala-Nrusimha stands at the foot of the picturesque Gandhamardan hills. On the other slope of this hill are the famous Harisankar temple and the captivating waterfalls. It gained a place in history in the early part of Christian Era being famous as 'Haranapapa' (destroyer of Sins) among the ancient pilgrims. In his account Hiuen T'sang referred to this place as Po-lo-mo-lo-ki-li or Parimalagiri which was a renowned seat of Buddhist culture. The ruins found on the plateau at the hill/top, about sixteen km long, speak volumes in mute voice. Local traditions ascribe that this is a part of Gandhamardan Hill which Hanuman carried on his shoulders from Himalayas to save the life of Laxmana. The hill is also rich in medicinal herbs and the entire surrounding is very pleasant in summer. This place is 100 Km from Bargarh.
Vikramkhol (26 km)
To the west of Jharsuguda Railway Station, it is a cave containing Pictographic Inscription (1,500 B.C. or even earlier) of great antiquity. This pre-historic find is of remarkable importance and is yet to be deciphered. The plaster-cast of the inscription can also be seen in the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) State Museum at Bhubaneswar. Vikramkhol is 88 km by road which is unmetalled.
Pradhanpat (96 km)
The Pradhanpat hill with its picturesque waterfalls offers a rare scenic beauty. These falls are close to Deogarh town which is attractively situated with the background of wooded hills. Two beautiful guest houses named Basanta Nivas and Lalita Basanta have been constructed by the ex-rulers of Bamra and are now under the management of the Works Department, provide accommodation. Reservations are made by the Executive Engineer, National Highway Division, Sambalpur. There are a number of temples in the town of Deogarh notable among which are of Gopinath, Jagannath and Gokarneswara. Deogarh is 96 Km from Sambalpur on N.H.No.6.