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Column: Discovering Odisha

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: It was heartening to read that Ramchandi, the tiny seaside settlement along the Puri-Konark marine drive, will be hosting the India Surf Festival (ISF), country’s premier surfing event, in the coming year. I have visited Ramchandi several times and enjoyed myself thoroughly on each occasion.

Ramchandi is where river Kusabhadra pours into the Bay of Bengal creating a beautiful stretch of beach. Unlike Chandrabhaga, a few kilometres away, the sea here not rough. While picnickers throng the casuarina groves at Ramchandi during the winter, the devout pay their respects at the temple of the local deity.

With a high-end beach resort coming up nearby tourist footfall in the area has increased. One can also enjoy boating but surfing being an adventure sport involving a lot of skill can take place only under the watchful eyes of experts. That is what makes surfing festival important.

Unfortunately barring the organisation of surfing festival there has been little effort to promote Ramchandi as a tourist destination.  Consequently, its full tourism potential is yet to be realized. Ultimately it is all about marketing which does not seem to be the forte of the mandarins looking after tourism promotion.

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Ramchandi is just an example. There is so much in Odisha to fascinate the footloose and fanci-free traveller out to discover the world. It has a vast coastline dotted with exotic beaches, great wildlife sanctuaries, tribal settlements with their unique lifestyles and temples to rival the best in architecture. But we have failed to showcase our wealth before the rest of the world in a manner that can get it the maximum attention. In short, our marketing leaves much to be desired.

In fact, tourism for a long time was a neglected area in the state. The government could not think beyond Odissi dance and the Lingraj and Konark sun temples when it came to promoting tourism. Even the 12th century Puri Jagannath temple was more of a place of pilgrimage for Hindus than a tourist destination thronged by people irrespective of race or creed.

Nature and ethnic tourism became buzzwords in the state much later. Slowly beaches other than Puri, which was always a major attraction for tourists, began to be discovered. Chilika, too, emerged as a major destination for people seeking solace in the lap of nature. That was followed by water sports activities but here again the government has failed to do its bit.

Had foreigners aided by tour operators not shown interest ethnic tourism would not have received much attention in the state? Thanks to the visitors from abroad tribal hamlets in far off areas came under the spotlight. But for them, the quaint customs and traditions of tribal communities like Bondas would have remained confined to research papers of scholars delving into their lives for academic purposes.

There is so much in Odisha that is yet to be discovered and quite a lot that has to be rediscovered. But for this to happen we must turn the spotlight on our wealth in a manner that favours it the most.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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