So elegant is the Sambalpur weave that late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a fan of Sambalpur sarees. She amped up the production of the weave and uplifted the lives of many weavers back in the 70s. Her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi also regularly drapes a Sambalpuri saree on official visits. The land from where this regional weave originates is still unknown to most visitors of Odisha.
Blame it on how difficult it is to get to Sambalpur. It’s far removed from the city, the roads leading there are bumpy and there are no big city amenities for tourists.
However, you won’t regret taking a day or two out to visit this charming tribal region. Authentic weavers, village hubs, quaint temples and the mega Hirakud dam await.
Follow the path of the river Mahanadi towards the Samalai Gudi. It houses the Samaleswarideity worshipped by people living along the river. Atop the Budharaja Hill is a Shiva temple and 30 km further down is the quaint little Huma temple (no connected with Huma Qureshi). We have our own version of a leaning monument out here in India; the temple Bimbaleswar Mahadeo. The temple leans quite steeply at 80 degrees and is surrounded by water and rocks. You don’t want to miss this one; it has its own legend attached. Apparently, the kudos variety of fish found here belongs to Lord Mahadev. Catch it and you will be in grave danger. Kudos to the priests narrating this with pomp (pun intended).
You’d be a fool not to shop for an authentic Sambalpur saree while you are here. There are several small villages of traditional weavers (entire villages of them) engaged in carrying the art forward. Drive a hard bargain for your nine yards at the local heat. The weave has some common motifs running chiefly one that looks like a chessboard.
You can’t visit Sambalpur without taking in the mind-boggling sight of the Hirakud Dam, arguably the longest dam in the world. It forms the largest artificial lake in all of Asia. Dam magnificent sight, this one.
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