Sambalpur is associated with its 8th century ruler, King Indrabhuti, who became a Buddhist and the teacher-founder of the Vajrayana sect. Sambalpur got its name from the deity Sambaleswari enshrined in a temple called Samalai Gudi, built by the Chauhan dynasty on the banks of the river Mahanadi.
What does one get to see in and around Sambalpur?
• Sambalpur is known for its world famous textiles, specially the ikat tie & dye in its sarees and other fabrics that is known as Sambalpuri.
• A grand fair is held every year during the Hindu months of Ashwin and Chitra.
• The folk dances of Odisha like the Karama especially during the festive months of Bhardrav Ekadashi (August / September) is a special draw for tourists.
• The gigantic Hirakud Dam over river Mahanadi completed in 1957, meant to contain flooding and also for irrigation is one of the longest mainstream dams in the world. It is 60 m in height, with 1100 m long key section of masonary, and an extended earth dam of over 350 m making it an awesome sight. The 21 km drive on the dyke and the wonderful view of the dam from the revolving towers Gandhi Minar at the Northern end and Jawahar Minar on the Southern end is a lovely experience. People who visit Sambalpur never fail to visit this site since buses ply regularly to this tourist destination.
• The Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary at Badrama is a densely populated forested area with natural habitat for a variety of specimens of wildlife. It is about 50 Km east of Sambalpur on NH6 towards Kolkata. A smaller sanctuary Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary lies adjoining the Hirakud Lake close to the Dam.
• 32 Km from Sambalpur is Huma that has a leaning temple on the banks of the Mahanadi and dedicated to Bimaleswar or Lord Shiva. Visitors to this temple feed the colorful Kudo fishes in the adjoining Mahanadi. Country boats are available for a cruise on the river.
• One can visit the saree weaving communities like the Bhulias, Kostas, Gaudias, Asanipatras at Bargarh, Barpali and Sonepur. It is a treat to watch them weave the sarees and the countryside around is also pleasant to visit. Bargarh is 1 ½ hours, Barpali 3 Hrs. drive from Sambalpur while Sonepur is a small town along the river somewhere in between.