Chilika Lake (Asia's largest brackish water lagoon)
Odisha is famous for its heritage sites and enthralling views. From beaches to pilgrimage sites, Odisha offers a lot of sightseeing opportunities to travellers from across the globe. With a nearly 485km long coast along the Bay of Bengal, Odisha is home to many beaches. The sketch of Beach between Chilika, Puri and Konark (called diamond triangle) is Entralling with Lovely Beaches so many Scenic Backwaters. Chilika Lake called a lagoon as it is a shallow body of brackish water separated from a larger body of water, spread over the state of my Odisha on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2. This pear shaped lake, separated from the Bay of Bengal; also imbibes one of the most supportive ecosystem our Chilka Lake Sanctuary in the region.
It is the largest brackish Water Lagoon with estuarine character that sprawls along the east coast. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle. Chilika supports some of the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country, particularly during the winter.
The lagoon hosts over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. These birds travel great distances; migratory birds probably follow much longer routes than the straight lines, possibly up to 12,000 km, to reach Chilika Lake. Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas, to feed and breed in its fertile waters. Every year estimated two million birds visited the Lake.
Chilika is an integral part of the culture of coastal Odisha. Almost 400 years ago, the saint poet Purshottam Das, a devotee of Lord Jagannath, wrote a poem about Lord Krishna dancing with a milkmaid called Maniki, who had come to sell curds on the banks of the Chilika. With a wide range of flora, fauna and aquatic faunas, observed in and around the brackish water of the lake. The area also proves an eminent witness of an array of avifaunal varieties, both native and migrant as their winter stopover to make this area most formidable in India.
There are also fisheries and salt pans around its shores. Apart from the most tranquil varieties of flora and fauna, Chilka Lake Sanctuary is favorably known for its dynamic sunrise and sunset views. Lots of people especially visit this sanctuary for this splendid view. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birdson the Indian sub-continent. The lake is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals. The lake is an ecosystem with large fishery resources. It sustains more than 150,000 fisher–folk living in nearby villages on the shore and islands.
The open air and scenic natural flora and fauna of the lake are an attraction for eco-tourism. This is expected to provide a degree of alternate employment to the local community and generate environmental awareness, among local residents as well as visitors, about the conservation and wise use of the lake's natural resources. The locations within the lake identified for such activity are:
Somolo and Dumkudi islands, located in the Central and Southern sectors of the lake, in the backdrop of scenic Khalikote hill range, are inundated remnants of the Eastern Ghats with rich flora and fauna and also known for sighting of Irrawaddy dolphins. Birds' island, located in the southern sector of the lake has huge exposed hanging rocks, are painted white due to folic acid of the droppings of the birds and is known for rich algal communities and few mangrove species and also migratory birds in winter.
Satapada village, at the new mouth of the lake, provides a view of the Lake and also views of the dolphins. Hundreds of boats here provide tours of the lake for tourists. Chilika Lake is situated on the east coast of India in Odisha and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a small strip of land. Chilika Lake spreads across the Khurda, Puri, and Ganjam districts of Odisha to the Daya river’s mouth. This salt lake is home to millions of migratory birds and endangered plants and animals. Tourists gather around the year to enjoy sighting Irrawaddy dolphins near Satpada Island.
This lagoon is divided into a central zone, southern zone, northern zone, and outer channel, depending on the depth and salinity. Chilika Lake was declared Ramsar Convention Wetland of International Importance in India in 1981. Nalaban, Birds Islands, Krushnaprasad, Somolo, and Kalijai are some of the prominent islands in the lagoon. Nalaban Island and Chilika Lake bird sanctuary were protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This lake has been prioritised for conservation and management under the Mangroves and Coral Reefs Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Government of India.
Malud and Parikud are the main islands inside Chilika lake. 25000 fishermen living near Chilka Lake suffer due to heavy siltation and weed growth in the Lake. Chilika Lake is an income source for more than 0.2 million fisherfolk and the livelihood of several nearby villages. The best time to visit Chilika Lake is during winters, as nearly 225 bird species grace the lagoons. This lake is home to a rare species of fishing cats, also called Baghadi or Macharanka Bilei. The maiden census conducted in Sorana-Mangalajodi found over 100 fishing cats in the lake. Migratory birds from Siberia, northern Eurasia, Kazakhstan, remote areas of Russia, Caspian region, neighbouring countries, and Lake Baikal visit this lake every year and return before summer.
Indian Naval Ship (INS) Chilka is the premier basic training establishment for sailors of the Indian Navy and serves to impart ab-initio training to recruits by a comprehensive training regimen. Odisha Wetland Authority (management of Chilika Lake) strengthens the livelihood of fishers relying on Chilika and Ansupa Lake. This initiative also worked on the conservation of ecosystem and promotion of tourism. Odisha police strengthened their patrolling to catch bird poachers. The authorities set up 20 camps with 90 personnel in Tanghi and Rambha range areas, monitoring and patrolling fishing cats in Chilika. This practice helps prevent poaching and enhance the importance of these species.
“Raha raha khyane baspiya shakata dekhibi Chilika charu chitra pata,” these immortal lines by Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das were inspired by the serene beauty of Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon. These lines describe the joy he experienced when he saw the majestic beauty of Chilika Lake from a train while being taken to Berhampur Jail by the British.
Kalijai Temple located on an island is considered to be the abode of the Goddess Kalijai. This temple is located at a hill which is surrounded by blue water bears. Local people of Chilika refer to goddess as the reigning deity of the lagoon. Maa Kalijai Temple is located on an Island in Chilika lake which is considered as abode of Maa Kalijai. Goddess Kalijai is the first 'Mahavidya' of 'Dasmahavidyas' . It is a highly renowned destination for both pilgrims and tourists.
The Kalijai, the goddess on the mountain sorrounded by the vast stretch of blue watered Chilika lagoon is a scenic beauty and a holy shrine. People from time immemorial are worshipping the deity. The faith in general is that she saves the life of the crew on the deck. She is the centre of all hope, assistance and aspiration of the crew on the vast strtch of water where life is helpless. She is the symbol of symphony of life. This maritime expedition is only possible by the grace of the deity. The Mother Goddess, the Kalijai is the centre of attraction. People in lakhs come to see the holy place of 29 acres of mountain within the Chilika lake. It is a unique spot in the state for tourism. Mother Goddess Kalijai is Kali, the source and the first 'Mahavidya' of "Dasmahavidyas".
According to a poem by Pandit Godavarish Mishra, Jai - a girl was coming to marry in Parikud. The boat was capsized in the rough stormy water. She met her tragic death and became the deity Kalijai. It is the imagination of a poet but there is no supporting fact or a legend corroborating the whole state of affair. It is only the creative imagination of the writer. A girl, without fulfilment of her dreams, desire and ambition can never be a deity or a Goddess. It can either be termed as a spirit or a spectre. A girl of Banpur coming to marry at Parikudgarh, if at all is true, we would have been able to trace the exact nativity of the both, the bride and the bride groom.
"The History of Parikud" (1930) by Radha Charan Panda states that Sri Harisevak Mansingh, the king of Bankad (Banpur) came to Parikud in the year 1779 after being defeated by the Raja of Khurdha. His son Sri Bhagirathi Mansingh was attacked by the king of Khurdha. The king of Parikud surrendered in the lotus feet of the mother Kali. Kali Jai temple was erected by Sri Jagannath Mansingh of the then king of Bankad in the year 1717.
The State of Parikud is also a part of Bankadgarh. During that period, a large number of Flamingos (a kind of bird 4'6" in height) alighted in the Chilika and marched forward. The army of Khurdha presumed it to be a vast army deployed in the Chilika and fled away. The people opined that Kali made the king victorious (Jayi). So She was named Kalijai. Makarmela is celebrated with great pomp in the holy shrine of the Kalijai. This is the only popular festivity here. Lakhs of devotees flock here for celebrating Makar Sankranti. The Raja of Parikud worships the Mother Goddess as his saviour.
The lake is noted for the million-plus migratory birds including grey-legged geese, herons, cranes and pink flamingos – that flock here in winter (November to mid-January) from as far away as Siberia and Iran and concentrate in a 3-sq-km area within the bird sanctuary on Nalabana Island. Nalabana Island in the lagoon was declared a bird sanctuary in 1987. In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Around 152 rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins reside off Satpada Island in Chilka Lake. Other attractions are rare Irrawaddy dolphins near Satapada, the pristine beach along Rajhansa, and Kalijai Island temple.
One can take a train to Balugaon, It is about 110 kms off Bhubaneswar. From Balugaon railway station auto rikshaw rides are available to Barkul, from where Kalijai can only be reached by a boat, run by Odisha tourism department. For a special feeling the speed boat of tourism department is also available, which is safe and for 6 to 8 person. The boats men of these boats are trained for rescue. Search for sea food there. It is amazing but a bit expensive though. One can visit Chilika Lake along with Puri Jagannath, Lingraj Temple Bhubaneswar and Sun Temple, Konark is the most famous historical place with in 150 kms, exhibiting the Kalinga style of architecture.