Sambalpur district General information

Sambalpur District is the westernmost district in the state of Orissa, India. The historic city of Sambalpur is the district headquarters.

The district is located in the Mahanadi River basin. It has a total area of 6,702 square kilometers, of which almost 60% of the district is covered in dense forest. The district is bounded by Deogarh District to the east, Bargarh and Jharsuguda districts to the west, Sundergarh District to the north, and Subarnapur and Angul districts in the south.

Sambalpur city is the connecting city between Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Whereas it used to be known for its importance as a diamond trading centre, nowadays it is mainly known for its textiles. It's a good place from which to explore the surrounding forests and spot some of the rare species still roaming the area in one of the wild life sanctuaries, such as the well-known Badrama sanctuary.


Sambalpur has a history full of events including Indian Freedom Struggle representing the different section of society. For the sake of convenience, however, the history, with special reference to the spark and fire and Nationalism, may be stated briefly.

History has to say that Samudragupta in the 4th century, defeated King Mahendra of Koshala, the kingdom that included Sambalpur. During the 5th and 6th centuries Sambalpur came under the rule of Sarbhapuriyas. Towards the 7th century it passed in to the hands of Panduvansi king Trivaradeva. Towards the close of 9th century king Janmajaya I Mahabhavagupta extended his empire which comprised the modern districts of Sambalpur and Bolangir. Hence forward, his dynasty came to be known as the Samavansi dynasty. During the last part of the Samavansi rule, Sambalpur was occupied by the Kalachuris of Ratnapua. The 13th century saw a bitter fight between the Kalachuris and the Gandas. Later on, the Gandas occupied Sambalpur.

 During the middle of the 14th century Ramai Dev laid the foundation of the Chauhan rule in Western Orissa. However, the Chowhan rule came to a close in april,1800, when Sambalpur was occupied by the Marathas. After the British occupied Orissa and bitterness between the British and Marathas ripened, the former found a convenient route via Sambalpur and annihilated the Marathas. Sambalpur was occupied by the British on 2nd January, 1804. Finally it passed on to the Brithish in 1817. The subsequent years witnessed the movements of the Kandhas and Binjhal Zamidars against the British and their poppet ruler in Sambalpur was Rani Mohan Kumari. Although the modern concept of nationalism was not activating force, one could see the spirit of freedom and hatred of foreign rule reflected in the struggle. The period recorded the heroic sage of Surendra Sai. (Most renowned freedom fighter from Western Orissa).

Sambalpur district, the western most district of Orissa, had been named after the headquarters town, Sambalpur. According to Mr. L.S.S.O. Maller, the town derived its name from the presiding goddess Samalai, whose stone image was discovered by Balaram Dev, the first Chowhan king of Sambalpur.

            The erstwhile Sambalpur District was divided into four districts namely Sambalpur, Bargarh,Jharsuguda and Deogarh in pursuance of Revenue & Excise Department Resolution No 14993/R Dtd 31.03.93 and Resolution No 56413/R Dtd 22.12.93.Bargarh  district comprising Bargarh and Padampur Subdivision started functioning with effect from 1.4.1993.Jharsuguda and Deogarh District started functioning w.e.f. 1.1.94.


Sambalpur district lies between 20° 40’ N and 22° 11’ N latitude, 82° 39’ E and 85° 15’ E longitude with a toal area of 6,702 Sq. Kms. The district is surrounded by Deogarh district in the east, Bargarh and Jharsuguda districts in the west, Sundergarh district in the north and Subarnpur and Angul districts in the South. The district has three distinctive physiographic units such as, Hilly Terrain of Bamra and Kuchinda in the north, plateau and ridges of Rairakhol in the south-east and valley and plains of Sambalpur Sub-division in the south east. Sambalpur district experiences extreme type of climate with 66 rainy days and 153 centimeters rainfall on an average per annum. Most of the rainfall is confined to the months from June to October visited by south west monsoon. Mercury rises upto 47° celcius during May with intolerable heat wave and falls as low as 11.8° celcius during December with extreme cold. The rainfall is highly uneven and irregular .

The district forms a part of the Mahanadi River basin. The Mahanadi, the longest river of the state, entered into the district in the north western border, where the famous Hirakud Multipurpose Dam Project is built. Other important rivers of the district are the Maltijor, the Harrad, the Kulsara, the Bheden, and the Phuljharan. The district has a total forest area of 3986.27 Sq. Kms. which is 59.46% of the total area of the district. Total land under cultivation in the district is 173540 hectares. Most of the villages of the district are inaccessible during the rainy season. Presence of a number of nallas without bridges cuts off the villages from the nearby roads. The district is served by National Highway No.6, National Highway No.42, Major district roads and a section of South Eastern Railways. Rural electrification has been extended to 63.6% of the villages of the district. Telecommunication Network is not adequate to cater to the needs the people in the rural areas. Drinking water facilities are available in villages mostly from the sources of tubewells.


Sambalpur district forms a part of North-West upland of Orissa, which is rolling and multiplying the ground slopes from a height of 776 ft. to a height of 460 ft. The thick blanket of black cotton soil all over the district has been made somewhat sticky by the yellow earth developing in the undulating topography of the district.


Most of the community dances of the district are connected with a function or the worship of a deity. Colourful Folk-Dances are enjoyed by the people.


Young girls of Binjhals, Soura and Mirdha tribes performed this dance during Dusserah, Bhaijuntia and other festive occasions. The young girls stand in a line or in a semicircular pattern with song known as Dalkhai songs.


Karma  is the most colourful dance of the district. It is a tribal dance in honour of “Karam Sani”, the deity who grants children,as they belive. In the beginning the dancers enter the dancing arena in two rows. The dramers and the singers accompany with rhythmic steps.

c)     HUMO & BAULI :

These are two playful dances performed by young and un-married girls on special occasions who sing and dance in groups. The stepping and movements of the dance are very slow.


This dance is prevalent among the Gond and the Bhuyan tribes. Male dancers take part, holding a two feet long stick. The songs are mainly based on the immortal love story of Radha and Krishana.


 The Folk instruments which are in vogue in Sambalpur Region are Dhole, Madal, Nishan, Tasa, Pakhoj, Bansi, Bir-Kahali, Gini, Ektara, Muhuri, Ghulgula, Ghunguru, Jhanj etc.

a)      DHOLE :

It is an age old instrument of Indian Folk Music. The Dhole of Sambalpur is slightly different in its making and use. It is made of trunk of a tree. Both the side of the Dhole are of same size. Sambalpur dhole can be used for any type of Sambalpuri Folk Song.

b)      MADAL :

The Sambalpuri Madal is different from that of all other parts of India. The Madal is made out of fired clay and is like a cylinder. Madal is a drum which is used in slower rhythms. Most of the danceless songs are accomplished with the Madal.

c)      NISHAN :

Nishan is made out of iron sheets. The sound emitted by the Nishan is heart-throbbing. This is mostly used in worship of Kali or Durga and in the battle field.

d)      TASHA :

Tasha is played by two thin bamboo sticks. The sound of Tasha creates an atmosphere of horror, fear and excitement.


 Oriya is the Principal language of the district. Other modern Indian languages spoken by the people of Sambalpur district are Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Telugi, Gujurati, Panjabi and Tamil. Tribal languages like Kisan, Kui, Oraon, Kharia etc. are also popularly spoken by the tribal population of the district.

 The language spoken in Sambalpur differs from that spoken in the Costal Districts of Orissa. It is generally known as Sambalpuri and is spoken in Western part of Orissa.



      It is the Marriage Ceremony of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. The festival is observed in the month of June with pomp and ceremony at Sambalpur and is extended for a week. Pilgrims from the neighboring districts and States of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar also participate in the festival. Lakhs of people congregate in this week long festival, mostly in the month of June every year.

b.    NUAKHAI :

      This is the most important social festival of Sambalpur. Generally it takes place during the month of August and September. Preliminary preparation of the festival starts 15 days before the occasion. The first grains of the paddy crop, cooked into various dishes are offered to the deities. There after the eldest member of the family distributes new rice to the junior members of the family. All the household articles are cleaned. People greet each other. It is a community festival celebrated by every Hindu family low and high.


      It is mostly known only in the region of Western Orissa. Bhaijiutia festival is celebrated on the Mahastami Day of Durga Puja. It is a total fasting undertaken by women for the whole day and night to seek Goddess Durga’s blessing for the long life of their bhais (brothers).


      It is another fasting Puja of similar austerity for women of the area. The Puajiuntia festival is observed by mothers to invoke the grace of Lord Dutibahana for the long life and prosperity of their sons.

      Besides the above listed festivals, other religious festivals are observed. These include Shiva Ratri, Dola Jatra, Durga Puja, Janmastami, Dipavali, Ganesh Puja and Saraswati Puja.

      Shiva Ratri Mela at Huma attracts a large numbers of devotees. Ratha Jatra is held at almost all central places of Sambalpur. On the occasion  of Makara Jatra, a fair is held at Themra in Sambalpur.

      The most popular festivals celebrated by Muslims are Id-Ul-Fitre, Id-Ul-Juha and Muharram. The Sikhs also celebrate the Birth Day of Guru Nanak.


This district experiences extreme type of climate with hot and dry Summer followed by humid monsoon and severely cold Winter. The hot season commences from 1st week of March and lasts till the second half of June. In the month of May, temperature rises up to 46°. Similarly in the month of December, the temperature comes down to 10° C. The district gets rainfall from South-Western monsoon. The relative humidity is high during rainy season being generally over 75%. After rainy season the humidity gradually decreases and the weather becomes dry towards the winter.

Tourist Place

Sambalpur Town

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 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.

Asta Sambhus

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 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 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.

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