On the west bank of Bhubaneshwar's holy Bindu Sagar (Ocean Drop Lake), in the Old Town area, lies what is possibly the city's most underrated attraction -- the Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden.
The name Ekamravan means "one mango tree forest". Old Hindu scriptures say that Bhubaneshwar was one of Lord Shiva's favorite places, where he liked to spend time meditating under a huge mango tree.
There are more than 200 varieties of plants in the Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden. But that's not all that's remarkable about it. Until 2007, the area was an unattractive and crumbling space that was frequently used as a toilet. Then, government of Odisha decided to revitalize it, turning it into this magnificent garden. (The government is now focusing on the east bank of the lake and planting medicinal trees there).
The garden features raised platforms dedicated to Lords Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha. They were created by artisans from Raghurajpur handicrafts village and the historical Buddhist site Lalitgiri. You'll notice numerous animals carved out of sandstone, which are linked to the story about the formation of Bindu Sagar. Apparently, the river goddesses were invited to bless the lake by pouring water into it from their rivers. The animals have been created to represent these rivers, as the rain water that's collected in the garden's channels sprouts out of them.
If you're interested in Ayurveda, Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden is a must-visit. However, it's so beautifully landscaped (resplendent with lotus pond and stone sculptures) and relaxing, most people would enjoy it.
I was there while it was still misty in the early morning, and the divine clanging of temple bells and chanting could also be heard nearby, giving a delightful ethereal feel to it.
One of the Forest Department guards accompanied me as I strolled around. He was very friendly, and shared his knowledge with me as he plucked various items for me to inspect or smell. One of them was a rather strange looking object, which turn out to be a seed pod from which natural kumkum powder (the red powder commonly used in Hindu religious rituals and applied to the forehead) is made from. Fascinating! Who knew?
Another of the garden's highlights is a rudraksh tree, believed to have been a favorite of Lord Shiva. The round bead-like seeds are revered for their spiritual and energetic properties. They're usually strung together in a necklace (mala) and worn.
An informative brochure about the Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden can be downloaded here.
Those who are interested in growing medicinal plants can purchase some from the garden's nursery.
How to Visit Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden
The garden is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. during winter. In summer, the afternoon opening time changes from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets only cost 2 rupees and there's no charge for children under 5 years of age. The entry gate is located on Bindu Sagar Road.
Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden is the last stop on the Old Town Circuit walking tour, conducted by Ekamra Walks. It takes place every Sunday at 6.30 a.m., starting at Mukteshwar Temple. Best of all, it's free!
Of course, the temples are the big attraction at Bhubaneshwar. Don't miss seeing these important Bhubaneswar temples while you're there. Check out these other diverse places to visit in Bhubaneshwar as well.