Mangalajodi is one of the oldest villages in Odisha, about 75km from Bhubaneswar, with a huge marshland along the northern edge of Chilika Lake. The area is primarily a fresh water zone connected by channels cutting through the reed beds with the brackish water of Chilika lagoon. The wetland hosts more than 3,00,000 of birds in the peak season; October to March being the best time to visit this place.
Mangalajodi is an important place because it epitomises a sustainable lifestyle worthy of praise. Mangalajodi village consists mainly of fishermen, who go fishing every evening to Chilika Lake and come back the next morning with fresh catch. Local communities still dwell on the indigenous methods of catching fish wherein the fishing nets are made out of bamboo which do not pose a threat to aquatic life. Fish is an important part of their diet and is had in many forms: cooked, smoked or even sun dried. One staple dish that you must sample here is their dried fish eaten with fermented rice – called “Pokhal Bhat.” Interestingly, they don’t cut a tree for fuel wood in Mangalajodi – rather they utilise dried leaves.
Mangalajodi was once infamous as ‘poachers’ village’ because of the involvement of villagers in water bird poaching on a large, commercial scale. Even the eggs were not spared. But after many battles and years of deliberation the authorities managed to wean the poachers away from their trade by giving them hope of a sustainable and peaceful livelihood from tourism. The erstwhile poachers today actively patrol and protect their marshes from bird poachers, monitor the bird population, co-ordinate assist in research with the forest department, and take travellers around on birding trips into the marshes.
Other attractions in Mangalajodi worth a visit are the Patita Paban Temple – the oldest and the biggest in this village. Besides, Gupteswar Temple, Nilakanthaswara Dev Temple, Maa Mangala Temple, Maa Bramhani Temple, and Maa Balimajhi Devi Temple are other famous religious spots.