Bijubabu: An able son of Odisha

Bijubabu: An able son of Odisha

Biju Pattnaik is a popular name at home as well as internationally. More than a politician he is remembered for his daredevil acts as a professional pilot. Fondly called “Bijubabu’, he is considered a stalwart and pride of Odisha.

Born in 1916 in Odisha, Bijubabu was fascinated by airplanes from school days. So he discontinued his graduation studies in Ravenshaw and joined for training as a pilot in the aeronautic Training institute of India of Delhi flying club. Maharaja Krushna Chandra Dev of Paralakhemundi provided him financial assistance for his study.

Career as a professional Pilot

After completion of his training, he joined Royal Indian National Airways to become an ace pilot. As the second World War started, Bijubabu joined the Royal Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot. Due to his excellent performance during the World War, he served as the head of the ‘Air Transport Command’ during the years of 1940-42. During his tenure as a pilot, Bijubabu began an interest in national politics and decided to join Quit India movement. He played paramount role in delivering subversive literature to Indian troops and became a leader of underground Congress Movement with Jaya Prakash Narain and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. Bijubabu underwent imprisonment during 1942-45.

Bijubabu met with Jawaharlal Nehru during his participation in Indian freedom struggle and became one of his trusted friends. While India was fighting for her freedom from the British, the Indonesians were also fighting for freedom from the Dutch. Indonesia was a potential ally for Nehru. When the Dutch attempted to quell Indonesian independence on 21 July 1947, President Sukarno ordered his then Prime Minister Sjahrir to leave country. Sjahrir was asked to attend the first Inter-Asia conference organized by Nehru in order to garner public opinion against the Dutch. However Sjahrir was unable to leave the country as the Dutch controlled the Indonesian sea and air routes. At the behest of Jawaharlal Nerhu, Bijubabu startled the world by braving a perilous air voyage to Indonesia in his Vantage Dacota airplane to rescue Sjaharir and flew him back to Delhi. For this unique adventure and commitment to Indonesia’s independence (from the Dutch Occupation), Bijubabu was given honorary citizenship in Indonesia and awarded the ‘Bhoomi Putra’, the highest Indonesian award, rarely granted to a foreigner. In 1996, when Indonesia was celebrating its 50th Independence Day, Bijubabu was awarded the highest national award, the ‘Bintang Jasa Utama’.

Hardly six weeks after India got its Independence from the British, there was a situation. Maharaja of Kashmir had already signed the instrument of Accession with India. But by that time Pakistan had forcibly occupied a major chunk of Kashmir and was advancing towards Srinagar. Even one hours delay would have lost India heavily. Bijubabu was summoned by the Prime Minister Nehru to thwart Pakistan’s sinister design of occupying Kashmir. At this critical juncture, braving all possible hazards Bijubau ferried the first platoon of troop and landed in Srinagar Air Port on 27.10.1947 at 10 a.m. Pakistan was forced to recede.

Political Career

The political career of Buijubabu started in the year 1946 when he was elected uncontested to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from North Cuttack Constituency. In 1952 and 1957 he won from Bhanjanager and Jagannath Prasad and Sorada respectively. On 13th February 1961 Biju Babu assumed the Presidentship of the State Congress. The Congres party won 82 out of 140 seats, securing 45% of the total votes polled and he won from Choudwar constituency. The poll verdict was astounding and Biju Babu took over as the Chief Minister of Odisha on 23rd June, 1961. On 7th May 1971 he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Bijubabu was elected to Odisha Legislative Assembly in 1971 in a by-election from Rajanagar again and became the leader of the opposition. In 1977 he won from the Kendrapara Lok Sabha Constituency and became the Union Minister for Steel and Mines from 1977 to 1979 and Union Minister for Steel and Mines and Coal from July 1979 to January 1980. He was the member of the Lok Sabha from 1980-85. In 1985 he resigned his Lok Sabha seat to contest from Bhubaneswar Assembly Constituency and became the Leader of the Opposition in Odisha Legislative Assembly.

Achievements as Chief Minister

In 1990 Assembly polls he steered his Party Janata Dal into victory and became the Chief Minister of Odisha for the second time. His party could secure 123 seats out of 147 and reduced the main opposition party strength to 10 as against the required number of 15. Bijubabu contested the 11th Lok Sabha Election (1996) from Aska and Cuttack Constituencies and won both the seats. Later he resigned from Cuttack Parliamentary Seat. Bijubabu’s first spell of Chief Ministership lasted for only 15 months but during this short period he made a remarkable achievement in the history of Odisha by giving his people a powerful and efficient administration. The following were some of him outstanding contributions:

  • Choudwar and Barbil Industrial Belt
  • Cuttack-Jagatpur Mahanadi High way Bridge
  • Bhubaneswar Airport
  • Regional College of Education at Bhubaneswar
  • The Odisha Aviation Centre
  • Paradeep Port
  • MIG factory at Sunabeda
  • Thermal Power Plant at Talcher
  • Hydroelectric Project at Balimela
  • Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology
  • Engineering and Medical College at Burla
  • Odisha State Planning Board
  • Reorganisation of districts
  • Ferro Silcon complex at Theruvali
  • Engineering College at Rourkela
  • Express Highway linking Daitari with Paradeep
  • Sainik School at Bhubaneswar
  • Regional Research Laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
  • Three-tier Panchayati Raj system

Besides he was preoccupied with Odisha’s heroic tradition and heritage. He floated the Kalinga card the enthuse the youth. In 1951, the UNESCO instituted the Kalinga Prize for popularisation of science with a generous grant from Biju Patnaik and eventually he became the Founder President of the Kalinga Foundation Trust. He even wanted the Utkal University to be named as the University of Kalinga. In his Kalinga Industrial empire he had set up the Odisha Textile Mills, the Kalinga Tubes, Kalinga Tiles, Kalinga Iron Works, Kalinga Airlines, Kalinga Refractories etc. with a view to highlighting the State potential.

During the second phase of his Chief Ministership between 1990 and 1995, his concentration was centered on the upliftment of women, tribal development, participation of NRI’s in furthering the state economy. He increased the number of districts from 13 to 30. He also fixed the minimum labour charges at Rs.25/-. He took a revolutionary step to reserve 33 percent of seats for women in the three-tier of the Panchayati Raj system. A second Steel Plant in the State remained one of his unfulfilled dreams. As a mark of his profound love for Panchayati Raj institution, the people of Odisha observe his Birth Day (March 5) as Panchayati Raj Dibasa.

The Legendary man of Odisha passed away due to Cardio-respiratory failure in New Delhi on April 17, 1997. With his departure, an era has ended in Odisha Politics.


Asurgarh: History Untold

Since the Chalcolithic period, forts were being strategically constructed for protection of life and properties of the inhabitants. There is mention about fortification in the ancient texts like Arthshastra and Manasara . Many sites like Harappa & Mahenjodaro also had implemented fortification. As per Rig veda, “Durga” means a fort or a strong hold. There are innumerable references about forts and techniques of fortification in early Indian texts. Few of them also mention the forts as “Garh” which refer to human settlements having fortified townships.

Asurgarh is one such fortified townships believed to be an early urban center of ancient Odisha, during 4th century BC to 5th century AD. Literally meaning “Fort of Demons”, Asurgarh has resemblances to that of Sisupalgarh which is in modern-day Bhubaneswar. Forts being names Asurgarh are found in different parts of Western Odisha like Barpali, Rampur, Manamunda and Adgaon. Excavation was conducted only at Asurgarh near Manamunda in Sonepur district and near Narla in Kalahandi disctrict. 

Asurgarh of Kalahandi

The Asurgarh fort is located at about 20 K.Ms from Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of Kalahandi. The nearest railway station is Rupra road on the Sambalpur-Vizag raliway route. Limited excavation was undertaken by Department of History, Sambalpur University and Department of Culture, Govt of Odisha in 1973. The excavation of the fort throws significant light on the history and culture of South Kosala and Mahakantara region.

Asurgarh fort was constructed as per the Kautilyan principle of Durgavidhana and ancient Indian geometrical formula. The fort is rectangular in shape and surrounded by massive defensive walls of about four meters in width and 15 to 50 meters in height. The walls are made of rubbles and mud with bricks. After the wall, a wide and deep mote girdles the fort on North, South and East sides. On the west side, river Sandol flows to close to the western rampart towards north to meet the river Utei (a tributary of Tel river) and thereby providing a natural boundary. On each side of the fort, there is an entrance. There is a shrine present near each gate: Goddess Ganga in east, Budharaja in North, Vaishnavi in South and Kalapata in West. The shrine of Goddess Dokari is present inside the fort. There is elevated ground in the central part of the fort as this is present in the ancient times at the time of palace foundation. Wide and deep mote girdles the fort on North, South and East side. On the Western side, River Sandul flows to the north to meet the river Utei which is a tributary of the river Tel and there by providing a natural boundary.

Close to the eastern ditch, there is a huge reservoir measuring 200 acres of land which is popularly known as Asursagar. It was so arranged that when the enemies surrounded the fort, a secret sluice might be opened so that the whole inside and outside of the fort would be flooded with water and consequently the hostile army washed away by the water currents. The fort would remain as an island if such a flood were created, because the fort was situated on a high level. It is presumed that the palace was constructed at the center of the fort. During 2nd half of the 19th century, Raja Udit Pratap Dev renovated the lake for agricultural purpose. The lake at present is known as Udit Sagar according to the name of Raja Udit Pratap Dev. There is a small tank on the southwest corner of the fort known as Radhasagar. The Habitation zone of the inhabitants is documented towards the south and north of the fort immediately after the fortified wall which is further superimposed by another mud wall within 100 hectares radius at each settlement zone. The mud wall has a single gate in the middle.

Historical Significance

From the 1st to 3rd century AD, Ancient Atavika land (comprised roughly the present districts of Koraput and Kalahandi in Orissa and Bastar of Madhya Pradesh) had commercial and socio-cultural relationship with the Chedi of Kalinga and Kushan Empire of the northwest. In the Amaravati stupa inscription the land is designated as Mahavana. The Asokan edicts also has mention about the Atavika people who were considered to be part of the Kalingan army which fought the battle of Kalinga in 261 BC. It was an important recruiting ground for the veteran army of Kalinga even as early as the time of the Mahabharata war. Asurgarh seems to be an important center of the Atavika territory. It was one of the ancient metropolis between 500 BC and 500 AD, contemporary to Sisupalgarh. Asurgarh – Narla served as the political – cultural and commercial hub of the Titilaka Janapada & Atavikas. The discovery of antiquities like Punch-marked coins, a piece of Chunar sandstone, Red, Black Slipped ware, Beads, etc., date back to Mauryan period. 539 silver coins belonging to the king of Kalahandi, were discovered from the site out of which 69 were from pre-Mauryan period, 272 were from Mauryan period and 198 were from the post-Mauryan rule to the Guptas. Such large group of Punch marked coins indicate that perhaps there was a Mint industry in Asurgarh. These finds indicate that Kalahandi region was civilized and prosperous in the days of Ashoka and the Atavika, who were regarded as forest dwellers, were not uncultured and had developed a high standard of civilization. There is similarity of some of the punched mark coins with those of Bijnor and Palia near Kausambi. Also there is similarity of texture and fabric of some pottery types with those found at Ahichhatra. This indicates that there was trade interaction of Asurgarh with prosperous towns like Kausambi and Ahichhatra in northern India during the days of the Maurya. The findings of red glazed Kushana pottery along with highly polished black wares, also indicate that there was cultural and commercial interaction between Kalahandi region and the Kushana Empire during the 1st- 2nd century A.D. Beads from Asurgarh must have played an important role in the trade network, because this region happens to be a rich gemstone deposit belt and it lies on a major trade route of ancient times connecting the eastern Indian site of Tosali with Kosala. Perhaps there was a bead manufacturing industry at Asurgarh. The most common materials are Carnelian, agate, crystal, glass, jasper, sapphire, quartz, ruby, garnet, stone and terrocota. Findings from the pre-historic Stone Age and Copper-Bronze Age have been found from Asurgarh. 

In 4th century A.D., the fort of Asurgarh appeared to have belonged to king Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara, to whom Samudragupta claimed to have defeated in course of his Southern campaign. The next important king known to have held sway over Asurgarh was Maharaja Tustikara, the donor of Terasingha copperplate grant. However the excavation indicates that the fort area was deserted in 5th-6th century A.D. and it is presumed that Tustikara was the last ruler of Asurgarh region. In 7th century A.D., Chinese pilgrim Yuan-chwang travelled through this area but has not mentioned about Mahakantara, so it is presumed that at this area had lost it’s importance by 7th century A.D. The discovery of charcoal, coal, bone and ashes indicate that the residence of the last dweller of this fort were destroyed due to the natural calamities or fire.

Asurgarh region flourished from 3 rd century B.C. to 6 t h century A.D. with such important features like: – fortified settlements, structural features (both religious and secular), a rich ceramic industry, terracotta, bead and mint industries. Thus the fort of Asurgarh bears testimony to the antiquity of an early urban center of ancient orissa.

Water Management System

People of ancient India had realised the importance of water (Jala) and they used the synonym Jivana (life) for it. The rise and fall of many civilisations rested on the proper management of water resources. As per the ancient literatures, those who had effective control over their water resources, did enjoy considerable social, economic and political powers. People used to dig dams, pond and reservoirs to preserve water for multiple purposes. Small and big ponds are invariably noticed in early historic towns and metropolises of Odisha. Two huge tanks have been identified in Western Odisha, one at Maraguda urban complex in Nuapara district and the other at Asurgarh urban center in Kalahandi district. Asursagar also known as Udit Sagar, covers an area of more than 200 acres of land. Its alignment is from east to west exactly corroborating the cardinal directions of tank as outlined by Varahamihira (6th century A.D.). The water of this tank had multiple utilization. In case of external aggession, the water could be channeled to fill up the encircling moat. Also in case of scanty rainfalls, the water preserved water could be utilized for agricultural purpose during scanty rainfall.

In close proximity to the Southern rampart and ditch of Asurgarh, a small pond was excavated, which is now a shallow land, yet the site still retains its original name known as Radhasagar. The excavation in this site revealed nude terracotta figurines (female fertility deities) and square plinth of the brick structure (identified as shrine). Besides domestic utility, small tanks had their religious bearing in ancient India. It was also known as Puskara (lotus pond) in Sanskrit. In the beginning such ponds were dug independently. Later on, however, temple structure was added or vice versa adjacent to the pond. Small pond was also needed for the consumption of the king and priest. Ancient Indian texts also speak about pond associated with the fertility rite. In Orissan context, finding of nude terracotta figures and temple structure in Asurgarh lend us to belief that ponds were imperative for fertility rites.

Asurgarh: Political-Commercial Site

Asurgarh was an important political and commercial center situated on the high road joining South Kosala and Mahakantra with Kalinga. According to late scholar Paramananda Acharya, it was situated on a short route through which salt and other commodities were transported from Mahamagiri to Dakshina Kosala. The discovery of terracotta ornaments, glass bangles, gems stones suggest the habitation of royal and aristocratic people during 4th and 5th century A.D.. The discovery of Terasingha copper plate of Maharaja Tustikara near the site is datable to 5th century A.D. The place of issue of the charter, Parvatadvaraka, which literally means “the gateway of the hill” represented the site under consideration. It served as a royal residence with proper fortification; free from external danger from the western side of Mahakantara region. The iron artifacts portray urban trend culture based on agricultural patterns.

Important Shakta center of ancient Odisha

There is legend about Asurgarh that there were 64 deities. The villagers worshiped a deity named Dokry as the guardian deity, which was inside the fort. Among the 64 deities, Goddess Ganga was in the East, Kalapata in the west, Vaishnavi in the North and Budharaja in the south. The third excavated site, which has been pointed out as a mound in a topographical map, is perhaps there was a temple. The important discovery is a spherical shaped sculpture made of brick. Late Dr. N. K. Sahu has identified a circled brick wall as a ruin of a Yogini temple; which may be compared with Yogini temple of Ranipur Jharial. Among the terracotta objects, includes animal figurines, goddess, a silver ambulate seal, silver ring and a large quantities of bones and skeletons. It may be possible that human sacrifice was prevailed during this period.

The discovery of Terasingha copper plate grant of Maharaja Tustikara (5th century A.D.) near Asurgarh indicates that Tustikara was perhaps the last ruler of Asurgarh region who was a great devotee of goddess Stambhesvari, who was responsible for the spread of Stambhesvari cult.

Tourist Information

By Air: Raipur (260km) in Chhatisgarh is the nearest airport. Other airports are Bhubaneswar (420km) and Vishakhapatnam (350km) respectively. Buses and private vehicles are available to reach Asurgarh.

By Train: Kesinga railway station connects Kalahandi with major cities of India. Buses and private vehicles are available to reach Asurgarh.

By Road: Bhawanipatna is the nearest major bus station which is connected by road with the railway station as well as the nearest airports. 






Khokabhai: The Maestro of Odia Music

Khokabhai: The Maestro of Odia Music

On his 81st birthday, tribute to the maestro of Odia music Akshay Mohanty aka #Khokabhai ….

“Ja re bhasi bhasi ja” – the iconic Odia song which became more popular than any song from mainstream Odia film industry, reminds you about one of the golden voices of Odisha. He is none other than Akshay Mohanty, fondly called Khokabhai. He always added the local flavor of Cuttack to his creations whether as a lyricist or composer or singer. Even without any formal training, Khokabhai excelled in all departments of music and created some immortal songs for generations to come.

His contribution to the Odia music industry is phenomenal, irrespective of different genres. Be it modern, filmy, devotional, folk or peppy numbers. Khokabhai was fond of experimenting with new concepts in his music. While he sings the ballad “Kanchi Abhijana” effortlessly, he also does equal justice to devotional song like “Eka to bhakata jibana”.

He puts the rustic Katakia flavor into “Ja re bhasi bhasi ja” while creating history with the title song of film Jajabara.

His peppy numbers like “Alo mani” to romantic songs like “Nadira nama alasa kanya” were equally appreciated by music lovers.

With 70+ movies to his credit as a music director and several songs as lyricist & singer, Akshay Mohanty has carved a niche place for himself in Odia music. His songs are still popular with music lovers from all spectrums. The legacy of the legend will continue to live in our hearts forever…

Dilemma of an Odia

The maiden trip out of Odisha Pravat took was when he went to Kolkata for his summer internship. The first hurdle that one faces while going out of his/her domicile, is communication. Pravat was no exception. With no knowledge of the native Bengali language, only options left were to either speak in English or Hindi. The latter is more practical for communicating with all strata of people. And that was his first experience of thinking in Odia, translating it in Hindi and then speaking it in Hindi (with the typical Odia accent)! The process got optimised during the one month stay in Kolkata, which was relatively safer with respect to the semantics of Hindi language. As Bengalis are no better in terms of control over the Hindi language, Pravat never felt awkward when he went awfully wrong in a pronounciation or in grammar somewhere! After he came back home, he could feel his metamorphosis!

Fate takes you to places that you have never imagined. Pravat’s next stint away from Odisha was at Mumbai, where suddenly the system he had fine-tuned to speak Hindi, was questioned. The accent had changed, people were fussy about grammar (He still makes mistakes in determining the gender of a word!) and it was damning to get exposed and being laughed at. But the warrior inside him was still strong to take up the task to further streamline the translation process! So the focus shifted to have total control over literal aspects of Hindi apart from the new accent. And bingo, it started working. Pravat got the confirmation when an usual critic said he was not sounding a non-Hindi speaking guy anymore! Pravat kept the system intact by further polishing it as and when possible.

The difference between the spans of time spent in Odisha and at his work place, was gradually increasing. So was the switching between the inbuilt and the acquired system of communication. Many a times they used to get altered, leading to funny situations. But overall the communication system was well established. Pravat was no more pronuncing ‘Very’ as ‘Bhery’, speaking without showing up his Odia accent while speaking Hindi. The feeling used to be content while speaking to people in Hindi.

During all this transformation, one thing never changed: Pravat’s attachment with the mother tongue. He’s still very particular about the semantics and accent of the classical language Odia. Pravat makes liberal use of English words while speaking in Odia. Fakir Mohan is one of his best literary figures, even after him using many Urdu words in his works. Pravat has been abstaining from Ollywood for almost a decade now (which he feels has become a copycat industry at the cost of Odia language). Pravat didn’t like the Rangabati song by Sona Mahapatra as he felt it ruined the rustic folk song that’s in blood of every Odia. Most importantly Pravat doesn’t like to crib about everything about being an Odia.

Question here is “what does that make Pravat? An opportunistic Odia from a backward state with no love for the mother tongue or a practical Odia with ambitions and love for other languages too, other than the mother tongue?”

Encounter with a farmer


p style=”text-align:justify;”>It happened during a trip to my native. Would not discuss more about the place or people as that’s not the focus here. After a comfortable train journey, the next patch was to be covered by road, I chose to take an auto rickshaw. Upon a hard bargaining, got hold of a decent looking guy who agreed to my T&C!
There was something special about this guy who was dressed smartly and had some sophistication while speaking. With the intention of digging into his life, I initiated a conversation by asking if he owns the auto. He replied in affirmation and said he got it through an auto loan. Poor fellow I thought, makes a living from the meagre earnings. Then I checked about his qualifications as he was using ample number of English words in his conversations. He was a graduate in political science! Respect! Not for his degree but for the courage to be an autowallah inspite of being decently educated.

As the interaction was getting into flow, I tried poking my nose into his personal life. He responded without hesitation. Eldest of three siblings, he was from a modest background. Family earned it’s living from a small piece of land. After completing graduation, he tried for jobs, experimented with business but failed miserably in both. So he decided to join his father back home and concentrate on farming. I was thinking of asking him “Oh! You failed there too?”, but stopped myself from doing that as that would sound rude.

He had been into farming for quite some time now and was still continuing. I asked if farming is a good enough profession while we hear about farmer suicides from every part of the country. He said no doubt the going has got very tough for farmers, but when there is a strong will there is a way. There is a scarcity of innovation in this sector which can be attributed to the lacklustre focus of the policy-makers and also the urban oriented people from village. He had studied details about modern farming in countries like New Zealand, USA and Switzerland etc to understand the nuances of the trade. I was getting amazed with the ease and fulency with which he was explaining things to me. Apart from two harvests of paddy and one of pulses, the smart fellow had ventured into vegetables and aquaculture. Proud owner of about 30 acres of agricultural land, my auto-rickshaw driver, a content farmer, has a farm house which uses solar power for its appliances.

The interaction with our learned farmer was quite a memory and very pleasing to know that with a different thought towards agriculture, it can be achieved what this fellow has done. If we look into developed nations which are good at agriculture, they have given it industry status. Science and Technology is gone into the methods of farming. People in farming are well aware about the skills required for modern farming. Moreover as it is considered as a business, there is diversification in the trade. Probably if our policymakers can look into these factors, our farmers also can prosper like their global peers.

I return!

After a long break from Blogosphere, it feels so refreshing to be back in the circle of fellow-bloggers again. Life has its compulsions, duties to be performed. That dries up the time for gateways of expression. However the “return” is often sweet and fresh after a break…

So a big hello to my blogger friends and hereby inform that I am limping back to action slowly….

Come, let’s celebrate “Music”

Today is celebrated as World Music Day and people across the globe are celebrating that sweet sensation called “Music”. Everyone from an expert to a novice can’t just keep himself aloof from this wonderful gift of nature. Yes, you heard it right. Music comes from nature too. One needs to have the ears to listen to music that nature plays. The waves in the sea, cool breeze caressing the leaves, shower of rain – they all play some king of music.

Will not go into the technicalities as I am no expert in that. Music for me is that soothing sensation which relaxes your body and mind. Music is beyond the barriers like language or religion, it is something that just cheers you up and lifts your spirit. Be it the retro songs from Bollywood, some folk song from the remote villages, some western classical or some soulful Sufi song. All of them have the same effect, they touch the soul. In today’s stressful lifestyle, when both body as well as mind get exhausted, everyone looks for an avenue to unwind. Listening to some nice music or playing a musical instrument for me is one such avenue which recharges the soul. I am sure there would many among you who also share the same feelings.

So friends, let’s celebrate this day by taking time out and listening to those favorite songs or by playing that musical instrument which you had somehow kept aside…