Archive for April, 2012

Hill Kharias – Tribal who Live in Mother Nature’s Lap

 

Tribal taking leaf plates for sale in market

Tribal taking leaf plates for sale in market

Simlipal national Park and its periphery is not only home  for plenty of wild animals but also habitat to a small group of semi-nomadic tribe who feel proud in identifying themselves as the descendants of the legendary Viswavasu Savara – the first worshipper of Lord jagannath. These tribe are basically a forager community and different from other tribe that have been residing in the Mayurbhanj district for aeons. Meet the Hill Kharias.

Claiming themselves to be the most primitive in fact the first dwellers of the hills of Mayurbhanj district, these tribal show amazing set of adaptability features in the hilly tracts. Their unique skill in climbing steep mountains are hardly matched by any other tribal group in Orissa.  These foraging tribal spend their entire life time in hill as and obviously depend on the hills for their sustenance. All the items of their needs are collected from the hills only and they send their entire life time collecting honey, resin and arrowroot from the hills!

Living in a organized manner where everything is conducted in group is a unique trait of these tribal group. They show this trait of collective responsibility even when they go for collecting produce from the forests. Honey collecting is the mainstay for these tribesmen and they organize honey collection in group and usually sell the surplus. The entire effort in fact is executed by a group of three or four members. While a person take the onus to torch the honeycomb, others collect it and store it in earthen or aluminum pots. Arrowroot is similarly collected by these groups from the forest in group and they again venture to sell the surplus in the market .

Khaira Tribal collecting Honey

Khaira Tribal collecting Honey

The semi-nomadic group has been identified as Primitive Tribal Group (PTG) by the government of India. They still follow their age old ways of living six months of a year in the village and spending the rest six months in dense forests. It’s mostly in the rainy seasons that these tribal of Orissa spend their life in close social circuits amongst their family members. But then they are out on their search of forest produce. The advantage of group action is displayed by the tribal when they share responsibilities to  guard the village in group during the nights in protection against the wild animals.They have a good understanding among themselves and that is how they have saved their own identity as a closely held entity  that has successfully guarded its ancient occupation and tradition.

The core of the tribal culture of the Hill Kharias is the youth dormitory which not only serves as a community centre but also as the central place of all activities in the village. The council of elders meets here to take decisions about the welfare of the village. The dormitory has only three walls to it and the fourth side is kept open. The open space in front of the dormitory is where the youths and maiden dance with abandon every evening. The culture of the Khairas allows free mixing of both the sexes.

Despite their poverty these tribal of Orissa have retained their rich and colorful heritage of dance and music. Every tribal can sing and dance to the sound of pipe and drum and give tune to impromptu compositions that come to him/her as naturally as breathing.

Bhubaneswar Mohapatra : A Hidden Gem

Bhubaneswar Mohapatra - the master sculptor from orissa

Bhubaneswar Mohapatra - the master sculptor from orissa

It is a sordid tale of sheer neglect and government apathy.  For a person whose work echoes of rich heritage of the land not only in the country but corridors of international community, Bhubaneswar Mohapatra is yet to get recognized even in his own State!

This veteran who has given five decades of dedicated services to the field of art, architecture and sculpture, is appallingly  devoid of getting the status of an “Artist” from the state government. Popularly known as Dhoba Mohapatra and residing in Puri, this  septuagenarian artist is acclaimed far and wide for stone carving, rock carving, clay statues, metal carving, rock carving, pattachitra painting and ivory inscriptions. His masterpieces made of black granite have been showcased in prominent places of the country and even in foreign museums.

The veteran who belongs to a family of artists has in fact produced more than twenty students who have gone on to win national awards for their excellence in the profession of Art and sculpting. Banabihari Mohapatra in Pattachitra, Narayan Mohapatra in Pattachitra, Lingaraj Moharana in stone carving, Ravi Narayan Sutar in wood carving are the recipients of national awards and have been trained directly by the Master himself. And the master works not only in sculpting artists out of man but unique sculptures from stones that adorn different places in and outside the state and country! The 8 feet high black granite statue of Lord Vishnu at Satyanarayan temple, that of Jagadhatri and Jay Durga in  Maa Mangala Temple of Cuttack, wooden statues of Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra riding white and black horses that has been permanently preserved by Poland National Museum are some of the finest creations of the veteran.

Alice Boner of Switzerland, a recipient of Padma Vibhusan profiled the artist in his award winning book – “principles of Compositions in Hindu Sculpture.” The first prime minister of India Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru even felicitated him at Sambalpur, admiring his excellence way back in 1956.  But for these, the artist has been widely neglected by the government of Orissa. And Bhubaneswar does not complain either. For this ageless artist, awards and recognitions were never a part of his endeavor and he didn’t believe in them. To the familiar question of why he didn’t approach the government for any recognition the artist quips “Let the government decide, whom it want to recognize as artist”. For him it is much more satisfying to have implemented the last wishes of his dying father who wanted him “to carry on with the family tradition of art and sculpture” throughout his entire life that is more rewarding than anything else.

Well, it’s really hard to believe that people of such high moral still walk around us ! And it is much harder to believe still that but for all his talents and contribution, this man is yet to get the status of an artist! It’s high time that the government gets out of its slumber and does its bit towards this silent performer who has been working incessantly for the state and country for decades without wanting anything in return.

 

Fighting the Naxal Menace

After West Bengal’s Jangalmahal was cleared of Maoist insurgents last December, it was widely believed that the Maoists menace was virtually over. But the enthusiasms with which the Maoists have enhanced their activities in the Chattisgarh and Orissa in the past couple of weeks only demonstrate how weak both the centre and state government are against a handful of miasmic extremists. It also goes on to demonstrate that the civilian security preparedness is zilch compared to that of the extremists.

The abduction crisis that began last year with the abduction of Malkangiri Collector R Vineel Krishna has now culminated in the abduction of Sukma collector Mr Alex Paul Menon. One of the MLA’s of Orissa is already in their captivity for over a month now. The fact that Orissa and Chatisgarh would be targeted by the Maoists was anticipated after the fierce battle in Jangalmahal to flush out the extremists and later the killing of the Maoist leader Kishenji in an encounter. This battle forced the survivor members to flee the Jangalmahal region and take covers in Jharkhand-Chattisgarh-Orissa regions.

It goes to the credit of the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee that after taking office she single mindedly pursued the agenda of decimating the Maoist infested Jangalmahal region from the insurgents through careful execution of well laid out strategies. But what worked out in favor of the West Bengal government was air of public resentment that blew against the Maoists.

What Mamata did in West Bengal needs a special mention here. After gaining power, she tried to communicate with the public of the affected about the various development programs that was being undertaken by the government there and tried to inculcate trust into them. She avouched her words by recruiting 10,000 youths from these regions into the police force. This gave a serious jolt to the extremist outfit. Mamata’s clever political move to curb the Maoist menace also helped the security forces in consolidating their defense. The local populace not only extended their support to the police forces, they constantly communicated with the police and informed them about the Maoists activities, which is a far cry in either Orissa , Chattisgarh or Jharkhand.

Naxal training deep in forests of orissa

Naxal training deep in forests of orissa

The Naxals, on the other hand have been busy giving contours to their carefully devised  strategies of targeting precisely those who have penchant for working for the welfare of the tribal in these regions. Both the collector of Malkangiri and Sukma were quiet popular among tribal and so is the abducted MLA Mr. Jhikaka. But what astounds the fact is the reach and clasp of these outfits among the masses in the area. While MLA Jhikaka was abducted while on a tour, the Sukma Collector was abducted from a meeting which he himself had organized! But then when the home minister Mr. Chidambaram himself admits that the government has no instant measures to check these abductions, why blame lesser mortals?

Why the Naxals are now full of zing is not difficult to understand. There has been a constant strategizing and re-strategizing of their future course of action and everything is done with clear objective. May be they want to re-emerge as a stronger organization after the death of Kishenji or maybe they want to assert their relevance before the Maoist party congress to be held this year. Whatever it is, they have been on a rampage unprecedented in magnitude and which does not seem abating. On the contrary the government’s strategy to counter the Maosit moves has fallen flat on nose.

The kidnap of the two Italians, an MLA and two collectors go well beyond normal understandings to prove that Naxals have discovered a new found weapon in abductions which they are using smartly for fulfilling their requirements. Not only have they constantly been able to release dreaded Maoists from prisons, their bargaining powers too remains constantly on the upper side. What happened in Orissa has become a pattern everywhere else in the Moist dominated state. The Orissa government’s olive branch to the Naxals has been one of the worst lines of attack in recent times and has made them smarter!

Rescuing those who have been abducted is no doubt an uphill task, but it should also be ensured that the Maoists donor get buoyant by such activities. It is after all the duty of the government to boost the morale of the security guards! Giving in to the Naxal demands every time ossifies into demoralizing defeats for the security forces. While there should not be anymore impediments in laying out well thought out policy to tackle the Naxal movement, it should be ensured that development of the tribal dominated area is hastened. Only then should we be able to free the lands from the clutches of the Naxals.!

Berhampur – The Pickle Town Of Orissa!

Mango pickle of Berhampur

Mango pickle of Berhampur

The essence of Orissa is diversity. This is evident not only in it’s culture, tradition and architect but also in cuisine. Take any geographical location of the state and you would find a peculiar gastronomic specialty to it. So if you mark Salepur for Rasgollas, Dhenkanal for Bara and Nimapara for rasabali, you obviously know Berhampur for taste titillating Pickles.

There you are! Welcome to the pickle town of Orissa. The spicy pickles of this bustling town have been spreading their aroma far and wide since generations. Pickle production is a booming business in Berhampur and small scale industries have mushroomed in recent years at various locations in the city. There are nearly 100 families in the cities who are engaged in the business in a organized manner. Among these there are many families in which pickle making has been passed down since generations. It is thought that the basics of pickle making in Berhampur came from the Telugu residents who have settled here in astronomical proportions. Rightly so most of the families that are into this business are Telugu speaking!

Berhampur pickles are famous for their aroma and generous use of flavor enhancing garlic. The judicious use of spices makes the sweet variety of sweet and hot pickles a tad tangier. Since the place lies close to Andhra Pradesh, the aroma of the pickles has wafted to the other side of the border too. It is not uncommon to find people from Vizag and Hyderabad drifting in and around the city to carry back a jar of lip smacking pickles back home.

Although pickle shops are scattered throughout the town, some areas like Bara Bazaar, Annapurna Market and Bhapur Bazaar are some of the oldest and more famous . The price of the pickles range between Rs 50 to Rs 100 a kilo, though the sweet pickles of Berhampur cost a little more. And if you are thinking about variety, Berhampur  is definitely the place to be in. Among the wide varieties of pickles produced here, there are raw mangoes, lemon, amla, tomato, carrot, ginger, capsicum, green chilies, mango – garlic, mango- chilly, mango-chilly sweet, garlic, spinach, bitter gourd, drumsticks and jack fruit pickles! If you think this is enough then you are wrong. Think of any vegetable and there would be aform of pickle available here in Berhampur! In fact after the Mango and Lemon pickles, it is the vegetable pickles of Berhampur that are most sought after.

The method of preparation deserves special mention here. To start with, the basic ingredients like mango, chilies, lemons etc are cut into small pieces, marinated in salt and turmeric and spread out in the sun to dry for about two days. All other spices, oil and mustard seeds are then mixed and the mixture is then dried for  couple of days. In case of sweet pickles, sugar  or jaggery is caramelized and the syrup is poured in the pickle along with other spices.

Pickles shop in Berhampur

Pickles shop in Berhampur

In wider context, Berhampur’s pickle industry has played a vital role in providing employment to thousands of people directly and indirectly. Though it’s mostly a cottage industry with mostly direct involvement of women, the marketing and selling activities are undertaken by the male members. The demand of the pickles soar in summers and seasonal fruits like mangoes are extensively used during this time. Mangoes used in pickle production in Berhampur are generally procured from Andhra Pradesh.

Earlier producers used to sell their produce in open market and through different shops in the town, however trends have changed as professional marketing agencies nowadays procure the produce directly from the producers and sell them under a brand. Despite this open market sale is still widely practiced. And it is not uncommon to find traders from Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal making their way into the town in search of bulk procurement of the famed pickles. With times, the pickles have find their way outside the state too. As many export agencies make a beeline before the producers to export the same to foreign countries.

However this booming industry suffers from its own handicap like rising cost of raw materials. Similarly climatic effects on the production of vegetable or fruit directly affect the industry.  Traders and producers demand that government should also need to do something to safeguard the industry!

Meet the largest Family of Orissa

The Srichandans - Largest Joint family of Orissa

The Srichandans - Largest Joint family of Orissa

About 25kgs of rice,15kg of vegetable, five to seven kg of cereals and 20 litres of milk – such must be the average consumption of an average middle calss family of Orissa. Not so in this case. these are the quantities needed to assuage the  hunger pangs of a single family! And that too once a day!

Surprised! Well, you should not be! For this family is a unit of 121 members. Meet the Sriharichandans of  Khurda district, the largest family in Orissa today. This family has been living in the Gayabandha village in Khurda district for over 150 years. The number was 123 a few months back, but in January the family lost two of its oldest members, informs Dilip Srichandan, the family spokesperson and a former congress MLA. And if all the aunts and daughters, who got married and now stay outside the family to start their own families, were taken into count, the number could well swallow beyond 400.

The family was started by Bharat Srichandan who had five sons. The family has managed to grow united till this date. The family has about 50 male members and 21 female members. Cooking for 121 persons is done by housewives with the help of cooks and what is interesting is that the entire cooking is done in one place. This is something that astounds in this age of nuclear families when managing egos within a cluster of one or two members of the same family becomes very difficult.

Dilip Srichandan

Dilip Srichandan

So how does Dilip manage to keep such a big family together that too under one roof? “The answer is pretty simple”, says Dilip. “When others encourage their children to go for jobs and other related professions, we tell our kids to start business related to agriculture. That is how we hold them together!”  Obviously then, the family’s mainstay is agriculture. Other than regular crop of paddy and vegetables, the Srichandans have plantations of cashew nuts, mangoes and jackfruits which provide a steady flow of income to the family throughout the year. Apart from this the family boats of two big ponds where fishery is widely done.

Dilip who was the MLA from Khurda from 1995-2000 and is now a social worker cum litterateur runs an organization called “Prerna” which works for protection of environment. He feels sacrifice and adjustment hold the core to binding such a large unit of people together. “You cannot just care about yourself and your wife and kids. You will have to give up small comforts for the larger interest. If one of the brothers feels like bringing sweets for his own children, he cannot do so. He will have to bring it for all other young kids in the family, Dilip asserts!

For others it may sound like something that is difficult and impossible to do. But for the Srichandans who live under a single roof, the single family concept has helped in preserving values and inculcating ethics in the younger generation!

 

The Ubiquitous Khurda Gamchha

A village resident wearing gamchha

A village resident wearing gamchha

Orissa is wonderland set amidst such glorious diversities that make it a cauldron of cacophony and yet give it so meaningful a distinction that define it from the rest. Be it culture, dialect, cuisine, fabric, every place of the wonderland is filled with something special about it.

Many places of the state are unique for their own set of reasons. Some for their delicacies, some for monuments while some other for fabrics! And when we speak of fabric, Khurda aptly comes to the fore. For long the place is interlinked with the popular “Gamchhas” that is synonymous with the oriya culture.

So deeply ingrained are the gamchhas as the costumes of Orissa that a Bengali traveler once noted – “While traveling to Orissa from West Bengal, how do you get to know if you are in West Bengal or in Orissa? Apart from the changing language on the platform boards, there’s one more way. The lavish green fields through which the train runs, are often spotted with orange dots here and there. They are Orissa residents wearing the famous orange gamchha, which declare the arrival of Orissa!”

The residents known for their love of gammchas have clearly made a distinction between the Khurda Gamchha and rest! The Khurda gamchha has endowed the state’s handloom industry with a unique distinction. Such is the craze of the fabric in Orissa, that in most households no other forms of towel are ever entertained! And gradually it has come to be identified with the traditions of Orissa. In one of the recent developments involving the Khurda gamchhas, one independent MLA from Khurda Mr Rajendra Sahu presented the members of entire Orissa Legislative Assembly with sets of Khurda Lungis and Gamchhas which were snapped by the legislators.

Though the origin of the Khurda Gamchha cannot be definitely traced, its popularity can be dated back to 1952 when the Lungi and Gamchha became fashionable. It all began from the Palla Village in Khurda District. A person named jay Krushna Das learnt the art of making gamchha at a factory in Bhagalpur. Later a trader from Khurda named Ganpat Ram put him to work and opened a factory in Khurda under his guidance. Those were the days when the cotton and thread for the fabric were brought from Madurai and far off Japan.

Slowly as the fabric got popular in Orissa market, Khurda become synonymous with the center for Gamchha production.The first facility to come up with the trademark Khurda gamchha was Sreekrishna Weaving factory. Earlier the length of the fabric used to be 183cm *84 cm. and it was hand woven and marketed in metros like Kolkata,Delhi and Chennai. People loved it because it lasted long and the color was foolproof despite after multiple washings. However the ubiquitous gamchhas are no longer hand woven and have steadily gained in price. Earlier a standard “gamchha” used to cost Rs 10 which is now available at Rs 45.

At present a bulk of these towels are manufactured in Erode in Tamilnadu, but they carry the stamp of Khurda and yet retain their popularity. Apart from Khurda and Erode, there are many factories where the typical fabric is manufacture under the sobriquet of “Khurda Gamchha”. Some of these are at Kalapathar,Itamani, jatani and Bhadrak. Regardless of the places where they are manufactured and changes in their style an production technique, the brand still rules over the hearts of oriyas.

Where Red Rules…

“The ultras are watching. They note every step…after all they rule this place,” Villagers warn you! A sense of fear and suspicion resonate their words. They think every move here is more or less an exercise to dominate the jungle. It seems like a battle of attrition for control. For them this is a lawless land, which is distinctly governed with iron hand.

naxalites in Orissa

Red Army in orissa

A fluttering flag right outside the village Alamanda just on the borders of Orissa- Andhra Pradesh, welcomes you to the land where the Reds rule. The porous border between the two states is believed to be the home for 10,000 Maoists – armed and deadly. The administration on both the sides is yet to admit that the land has been seized. But the situation is far more evident, with the state losing its ground at a fast pace. The kidnapping of the BJD legislator Jhina Hikaka from Laxmipur indicates the same.

Police stations in the region resemble haunted homes and no one dares to go out in “khaki”. Officials are terrified and the woods turn wild after sunset. The cops refuse to stand guards to the legislator when they venture to visit these places. It is thus hardly surprising that legislators hardly visit their constituencies! What’s more shocking is what even local legislators admit in hushed tones – “projects cannot be sanctioned in the region without the prior consent of the ultras. “

Though the police donot refuse the presence of Ultras, they scoff at suggestions of the land being taken and claim that the atrocities are projected way beyond exaggeration. However subordinates in the force give a more practical picture. A subordinate explained the situation by recounting an incident that happened recently. In a shrill voice he explained – “This happened last week. We received information that nearly 80 armed ultras were shifting base and we knew the precise location of their whereabouts. Yet we could not send raiding party. All that we could do is alert the officials to steer clear of that particular stretch and avoid any contact with them.”

And though the Central government has launched the “Operation Green Hunt” to steer clear the naxalite movement, hardly anybody in the village has seen any combing operations in the area! Villagers claim that the forces do not dare to venture deep into the forest. In fact it seems there is lot more politics involved around the naxalites and the operation green hunt than is evident. The way the MLA abduction case is being handled by the Centre and state government makes the difference seem even more apparent!

To put it squarely, the people of Mundiguda, a tiny hamlet  say that both the centre and state are shrugging away from responsibility of reclaiming the place from naxalites. They further explain that while the Reds strike personal bond with the locals; help them in aspects of justice, the government and its machinery are nowhere to be seen! An elderly man who has seen the apathy of the government says – “Here we let the dogs loose. They are free to switch sides. But, we prefer the hands that feed.”

 

 

A village where Cows are worshipped to Ward off Cyclones

Cow worship to ward off cyclonesSurprising though it may sound, there lies a village in Orissa where cows are prayed to protect the village from cyclones. This tradition which is carried on with right earnest since past many years has been preserved by the villagers of Mangarajpur in Rajnagar block of Kendrapara district who organized a “yagna” to honour the cows in the recently concluded “Pana Sankranti” festival.

The villagers who are well aware of the limitations of praying the bovine creature are however content in carrying on with the tradition started by their predcessors. The three day long yagna is organized every year  in the Pana Sankranti day by the Sadhus of Alekh Mahima cult. The cows are offers sweet concoctions for getting their blessings on the villagers.

In the beginning of the festival, the villagers invite cows from within and outside the villages in the traditional way by sending betel nuts along with messengers. The residents and neighborhood villagers then bring in their cows and congregate near an orchard in the village. Later the disciples of the Alekha Mahima cult offer prayers to the cow with the sweet concoction popularly known as “pana” which is prepared by mixing fruits, water, milk, pulp of the bel fruit, curd and sugar). Locals then take the pana and circumambulate around the cattle seven times before keeping it in the four directions of the village. The worship comes to an end after Pana is distributed among the locals and visitors. The villagers then return back with their cattle.

The purpose behind the tradition is to ward off evil spirit from the village and to protect the village from natural hazards like cyclone. Prayers are also offered to save the cow from disease and help it increase its progeny.

 

Treasure Trove of Kanika Museum

Kanika Palace MuseumSet up in 1960s by the Royal Bhanj family, the Kanika Palace which is now partially converted into a museum, houses hundreds or rare antiquities comprising wildlife trophies, mirrors, paintings, rare photographs, arms and other artifacts.

The magnificent museum was renovated recently for public display of its treasures, thanks to the efforts  of the scion of the regal family, Shivendra Narayan Bhanjadeo.The palace mirrors the rich tradition of Rajkanika and its outstanding architectural accomplishments centuries ago. The museum is a blend of rare art pieces, paintings, pottery, bronze wares, clocks and court documents.

The 99 centimeter long skull of a slat water crocodile on display at the museum is the world’s largest available crocodile skull. Similarly a giant skull of  an elephant and its foot add to the artifact of the museum. A stuffed tiger is another big attraction of the museum. The Kanika museum also stores valuable art works which were in possession of the royal family for ages. These include paintings, pottery, bronze wares, gold and silver wares, embroidery and sculptures. The court property includes jewels, accessories, clocks, medicines, furniture and furnishings. A variety of exhibits such as portraits of the kings, palanquins, dresses, weapons, royal umbrellas, canopy, a century old billiards table are on display at the museum.

The museum of Rajkanika is special in its own way and throws light on the pomp and grandeur associated with the erstwhile royal families of Orissa.  A visit to this magnificent place is bound to take you on a trip down to history!

Super Human Deities of Orissa

Orissa is a land that grows on spirituality. Scattered across the terrains of the state are many temples and religious artifacts that accentuate the sanctimony and sacred attitude of people that is unfound in any other parts of world. Possibly so, this attitude of the Oriyas is responsible for transforming human beings into god. It thus hardly surprises when you find a temple dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi or the great poet Kalidas in Orissa.

Gandhi Temple of Sambalpur, Orissa

Gandhi temple Of Orissa

Gandhi temple Of Orissa

Sixty four years after his assassination when the  younger generation is on the verge of shrugging off his ideology as a piece of waste material,mahatma Gandhi- the father of the nation keeps on being worshipped in a temple built at on the outskirts of Sambalpur along National Highway 42.The temple built by the former MLA of Rairakhol assembly constituency, Abhimanyu Kumar, a Dalit leader, in the early 70’s draws people from nearby localities in multitude.

The gateway arch  of the temple is adorned by  a statue of Bharat Mata with the tricolor held aloft on her left shoulder and a map of India in the backdrop. The statue is graced by lions and peacocks on both sides, symbolically representing the national animal and bird. The Indian national flag flutters at the top of the structure. The sanctum sanctorum has a 1.07 meter bronze statue of a squatting Mahatma, inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Orissa, Nandini Satpathy, on April 11, 1974.

There is a complete set of rituals that  is religiously followed in worshiping the idol. The puja is perfomed twice a day by a dalit priest amidst the chanting of ‘Ramdhun’ by devotees in the temple. The Gandhi Mandir Development Committee looks after the temple upkeep. It is however on the occasion of republic day, independence day and Mahtma Gandhi’s birthday that the temple turns into a hot cauldron seething with activities.

The temple was built with an aim of eradicating untouchability. And the fact that the priest is a Dalit and people accept prasad from him freely is a sign that the temple has served its objective. Apart from this, the temple committee keeps itself busy by venturing into social service with active support of the villagers.

While the four time MLA Abhimanyu  still visits the temple, even at the age of 85, he prefers to monitor affairs without getting involved in it. He is worried about the apathy of the government towards this unique temple, and wonders whether the next generation can carry forward his dream.

Kalidasa Temple of Kendrapara, Orissa

Poet kalidas

Poet kalidas

It’s a typical morning in Babakapur village in Kendrapara. The sun is just about to rise and the bird chirps are filling the entire environment with a magical music. And sounds of chants of the yore coming from the village temple reverberate in the surrounding. So what’s so special about Babakpur then? Well, the chants that fill the morning calm of the village are not only vedic hymns but recitals of Meghadutam, Kumarasambhavam and Abhijnanashakuntalam!

Every morning, residents of Babakapur wake up to the chants of a different kind. Vedic hymns and shlokas apart, what reverberates in the skies of this non-descript village about 12 km from Kendrapara, Orissa, is the recital of Meghadutam, Kumarasambhavam and Abhijnana shakuntalam from a nearby temple.

Clearly, this is no ordinary temple. It is in fact a 200-year-old shrine to Kalidasa. If you are shocked, then there is more that would shock you as well as make you proud! Well, in this unique temple religious texts like the Bhagwad gita or Ramayana have never been recited! It is the verses of Ritusamharam that was written by the great poet that is recited here every morning.

Balaram Bhramarbar Ray, a zamindar of the village, was instrumental in establishment of the temple. Being a Sanskrit scholar, his deep love for the language and respect for the great poet led him to construct the Kalidasa temple in 1802. Since then, villagers have been worshiping the poet. After Ray’s death in 1832, some villagers installed another deity near Kalidasa’s idol, and since then they have been worshiping the poet along with the village deity.

The temple and the priests, who enjoyed great patronage from landlords, fell into bad times after abolition of the zamindari system in 1952. In spite of the odds, the villagers have kept the tradition alive by donating money to appoint Kalidasa experts as priests

Sanskrit may have few takers today and hardly anybody today might be having inclination towards the greatest poet of India, yet what is being done in Babakapur is really uplifting for the soul of lovers of tradition.

Farmer Temple of Orissa

And now to the most unique of temples in Orissa ! Guess who presides at the sanctum sanctorum of this temple! Well, the answer comes for a cropper! And don’t be disheartened if you have answered wrong because it the only temple of its kind in the entire world!

Yes, this temple at Barhainpur village on the Cuttack-Kendrapara road that stands about 45 km from the ‘millennium city’ of Cuttack has the farmer ensconced as the presiding deity! Like the deity, the structure of the temple too is unique and invites attention almost immediately!

It’s an open structure, with the roof supported by four pillars. Inside stands an idol of a farmer with a plough on his shoulders, a whip in hand and a cane hat on the head. Every morning, hundreds of farmers offer prayers here before heading to the fields. And it’s a ritual for the 3,000 farmers in Barhainpur Gram Panchayat. Farmers from neighboring villages and districts flock  to offer prayers and make wishes for a good yield.

Established by the Jai Kishan Club, a local community of farmers, the temple is a symbol of the contribution of the peasant to mankind. The club which wanted to raise a voice against the apathy of today’s farmer who are being looked down upon and neglected a lot by the government, went on for this unique path.

The temple which was inaugurated by Jajpur MP Mohan Jena on a Akshay Tritiya day that isobserved as Farmers’ Day, has a farmer conducting the early morning rituals, while the Brahmin follows up with prayers. The whole area rings with the chant of “Jai Kishan” composed specifically for the temple.

The temple committee organises ploughing and bullock racing competitions every year. Winners are awarded farming implements.