Satpada – Chilika’s finest Magnum Opus

A legend goes: In the distant past, Raktabahu was a pirate king, who had a plan to rob the Jagannath Temple at Puri. He arrived at the coast of Odisha with a huge fleet of ships. Assessing his wicked intention, the seawater moved backwards, making anchoring impossible for the pirate army. Out of anger, Raktabahu attacked the sea, which in turn washed him away with a part of it. That detached part of the sea according to local belief is the Chilika Lake of today.

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Satpada in the northern part of Chilika is believed to be the place where Raktabahu had arrived. A meeting point of rivers, rivulets, fishing villages and Irrawaddy dolphins at Satpada, nature has created one of its best magnum opuses. Shredded in mysteries, the land has a deep connection with Jagannath Cult.

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MANGALAJODI– WHERE ASHOKA IS BORN AND DIES EVERY OTHER DAY

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According to a legend, the daughter of the king of Kanchi was engaged to the Gajapati King of Puri. When the king of Kanchi met the Gajapati, the later was in the act of sweeping in front of chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. Considering the act of sweeping offensive of a king the king of Kanchi declined the marriage proposal refusing to marry his daughter to a sweeper.

Gajapati Purusattama Dev felt deeply insulted and decided to rage a war against the Kanchi King. However, he was unsuccessful.

Travel Tips

Satpada is located at a distance of 45 km from Puri in the southern direction and 100 km from Bhubaneswar. There are a few budget staying options at Satpada including the OTDC Yatri Nivas. However for a unique experience tryout Nature Camp at Rajhans Beach. The package includes overnight stay, food, boat pick up and drop from Satpada, nature trek and dolphin sightings. If you don’t want stay, you can hire a 3-hour boat ride from OTDC counter at Satpada for dolphin sightings and a brief halt at Rajhans. While at Satpada, try out the local seafood delicacies, which includes crabs and prawns.

 

Upon his defeat, the Gajapati King returned to Puri and prayed Lord Jagannath. Moved by his prayer, Jagannath and Balabhadra left their temple at Puri and started an expedition to Kanchi on horseback. Near Satpada, they felt thirsty and chanced upon the milkmaid Manika, who gave them yoghurt to quench their thirst. Instead of paying her dues, Balabhadra gave her a ring telling her to claim her dues from king Purusattama Dev. At Adipur, near Satpada, Manika stopped the king pleading for the unpaid cost of yoghurt. She produced the gold ring as evidence. Considering this a sign of divine support of his campaign, the king enthusiastically led the expedition and defeated the Kanchi King. After the victory, the Gajapati King brought back the princess Padmavati to Puri and married her during next Rath Yatra before the idol of Lord Jagannath.

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SOUTH CHILIKA COAST – BACK IN TIME

Satpada today is a traveller’s paradise mainly for the 100 odd endangered Irrawaddy dolphins that are sighted in the tranquil blue water here. Irrawaddy dolphins are a critically endangered species having a bulging forehead and 12 to 19 teeth on each side of both jaws. They are also found in Mekong River and Borneo. In Mekong River, they are regarded as sacred animals by both Khmer and Lao people.

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Dolphins at Satpada are best sighted in the morning before its placid water bed gets crowded by tourists.

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Satpada has plenty of charms for a curious traveller. It is a wonderland for those interested in fishing and discovering the life of fishermen.

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Asia’s largest brackish water lake Chilika has an abundance of crabs, prawns and a variety of fish. Nets and traps are the common gears used for fishing in the brackish lake. While nets are used to harvest fish, traps are used for prawns and crabs. The fishing boats are plank-built flat bottomed ones known as naha.

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Among the traps, bamboo traps are most common. An essential accessory to these traps is thette, which is a bamboo screen measuring 40 ft x 4 feet and serves as a pathway for prawns to move in the directions of traps. They are generally set in the lake in the evening and removed in the morning when the catch is taken out. Traps are completely dried before resetting in the evening.

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Satpada is a timeless romance. A one and half hour boat ride transport you into a noman’s beach amidst the wilderness of the coastal forest and miles and miles of sandy beach. The beach is Rajhans, where time seems to have taken a halt.

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The one and half hour boat journey one way is filled with excitement at every turn. You pass by many scenic villages and fishermen engaged in various stages of fishing. Cormorants and Brahminy Kites eyeing for fish sitting on bamboo posts add icing on the cake to your journey. For a moment you become the king of an untamed water territory and your subjects are not humans, but elements of nature, birds and fish.

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Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

Bichitrapur – The Other Bhitarkanika

‘If there are no mangroves, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree without roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea.’

Words of a Thai Fisherman from the Andaman Coast

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You have seen Bhitarkanika, widely celebrated as Mini Amazon. But perhaps you may not be aware of North Balasore Coast that has preserved yet another mangrove, though much smaller in size. Bichitrapur, the mangrove coast of Balasore is an ecological utopia.

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A 10-minute boat ride from Khadibili through the meandering mangrove creeks will drop you at a no man’s beach, the mangrove paradise of Bichitrapur. On your way, you come across numerous fishing boats mostly built in clinker technique and locally known as patia on both sides of the creek.

Also, Read Here:

TALASARI BEACH – BEYOND THE RHYTHMIC SEA

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Bichitrapur is one of the least explored mangrove coasts in Odisha and therefore retained its character as an ecological hotspot. A sheltering ground for resident and migratory birds and ghost red crabs, the major attraction here is the numerous stumps of water weathering trees strewn across the marshy land and sea waves gently tossing them.

Also, Read Here:

CHANDIPUR – BEYOND THE VANISHING SEA

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Mangroves are part of the coastal ecosystem in the tropical and sub-tropical world in Asia, Africa, Australia and America. The largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world is found in the Sundarbans on the edge of Bay of Bengal in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Moving south from Sundarbans, the tiny tract of Bichitrapur is the first mangrove region in the east coast.

The term ‘mangrove’ is derived from two words ‘mangoe’ (Portuguese), which means a mangrove tree and ‘grove’ (English), which means a community of trees.

Travel Tips

Bichitrapur is located at a distance of 100 km from Balasore and 15 km from Talasari Beach and 20 km from Digha, a popular tourist beach in bordering West Bengal. Surround by lush green paddy fields, swamps, rivers and villages, Bichitrapur can also be covered by bicycle. The nature camp at Bichitrapur is the only staying option, which can be booked online (https://www.ecotourodisha.com/). The boat ride starts from Khadibili during high tides. Your booking at the nature camp also includes a complimentary boat ride in the mangrove creeks.

Growing in the inter-tidal areas and estuary mouths between land and sea, mangroves are composed of salt-tolerant trees and other plant species. They thrive in intertidal zones of sheltered tropical shores, islands and estuaries.

Also, Read Here:

DAGARA – ODISHA’S RED CARPET BEACH

Bichitrapur Mangrove is also a storehouse of experiences for knowledge seeking travellers. One can also do beach trekking from Talasari or even Digha to reach Bichitrapur.

The surrounding of Bichitrapur is the agricultural heartland of rural Balasore. On your drive from Chandaneswar to Bichitrapur, you discover beetle leaf gardens, a major source of local revenue generation. Beetle leaves are delicate plants and utmost care is taken for their growth.

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Yet another attraction around Bichitrapur is Asia’s tallest Shiva Lingam at Kumbharagadi Village. The 12 feet long and 14 feet width lingam of Baba Bhusandeswara is carved out on black granite stone and only half of it is visible.

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According to a local legend, during Tretaya Yuga, the demon king Ravana was blessed by Lord Shiva and gifted this Shiva Lingam. But Lord Shiva warned him not to place the lingam anywhere. Ravana was on his way with the lingam on Puspak Viman. The angels of God were disappointed and seized the power of Ravana. In the meantime, Ravana felt desperate and planted the lingam at this place. He tried to lift again but failed because it was heavy. The lingam was buried unnoticed for a long time until when a Marwari businessman of Jaleswara town discovered it in his dream. On the next day, he accompanied by his friends came here and built a shrine over it.

The Nature Camp at Bichitrapur is a destination by itself. Surrounded by dense casuarina forest, the camp has 4 cottages on a dune in a tranquil setting.

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A few kilometres south of the camp is the estuary of Subarnarekha River, a major maritime gateway in the past for European expansion in India. Today the tranquil water of the river is extensively used for subsistence and industrial fishing.

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Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Talasari Beach – Beyond the Rhythmic Sea

As you approach the Bhogamandapa of Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri, and if you are an ardent lover of art, you are drawn to unique art panels depicting royal processions, scenes of royal assemblies and many more. When you move your eyes to extreme right a panel depicting a royal pleasure boat would draw your attention. The boat is carved along with a crew of rowers and the helm man on the high stern section. The royal figure is seated on a swing and holds a cloth tassel to steady him as the boat progresses. The pavilion has caryatid type pillars and figures cling to the royal umbrella at the prow.

The type of boat shown in the panel is built in clinker technology, a method of boat building that was developed in Northern Europe and was successfully used by the Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, Scandinavians and Hanseatic Cog.

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In clinker technique boats the edges of hull planks overlap each other. Clinker built ships were a trademark of Nordic navigation throughout the middle ages.

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Today sailing of clinker technique boats has become history in most part of the world. However, in Talasari Beach of North Balasore bordering West Bengal, the millennia-old clinker technique boat tradition has survived along with Sweden, Digha in West Bengal and parts of Bangladesh. Locally known as Patia, these are reverse clinker sailing boats made entirely out of Sal (Shorea robusta) and are heavily coated inbound and outbound with tar. Apart from modifications made to accommodate the engine, all sizes of boats are evidently built in the same manner. The strakes of patia boats are fastened together by nails, which are driven through the overlap and clenched by hooking the emergent point back into planking.

Also, Read Here:

CHANDIPUR – BEYOND THE VANISHING SEA

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At Talasari, you are drawn to a romantic flat beach with small and playful waves, a few patia boats, scenes of fishermen repairing nets, red ghost crabs crawling on the golden sand and dense tree foliage.

Travel Tips

Talasari is located near West Bengal Border closer to Digha Beach. The distance between Balasore and Talsari is about 90 km via Jaleswar Town. It is a quaint beach surrounded by small rivers, casuarina forest and charming villages. The Odisha Tourism Panthanivas is the best-staying option at Talasari. The property is located near the river with the best view of the river and beach. The seafood preparation here is simply delicious. Though Talasari can be covered in a day trip however we recommend for a night stay to have the best of experience.

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Also, Read Here:

DAGARA – ODISHA’S RED CARPET BEACH

The patia boats used by the fishermen are operated in estuaries, beach seining and the open sea. The builders of patia boats are simple folk with no formal background in boat designs. Hence, no drawing, models or moulds (templates) are used when building a patia – measurements are used mainly to ensure symmetry. The boats are largely built ‘by eye’ and much depends upon the experience of the builder.

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Patias are used in specific seasons of the year. The main season begins from September/October to March/April. The sailing of patia works within about 5 km of the shore, while the motorised may go up to 20 km.

There is no historical record of patia boats, when it came into use in Talasari water, who were its first users, and so on. However, the region around Talasari was a maritime hub from the 16th centuries having active trade contact with European countries, ranging from Danish to British nation. Perhaps it was introduced through contact with Europe.

The only evidence was provided by Thomas Bowrey, a British traveller of the 17th century in Odisha coast. Thomas described the boats as patella – flat bottomed, barge-like clinker-built boats with protruding crossbeams, used to transport salt. They had a single mast and were steered by large median radar.

Talasari is a beach that can refresh your five senses like an instant coffee and heal your body, mind and soul at the first go. Talasari gets its name from Tala (rhythm) and Sari (row) – the rhythm formed by the swing of the lush green foliage and the moving golden sands, both uniting with the calm melodious sea. When it is the low tide you can simply walk across the dry river bed to reach the beach and when it is high tide use the ferry to cross the river.

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At Talasari you relish the best of seafood at your own pace.

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The nearby Chandaneswar is an important business hub in rural Balasore. Bordering Digha Beach in Bengal and Udayapur Beach in Odisha, Chandaneswar is famous for a Shiva temple built in the architectural style of Bengal.

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Every year, during the Hindu month of Chaitra (April) a 13-day festival called Chadaka Mela takes place in Chandaneswar. Legend has it that Lord Chandaneswar secretly married Kamini in the absence of his wife Parvati during the month of Chaitra. At the time of Chadaka Mela, devotees in large number get their skin, tongue and body pierced with nails and move around in the procession.

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Chandaneswar also has several women self-help groups engaged in the making of plates and bowls using the local resources, leaves of beetle nut palm trees. You can meet them and by as gift items to spread happiness and sustainable living with nature.

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Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Chandipur – Beyond the Vanishing Sea

You are told and retold…Chandipur in Balasore is a unique beach where the sea recedes for 5 km twice a day during ebb tides.

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During when the sea recedes, the beach turns into a biodiversity hotspot.

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Hundreds of ghost red crabs crawl on its golden sands.

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There are swamps covered with thin layers of seagrass sheltering hundreds of tiny fish, gastropods and mollusc species attracting egrets and seagulls for grand feasts.

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Fishermen walk for miles to place wooden posts on the edge of the retreading shoreline only to return next day to bring home kilos of tiny fish that get trapped during the movement of tidal waters.

Also, Read Here:

DAGARA – ODISHA’S RED CARPET BEACH

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Children play cricket on the dry sand and tourists walk for miles enjoying the unique phenomena of nature.

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When you go on a leisurely walk in this nature’s Shangri La, you discover hundreds of tiny patterns on sand formed by sea crabs, many having holes. When you approach near them the shy red ghost crabs scurry into these holes.

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SAHANA BEACH AND DEVI MOUTH – ODISHA’S BEST KEPT SECRET

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You are floored. Chandipur is perhaps the only beach in this part of the world where nature’s drama can be experienced at its best. Your day is made.

Travel Tips

Chandipur is located at a distance of 16 km from Balasore city which is a major railhead and transit point for travel into various parts of northern Odisha. Connected by a metalled road Chandipur can be reached both by public transport and private taxies from Balasore. Though Chandipur can be covered in a day visit however we recommend for a night stay to experience the complete tidal stories of nature and the nearby Balaramgadi Muhana and the maritime heritage of Balasore. The beach has a number of staying options for budget travellers including the property of Odisha Tourism, Panthanivas. Relishing seafood is a major attraction in Chandipur.

 

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However, beyond nature’s hide and seek games, Chandipur has much more surprises. The Budhabalanga River which flows nearby empties into the Bay of Bengal at Balaramgadi, only 3 km from Chandipur in the further north.

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A major fishing harbour today, Balaramgadi at any moment of the day is full of large-sized fishing trawlers and small fishing boats anchored in the jetty. And if you are in the morning hours you find them unloading tons of fish (hilsa, pomp fret, jumbo-sized prawns and many more) from deep-sea fishing for auctions. You also meet subsistence fishermen engaged in various fishing-related activities.

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The Budhabalanga River was a major maritime passage in the 18th century. The Danish, the Dutch, the French and the British used it as a maritime route to seek business and establish factories. In Balasore there are a few vestiges remained of Chandipur’s maritime past. The region was a centre of shipbuilding and ship repairing. Its natives were most resourceful for their knowledge and skills in navigation. So well-known was Balasore in the nautical circle around the world in 1872, a shipbuilding farm in Glasgow was christened ‘Balasore’. In those days Balasore was also a textile manufacturing hub. The muslin handkerchiefs of Balasore had the brand name ‘Balasore Handkerchiefs’. Because of its high quality and uniqueness, an English Man had established a factory in England to manufacture Balasore Handkerchief.

The French also had a tiny colony at Balasore called Loges. The oldest organised maritime service in India was the Bengal Pilot Service which used to lead foreign ships from Balasore to Calcutta through Balaramgadi near Chandipur and vice versa.

Ref: Some Vignettes of Balasore and its French Loge

Today in Balasore there are settlements like Dinamar Dinga, Farasi Dinga and Oladanj Sahi testifying Balasore’s link with Europe’s maritime nations.

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Within Barabati High school there are remains of two large Dutch Tombs from the 16th century.

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There are also remains of a British Cemetery in Damodar locality consisting of 33 gravestones from the 18th century. The graveyard contains the tombstones of Sir Hennery Rickett, the first collector of Balasore (1827 – 36), and his wife Lady Rickett, who was a doctor and had served people with missionary zeal when Odisha was reeling under ‘Nannka Durvikha’, the worst over famine in Odisha that had killed millions of souls due to hunger and diseases. The graveyard also contains the tombstones of Captain Morgante and Captain Francis Walter, a hero of British Royal Navy who led several battles in Madras, Goa, Harispur, Pipli Port and Balasore.

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Chandipur is fairly a meeting point of nature and history and a true representation of Balasore’s cultural identity.

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Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Dagara – Odisha’s Red Carpet Beach

As you near the tranquil beach of Dagara after a bumpy drive for almost 20 km from the nearest town of Baliapal, you receive a gracious welcome by nature through a long stretch of red carpet cropping out of the golden sands.

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Little wonder, these little creatures are the fastest runners among all crab species. They are not in hundreds or thousands but crawl in millions. As you approach nearer to them they scurry into their holes. These are ghost red crabs at Dagara Beach in the coastline of Balasore. Their eyestalks allow them to see 360-degree potential predators and prey.

Also, Read Here:

SAHANA BEACH AND DEVI MOUTH – ODISHA’S BEST KEPT SECRET

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Ghost crabs are commonly found on tropical beaches across the world, but there are few places where their concentration is more. They have a little box-like body, thick elongated eyestalks and one claw is longer than the other in both males and females for feeding and digging their burrows. The eyestalks are tipped with horn-like projections called styles.

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GOPALPUR – TRANQUILLITY ON THE SEA

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Ghost crabs are mainly detritivores but are also active predators and scavengers. They eat algae and animal detritus food among the sand as well as dead fish, insects and marine organism. They leave a large number of sand balls across the beach which they have searched through for food.

Travel Tips 

Dagara Beach is located at a distance of 60 km from Balasore City and 260 km from Bhubaneswar. The nearest town is Baliapal, which is 20 km away. There are a few staying options at Dagara but it is recommended for a comfortable stay at Chandipur or Talsari (both 2 hours away by road). There is also a PWD IB which can be booked through the official procedure. The best time to be at Dagara is when there is low tide, when the ghost red crabs appear in millions on the sandy beach.

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Dagara Beach near the mouth of Subarnarekha River is one of Odisha’s most unspoiled beaches with a wide expanse of sandy coastline. Fenced by long stretches of casuarina trees it is the only beach in Odisha where one can enjoy both sunrise and sunset. The beach is known for its massive concentration of ghost red crabs.

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The story of Dagara is incomplete without appreciating the rustic beauty of its surrounding countryside. The Subaranarekha River which originates in the high plateau of Jharkhand in the west was a major thoroughfare in the 16th-17th centuries CE. The Dutch and the Portuguese used this river estuary as the passage to seek their business fortune in the eastern part of India. It is told that the Dutch had established a factory at Baliapal, however, no trace of it can be found. Yet there are vestiges of British East India Company sheds, warehouses, canals and bunds that can be seen as one drive through the countryside.

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Yet one more attraction is the countless fishing boats of various sizes and shapes playing in the golden water of Subarnareka and the swamps. And if you are in September – October, the Subaranarekha blooms with vast beds of Kasatandi flowers, symbolizing the arrival of Maa Durga.

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Author: Jitu Mishra

With Sasanka Rath, Odisha Tourism

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Ansupa – Wetland Wonderland

Wetlands, small and huge, well-known and lesser-known are some of my favourite destinations for seeking bliss. What I enjoy in wetlands that I visit are the floating vegetation in tranquil water, watching fishermen for hours in actions and musical chirping of birds, both local and migratory. In addition to these, if there are archaeological treasures and intense local stories associated with lakes, they form icing on cakes.

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In Odisha, Chilika Lake often comes to our mind when we talk of wetlands. However, Ansupa, which I find more splendid and euphoric, is almost unknown to travellers except those living in Bhubaneswar or Cuttack.

Travel Tips

Ansupa Lake is located in Cuttack district at a distance 55 km from Bhubaneswar. It takes about 2 hours to reach Ansupa on scenic Banki Highway on the corridor of Mahanadi. While at Ansupa you can also visit Nuapatna and Maniabandh Textile cluster and Bhattarika Temple on the bank of Mahanadi. For accommodation, there are few bamboo cottages built on the hilltop. You can book through https://www.ansupalake.in/  

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Situated near the bank of River Mahanadi and surrounded by hills of the Eastern Ghats, namely Saranda Hill on the western side and Bishnupur Hill on the eastern side, Ansupa is a horse-shoe shaped water body and is the largest natural freshwater lake in Odisha. The lake was created by River Mahanadi and spread over an area of 140 hectors.

Also Read Here:

Sahana Beach and Devi Mouth – Odisha’s Best Kept Secret

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After a drive of less than two hours from the heart of Bhubaneswar along the scenic Banki Highway what attracts you at Ansupa is its immense biodiversity. The wetland is home to 9 species of submerged plants, and 26 species of floating and emergent aquatic plants. It is also home to 33 species of fish, 3 species of prawns, 10 species of reptiles and 50 species of resident and migratory birds.

Also, Read Here:

Barbara Forest – A Blend of Nature, Indigenous Culture and Archaeology

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Ansupa is linked directly with river Mahanadi by a natural channel Kabula Nala, which acts both as inlet and outlet, through which flood water enters the lake and excess water goes out after the flood.

Ansupa looks heavenly in monsoon when the Saranda and Bishnupur Hills and the surrounding marshes and paddy fields erupt into various shades of green.

Also, Read Here:

Buddhist Weavers of Maniabandha – A Confluence of Ideas

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Saranda Hill also has a rich archaeological treasure. According to folklore, the area was ruled by kings and zamindars who had established their fort at the hilltop. A legend goes: during the rule of the Eastern Gangas, King Subranakeshari after being allured by the natural beauty of Ansupa had established a fort and village on the foothill of Saranda. Named after him is the present village of Subranapur. The legend further says: one of the brothers of Dhala Dynasty of Banki had established his kingdom on the top of Saranda Hill as Saranda Gada. The king of Saranda had married to one of the daughters of  king of Tigiria, which is located at a distance of 15 km from Ansupa. The armoury of the kingdom is located on the hilltop, which was built to store arms and ammunition and was known as Baruda Ghara.  At the foothill, the king had built a fort gateway made of bronze, which would make a loud cracking sound when it was opened and closed. According to local legends, the sound used to be heard for nearly 20 km.

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Besides the Baruda Ghara, there are remains of two stone wells, locally known as Bhai Bohu Kuan. There is existence of one more well, which is believed to be the remains of the king’s treasury.

The hills surrounding Ansupa on Banki Highway are also treasure houses for archaeologists and cave explorers. There are several natural and human-made caves found on the hills that surround the Chandaka Forest. Many of these natural caves were inhabited by Prehistoric communities, who have left their marks in the form of graffiti though most of these have disappeared now. The caves that were excavated during the historical era resemble single-chambered caved at Khandagiri and Udayagiri Hills. Though it is difficult to date them, it seems these were inhabited by Hindu monks for tantra Sadhana and mediation as late as 18th/19th centuries CE. In Pandava Bakahra caves, which can be accessed through steep climbing have remains of several red ochre paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddess including of Lord Jagannath. There are also tantric narratives in Odia script.

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Travelling to Ansupa can be made in a day trip, but it is highly recommended for the night stay in Ecotourism camp, built by the forest department on the hilltop and Saranda Gada for a memorable experience under the lap of nature.

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Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Breathtaking Duduma Falls in South Koraput – A Cultural Sojourn

Once upon a time! A Gadaba girl was bathing in the river. In the meantime, her younger brother was passing nearby. When he noticed his sister taking bath he threw an arrow to inform about his presence. The girl could not understand why the arrow was thrown at her. She did not care for it and continued to bath.

The brother felt insulted as his sister did not respond to his arrow. Shouting loudly he proceeded further. Looking at her brother approaching towards her the girl in her nude state jumped into the river out of shame. But to save his sister, the boy caught the hair portion of the girl as a result of which the hair portion remained in his hand and the body flown into the river.

On the other side of the river, the girl propagated her progeny who was named as Bonda.

Even today the Bonda women remain skin headed and consider Gadabas as their younger brothers and sisters.

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A Bonda Woman on the left and Gadaba Woman on the right

The river where the event happened according to local belief is today’s Machkund, a tributary of Godavari. The river separates Odisha from Andhra Pradesh in the highland plateau of South Koraput. One of the most scenic, the river today is tamed for hydroelectric projects, but what makes an out of world experience is its Duduma Falls, one of the deepest and ferocious landscapes in the whole of Peninsular India.

Travel Tips

Duduma Falls and Lamtaput are located in the southern part of Koraput Distance on the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Surrounded hills and forest, the area is a traveller’s paradise. The nearest towns are Jeypur (60 km) and Similguda (80 km). Both have decent staying options. However, we recommend Desia Koraput, an award-winning ethnic resort (http://www.desiakoraput.com) located near Lamtaput. It is designed in traditional architecture.  The nearest airport is Visakhapatnam (180 km). Bhubaneswar, the state capital is 570 Km.

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Machkund River and Duduma Falls

Our journey starts from Semiliguda an industrial township on the foothills of Deomali at a 1000 feet plateau to Duduma through an enchanting landscape of hills, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, farmlands, valleys and numerous tribal villages. It was a rainy day with floating clouds kissing the mountain peaks. As we moved further the land became more isolated and the population became sparse. Once the area used to be a part of the Red Corridor. But now the Maoists have almost lost their grip as there is no local support and also because of the continued intervention of state forces.

Also, Read Here:

Lanjia Saura Hill Tribe of Odisha – A Travel Shot (Part 1)

Lanjia Saura Hill Tribe of Odisha – A Travel Shot (Part 2)

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After a sumptuous lunch in a roadside eatery run by two tribal women, we reached Jalaput Reservoir on Machkund River. Surrounded by hills and picturesque valleys, Jalaput wetland derives its name from Jala or Jal means water and Put means residence in Desia language. The bridge on the reservoir forms the border between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. We crossed the bridge and entered Andhra Pradesh. The 20 km road in Andhra was a nightmare.

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Jalaput Reservoir on Odisha – Andhra Border

We reached Duduma around 4.30 PM and the view from the watch tower was spectacular. I was simply lost in its breathtaking views. Duduma is one of the highest waterfalls in India surrounded by towering mountains of the Eastern Ghats. To its west are Bonda Hills, the habitat of one of the most primitive tribes of the world, the Bondas and to its north and east are the villages of Gadaba tribe. The 175 m high fall tears through the rugged rocks of the Eastern Ghats and the evergreen-deciduous forest. From Duduma we headed east along Odisha – Andhra border to Lamtaput, the heartland of Gadaba Tribe following the scenic Machkund River. It seemed the wheel of time had stopped. Watching the people ferrying the river in country boats between two states was almost magical.

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Gadabas have no written records of their history. However, according to their local mythology, their ancestors had migrated from the banks of river Godavari in the remote past. They first settled in Nandpur, the former capital of Jeypur Rajas.

Also, Read Here:

A Journey through Kondh Territory, a Tribe that Once Sacrificed Humans

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Two Old Gadaba Women

A major attraction of Gadaba people is their two pieces saree made out of the fibre of Kerenga Tree. Though now hardly anyone wearing kerenga, but when there are festivals and dance performance, the first preference of girls is kerenga. Earlier there used to be cottage looms in every Gadaba village, where the women would be seen engaged in weaving kerengas. Nowadays, the traditional knowledge of weaving is almost lost.

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Revival of Kerenga

According to a legend, when Lord Rama during his exile was wandering in Dandakaranya Forest with his wife Sita, they met some Gadaba women who laughed at her as her dress was made of fibre. Whereupon, she cursed them and condemned them to wear no other dress but clothes made of fibre.

On the next day, we visited Kangrapada Village near Lamtaput to experience Gadaba life. Here we met Deepa Sisa, a young graduate in Odia from Jeypur’s Vikramdev College. A Gadaba, Deepa is very passionate to showcase her culture. She took us around the village and arranged Dhemsa Dance performance at a short notice.

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Deepa Sisa, a Young Dynamic Gadaba Girl

Dheemsa Dance is the traditional dance of Gadabas. The women perform wearing the Karenga saree. They dance in a semi-circle with steps three and four. The body is often bent forward showing skilful moves on the heels. The men only play the musical instrument like dhol, baja, madal, flute, tumak and mahuri.

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Dheemsa Dance Performance

Gadabas are agriculturalists and depend upon shifting cultivation. They also rear cattle, sheep and goats, pigs and chickens. They are also horticultural farmers growing banana, jackfruits, mangoes and tamarinds. Millets and rice are their staple food. Millet gruel is considered to be highly nutritious and helps in the production of more blood.   According to their belief, someone who is pale has too little blood and should consume more millet gruel.

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Millet Gruel

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For Gadaba food is not only a product of the efforts of particular individual or houses but also a consequence of the successful influencing of social relationships in ritual. The growth of grain (staple food) is based on the exchange and circulation of life and food among human beings, gods, demons and the dead. Once harvested both millet and rice make their ways from fields to the house and back through the house again before they pass through the body. From the big room of the house, they move to the inner house (gondi dien) and from here to the loft where the grain is stored. It could have been simpler to get the harvest directly into the loft by way of an opening from the big room, through which one enters the house. But the route that passes the house deity, located in the inner room, is obligatory and the loft itself is an extension of the inner area.

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Sacred Chamber and Kitchen

Today cashew nut plantation has become alternative cash crops. You find women in every household engaged in the processing of cashew nuts. Mango and jackfruits are also processed traditionally and preserved for the offseason.

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A fascinating aspect of Gadabas is their house plans and colour pallets used in the interiors. Their houses are triangular in shape in the roof. However, the ground is rectangular in plan. The rooms are not provided with windows. For ventilation, there is a gap placed between the roof and the sidewall. On the left or right side, the house is provided for the kitchen and the shrine of their household deity.

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My journey to Gadaba culture has just started. And I will continue to explore more in the near future.

Herewith I bring out an end to my story with the quote by Lao Tzu.

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Captivating Kanha – A Journey through Two Worlds

It was the peak of summer and the peak of the day around 12 noon. During my epic drive from Ahmedabad to Bhubaneswar for about 2400 km (including several detours), I arrived at Seoni, a dusty small town at the middle of Nagpur and Jabalpur Highway in south-eastern Madhya Pradesh. This was where the Jungle Book of the 19th century by Rudyard Kipling had been set.

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Landscape around Seoni

I and my companion, His Highness Sri Somraj Singh Jhala, were in a fix, whether to drive south from here to Pench National Park or northeast to Kanha National Park.  Both were alluring. After much deliberation, we decided to head northeast, to Kanha National Park.

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Delicious Breakfast and Sweet Meats in a Road Site Eatery Enroute Kanha

The terrain of Seoni is undulating with most of the area is covered by small hill ranges of eastern Satpura mountains, steeply sloping on the sides.  Once covered with dense forest today the landscape from Seoni to Kanha (120 km) looks mostly barren and deserted. But throughout the drive of nearly 4 hours what had captivated me were the scenic Gond houses in villages that dotted on both sides of the road. Neat and clean, the houses made of mud bricks and plastered with wattle and daub, are amongst the finest vernacular houses I had seen anywhere in Central India.

Also, Read Here:

Jawai – Where Leopards are Locals

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Enchanting Gond Houses and Villages around Kanha in Mandla District

Madhya Pradesh is predominantly a tribal state with Gonds forming one of the prominent tribes.  There are over 50 sub-tribes within Gond Tribe, which are also concentrated in the neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh alone they are spread in Betul, Hoshangabad, Chhindwara, Seoni, Balaghat, Mandla, Dindori, Sagar, Damoh, Rewa, Satna, Shahdol, Raisen, Burhanpur and Narsighpur Districts.

Travel Tips

Kanha National Park is spread over a vast stretch of forest over Mandla and Balaghat districts in Eastern Madhya Pradesh. The nearest town is Mandla and city is Jabalpur. The park is well-known for evergreen forest and animals like tiger, leopard, sloth bear, barasingha, gaur and Indian wild dog. It is also home to over 1000 species of flowering plants. While the lowland forest is a mixture of sal and other mixed-forest trees, interspersed with meadows, its highland forests are tropical moist and dry deciduous.

Kanha Tiger Reserve abounds in meadows or maidans which are basically open grasslands. 

The best season to visit Kanha is between Mid-October and March. The safari timings are between 6.30 to 11 AM in the morning and 3 to 6 PM in the afternoon. The park is closed between 1st July to 15th October.  The buffer zone of the park near Mukki and Khisli Gates are a number of jungle resorts and lodges for accommodation, which can be booked through online. For a Gond tribal experience visit Khatia and Narna villages on the fringe of Kanha. 

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Gond People in a Village near Muki Gate in Kanha

The Gonds are known for building their houses using locally available resources which I could see during my drive to Kanha. Unlike us, the city breeds, the Gonds do not harm their environment while constructing their shelters. No external agency is involved in construction. Their houses become one with the landscape where they live. Their womenfolk take charge of decorating the walls and floors of their mud houses using clay and organic colours, mostly blue, earthen red and white. The main entrance of the house is mostly east facing and on the left side is kept the cowshed, which is supposed to be the sacred place in the house where auspicious occasions are celebrated and important rituals are performed.

Also, Read Here:

Kaziranga – Hydra of Conservation

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A Gond House near Kanha

When you enter to a Gond house, you are welcomed in a large drawing room (palta bangle), and then an open verandah (parchhi), which is adjacent to the courtyard, where implements related to cattle are kept. The kitchen (muhrat ghar) having enough space for storing grains, pulses and oilseeds, is located in the backyard. Remaining rooms are called Kuria. The family god is enshrined in a small platform in the front of the wall where the chulah or the earthen hearth is built. Though there is no image or idol or god, it is represented by food grains and coins that are placed in a pit.

Gonds are beautiful souls known for warm hospitality and gesture. When we entered Mandla District, I was simply drawn to one of their shrines dedicated to Shri Shambhu Mahadeo under a huge Banyan Tree made out of the earth. According to their folklore, when Gods were born, their mother abandoned them. The goddess Parvati rescued them, but her concert Shri Sambhu Mahadeo kept them captive in a cave. Pahandi Kapar Lingal, a Gond hero, who received help from the Goddess Jangu Bai, rescued them from the cave. They came out of the cave in four groups, thus laying the foundations of basic fourfold divisions of Gond society. Lingal is also responsible for creating a Gond kingship system and establishing a group of great Gond gods.

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Shrine of Sri Sambhu Mahadeo

Sacrificing a life before a new event is a common aspect of Gond life. Certain Many of Gond Goddesses demand chickens, goats, and sometimes male buffaloes during major festivals. Every nine or twelve years, Gonds sacrifice a pig to the god Narayan Deo in an important ceremony known as the Laru Kaj (Pig’s Wedding).

Gonds believe that evil spirits and the gods’ displeasure cause most diseases and misfortunes. Their shamans intertwine when there are such crises. They fall into a trance and give voice to the demands of an offended God or spirit.

By the time we had reached Mukki Gate of Kanha National Park, we had travelled through a dozen of Gond villages in Mandla District. It was dusk. Sun was going down against the western horizon over the Kanha sky. Soon pitch dark night shrouded all around us. We retired for the day at MP Tourism Jungle Resort close to Mukki Gate.

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The Buffer Zone of Kanha

Next day morning! It was 5 AM, the outside was still hazy. The noise of the forest and the chirping of birds helped us waking up from the deep slumber of tiredness of the previous day’s long travel from Panchmari to Kanha. Over a cup of hot chai, we chalked out the day’s plan. The first job was to get ready at the gate for the safari before 6 AM. We hurried and booked our tickets. At 6.15 AM we entered to the core of Kanha.

Kanha National Park is one of India’s finest wildlife parks and is geographically blessed with meadows and valleys apart from the dense evergreen forest. Spread over a thousand square kilometres. Here wildlife sighting is almost guaranteed.

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Enchanting Kanha National Park

As our safari jeep started navigating through the forest the drama of nature started unfolding at every short interval. A huge meadow at the magical dawn set against evergreen Satpura Hill was the first where we sighted a large colony of antelopes gazing in the mist hours. Soon a wild boar crossed running behind our vehicle. I was disappointed. My mobile camera was inadequate to capture its force.

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Soon we sighted a herd of bison, the pride of Kanha before us. Also, called gaur the Indian bison is the largest extant bovine and the tallest wild cattle service. They are active mostly in the nights and disappear before 8 in the morning.

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Our guide Girani Maravi, a man from Baiga tribe was constantly alert for a tiger sighting. It was close to 8 he succeeded in his morning’s mission. It was an expert like him who could judge the commotion of the forest against the backdrop of a tiger’s roam as the king of the forest. Monkeys are the best indicators before a tiger’s arrival. With his guidance, the driver turned the vehicle and entered to yet another trek road. It was less than 2 min, I arrived at one of the finest wildlife moments of my life. Before us, less than 100 m, a full-grown Royal Bengal Tiger was walking majestically on the dusty trek. He saw us. We saw him. There was an exchange of anxiousness between us. He sat almost for 10 min without doing anything. We were the only safari jeep. My mobile camera went on clicking pictures and shooting small clips. There was deep silence all around, not a single other creature, except birds could be seen nearby. After giving a 10 min pose he finally got up and started walking into the jungle. At this moment another vehicle arrived but alas, for them the show had pulled its curtain.

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Once you have the best tiger sighting your enthusiasm is largely over. Now it was the time to return back to the gate and proceed to your next destination on this epic drive from the west coast to the east of India.

It was truly a magic moment in my entire drive from India’s west coast to the east coast in the land of Kipling’s Jungle Book. It is the land of countless stories of human-tiger conflicts and love. The Gonds and Baigas have a deep association with the forest of Kanha and their traditional knowledge system and spectrum of ethnic life are not be missed by any serious traveller to Kanha.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Barbara Forest – A Blend of Nature, Indigenous Culture and Archaeology

It was 6 PM on an October Day. I was at Salia Dam enjoying the pristine beauty of nature, sun going down against the western sky turning it into a pallet of golden and turmeric hues; and a fisherman sailing through the placid water after the day’s catch in his bamboo raft, a watercraft that has survived from the prehistoric time.

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In less than 30-minute pitch dark shrouded all around us. I and Chitra, my companion dared to drive into the jungle of Barbara, Asia’s largest teak forest. The distance was less than 10 km, but the forest road in the dark came as a major obstacle. There was not a single soul to ask. We lost the direction. With no hope of finding in the middle of nowhere and fighting against the eerie evening, we gave up our daring adventure. We turned back our vehicle in the direction of Odiart Museum, my camping site. To drive 30 km, it took nearly 2 hours in the dark jungle treks.

Also, Read Here:

Human Adaptation in Satkosia Tiger Reserve – Challenges and Prospects

Barbara Forest is a nature’s best-kept secret near Chilika Lake in coastal Odisha. It is named after a British woman, Barbara who had been killed by a tiger in the late 19th century while she was with her husband in a hunting expedition.

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However, Barbara Forest is not very old. Historically, this region was under the rule of Raiyat Zamindari System of Banapur. Till 1870, there was no restriction for cutting trees in today’s Barbara Forest. The locals had almost cleared the forest to support their agriculture. In 1871 for the first time restrictions were made to fell trees and the practice of seasonal agriculture. In 1880, it was declared as protected forest and in 1883 it was taken over by the Forest Department, Bengal.

Travel Tips

Barbara Forest is spread over Khruda and Nayagarh Districts near Banapur Town in Coastal Odisha. The forest and its surroundings can be approached from National Highway that connects Bhubaneswar with Berhampur. While at Barbara, one can also visit the nearby Chilika Lake at Balugaon and Barkul, which have also staying and food options. Also, visit Banapur Bhagawati Temple and the 13th-century Dakshya Prajapati Temple. The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar (120 Km) and railway station is at Balugaon (25 km). The other nearby city is Berhampur (70 km).

 

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According to Mr A.L. McIntire, Conservator of Forests, Bengal, 1908:

‘In 1883 the forests were placed under the management of the forest department, a forest settlement being carried out at about the same time. Under the latter a total area of 110 square miles of forest was declared reserved forest, free of rights, and the rest of the forest and waste, was declared to be protected forest, in which revenue paying Raiyats were allowed to exercise a number of privileges, such as gazing their cattle and cutting bamboos and trees, of kinds which were not received, for making their houses, agricultural implements, etc and for firewood. The most important timber and fruit trees were reserved, and they were not allowed to cut or damage them, nor were they allowed to cultivate any parts of the protected forests before such parts were properly leased to them, and they were required to pay grazing fees for cattle in excess of the numbers supposed to be necessary for ploughing and manuring their fields, and cesses for permission to remove unreserved trees for firewood, etc. Since 1883 the 110 square miles of reserved forest have been carefully protected from fire, grazing and unauthorised felling; and efforts have been made to increase these forests by planting teak in small parts of the area. Under this management, the growth of trees has steadily improved’.

Thanks to the British Forest Management, even today, the slopes in the hills still hold the natural evergreen-deciduous forest, where teak is the prominent trees. Some of these trees are more than 80 feet high and 10 feet wide in circumference.

To oversee the forest management, the British also had built a teakwood panelled forest bungalow in 1912. Today it is a major attraction in the forest. Giant squirrels are found in great numbers in the teak forest of Barbara. While on a trek, one can find them in their acrobatic best jumping from one branch to another. But I was unfortunate. The forest is also a heaven for bird watchers. Woodpeckers, bulbul, bets, oriole, jungle fowls, baya weaver bird, parakeets are found in abundance in Barbara Forest.

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On my day 2 trail, I stepped into mystic ruins on the fringe of Barbara Forest. Bankadagada, the remains of a fortress butting out of a hill, and a Shiva Temple built in Pre-Kalinga style of architecture are the major archaeological heritage of the area, that any serious traveller to Barbara cannot miss.

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The area was the capital of Sailodvaba in the 7th century CE. Sailodvabas ware the first to introduce temple building activity in Odisha. The ruined Shiva Temple is one of the earliest having beautiful carvings of amorous couples and Tantric deities on its walls. There are also loose sculptures carved in the formative styles sheltered within the complex. Some of these sculptures strongly resemble with sculptures of Java and Sumatra (Indonesian Archipelago). One may wonder – around this time of history, the nearby Chilika was a major hub for maritime trade. Ships would sail from ports of Chilika to Southeast Asia for trade and business using wind power. Ideas would be exchanged between these regions and therefore bring artistic influences.

Also, Read Here:

South Chilika Coast – Back in Time

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According to a local legend, during the reign of Sailodvaba ruler Pulind Sen, the king once saw in his dream the next ruler of the dynasty, a heavenly personality, was coming from the Mahendragiri region. Pulind Sen followed the instruction and welcomed the young man and coroneted him as his successor.

The temple built in Astayana style (the central temple surrounded by seven smaller temples) was perhaps built by the successor of Pulind Sen.

The Barbara Forest is surrounded by the timeless rural charm of interior Odisha. Inhabited by Sabara tribes and ethnic Odia communities, you are simply drawn to vast paddy fields that appear as emerald greens as far as your eyes can stretch. Sabara is an ancient tribe and were the original worshippers of Lord Jagannath. They speak in Mundari language, a branch of Mon-Khmer group of the language spoken in Mainland Southeast Asia. Apart from their adaptation to jungle life they also do subsistence farming, fishing, animal rearing and brewing of mahula alcohol. Their houses are made of wattle and daub. Sabaras also revere Barbara Forest and each of its trees as their Gods.

Also, Read Here:

The Heritage of Mahula Drink in Ganjam – An Anthropological Journey

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The region around Barbara is also a major elephant corridor. To chase out elephants, apart from being vigilant and night after a night patrolling they erect manchas (temporary small raised structures) to watch animals’ movements in harvesting season.

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For a traveller, each one of these wonderful souls has countless tales, ranging from their version of tribal and Hindu mythologies to sustenance, farming to food security and local actions against global climate change. You are simply back in time with scores of experiences that you can cherish for your rest of life.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle in Bhubaneswar’s Walls – A Visual Treat

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is the smallest and most abundant among all sea turtles found in the tropical world. They are found mostly in warm and tropical water, primarily in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Growing to about 2 feet in length and weighing around 35 kilos, Olive Ridley Turtle is best known for their behaviour of synchronized nesting in mass number, termed arribadas. Females return to the same beach from where they hatched to lay their eggs. They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep, which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers. Gahiramatha and Rusikulya Estuaries are the world’s largest mass nesting sites for olive turtles.

Mating often occurs in the vicinity of nesting beaches, but copulating pairs have been reported over 1000 km from the nesting beaches.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles migrate in large numbers from the beginning of November every year for mating and nesting on the coast of Odisha. Within two months the nesting season starts.

However, though listed as vulnerable under IUCN and protected under the ‘Migratory Species Conservation’ there is a high rate of their mortality due to collision with boats, trawlers, gillnets ghost nets and longline fishing. In addition, coastal development, natural disasters, climate change and beach erosion have also become potential threats to nesting grounds.

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The carcass of an Olive Ridley Turtle found near Devi River Mouth

Also, Read Here: 

The Slow Death of Odisha’s Living Marine Heritage; the Olive Ridley Turtles

There is also a lack of public awareness about Olive Ridley Turtles in Odisha. Both as ideas of beautification and generating awareness recently part of Bhubaneswar’s public walls were illustrated with cycles of their migration and nesting on Odisha coast.

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The drive for beautification started in October 2018 with an eye on Odisha Hockey World Cup that was held in Bhubaneswar in the following months. The artwork was carried out by 15 groups of artists from Odisha Modern Art Gallery, Krutika, Konark Arts, Bakul Foundation and Sutra Advertising apart from several individual artists. Each of the groups had submitted proposals on themes focusing on wildlife, folk and urban lifestyles, hockey and tangible and intangible heritage of Odisha in general and Bhubaneswar in particular.

Travel Tips: 

Bhubaneswar’s AG Square where murals are drawn is located at the heart of the city, at a distance of 2 km from the Airport and the Railway Station. Go in the early morning to avoid traffic. For Olive Ridley Turtle sighting the best place is however Ruikulya Estuary, 150 km from Bhubaneswar towards south on Berhampur Highway. February and March are the nesting seasons.

The AG Square area, which forms the city’s most prime location, was chosen for Olive Ridley Turtle and the work was assigned to artist Satyabrata.

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Olive Ridley Turtle (Oly) was also the official mascot for Odisha Hockey World Cup 2018. One section of the walls focused on Oly as hockey players.

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Today any passerby on the roads around AG Square is drawn for a moment to these beautiful murals and for children no doubt these together have become an open-air picture book to explore the world of Olive Ridley Turtle.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com