Duba Valley – Ganjam’s Offbeat Sojourn

Ganjam, Odisha’s southern corridor is an exceptionally fabulous land for its enchanting rural life, forests and mountain valleys, exotic beaches and lakeside at Chilika, art and craft, music, fares and colourful festivals and many more.



Yet amidst all these charming characters that attract tourists and travellers around the year there sets a hidden gem, the Duba Valley Retreat, a sprawling farm and fish ponds in the north-eastern part of the district. 




Established in a tranquil setting surrounded by a large number of fish ponds, sal forest, mango orchards, lemon garden, herbal estates and many more, the Duba Valley Retreat (previously known as Sherton Ecoresort) is a destination by itself for the soul seeking travellers. 





The nearby villages of Duba Valley are known for blackbuck, an antelope species, which is popularly known in Odia ‘Krusnasara Mruga’. The male blackbucks are especially attractive for their long ringed horns ranging between 35 and 75 cm and two-tone colouration, while the upper parts and the outsides of the legs are dark brown to black, the underparts and inside of the legs are all white. 

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Blackbucks graze on low grasses in groups. They are active mostly during the day time. Due to their regular need for water, they prefer areas where water is permanently available. 


Though once widely distributed in India today there are small pockets where blackbucks are found in small herds. Their population has gone down mainly because of hunting. However, in Duba Valley blackbucks are protected by villagers because of their significance in Hinduism and due to a local belief. 


A popular legend goes: many years ago due to a perennial drought condition, the farmers of this part of Ganjam were going through farming stress. One day some of the farmers while wandering in a pretty grassland area saw blackbuck herds grazing undisturbed. It was a coincidence, immediately after this sighting the mother earth rejuvenated receiving adequate rainfall. The village folks started believing that the blackbucks are rain messengers. A symbiotic relationship developed between the farmers and the blackbucks and from then on they are not being harmed. 

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At Duba Valley, it is a delight to watch these innocent creatures under the protection of villagers. Incidentally, they are the second high-speed runners after the cheetah on earth. 


At Duba Valley, you start your day listening to the musical chirping of countless water and tree birds. A short walk in the valley will lift your soul to nirvana enjoying the innocence of nature and the simplicity of rural life. There are 40 ponds, big and small developed for fishing. The biggest is of 17 acres facing the rowhouse cottages. If you are passionate for angling in a rustic setting, it is Duba Valley for you where you can spend a couple of days detoxifying all your mundane stress of city life. You watch fishermen in actions and part of the fresh catch become key menu for lunch or dinner or both. 








Another key attraction of Duba Valley is relishing khani paka rice (mined rice), which is unpolished having high nutritional value. In Ganjam, a particular variety of rice is stored in underground pits. The rice matures in the heat of the earth. The rice takes very little time to cook, just as raw rice, but tastes like boiled rice. 

Travel Tips

Duba Valley Retreat is located in Jagannath Prasad Block of Ganjam District at a distance of 180 km from Bhubaneswar via Daspalla. Surrounded by pristine forest and villages, it is strategically located to access the other important travel destinations, such as Daringibadi and Satkosia on Mahanadi River. The retreat has 12 cottages and other recreational facilities.



In the forested valleys near Duba lives Sudha Kondh, a branch of Kondh tribe who speak in Kui language. Having deep faith in nature, the Sudha Kondh communities are known for the simple lifestyle and warm hospitality. 








Once used to be practitioners of animistic religions, the Sudha Kondhs, are now Hindus. However, until now, they have retained some of their traditions, such as tree worship, the performance of dance and music and living in mud houses having wooden posts fences.   

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The nearby town of Bellaguntha is universally known for its unique flexible brass fish craft. Originated in the 9th century CE under the patronage of Bhanja rulers, the craft of flexible brass fish however received due recognition in the 17th century CE. In the past, it was considered as the symbol of Lord Vishnu’s Matsya (Fish) incarnation and was also considered as the symbol of peace. During marriages, traditionally the girl would be sent with a wooden box, which would include sindoor, kajal, money and a piece of brass fish as it is treated as a symbol of peace. Today, however, it is used as decorative items. The main attraction of this craft is the smooth movement. A flexible fish is split into 3 parts, head, torso and tail. 



Today the idea of travel has travelled from the mainstream to offbeat. Hectic city life, detachment from one’s roots, the flow of information and growing sensitivity towards mother nature, sustainability and crave for fresh organic farm food are being most sought after travel experiences among new age travellers. 






Truly Duba Valley Retreat spread over hundreds of acres of pristine farmlands and fish ponds in the heartland of rural Ganjam is a travel experience to desire for. 




Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Gopalpur – Tranquillity on the Sea

During the days of the French Revolution! There lived a man called Loraine in France, who always stood for a cause to help the distressed.

The French Monarch did not appreciate his cause and he became a soft target of the authoritarian government. As the French authorities launched a massive manhunt for him, Loraine went into hiding. With the help of one of his close friends, G.G.F Edwardo, a captain in the East India Shipping Company, he arrived at Gopalpur on the coast of South Odisha.




However, for the entrepreneur Loraine, Gopalpur turned out to be a base to seek opportunities for lucrative overseas trade with Burma. He established a port and built the present lighthouse, the star attraction of Gopalpur. Loraine joined his hands with the East India Company and got involved in exporting cheap Bengali labourers, local spices and bidis (country cigars). Within no time he established his own shipping company Bengal India Steam Navigation. Fortune favours the brave. Loraine succeeded in his business building several properties, resorts and hotels at Gopalpur on Sea.

Also, Read Here:

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


Imagine the early 20th century! When Europe was passing through a tough time fighting two world wars, Gopalpur on Sea was celebrating its glorious days.



Named after the 18th-century temple of Lord Gopala, the laidback seaside town had its heydays during the period between two world wars. Allured by its strategic location, the British and Loraine’s successors had built massive warehouses and grand villas on the beachfront.





The prosperity of Gopalpur had brought an Italian merchant from Sicily Signor Maglioni, who had built Palm Beach, India’s first beach resort in 1914. During the glory days of Gopalpur, a large number of rich Bengali families, British traders and soldiers frequented Maglioni’s Hotel. Gopalpur’s character changed over the years from a sleepy fishing village to a prosperous holiday gateway from Calcutta, the cultural heartland of the British Raj, though the capital had moved to imperial Delhi around this time.

Also, Read Here:

South Chilika Coast – Back in Time





Built-in the Mediterranean architectural style, the Palm Beach Resort, the first of its kind on Indian Shore was a massive hit amused with exotic dines and elegant ball dances. There was gaslight, wooden dance floor and parties that would continue till the early hours.

Travel Tips

Gopalpur on Sea is a small town in Ganjam District of South Odisha. Gopalpur is located at a distance of 16 km from Berhampur, South Odisha’s largest city and a major railway station and 170 km from Bhubaneswar. It takes about 2 and a half hour to reach Gopalpur by road from Bhubaneswar Airport. The other major airport near Gopalpur is Visakhapatnam (4 hours). There are several stay options in Gopalpur to suit all kinds of travellers. However, for a unique experience, we recommend Mayfair Beach Resort and Swosti Palm Beach Resort.  Both are located on the beachfront. Besides Odisha Tourism also has a Panthanivas near the beach. One can easily spend 3 to 4 days at Gopalpur languishing on its beach. From here you can leisurely travel to Ganjam’s other destinations in day trips, such as Taptapani Hotspring, Vetnoi Blackbuck Sanctuary, Chandragiri Tibetan Monasteries, Taratarni Temple and Potagada Fort.






Many Christian missionaries set up training schools and seminaries, some of them still exist today.

Gopalpur’s prosperity started declining after the end of World War II. After India became independent, most of its wealth dwindled to tickle as the British left the Indian shore. The busy waft crashed down and the sprawling warehouses crumbled.





Rai Bahadur M.S, Oberoi, one of India’s first generation luxury hoteliers purchased Palm Beach from Maglioni in 1947 at a throwaway price. The hotel got a new identity ‘The Oberoi Palm Beach’. In 2013, the hotel was further bought by the Mayfair Group and now has evolved as the best luxury hotel in this sleepy fishing town.

Today, Gopalpur on Sea has again evolved a perfect gateway for laidback holiday seekers. Its long stretch of languorous beach with coconut groves, casuarinas and gentle sand dunes is deserted for miles. For hours after hours, Gopalpur is the place where you can stroll on the sand and relish on mouth-watering seafood. Watching the life of Nolia fisherman is also exciting.














A little away from Gopalpur is the enchanting countryside of Ganjam. Cycling around here will simply drag your soul into an experience of a lifetime. You are drawn to the age-old practices of fishing and farming and the fishermen navigating the narrow channels of creeks.





Barely 16 km away from Berhampur, South Odisha’s commercial hub, Gopalpur is truly a tranquillity by the sea.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Osakothi Rituals in Ganjam – An Anthropological Journey

A story goes – On the way to heaven, the five Pandava brothers had rested on the veranda of a Brahmin’s house, where no woman was ever blessed with the birth of a child. Arjuna came forward to intervene. He erected a Kothi and a Chammundia (a temporary shelter) with the help of arrows. Through this act, Yama, the God of Death was barricaded out.  At night a messenger of Yama appeared but had to leave unsuccessful. Consequently, an agreement was made with Yama – whoever observes Osa will bear sons, and all children will remain alive.

The news spread in no time throughout Avanti. Shriya Chandaluni (a woman sweeper named Shriya) heard it while she was sweeping the street near the palace. One of the queens expressed her displeasure because Shriya to whom she saw first in the morning was untouchable.  Equally, Shriya also thought it was inauspicious to have seen the face of the queen because she was antakudi, a barren woman.

The queen wanted to take revenge and reported the matter to the king. The king took away the five sons of Shriya and had them killed in the forest. Shriya went to the forest in search of her sons. Seeing them dead, she cried aloud. At that time Shiva and Parvati were wandering in the wilderness. They heard Shriya’s cry. While comforting her they asked her to observe Osa by erecting a Chammundia, a temporary shelter. She replied that she could only do it when all her sons are alive. Shiva requested her to turn her head away. He sprinkled water on the dead bodies and her sons came back to life. They joined their mother and also started worshipping themselves. The king watched them performing the ritual and when performed Osakothi himself, each of his 99 queens bore sons.




According to yet another story, Kalidasa, the poet had once lived in Bauri Sahi (street of untouchables). There he had started a Kothisala. First, he made the appearance of Shiva Tandav, after that the image of Parvati, then Mahisamardhini Durga and Kali. Mangala followed them, then Ganesha and Kartikeya, and finally Panchu Pandava.




How did Kalidasa go to Bauri Sahi? There was a king, who had addicted to women. Because of this weakness, he could not give time to rule properly. Everyone suffered. Then all his subjects assembled together and proposed him to create a mural of his favourite queen and keep it near him. The king liked the idea and invited the court painter to draw the mural. He got it done. All appreciated the work but Kalidasa said ‘no’. The king sought the answer. In reply, Kalidasa said there was a kalajai, a black mole on the left thigh of the queen, which is not in the figure. The king got annoyed with the answer and started doubting about the secret relationship between Kalidasa and his wife. Immediately he removed the poet.  With no other choice, the poet took refuge at Bauri Sahi where he started the Kothisala.

Both stories confirm us that the Osakothi tradition in Ganjam stems from the untouchable groups, the upper caste joining later.




For cultural anthropologists and archaeologists, Osakothi rituals are of great interest as one draws a series of parallels between the evolution of early belief systems against their social and cultural settings and their continuity till modern time.  Keeping this in mind recently I had ventured into the heartland of Ganjam around Digapahandi to experience and document the Osakothi rituals.

Also, Read Here:

Travel through Digapahandi – Ganjifa’s Last Bastion

Travel Tips:

Though Osakothi rituals are celebrated in most part of Ganjam we visited villages around Digapahandi and for this story, we had zeroed on Khallingi Village, about 15 km from Digapahandi via Patapur. The ritual is carried out during Durga Puja time every year. You can also visit villages around Dharkote, Purussotampur, Aska and Buguda towns to witness the festival. There is an excellent road network in the district and you will find villagers are very welcoming. However, for a comfortable stay, you can either chose Berhampur, the largest city in the region or Gopalpur-on-Sea. Taptapani Hotspring is the other nearby attraction which is also the gateway to the tribal heartland of Southern Odisha. For food, you have small restaurants on highways and towns. 

Osakothi shrines are temporary structures but now have been made permanent. But one should not confuse them with temples. They have strange characters showing a fusion of tribal and folk beliefs. In middle ages, local zamindars and feudal kings appropriated the land and villages of aboriginal chiefs of Kondh and Saura tribes. To hegemonize their subjects, goddesses from tribal realms were accepted as Esta Devis, family goddesses of the royal households. Some of the local Thakuranis acquired great prominence and their shrines were equated with ancient Shakta temples of Hind pantheons.







Osakothi shrines are a link between the tribal deities and beliefs and mainstream Hinduism. The Thakurani (goddess) is represented as a ghata (pot) and depicted in the murals along with various other deities. The season mostly lasts for seven days around Dussehara (from Ashtami to Kumara Purnima). Traditionally an Osakothi shrine is a simple structure, but nowadays because of increased wealth, one finds permanent structures. The basic requirements are a wall for the murals with a vedi platform or a ledge for keeping the ritual objects, a canopy and an open space for the performances and gathering.









The murals of the osakothi shrines are meant to house tetiskoti devatas (thirty-three times of ten million deities). At least 10 to 20 images and a maximum of hundred gods, goddesses, heroes of epics and legends are depicted on walls as attendants of the relatives of the divinities. The murals thus represent a microcosm in a reduced scale.  In an Osakothi mural, the entire family of the goddess does appear with sons, daughters and vehicles with a full entourage, regalia and pomp. The Thakurani is then considered to be Adimata, the creation mother. The wall on which murals are drawn is divided into components, symbolizing chambers and houses of various gods and goddesses forming the great family.

Mangala is often depicted in an Osakothi shrine as the dominating deity. She is seen sitting in cross-legged padmasana with four arms, her body is coloured yellow and she wears red or pink sari and a blouse. The goddess carries five pots, one on her head on top of her crown and four in her hands.

Shiva is the only male deity to appear in Osakothi paintings. He even occupies the central position. He is shown as Nataraj. However, Shiva is not invoked in osakothi ritual. There are stories that explain why Shiva is illustrated as a central figure in Osakothi murals. One such story is – there was a widow who would often get possessed by Thakurani. Once Shiva appeared in another form and beat the woman mercilessly saying that the goddess should return to her home and prepare dinner for her family instead of moving around. From then on Shiva is not invoked when the Thakurani appears.

In Osakothi paintings Durga appears with four or more arms, grasping a trident, sword and other weapons in her hands. She is generally represented as a beautiful and forceful woman. In osakothi, Kali is the central figure of the Shakti Cult. She is depicted as a black skinned naked goddess dancing violently on prostrate Shiva. Her powerful many armed images with swinging weapons of all shorts are the most prominent icon in Osakothi murals.

There are also icons of Chinnamasta, Parvati or Gauri, Saraswati, Ganga and Yamuna and a number of Thakurani goddesses such as Khambeswari, Manikeswari, Bankeswari, Tara Tarini, Budhi Thakurani, Bhagawati, Urandawati, Hingula, Chamundi, Maharikala, and so on. There are also minor legendary characters such as Hadi Hadiani, Dhoba Dhobini, Gauda Gaudani, Kandha Kandhuni, Keula Keaulani, Barahalila, Batapanthei, Chhoti Neli and Tapoi.

The Osakothi rituals consist of erecting and painting a shrine (now days erecting is not practised), performing puja, offering prayers, taking out processions, dancing and entertainment. The aim of the ritual is to obtain a boy child. The participants are lower caste inhabitants of a village or local group. Women act as observers. Paintings are drawn by Dandasi Harijan artists. There is a strong belief that if they don’t follow Osakothi rituals, Thakurani may interfere destroying the life and property of people. An interesting story goes: in one of the villages the tradition was stopped for three consecutive years. Thakurani became angry. She said: ‘I will make the village Kala Khamba, black poled (i.e. she will burn houses). I will bring smallpox and phatua, a cow disease’. The Thakurani came to a village and demanded that she performs Osakothi. First, the villagers said: ‘We have no money’. The Thakurani replied: ‘Money is my problem. I shall go with you from village to village to collect money’.















For all 8 nights in a row, the participants in the ritual congregate at the shrine to invoke various gods and goddesses. The ritual begins after the sunset. The Jani (priest) worships the ghata pots representing the goddess Mangala and the image in the murals. He lights a lamp and burns incense after offering ukhuda bhoga (fried parched rice mixed with molasses) to the deities. The dhana koila instrument is then played by the Bayani musician or the singer. The Gayani singer begins the first avahani (invocation song), the audience joins the chorus, called pali. Slowly everyone gets involved. Some of the participants become active personifications of the divine and semi-divine characters and called Devata. One such male Devata may suddenly move forward and backwards and fall in trance called Devata Lagiva. Usually, four or five me men enter into this state simultaneously. The Jani and his companions try to calm the Devata if his movements become too frenzied. They pour water from a lota into his mouth and touch his head with a Mandara (China Rose) flower was taken from Mangala pot.










The ritual ends with Koti Ujeiva on the evening of the Purnima (full moon) or the day following it. The pots are taken to the pond in a procession.















Today, however, Osakothi is in the declining state through the rituals are still on. In our exploration, we were also surprised to see the replacement of murals with flex prints depicting mythological stories in southern style. The beliefs are no more intense as the lower castes are more empowered now. Because of technology and information flow the superstitious beliefs are also fading. It is a million dollar question – for an anthropologist like me it is a loss but one has to accept that we all need to progress and develop scientific tempers and get away from such archaic practices. However, rituals like Osakothi also play as symbols of identity and community bonding at the grassroots of Indian society in the era of market force and globalization.


Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com


Travel through Digapahandi – Ganjifa’s Last Bastion

In some corner of my heart, I have developed a special weakness for Khemundi, an erstwhile historic territory in South Odisha’s Ganjam and Gajapati Districts with Paralakhemundi as the capital. Here I was born close to 5 decades before in Chitrakara (Artisan) Street. Though I did not live here for longer stretch of times, I used to spend my childhood vacations twice a year spanning one and half months put together.  As I recall my childhood days, Kumara Purnima or Sarad Purnima used to be a festival immediately after Dusshera when elderly folks of the town would play day and night a kind of circular pictorial card game, called sāra locally. Later, I came to know it is called Ganjifa or Ganjapā, a game introduced from Persia through Mughals in the 16th century, but now lost everywhere except Paralakhmundi’s cousin town Badakhmundi or Digapahandi in South Odisha’s Ganjam District (25 km away) from Berhampur, the largest city of the region.



Asta Rangi Ganjapā Cards being played at Digapahandi 

In the last 500 years of Digapahandi’s history, the region was blessed with diverse cultural influences. The influence of the Jagannath Cult of Puri had been its founding stone in the 16th century when a branch of Gajapati clan started ruling the Khemundi territory from Paralakhemundi.

Also, Read Here:

Monks, Monasteries and Murals – A Photo Story on Puri’s Two Legendary Mathas

Travel tips:

Digapahandi is a small town/large village located at a distance of 25 km from Berhampur, also the nearest Rail Station. The town is well connected from Berhampur by a motor road (the national highway that connects Gopalpur Port with Raipur, the capital of Chhatisgarh). A drive through the highway and the surrounding countryside is very scenic with hills, paddy fields, water bodies and colourful villages. Beyond Digapahandi starts the Ghat Road of Eastern Ghats. Another 25 km drive from Digapahandi is Taptapani, a natural hot spring surrounded by dense forests, hills and Saora tribal villages. 

While at Digapahandi your resource person for Ganjifa cards is Shri Lakshmidhar Mahapatra (+91 9439135827).

Digapahandi does not have staying options. But if you are interested in forest and tribes, try for Panthanivas (Odisha Tourism) http://www.panthanivas.com/ at Taptapani. Otherwise, you can find plenty of options at Berhampur or Gopalpur-on-Sea. 


Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra in the Sanctum Sanctorium of the Jagannath Temple within the premise of the ruined palace



Lord Gopala and Goddess Radha

The last independent king of Odisha was Telenga Mukunda Deva (1559 – 68 CE). During his reign, Paralakhemundi was separated from the Old Khemundi state. Due to the fact that the Old Khemundi state was divided into three parts between the two sons of Swarnalinga Bhanu, the elder brother Ramachandra became the king of Badakhemundi and Sanakhemundi, while the younger son Subhalinga Bhanu became the king of Paralakhemundi State. So Badakhemundi and Sanakhemundi have always had a relationship with the Parala State, the place of my birth.   After the death of Mukunda Deva, the region was briefly occupied by the Qutbshahis of Golkonda who were defeated by Mughals subsequently. The region was also under the Maratha domain for sometime before it was subjugated to the rule of East India Company in the early 19th century.





The Ruined Palace and the Tank

Ganjifā cards game was perhaps introduced here through the Mughals as there is no tradition of playing Dasavatara here, which is popular in Puri. Here 8 colours (Atha Rangi) or 8 suits cards is traditionally played.







8 suits cards had been initiated by Emperor Akbar. These were Ghulam (servant), Taj (crown), Shamsher (sword), Asharfi (Gold Coin), Chang (harp), Barat (Document), Tanka (Silver Coin) and Gimah (merchandise). In Digapahandi packs, one finds close resemble with the Mughal names, such as Gulama (Mughal: Ghulam). Chenga (Mughal: Chang), Someswara (Mughal: Shamsher) and Barata (Mughal: Barat). The other four colours are Surjya (Sun), Chandra (moon), Phula (flower) and Kumancha. Besides Ganjapā, there are three other games played traditionally at Digapahandi, which are explained by the players in the film here.

Digapahandi was also a thriving centre of art and culture during its heydays. However, most of its tangible heritage is lost with the ravage of time.



In Ganjam, a type of murals incorporating ideas from South and Puri had developed known by Dakshini style of murals. In one of the recent stories, we had highlighted the murals of Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda. The erstwhile kings of Digapahandi also had commissioned similar work in the 19th century at its mutts and temples. One can still find their traces adorning the walls of its crumbling temples.

Also, Read Here:

Illustrating Ramayana Katha – Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda







The ruined Jagannath Temple and traces of murals that once covered its walls profusely

Another interesting aspect of Digapahandi’s cultural heritage is Osakothi murals that one finds on walls of temples and sacred spaces, freshly painted during Navaratra every year.  Osa meaning penance and kothi meaning sacred space, Osakothi represents the shrine where Osakothi rituals take place. The Osa fasting is carried out by women for the welfare and longevity of their husbands and families. The paintings are solely done by men. A folktale goes, a beautiful woman Shriya whose seven sons were killed by a jealous queen. However, she was blessed by goddess Mangala upon observing Osa for 12 years with seven more sons and everything that she desired. Since then it became a custom to observe Osa for prosperity and well being of a woman’s family.


In an Osakothi shrine what draws your attention is more than life-size images of Goddess Durga, Kali, Shiva, Chhinnamasta, Parvati, Saraswati, Ganga, Yamuna and a number of folk deities. One also finds scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as warriors, birds, animals and other floral designs. Be there between Dussehara and Kartik Purnima to witness Osakothi rituals, where you can find elements of tribal, folk and Hindu beliefs and practices.

Also, Read Here:

Osakothi Rituals in Ganjam – An Anthropological Journey










Digapahandi and its rural heartland are frozen in time. Little wonders it is also the gateway to South Odisha’s tribal territory, especially of Saoras and Kondhs. You discover miles and miles of paddy fields that appear in monsoon and during Durga Puja as fields of emerald. At distance, there are hills of Eastern Ghats.

IMG_6380 (1)





Though its immediate surroundings do not have a significant tribal population, there are a few hamlets here and there of Sabara tribe, once hunter gathers into subsistence farmers. They also entertain you through their soulful devotional music using an ethnic musical instrument called kenadarā.




Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Illustrating Ramayana Katha – Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda

Raja Srikar Bhanja of Ghumsar! History might have forgotten him, but his contribution to art and culture even today stuns visitors and art scholars alike.

A distant relative of Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja, Srikar came to rule in 1790. However, after ruling 9 years in 1799 he renounced to lead the life of an ascetic devotee of Lord Sri Rama in South India. In 1819, the British unseated his son and successor Sri Dhanajaya Bhanja and reinstalled him again as the king of Ghumsar (today’s Bhanjanagar). While being in the heartlands of Southern India Srikar had got exposed to a diverse range of mural heritage in different courts including the Maratha wooden buildings.

Once started a fresh reign, Srikara took initiatives to experiment with his yearning for his beloved Ghumsar. A major project was the construction of a wooden and stone temple for Lord Biranchi Narayan taken from his capital to Buguda, 25 km away and the project site. The building was painted by murals said to be so fine that they looked as if the divine artisan Viswakarma himself has made them. The year of its construction was 1820.


Travel Tips

Biranchi Narayan Temple is widely celebrated as the Wooden Konark of Odisha. A legend goes: Once a cowherd boy while tending cattle stuck his feet against a metal plate at the foothill. Consequently, the villagers dug up the portion and unearthed the life-size image of Biranchi Narayan.

The temple is built in the form of a chariot driven by seven horses. Apart from murals, the temple is noted for its remarkable wood carvings on the ceilings of the mandapa and the jambs of the entrance door.

Buguda is surrounded by a number of other interesting spots of tourist interest, the most noted being Buddhakhol, 3 km away. Amidst forests and streams, there is a cluster of 5 Hindu temples at the top of the hill, dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the past, the area was part of a major Buddhist civilisation which can be testified with the findings of a number of Buddhist images and caves where Buddhist monks once lived to meditate during rainy seasons.

Buguda can be approached from Berhampur (70 km), South Odisha’s largest city, Gopalpur – on –Sea (75 km) and NH-16 at Khalikote (70 km). A ride to Buguda from these cities/towns is going to be an experience of a lifetime, especially if you are travelling in monsoon and winter. On your way, you would discover rich ethnic life of Southern Odisha along with lush green paddy fields, hills and unspoiled forest.

Buguda does not have staying options. However, in Berhampur and Gopalpur one may find a number of hotels/resorts of various ranges. We recommend avoiding Berhampur which is highly chaotic and messy. Gopalpur – on – Sea is a better option where one can easily spend two days relaxing in one of the finest beaches on the Bay of Bengal.


In Odisha, Puri was the major centre for Odishan chitrakaras, whose work was connected with the Jagannath Temple.


Depiction of Schematic Map of Puri Srikshetra in Biranchi Narayan Temple


Also, Read Here:

Monks, Monasteries and Murals – A Photo Story on Puri’s Two Legendary Mathas

Some of them moved to various sassana (Brahmin villages) villages around Puri to work for their Brahmin patrons. The widely celebrated Raghurajpur and Dandashahi villages are attached to two sassanas near Puri.

Also, Read Here:

Raghurajpur – An Open Air Museum

During the 18th century, secondary Jagannath temples were built in feudatory (gadajat) states of Odisha. Chitrakaras were sent out to provide replacement images and perform other services to temples. As a result of these migrations, several distinctive styles of paintings evolved, including Dakshini style of Ganjam.

Also, Read Here:

Travel through Digapahandi – Ganjifa’s Last Bastion

Some of these chitrakaras had settled at nearby villages, such as Mathura and Balipadara. Today both villages are active centres of art and craft. According to local people, chitrakaras from either of these two villages had painted the murals of Biranchi Narayan Temple where more than half of the repertoire represents Ramayana Katha. Today their conditions have deteriorated to a large extent. However, the remnants still shine thanks to the burnished surface of the wall over which the murals are drawn.






Painted according to classical canons, the Buguda murals have an exceptional aspect, the subdued earthy palate. In addition to yellow and russet ochre (appear in older pattachitras of Puri) a greyish green is prominent. Blue occurs very rarely and in a duller form then the pattachitras. Another unusual feature is the unusual amount of white background in the narrative panels. This was perhaps to make simply the story clear. Another feature of the panel is that they are not executed in sequential order and appear like a jigsaw puzzle.   The first three sections of wall organized in neat registers and balanced as a whole with repeated elements of design, but all later panels move in haphazard manners, at times from right to left, at times from left to right and at times from top to bottom.  It is believed that the irregularity meant for depicting varieties and for not making the overall organizations too predictable and monotonous.

















Four major images of the rear of the temple abandon the sequence of each episode. Each panel presents a single event drawn from the Vana Parva (forest section) of the Ramayana, following Rama’s exile. In each, the principals are seated on top of a hill, which is filled with rural details. Most heads are tilted upward, providing a deliberate and heroic cast to their actions. The occasionally drawn down turned positions suggest pensiveness, modesty or subservience. Characters are further simplified with a single curve defining the leg muscle and knee joint, or the leonine male torsos, their shoulders turned almost frontally.

Depicting landscape is a major feature of Buguda paintings. Hills in the four iconic panels are defined by overlapping lobes, their edges outlined in contrasting hue and edges with curved cross-hatching primarily to suggest volume. These multi-coloured lobes are cunningly populated with varied plants and creatures including monkeys and bears.




The pattern used for landscape depiction is also carried by noted pattachitra artist Bijay Parida about whom we have done two stories earlier. One of his creations depicting the Vana Parba episode is highly influenced by Buguda murals. It is exhibited at ODIART Purvasha Museum.Untitled-2

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Celebrating Seasons in Patachitra – a Tribute to an Artist’s Dream and Passion

The murals of Buguda is the first major attempt of professional paintings in Odisha’s pictorial tradition and till today play as a role model for a host of pattachitra artists including Bijaya Parida. The Buguda artists had devised their own forms with a sense of innovation and experiment in which narrative concerns were part of the picture.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

South Chilika Coast – Back in Time

It was a sultry September night of 1996 and I was camping in a government dak bungalow in a small town, Huma in Odisha’s Ganjam District. I, along with my mentor Prof K.K. Basa, was surveying the southern coast of Chilika Lake in a village called Gaurangapatna. That night, a ceramic piece depicting a boat motif crunched beneath my feet. A major archaeological find indeed but it was just a dream. In the morning when I revealed this to Dr Basa, he laughed and dismissed my dream. But my heart was onto it and waiting for a miracle. Around 4.30 pm the same afternoon, I happened to pick up a ceramic piece with a stamped boat motif, from a field on the foothills of Ghantasila. I was thrilled and so was Dr Basa. It provided tantalizing evidence of what may have been fishing or a shipbuilding guild of early medieval India. Immediately we dug a trial trench to test the site’s potential. Our discovery of turquoise blue glazed pottery from the Persian Gulf dated approximately between 8th-10th centuries CE confirmed Gaurangapatna as a flourishing port of medieval Odisha on the South Chilika coast.


Chilika Lake and Bay of Bengal

Chilika, India’s largest brackish water lagoon was once a part of Bay of Bengal. Due to the progression of the littoral drift, over a period of time, it got separated from the sea and eventually became a shallow lagoon. Today the lake is separated from the Bay of Bengal through an 8 km long tidal inlet. The lake is hemmed between the mountains and the sea and near Gaurangapatna.



Brahmanada Purana, a 10th century CE text describes Chilika as a prominent harbour. Ships having a number of masts and sails were often sheltered in the lake. Some of the ships had curvilinear towers with three to five levels and used to sail to Java, Malaya and Ceylon from Chilika. The lake was very deep and through a wide opening, the mouth was connected with the sea. Ptolemy, the ancient Greek geographer referred to Palur port near Gourangapatna as the point of departure for ships bound for various Southeast Asian countries. Gaurangapatna, today, is a small fishing village and the archaeological site we dug up way back in 1996 is under cultivation.

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The Port of Ghogha – Where India met Arabs




Gaurangapatna Fishing Village

In Gaurangapatna, what draws immediate attention is its two hills, Ghantasila and Dipadandia on the shore of Chilika. Both the hills are marked by massive stone alignments on their foothills and are separated from each other through a narrow landmass for about 700-800 m. It is believed that these stone alignments act as breakwaters for safe anchorage of ships. The length of the breakwaters is about 700 m with a height of 9 m and a depth of 1 m each respectively.

Travel Tips

Rambha is a small town on South Chilika Coast in Ganjam District. Located at a distance of 120 km from Bhubaneswar and 50 km from Berhampur, Rambha can be made as the base to visit Gaurangapatna and Potagada. Odisha Tourism Development Corporation has excellent accommodations and food at Panthanivas in Rambha. While at Rambha ask for seafood, especially prawn and crab preparations. Boats can be hired from Rambha Panthanivas to visit Beacon’s Island.









The Google Earth Image of Gaurangapatna


Dipadandia – a Medieval lighthouse

The port of Gaurangapatna did not survive for a long period in history as it was vulnerable to the destruction caused by periodic cyclones that lash the Bay of Bengal. Also, the strong littoral current that blows from southwest and northeast deposited huge amounts of sand on its shore. Some historians also believe that a weak economy and repeated attacks by neighbouring kingdoms led to the decline of Gaurangapatna port.

The 16th century saw the revival of the south coast of Chilika and the neighbouring Rushikulya River under the Qutb Shahi rulers of Golkonda. Much is not known about the region during this period except that it was a frontier post of the Qutub Shahis. However, in the 18th century, it became prominent as a part of the Madras Province of East India Company.

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Mandvi’s Sea Trade – A Pilot’s Story


Rushikulya Estuary


Potagarh Fort on the bank of Rushikulya River

Potagarh near Ganjam on the mouth of Rushikulya River today stands as mute testimony to this glorious past. The fort was constructed in 1768 CE by Edward Costford, the first resident of Ganjam. The star-shaped fort is spread in a vast area and encompasses the history of Ganjam, Northern or ChicacoleCircar, French Government, Madras Presidency, Bengal Presidency and the history of East India Company.


It is believed that Mohammed Khan, a Fauzdar of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty erected a fort near Potagarh for the administration of Chicacole Circar under the Golconda Kingdom. In 1753 CE, ChicacoleCircar was granted to the French. Monsieur De Bussy, the French commander of the province functioned from Potagarh. Near the fort, one can see two French tombs indicating the existence of a French colony.












Inside the fort, there are remains of three residential buildings each with a different architectural design. The one belonging to the Qutub Shahi is in a ruined state. There are also two passages on the eastern side of the compound wall opening to the river. One was probably used as a secret passage to escape to the sea and if a local myth is to be believed, the other passage was meant for the Queen to go to the river unseen, for bathing.










Towards the end of the 18th century, Potagarh had a new resident, Thomas Snodgrass. He was fascinated with Rambha, a town near Gaurangapatna, and built a lavish mansion for himself there. According to a report, he had over 300 servants to look after his domestic needs. The servants served as cooks, tailors, water bearers, palanquin boys, poultry keepers, gardeners, boatmen and a few entertained his guests.

Snodgrass spent most of his time in building mansions and in excursions to various islands on Chilika. He was a highly corrupt bureaucrat and spent a large chunk of his official time converting the islands of Chilika into a park for his tamed wild animals. One of the landmark structures he constructed is a tall pyramidal tower with a room attached to it. Seen from a distance these curious looking structures, built on a rocky outcrop, are about a 30-minute ride in a country boat from Rambha and a major tourist attraction.




Beacon Island

I had spent a night in Rambha in 2009 with my parents in the state tourist resort. Rambha, the name itself would leave someone in fantasy as to how beautiful it would be. But Rambha is like any other small town/big village, dusty and messy. The only feature that makes it unique is its surrounding – Chilika, which forms its southern edge and the hill crops – some of which are islands in the vast and scenic water body.

Next day, in the magical hours of dawn, I walked down to the bank of Chilika lake in search of a country boat. I fixed one for INR 300. My destination was Beacon Island, the location of Snodgrass’s curious pyramidal structures. The early morning breeze worked like a balm calming down frayed nerves and I lost myself in the serenity of the lake. At every turn, the rising sun playing hide and seek was constantly altering the dark water of the night into golden hues. There were other fishing boats too, silently sailing through the calm waterscape with hopes of a good catch.




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The setting of the colonial structures on Beacon Island is nothing less than dramatic but it has a horrid past. In the late 1780s, the entire continent was shaken by a terrible famine that lasted for 4 years. Environmentalists felt it was an effect of El Niño. The region of south Odisha including Ganjam was not spared either and thousands were reported dead.

As said earlier, Snodgrass was fascinated with Rambha, where he had built a splendid mansion. But the horror of the famine had spoiled his grand vision. There was unrest among both the zamindars and the peasants who were unable to pay tax as there were no crops growing for a stretch of 4 years. Many had died of hunger.

The British were very strict about their tax laws and the treasury had to be filled as a part of the company’s policy. The zamindars, however, managed to pay while the money meant for famine relief was syphoned away by Snodgrass. He transferred most of it into his personal account. This was discovered by the officers of the Madras Presidency. An enquiry was set up against Snodgrass and his secretary. It is said that Snodgrass dumped all the related documents into the waters of Chilika near the Beacon Island drowning all pieces of evidence against him. When faced with an investigation he concocted a tale saying that his boat sank near the island. Snodgrass was let off for the lack of evidence and eventually moved to Madras.

Stepping onto the Shore of Beacon Island, I spent some time among the haunted ruins that reverberated with the sordid tale of Snodgrass and his lust for money.  But the still morning became pleasing the moment I set my eyes on the majestic sheet of water in front of me. The blue lagoon called Chilika Lake.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com