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The Temples of Bhubaneswar

Dr Syed Anwarul Haque

Statue of the Stupa.

Recently I had an opportunity to visit Bhubaneswar in connection with my participation at an International Symposium on potash and integrated plant nutrient management in crop production held from 5th-7th November 2009 at the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology. The workshop was sponsored by International Potash Institute (IPI) and International Plant Nutrient Institute (IPNI) apart from the host University and the fertiliser associations of both Bangladesh and Pakistan. A number of delegates from all over the world assembled at the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology to attend the Symposium. We flew by Kingfisher, a smart new Indian aircraft. The Symposium was held at the M.S. Swaminathan Hall of the University. Dr Swaminathan is an Indian stalwart of green revolution. Plant breeder by profession, he is held in very high esteem all over the world as a contemporary agricultural scientist of great repute. I had the opportunity to meet him in Hyderabad over an International Workshop arranged by the Commonwealth Association of Scientific Agricultural Societies (CASAS) in 1989, where he attended as the Special Guest. I attended the Workshop as one of the Founding Members of CASAS, which was formed in Regina, Canada in 1978.

On November 8th after the Symposium was over, a post Symposium tour was organised by the Organising Committee to visit places of historic importance in Bhubaneswar. Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Orissa is located in the eastern coast of India with a population of one million. The word Bhubaneswar means 'God's World'. It was a part of the kingdom of 'Kalinga' ruled by Asoka. Bhubaneswar has a unique place in Indian history with its impressive rich tradition of art, architecture, sculpture and ancient culture dating back to 3000 years. It is also called the 'Temple City of the East'. The city once upon a time had 7,000 Hindu temples. Only 500 of them have survived the ravages of time. We read about King Asoka in History lessons at school in the early fifties. Asoka was a king, originally from Bihar. King Asoka invaded Kalinga and fought a bloody battle against the local inhabitants. The battle was fought on the bank of the river Daya, which is located about 5 km towards the south-west of Bhubaneswar. The war of Kalinga was fought in 261 B.C. The battle, which Asoka won, turned into a blood bath. The water of the river Daya turned red with human blood. The ferocity of the battle and the carnage were so huge the King Asoka was moved to renounce violence. In the 3rd century B.C. King Asoka is said to have adopted Buddhism and the doctrine of non-violence at Dhauli, after a dreadful battle where thousands lost their lives. It was said that all the male persons of Kalinga were killed; lives of only female and children were spared. It was a crucial turning point in King Asoka's life. He was saddened by the death and destruction and vowed not to kill any living being large or small and to serve and devote the rest of his life to the wellbeing of mankind. The rock edicts of King Asoka are still preserved on the hillock. The inscriptions at Dhauli were written by King Asoka asking his people to keep brotherhood and live peacefully. King Asoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka as emissaries to preach Buddhism. The Buddhists Peace Pagoda known as 'Viswa Shanti Stupa' is located on a hill. The alluring white structure of the Stupa is a popular tourist destination of Dhauli. 'The Viswa Shanti Stupa' is a Buddhist structure that was built in 1972 jointly by the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangh and the Japan Buddha Sangh. commemorates the site of one of greatest religious conversions in history. The Temple of Peace has now turned into a holy place for the Buddhists from all over the world.


Later in the day, we went site seeing at Konarka. Located at 70 km from Bhubaneswar, The Sun Temple of Konarka, a World Heritage Monument, is one of the most stunning creations of temple architecture of Orissa. It is the most fascinating temple I have ever visited and one of its kinds in the world. Extraordinary by architectural design, The Sun Temple often attracts those who love and study architecture. The name of the temple is derived from Arka which means the Sun, the deity of the temple. The origin of the prefix Kona is not known. The temple was built in the 13th century by King Narasingha Dev of the Ganga Dynasty (1238-64). The temple was designed in the shape of the chariot of Sun God drawn by seven galloping horses on twelve pairs of wheels, decorated with intricate carvings. The temple was completed in 12 years with 1200 skilled workers engaged in its intricate carving design and construction. It was said that 400 million gold coins were spent to complete the construction of the temple. Since the day was coming to an end, the sun was gradually moving west, we rushed to Puri, the last destination of our site-seeing adventure. Along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, at a distance of 60 km from Bhubaneswar, lies Puri, famous for the temple of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe). The Puri sea beach, popularly known as Golden Beach also attracts sunbathers and swimmers because of calmness of the sea. The beach is wide and long. It was already getting dark, when we arrived at the beach, but there were still many people around. The sea waves were gently bathing the shores with warm water.

The author is a Senior Agriculture Specialist
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Dhaka.


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