Bhubaneswar, Aug. 21: Khurda “garh” (fort) is the best place to be in if you want to see tales of freedom struggle etched amidst the ruins of a fort close to Bhubaneswar. Apart from the fort, a mute spectator to the passage of time from pre-Independence era, the nearby Nikunjabihari temple is another monument that tells you something about the heroics of the ‘Paikas’ of Khurda and the monuments they built.
Nikunjabihari temple, a state archaeology protected monument, was constructed in the early 19th century. The temple has Radha and Krishna as its main deities. However, the temple’s association with the freedom struggle narrates an interesting tale. Local residents remember another small temple in front of Nikunjabihari, where the idol of a local goddess was present. At present, a small temple is under construction to replace the old structure there.
“The goddess was very powerful and she used to protect the Khurda fort from attacks. During the early years of the freedom struggle, the British bombarded the small temple and tried to demolish it, but they were not successful in the initial attempt. Later, a local person named Dasarathi Patnaik of Olasingha village told the force the trick to destroy the temple. In the attack, in which the goddess’ temple was destroyed, the Nikunjabihari temple, too, got affected. A spot showing the mark of British shells is still there,” said Bijay Samantray, lecturer of a nearby college.
Moreover, apart from the Radhakantadeb Temple, the martyrs’ statues on NH-5, too, attract visitors. There are a series of statues of patriots such as Jaikrishna Rajguru Mohapatra, Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, Madhab Chandra Routray, Pindiki Bahubalendra and Krutibas Patasani on the way to the temple. The patriots’ contribution is narrated on a plaque.
The remains of the Khurda fort is nearly 8km from the Barunei hills and it tells the memoir of the great warriors. In the early 70s, the state archaeology renovated the ruins.
Once a history-based cultural festival was also organised there. However, there is no permanent watch-and-ward system. The local people say there were secret tunnels originating from the fort towards the Barunei hills for the rulers to either escape or strike a guerrilla war strategy.
The Barunei hills is also associated with the rich history of the freedom struggle of the state, especially Khurda, which had the rare distinction of being the last independent fort of the country. The fort was at the helm of Orissa politics and remained a major fort from 1568 AD to 1803 AD as the ruling British India Company was not able to take total control of the fort till 1817.
Educationist Dinabandhu Biswal of Khurda town said: “The erstwhile rulers were using a laterite platform during their fight against the foreign rulers to address the soldiers before planning a warfare. Khurda was famous for its “Paikas” as they were brave warriors. Even the native tribals of the region, Sabaras, were great fighters.”
As a tourist climbs or drives up to a certain distance in the Barinei hills overlooking a beautiful patch of teak plantations, there is the laterite platform and local residents narrate that the “Paika” leaders used to deliver fiery speeches to the surrounding soldiers sitting around the tomb.
Former superintendent of state archaeology Bijay Kumar Rath, who was instrumental in the revival of the remains of the fort, said how the walls had been renovated to recreate the architectural style of the fort.
“Later, there were also some festivals organised by regional and national cultural organisations, but no sound-and-light show was introduced near the fort to attract tourists. The packaging of the tourism potential of the fort can be tagged with the surrounding places of tourist interests, so that more people visit the historic places near Khurda,” Rath said.
Barunei hills: According to folklore, King Ramachandra Dev had established the temple on the hill for the goddess. Following a series of renovation works later, the temple has got its distinct look today and people from all corners of the state visit the place.
Almost 30,000 people visit the hill every month. A stream called Swarna Ganga flows perennially from top of the hill. As the water comes from the hilltop, which is full of medicinal plants, it happens to contain many medicinal qualities. The pond where the water gets stored has become a favourite spot for tourists to take bath.
Atri: A hot spring near Baghamari village on the Bhubaneswar-Nayagarh Road, Atri is situated nearly 43km from Bhubaneswar and 15km from Khurda.
The water is hot and of medicinal value with its sulphur content. A temple of Lord Shiva (Hatakeswar) is situated nearby.
Kaipadara: A well known place, Kaipadara, which is 15km from Khurda, has a beautiful mosque and the shrine is a meeting place of both the Muslim and Hindu community members.
Nikunjabihari temple: The red-coloured temple is a state archaeology-protected monument. According to the legend, the British soldiers had fired several rounds of cannons.
Radhakantadeb temple: This is the second temple near the Khurda fort. It is a beautiful structure.
The sites near the Khurda fort are worth visiting. With a dose of history, freedom struggle, healthcare needs and nature package, a short trip from the capital can be an enriching one.