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Paika family relives glorious past

Prafulla Bahubalendra, who lives at Daruthenga village on the city outskirts, 3km from here, is a descendant of the legendary Pindiki Bahubalendra who was gunned down while escaping from the British jail in 1821.

By Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 13.04.17

Bhubaneswar, April 12: Prafulla Bahubalendra, who lives at Daruthenga village on the city outskirts, 3km from here, is a descendant of the legendary Pindiki Bahubalendra who was gunned down while escaping from the British jail in 1821.

Daruthenga, which was once the home of the valiant freedom fighters, now houses a dumping yard.

"Everyone will be celebrating Bhubaneswar's 69th foundation day tomorrow, but I still miss the city of my childhood days. We are the victims of the city's growth. The clean air, green foliage and dense forest surrounding the city are no more. Instead it has turned into a concrete jungle with huge buildings coming up in our area," he says.

Bahubalendra, 62, a security guard who has taken voluntary retirement, is trying hard to own a piece of land in the area.

"Once upon a time, the entire area was under our jagirdari. But because of our resistance to the Britishers, the land passed away from our control. We had failed to get it back. With the city rapidly expanding, the price of the land has touched sky high. One guntha of land is now being sold for Rs 5 lakh. Where will I get the money to buy a piece of the land? Now, I have encroached on government land, which was once ours," he said.

As he laments his present predicament, Bahubalendra switches over to recall his glorious past. In 1817, Pindiki had joined Buxi Jagabandhu in his fight against the Britishers. He had torched the police station at Gopa, Banpur, Khurda and killed Charan Patnaik, the traitor who had conspired with the British to capture Jayi Rajguru. He had also killed the British Army officer Lt. Paris and Fricdos. In 1818, the British captured him after one of his friends had betrayed him. In 1821 when he tried to escape from the jail, he was shot dead, says Bahubalendra, quoting from historical documents.

But, Bahubalendra is getting attention. He will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Raj Bhavan and will be felicitated because of his great grandfather Pindiki Bahubalendra's contribution to the freedom struggle. Pindiki had played a key role in the Paika revolt.

In a nostalgic moment, Bahubalendra says with a smile that he would be visiting the Governor House on Sunday to be felicitated by the Prime Minister. "During my childhood, only few buildings, including the Raj Bhavan, were there in the city. The only market we used to visit was at Old Town," he says, adding that the present Raj Bhavan has actually been set up on a hillock, which then used to be known as Bhalumundia because bears used to roam in the area.

He says the other areas were dense forest and no one dared to move out after sunset. There was a lurking fear of being attacked by a leopard or tiger. However, Bahubalendra recalls how they used to come to Bhubaneswar either by cycle or sometimes by train by boarding it from the nearby Baraga railway station. "There were only three theatres - Rup Mandir, Rabi and Sriya Talkies. We used to go on bicycles, watch movies and come back before the sunset," he says.

"While our village was located inside a dense forest, the area on the fringe of Old Town was filled with dense kochila (strychnine) trees. The thicket growth could be noticed from Kedargouri to the railway station. The entire BJB Nagar area was covered with these trees. Besides kochila, freshwater mangrove, neem, bamboo, bael and mango trees were also there," he recalls.

Before Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for Bhubaneswar in 1949, the city had only a small railway station (between 1893 and 1896, 800 miles of the East Coast State Railway was built and thrown open to the public), a post office and revenue collection office that had existed since the British days. There were also two dharmasalas, one established in 1920 and the other in 1929.

Pindiki Bahubalendra Smruti Committee vice-president Amarenda Mohapatra said: "We will request the Prime Minister that the road connecting Pitapalli Square to Baranga, one of the lifelines of Bhubaneswar city, passing through our area, should be named after Pindki Bahubalendra."

Capital Celebration Committee vice-president Pradyumna Mohanty said: "We are organising the capital celebration day in a big way. All the important buildings will be illuminated on the occasion."