Sun dreamer gets Padma - Overjoyed Mohapatra wants to build a Konark replica

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By SHILPI SAMPAD
  • Published 26.01.13
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Bhubaneswar, Jan. 25: The man, who dreams of replicating the 13th century Sun temple of Konark someday, will be bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award.

Master sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, 69, is the third from the state, after late Odissi dancer Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and litterateur Sitakant Mahapatra, to bag this honour. “I want to build the replica of the Sun temple with my own hands. The government had allotted around 200 acres for the project in 1975, but it is yet to see the light of the day. If every Odia donates Rs 100, it can become a reality,” Mohapatra told The Telegraph, reiterating what he had said in an interview to this newspaper in November last year.

Overwhelmed by the recognition, Mohapatra, who has designed and crafted many a temple, interiors of posh hotels and breathtaking sculptures at important locations across the state, struggled for words to describe his feelings. “Union home secretary R.K. Singh contacted me today in the morning and gave me this information. I feel blessed,” he said, as a content smile escaped from his lips.

Noted personalities to have received this award include Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Hariprsada Chaurasia, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Satyajit Ray and political leaders such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“The chief minister had recommended my name and that of freedom fighter Annanpurna Devi,” said Mohapatra, who already has Padma Bhushan (2001), Padma Shri (1976) and many other national awards to his credit.

Hailing from a Viswakarma family in Puri’s Pathuria Sahi, the sculptor dropped out of school after Class III because of his rebellious streak. “I was repulsed by the idea of school after my teacher punished me. Then my maternal grandfather, Aparti Mohapatra, taught me the art of stone carving,” he reminisced.

Working as a senior instructor and superintendent at the Handicraft Training and Designing Centre, Bhubaneswar, he has trained over 2,000 youths in the art of sculpture and temple designing. Today, his distinct style and versatility comes out clearly in his magnificent masterpieces in various places within the country and abroad.

“The most challenging project was that of the horse sculpture that stands guard near the western gate of the Barabati Stadium, Cuttack,” he said.

A similar sculpture can be seen at the Master Canteen Square in Bhubaneswar. Among his other notable works are the six-feet statue of Sun God at the Parliament in New Delhi, Buddha statues at Dhauligiri and a black granite lotus at late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial.

A 15-feet Ashokan Pillar in Osaka, Japan and a wood-carved Buddha in Paris are major tourist attractions. The artistic fraternity has hailed his nomination for the Padma Vibhushan. “This is a very good news for the state, which is known for its rich art and culture. It is a recognition of his talent, hard work and dedication to his profession. Odisha has many talented artists and we would be happy if they are also honoured in a similar manner,” said reputed sand sculptor Sudarshan Patnaik.