Bhubaneswar: Bhubaneswar as Odisha capital turned 70 on Friday. On April 13, 1948, the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru had laid the foundation stone of this City of Temples.
The city designed by German architect Otto Konigsberger in 1946, has witnessed tremendous changes in the last 70 years, and emerged as a centre of qualitative educational and healthcare services and recently dubbed as the Sports Capital, besides the Smart City tag.
Odisha Bytes walked down the memory lane with archaeologist and educationist, Jitu Mishra, tracing the city’s journey through his eyes.
“Let me first take you through some of the memories my mother had shared with me. It was in the early 60s when I wasn’t born yet and the Odisha capital was under construction. There were lands mostly covered in laterite soil and shrubs and plants. The old town wasn’t a part of this baby town on its way of becoming a huge market spot. My mother lived in the old town and would tell me of how she would take bath in the ponds at Kedar-Gouri. It was a serene place with placid water. Dusty lanes connected these two places. People were mostly seen on cycles and sometimes government jeeps and cars would pass by,” he said.
Cuttack was the major town at that time. “For shopping, we had to travel by buses connecting the two cities. We would take a bus from AG Square,” said this 47-year-old archaeologist.
The modern Bhubaneswar on the other side of NH 05 that we see today, was entirely covered with Chandaka forest, 50 years ago. “The IT hubs and all these buildings at Patia and Chandrasekharpur were patches of green with villages like Patia, Kalarahanga and Damana. Hardly anyone ventured out post 7 pm because animals would roam and there were no lights. People would burn tires or straw to keep wild animals, especially elephants, at bay,” he added.
Bhubaneswar went through drastic changes from 1980s. “Large circles were laid at Rajmahal and Master Canteen showcasing the heritage of Odisha. Roads were widened and lit with halogen bulbs. Slowly new shopping centres emerged at important junctions; one such was the Asoka Market at Master Canteen. There were scores of swanky shops which opened up at Market Building, the famous being the Kalamandir, and near Station Square. The residents of Bhubaneswar were no more dependent on Cuttack except when they had to buy material in wholesale for occasions like wedding. There were also town buses introduced in the city in 5 or 6 routes connecting Mancheswar, Lingaraj Temple, Nandankanan, Vani Vihar and Old Town,” he said.
Airport had direct flights to Delhi and Kolkata, only. Cycle rickshaws were seen mostly on the roads. Slowly, schools like DM, Capital High school, Stewart, St Joseph and DAV Unit 8 sprang up. BJB college, Rama Devi and OUAT came up. BJB was one of the most sought-after college at that time, he added.
“One cannot just miss street food when talking about Bhubaneswar. Aroma of freshly fried bara and guguni would drag us to the stalls. Local chats were our favourite too. There were no lavish hotels that we see today, and no continental food at all. Priya and Venus Inn were the only South Indian food outlets,” he said.
Mishra further said Bhubaneswar has too soon grown into being a city similar to major metros. “I hope it doesn’t lose its original charm amid all the developments,” he added.