“May is pretty, May is mild,
Dances like a happy child…”
Annette Wynne (Early twentieth century)
Each month is expressed in a different form by nature in various parts of the world. In the tropics, May is sweltering and hot — peak summer. In the Southern hemisphere, it is cold. However, with climate change setting in, the patterns are changing, and the temperatures are swinging to extremes. Sometimes, one wonders if this is a reflection of human minds, which seem to swing like pendulums to create dissensions and conflicts in the current world. Nothing seems constant and the winds of change have taken on a menacing appearance. If we go by Nazrul’s outlook, destruction is a part of creating a new way of life as he contends in his poem, ‘Ring Bells of Victory’ — “Why fear destruction? It’s the gateway to creation!” Is this how we will move towards ‘dancing like a happy child’?
Mitra Phukan addresses this need for change in her novel, What Will People Say — not with intensity of Nazrul nor in poetry but with a light feathery wand, more in the tradition of Jane Austen. Her narrative reflects on change at various levels to explore the destruction of old customs giving way to new that are more accepting and kinder to inclusivity, addressing issues like widow remarriage in conservative Hindu frameworks, female fellowship and ageing as Phukan tells us in her interview. Upcoming voice, Prerna Gill, lauded by names like Arundhathi Subramaniam and Chitra Divakaruni, has also been in conversation with Shantanu Ray Choudhuri on her book of verses, Meanwhile. She has refreshing perspectives on life and literature.
Devraj Singh Kalsi has written a nostalgic piece that hovers between irony and perhaps, a reformatory urge… I am not quite sure, but it is as enjoyable and compelling as Meredith Stephen’s narrative on her conservation efforts in Kangaroo Island in the Southern hemisphere and fantastic animals she meets, livened further by her photography. Ravi Shankar talks of his night hikes in the Northern hemisphere, more accurately, in the Himalayas. While trekking at night seems a risky task, trying to recreate dishes from the past is no less daunting, as Suzanne Kamata tells us in her Notes from Japan.
May hosts the birthday of a number of greats, including Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Ratnottama Sengupta’s piece on Ray’s birth anniversary celebrations with actress Jaya Bachchan recounting her experience while working for Ray in Mahanagar(Big City), a film that has been restored and was part of celebrations for the filmmaker’s 102nd Birth anniversary captures the nostalgia of a famous actress on the greatest filmmakers of our times. She has also given us an essay on Tagore and cinema in memory of the great soul, who was just sixty years older to Ray and impacted the filmmaker too. Ray had a year-long sojourn in Santiniketan during his youth.
All the genres we host seem to be topped with a sprinkling of pieces on Tagore as this is his birth month. A book excerpt from Chakravarti’s Daughters of Jorasankonarrates her well-researched version of Tagore’s last birthday celebration and carries her translation of the last birthday song by the giant of Bengali literature. The other book excerpt is from Bhubaneswar@75 – Perspectives, edited by Bhaskar Parichha/ Charudutta Panigrahi. Parichha has also reviewed Journey After Midnight – A Punjabi Life: From India to Canadaby Ujjal Dosanjh, a book that starts in pre-independent India and travels with the writer to Canada via UK. Again to commemorate the maestro’s birth anniversary, Meenakshi Malhotra has revisited Radha Chakravarty’s translation of Tagore’s Farewell Song. Somdatta Mandal has critiqued KR Meera’sJezebel, translated from Malayalam by Abhirami Girija Sriram and K. S. Bijukuma. Lakshmi Kannan has introduced to us Jaydeep Sarangi’s collection of poems, letters in lower case.
There are pieces that still reach out to be mentioned. Do visit our content page for May. I would like to thank Sohana Manzoor for her fantastic artwork and continued editorial support for the Tagore translations and the whole team for helping me put together this issue. Thank you. A huge thanks to our loyal readers and contributors who continue to bring in vibrant content, photography and artwork. Without you all, we would not be where we are today.
April 13, 1948. It was on this day that the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the Odisha capital city’s foundation stone. Since then, Bhubaneswar has remained a celebrated model of modern architecture and city planning with its prehistoric past as a temple city. Along with Jamshedpur and Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar is one of modern India’s first planned cities.
While laying the foundation-stone, Nehru observed: ‘Bhubaneswar would not be a city of high-rise buildings for officers and rich men without relation to the common masses. It would be consistent with the idea of reducing differences between the rich and the poor. The New Capital would embody the beautiful art of Odisha, and it would be a place for beauty…so that life might become an adjunct to beauty.’
Bhubaneswar is a temple town with a series of ancient sandstone temples varying in size from the towering eleventh century Lingaraja Temple. It was a city of temples. Once upon a time, there were more than 7,000 temples in and around Bhubaneswar. Today, there are only a few.
From a religious standpoint, the Lingaraj temple is the most popular. Other temples include the 7th century Vaital temple, the impressive 10th century Mukteshwar temple, and the 11th century Raja Rani temple with its fine carvings. There are many other temples of exquisite architecture.
Several Grade-I temples of national importance have been protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Old Bhubaneswar, such as Ananta Basudeva, Mukteswara, Persurameswara, and Rajarani Temples, which are just a few examples. Bhubaneswar’s modern capital is shaped by Old Bhubaneswar’s ancient temples.
The state capital city planning began near the old temple town. The Master Plan for the upcoming city of Bhubaneswar was prepared by Dr Otto H Koenigsberger on the concept of neighbourhood unit planning. The original plan envisaged horizontal development rather than vertical growth for a population of 40,000 with administration as the primary function. Koenigsberger designed a linear pattern for the city, with administrative units on the main artery, and neighborhood units attached to them. Neighborhood units offer residents the most sophisticated amenities in a city. They were placed at short distances to give people easy access to schools, hospitals and other facilities.
Six units were developed. Unit-V served as the site for the administrative complex, while other units were planned according to neighborhoods. As part of the town center, there was a market building, a weekly market, a day-to-day market, and a bus station. There was a central vista with views of the Raj Bhawan. There was also a commercial zone along Janpath and Bapuji Nagar up to the railway station. Koenigsberger’s planning zone provided characteristic weather control and a salubrious climate throughout the year. This area — the heart of the city — maintains the lushest green cover in the city with open space and a well-organized transportation system.
A neighborhood unit required that each child live within a quarter of a mile or a third of a mile of their school. Housewives were required to live within a half mile of the civic center to shop there and have access to medical facilities within the town. Distances between a person’s home and place of employment could conveniently be covered by a bicycle or a cycle rickshaw. Koenigsberger suggested 7 different types of roads for 7 different groups of users and 7 different functions. Those are footpaths, parkways, cycle paths, minor housing streets, major housing streets, main roads and main arteries.
Bhubaneswar was planned to be the state capital, but it is primarily a city for government officials. Residential quarters were designed to meet the needs of officials from various income groups. Planning was made to meet the ideal urban family’s requirements. This was done by providing them with single-storey independent houses with a front yard and kitchen and garden space in the back yard. Government bungalows have extensive open spaces around them and abundant space between one house and another. Those with high incomes occupy bungalows near the main employment complex.
Low income housing consists of mostly one and two bedrooms comprised of more than one unit broken into rows. Early in the planning process, residential quarters in different neighborhoods were mostly standardized. Small scale industries and manufacturing activities were added after 1980. Much of the original plan has changed in twenty years.
Bhubaneswar has been declared a special heritage zone as Ekamra Kshetra, which consists of several significant structures. Various socio-cultural and religious heritages of Odisha are represented in the monuments, which represent different periods in Odisha’s history. In recent years, several of these significant elements have steadily lost their significance due to modern construction activities.
An integrated regional development plan has been prepared to meet the growing demand for services in the region. This plan has been declared as the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of the Bhubaneswar Development Plan Area (BDPA). The BDPA comprises Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, Khurda Municipality, Jatani Municipality and adjoining 122 Mouzas. The Long Term Perspective Plan for Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Urban Complex (BCUC) provides a vision for the development of the whole region by 2030. Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Urban Complex being the hub of commercial, political, administrative and socio-cultural activities in Odisha, it has rich potential for development.
A lot of resentment was felt — and it still exists — when Bhubaneswar replaced Cuttack as the capital on 19 August 1949, two years after India gained independence from Britain. In recent times, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack have been called the ‘twin cities of Odisha’ – one with a modern look and another with a millennium-old history. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack have become closer since the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Bridge, also known as the Trisulia Bridge, opened on 19 July 2017.
There are a few Tier-2 cities in the country that host the top five IT companies in the country. Bhubaneswar is one of them. These companies include Infosys, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, and Mindtree. It is considered one of the three most attractive places in the world to do business, according to the World Bank. Bhubaneswar has been selected as one of the first twenty cities in India to be developed as a smart city. This is part of his flagship ‘Smart Cities Mission’ which seeks to develop 100 smart cities in India.
Bhubaneswar was added to the World Heritage List (WHL) as part of the application process. The WHL requires that the site be of outstanding value, as well as having at least one of the ten selection criteria met. This is required for inclusion on this list. Bhubaneswar meets four of them. Over 100 cities have been designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Nations that nominate heritage sites and cities to UNESCO, and submit data, maps, and photographs, are given heritage status by the organization. World Heritage Status is the highest honor and most prestigious title given to heritage monuments, sites, and cities in recognition of their universal value.
Bhubaneswar, one of the two Indian capitals planned after independence, alongside Chandigarh, is today one of the most prominent cities in Odisha. It has a culture as vibrant as the city itself. With a population of one and a half million, Bhubaneswar has become known as one of the most happening cities in Eastern India. India’s evolving urban landscape places the city among its upcoming metropolises.
This book contains twenty-seven essays written by learned scholars on different aspects of Bhubaneswar. From temples to town planning, from becoming India’s sports capital to urban living, from culture to literature, and from business to education, the book says it all. It represents everything that has happened since the foundation stone was laid. It is a throwback to what we have witnessed.
It is hoped that by the time Bhubaneswar celebrates its centennial twenty-five years from now, the city’s signature identity and impeccable heritage will have been preserved and passed on to future generations in a more intact form.
About the Book:
The capital of Odisha and a city that is still in the process of being shaped, Bhubaneswar is many things to many people. The Temple City, as it was once called, was home to thousands of temples at one time.
The foundation stone of ‘modern’ Bhubaneswar was laid in 1948 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It became the administrative capital of Odisha in the learly 1950s. Bhubaneswar was declared a ‘smart city’ under the urban initiative by the government of India in 2014.
Bhubaneswar, one of the two capitals planned after independence, is today a vibrant city in Odisha with an equally vibrant culture. With a population of one and a half million, Bhubaneswar has become known as one of the most happening cities in Eastern India. India’s evolving urban landscape places the city among its upcoming metropolises.
The book has 25 essays on different aspects of Bhubaneswar written by scholars of standing. From temples to town planning, from becoming India’s sports capital to urban living, from culture to literature, and from business to education, the book says it all. It is a compilation of all that has happened over the past 75 years.
A ‘portrait’ of the city is presented in the book.
About the Editors
Bhaskar Parichha (1957) is a senior journalist and author of five books Unbiased: Writings on India, No Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha, Madhubabau – The Global Indian, and BijuPatnaik – A Biography. He has edited an anthology of essays entitled Naveen @25 -Perspectives. He is a bilingual writer and lives in Bhubaneswar.
Charudutta Panigrahi (1968) is a social advocate and practicing intellectual. He has set upthink tanks in India and abroad. A TED Speaker and an author, he is a polymath whose work takes him everywhere. This is from the last mile in indigenous communities to the high table of global policy making. He lives between Gurgaon, Bhubaneswar, and Panjim with his family. His recent release, The Scent of Odisha, has been received well by readers all over and is acclaimed as an exceptional Odisha chronicle of current times. He is engaged in climate change work and has set up a global platform called Climatists in Berlin.
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