Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar/Kolkata, Nov 20:
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Odisha has launched the Project “Listing and Documenting the Monuments of the Jagannath Sadak in West Bengal” at Kolkata today.
The project was launched by West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi at the Raj Bhavan.
INTACH had earlier undertaken and completed the Listing of the Monuments of the Old Jagannath Sadak in the Odisha stretch and a report was prepared which was released at Bhubaneswar in July 2014. The report had listed 200 monuments of the old road, starting from Jaleswar to Puri. The Government of Odisha had evinced keen interest to get the report published.
The Jagannath Sadak was the old pilgrim road from Kolkata to Puri. It took form sometime in late 1700’s and was the lifeline for all pilgrims who came to the Lord’s abode at Puri. It was, from 1825, known as the Orissa Trunk Road, but for the devotees who descended on this path and made the slow way to Puri, it has always been the Jagannath Sadak. The road wound its way touching Midnapore, Chanderkona, Tamluk, Belda, Dantan, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Pipili. The travellers covered the distances by bullock carts, hackneys, palanquins, horses and elephants, but most of them trudged on foot. There were many amenities for the pilgrims and travellers. There were choultries, dharamshalas, wells, tanks, culverts, bridges, temples, rest sheds, ghats etc. Many remnants of these are still visible on the isolated stretches of this once grand road.
With the advent of the railways in 1892, the Jagannath Sadak fell into disuse and over the next few years was lost forever. The railways shortened the travel time from three weeks to eighteen hours. As it was a coastal road, many stretches of the road just vanished with time, it was encroached upon by villages and some lengths now form the NH-5 and the railway.
A four man delegation comprising of INTACH’s Odisha State Convenor A.B Tripathy, Adviser Odisha State Chapter, Ananta Mohapatro, West Bengal Chapter Convener G.M.Kapur and the Coordinator of the Project, Anil Dhir presented a volume of the Odisha Stretch report to the Governor.
“There is wanton destruction of heritage monuments, structures, wells, ponds etc of the old road. He said that the relevance of the road in the formation of Odisha and the spread of Jagannath Culture has been overlooked in history. This was the road which was taken by the marauding Mughals, Afghans, Marathas and later on the British to conquer Odisha. This was the road on which Chaitanya, Guru Nanak and Kabir travelled when they visited Puri. The road played a very important role in the formation of the State of Odisha and the cultural links developed with Bengal. The listing will help in creating awareness of the history of the Jagannath Sadak and help in conserving and preserving whatever is left of this great road,” Project Coordinator of the documentation project Anil Dhir said.
Of the 516 kms of the Old Road, 200 Kms was in West Bengal. While most of the remnants of the Jagannath Sadak have been wantonly destroyed, there are still nearly 100 remnants of the Old road that are still there in West Bengal, he added.
He had undertaken a bullock cart journey on the Sadak in 2011 and found many vestiges of the road. There were a string of mutts and ashrams of the Vaishnavites and Gaudiyas on the Old road, many of which are still seen. These mutts provided all help to the ancient travellers. Besides listing the monuments, the oral history of the Road will also be recorded.
Dhir said that the Project will be completed within two months and after completion, it will be published in a two volume book.