Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar: March 11:
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Odisha has launched a project “Listing and Documenting the Monuments of the Jaganath Sadak in Odisha”.
The project is being undertaken to highlight the plight of this historic road on which the pilgrims travelled to visit the Lords at Puri, and coincide with the Nabakalebar festival scheduled in June this year.
A four-member delegation comprising of INTACH’s state convenor AB Tripathy, Ananta Mohapatra, Sanjeev Hota and Anil Dhir toured the entire stretch of the Old Jagannath Sadak from Jaleswar till Bhadrak recently.
The Jaganath Sadak was the old pilgrim road from Calcutta to Puri. It took form sometime in late 17th Century 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, Baleswar, Niligiri, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Dharamshala, Chhatia, 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. Toll tax from the pilgrims was collected from the time of the Mughals, a tradition which continued under the Maratha regime too.
However, 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.
Lamenting that many vestiges of the road are vanishing rapidly, Tripathy said there is wanton destruction of heritage monuments, structures, wells, ponds etc of the old road.
He said the relevance of the road in the formation of Odisha and the spread of Jagganath 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 spread of Jagannath Culture. There were many vestiges of the road that were still intact, but in a state of despair”, Tripathy said.
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. The team visited the monuments in Jaleswar, Basta, Baleswar, Soro and Bhadrak.