A Potential World Heritage City
Modern Bhubaneswar or the New Capital, as it was called then during its formative days, was designed by German Architect Otto. H. Königsberger in 1946. Almost all the new-age modern structures i.e. iconic government buildings and institutions were designed by the architectural team with a distinct signature, depicting the temple building style and its elements, as the basis of the urban design concept. Königsberger’s New Capital was, thus, a perfect blend of the old aura and new structures as after several decades the city has grown into a regional education hub, but the old world charm in the Old City, Twin Hills of Khandagiri and Dhauli Hills on the city outskirts remains intact.
Truly, though through an urban metamorphosis the New Capital city has achieved a different mould, Bhubaneswar’s importance on the historic front and the religious awakening has remained the fore runner, whenever we mention the city’s historic progression. It has shown the guiding light to the entire world as a primordial epicentre for proliferation of Buddhism or the spread of the Kalingan temple architecture and building techniques through the maritime routes. It is a well-known historical fact that the South East Asian nations still have the imprints of the Kalingan architectural designs, which we come across here, proving the centuries old tale.
Bhubaneswar was perhaps the cradle for the growth of the temple building style, as once it was having 7,000 temples. Bhubaneswar’s treasure of beautiful monuments is a magnificent collage as the architectural journey starts from the 3rd Century BC up to the 15th Century AD or a little later than that. Nicknamed as the Temple City of India, the 360 odd temples today still propagate the heritage saga as the city sails through different periods and dynasties and rulers patronised different religious philosophies during their periods.
While the concept of Ekamra Kshetra, abode of Lord Shiva was evident from the Old City area where the Lingaraj Temple is the principal shrine, surrounded by many small and medium shrines and water bodies of different capacities, of late, the influence of Hari (Vishnu) has emerged and the 12 th Century Ananta Vasudev remains the only prominent Vishnu temple across the Ekamra Kshetra.
The temple kitchen of Ananta Vasudev is also working tirelessly for more than 1,000 years, continuing a culinary tradition for the people over ages.
A Hari-Hara Bhet (meeting of Hari and Hara) during rituals of Lord Lingaraj also describes the growing influences of Vaishnavism in this Shaivite sphere. The annual chariot festival of Lord LIngaraj and transformation of Rameswar Temple as the aunt’s palace of the Lord has also given rise to the temple as ``Mausi Maa’’ temple.
Despite the Hindu shrines dotting the skyline across the city, the Jain influence over the Khandagiri-Udayagiri caves and the Buddhist pilgrimage centre with temple and international peace pagoda at Dhauli have always remained other two major sources of attraction for the thousands of visitors, who throng the city to explore the multi-religious shrine culture and the plurality of its existence. This, in a way, makes Bhubaneswar a heritage city with potential of global influence as the religious beliefs have influenced the region.
The ancient capital of Kalingan empire near the city, perhaps at the fortified settlement of Sisupalgarh, is now visible through some pillars of a queen’s palace and one gate near its moat we need to explore more as to know the fort site.
The International Peace Pagoda atop Dhauli Hills overlooking the serpentine Daya river with its dove-white colour and Japanese Buddhist symbolism stands tall describing the great battle, which the Kalingan people fought against the mighty Mauryan empire, has a world-wide influence as after this unfortunate incident not only Emperor Ashok became ``Dharmashoka’’ from ``Chandashoka,’’ but commissioned his own son and daughter Mahendra and Sanghamitra for a better proliferation of the Buddhist philosophy across the
Indian Ocean through Sri Lanka. As per historic narrations, Daya was coloured red after the Kalinga War as the bloodbath was so fierce.
It was perhaps Emperor Ashoka, who, through his famous Edict near the foothills of Dhauli had admitted about the aftermath of the war and how the people should also adopt peaceful co-existence formulae for a better world order. The pagoda, built in an Indo-Nippon collaborative effort, has truly remained a place of eternal transformation.
The Khandagiri-Udayagiri caves, which were perhaps dwelling units of ancient cave men as evident from the rock art from the Hati Gumpha (Elephant Caves) at Udayagiri are true reminders of the first urban settlement in the city as it remained the nerve centre of the Kalingan power and Emperor Kharavel, with his vision and heroic journeys to aggregate the lost empire, had contributed towards its development.
The Rani Gumpha (Queen’s Caves), Ganesh Gumpha (Cave of Ganesh), Bagha Gumpha (Tiger’s cave) and Elephant’s Cave have different stories to tell as they are unique in many ways including depiction of full costume dance performances for the royals or war processions and pachyderm attacking the human habitation and vice-versa. It is learnt that during Emperor Kharvela the Twin-Hills of Khandagiri-Udayagiri and the caves were renovated as they were resting places for the Jain monks, who regularly visit the hills surrounded with forests.
With such a chequered history and age-old genesis from the cave-age to the modern era, Bhubaneswar has marched ahead, while its importance as a heritage city with global perspective still having an edge with the city making a mark in tourism sector, IT, education and overall development as a potential urban centre for growth.
Bhubaneswar’s potential as a World Heritage City has been processed as it has already reached the UNESCO tentative list status. The tentative list would move up with filling of a dossier with the detailed account on its World Heritage City status and the fulfilment of criterions and this would enable the heritage city to be listed on the international front and gain more prominent in tourism circuits. With religious and historic development of three major philosophies i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism taking their roots here in this holy soil, Bhubaneswar would always be a great potential contender for this international tag to take its USP to the next level.
We end with a prayer for the future, a remembrance of the past and a joyful exclamation of thanks for the present.