Godavari to Kosi Part V
It is nice to be back to the story once again so soon…just the way I promised you last time.
I am willing to complete the story today itself…but you have to be with me for a considerable longer time. But, as the Sunday is approaching, I am sure that time won’t be a handicap.
Let’s begin the journey…..
I ended the day on 21st March 2013 by sleeping 09 hrs. and woke up next day as a brand new young man ready to fight demons in the hills of Odisha.
I started journey around 0900 hrs in my Dzire from Cuttack. Weather was pleasant and there were small traces of dark clouds lurking tentatively on the horizon. It was enhancing the ethereal beauty of NH 5. Highways are normally happy human souls.They learn the thesis of remaining calm since their inception.Hot and sturdy wheels of vehicle passing through it crushes the skeleton of highways ruthlessly time and again. But, the calmness of highways is magnetic.Have you heard any highway complaining about the speed of passing vehicles ! It also remains the same unlike we humans who change colours at the drop of a hat when opportunity arises. It stays at the same place and make sure that it leads to some destination for the users.
Such a selfless soul. Dear highway I salute your untiring spirit. Though, we the citizens of India loots loads of money in constructing you, that’s why sometimes in some long stretches your clothes get torn and you become nude …staring at us and mockingly saying that “search me among the maze of potholes”. You feel sad about your appearance in India. You wish that European or North American yardstick is applied in the construction phase so that you can last longer covering vast swathes of hinterland in mountainous terrain of Odisha.
Today, my plan was to reach Keonjhar, a mysterious town in northern Odisha bordering naxal-infested region of Jharkhand. I call this town mysterious because before deciding to traverse through this town, it was off my radar and seemed like a tribal hamlet crowded with elephants. Even though, I was based in Odisha for a considerable period of time.
Keonjhar is nearly 165 Kms. through the shortest route via NH 5- NH 200 from Cuttack but I chose the slightly longer route of 210 Kms. via NH 5 – NH 215 . The reason was Maa Tarini Temple ……..see http://www.maatarini.nic.in/. It is actually the 2nd most famous temple in Odisha after the mighty Jagannath Temple of Puri.
NH 5, on which I travelled nearly 60 Kms., offered me the princely 6-laned road where I zoomed past other vehicles in only 45 minutes but next 150 Kms. took 04 more hrs.
I had a royal darshan at the serene temple.It is one of the cleanest temple premises ever visited by me. Mark my words, I have visited not less than few hundreds temples in all corners of our country spread from Kanyakumari to Baramulla in Kashmir.
I talked to a local priest. I chose a priest who looked the least glamorous and a little bit lost, may be of meditative nature. I always choose the spiritual ones for the precise reason that they are the cheapest as well as least bothersome.They let you do the pooja at your own pace and never hurry……but the icing on the cake is that they accept whatever you donate them in the end.He told me a local story about the establishment of this temple which is ripe now to be shared in this forum. My historical friends who teach or have read history needs to separate facts from fiction.
Nearly 500 years ago, Purushottam Deva was the ruler of Kalinga. On a trip to south India, he saw the princess Padmavati of Kanchi taking bath in a waterfall and fell in love with her. Nothing new here, anyone can fall in love to a girl bathing in waterfall anywhere in the world even in 2013 ! He proposed marriage and was accepted by the bride’s family. They sent a minister to Puri to finalize the nuptials.Rath Yatra was in full swing in Puri on the day minister from Kanchi arrived there.King Purushottam Deva was sweeping the chariots of the deities.Even today floors of chariots is sweeped by Puri King himself. I have seen this procedure through my naked eyes i.e without goggles.
Marriage to a sweeper, even of God, was unacceptable to Kanchi kingdom.Marriage was called off and being aggrieved, King Purushottam Deva attacked Kanchi and lost the battle. Then, God Jagnnath appeared in dreams of Purushottam Deva and ordered him to employ Govinda Bhanja, son of king of Keonjhar, who will fight on his behalf.
Bhanja led a huge army and marched towards Kanchi, somewhere in forest, horse of Bhanja refused to go ahead for some unknown reasons. He worshipped a Goddess and horse started running. Bhanja won the battle and both the princess as well as Goddess came to Puri. Bhanja decided to take Goddess with him to Keonjhar through the route of NH 215.Maa Tarini agreed to follow Bhanja on another horseback provided that he didn’t look back. But, after some time, Bhanja didn’t heard the footsteps of another horse……..Bhanja looked back …….. Maa Tarini halted & that’s why she is located in Ghatgaon in Keonjhar.
So, after having royal darshan…I reached Keonjhar town after passing through some winding mountainous roads. Curves like Jalebi are very hard to negotiate.After doing the Jalebi routine 5-6 times continuously at 60-80 Km./hr. ………my head was spinning and I drank few litres of water to calm down my senses. Problem in hilly roads is that travelling at lower speed is dangerous as your vehicle feels like jumping the hills at slow speed.Higher speed in lower gear is the best way to avoid deadly accidents in hills as normally accidents in hills always involves loss of life of occupants of the 4-wheelers.
Two of my bosom buddies live in Keonjhar. One is Oriya Debashish, a used-to-be Casanova but now has hit the ground & is looking for a suitable bride.He owns prime property in Keonjhar town and drives a Hyundai Verna around jungles of Keonjhar. Another is Chakri,who is representing the higher echeleons of Indian bureaucracy and symbolizes the steel structure devised by British people to govern India. I stayed in a Royal Palace with large bedrooms and extra large bathrooms ,which is being utilized as Government Guest House. I wonder, why the bathrooms are so much larger in old colonial or royal Bunglows ?
In Keonjhar district, Odisha government gives compensation to victims of Elephant attacks. If the field of rice is damaged, compensation is paid according to land size. If injury or death of citizen occurs, compensation is paid accordingly.But , this system has become a den corruption due to collaboration between citizens and local employees.
One day, a man came to government office for compensation wearing a slightly torn shirt. On enquiry, he revealed that while he was going out in the fields for early morning rituals i.e. shitting, one child elephant stopped him and ruined his shirt. On asking about any injury, the man replied that elephant was only interested in damaging/snatching his shirt and no external injury was caused to him. But, he wanted compensation to buy drinks and new shirt. So, Keonjhar boasts of disciplined child elephants who are interested in snatching shirts by using their trunks in a delicate manner. If you happen to drive in these landscaped roads, look out for such elephants.
My narration is getting longer, so I am planning to leave you with this much for today. I followed the same ritual as in earlier parts, ate chicken legs and slept in large bedroom on a tiny bed.
See you next week …till then…..bye bye