Friday, October 18, 2013


The name Bubaneshwar popped up on my TV screen and I had a moment of recognition and confusion, where had I seen that name before? And then it dawned on me, I had actually visited Bubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa State in India, south of Calcutta. It was in the news because it was in the path of a huge cyclone that filled the Bay of Bengal and was heading for Bubaneshwar.

I went to Bubaneshwar in 1988 when I was visiting my former student and friend Siddhartha Roy who was working in the Bose insitute in Calcutta. I had told him that I was interested in visiting a genuine ancient Hindu temple and he arranged for both of us to fly down the 225 miles from Calcutta to Bubaneshwar and to visit the ancient stone temples there. Apparently Bubaneshwar is one of the few places where the Muslims, who destroyed almost all of the carved stone temples in northern India when they conquered the area, failed to penetrate to. Consequently there are a series of temples there, from small ones to huge ones. The most famous one is the Sun Temple on the coast at Konark that is very special, it is built in the form of a juggernaut, a huge chariot with large stone wheels (that obviously don't turn) and a superstructure of spires. In order to prevent the Muslims destroying it, the Hindus filled the whole interior with stones, so that it couldn't collapse, and it was left like that. I found it an amazing site to visit and I hope that the current cyclone has not damaged it.

About 500,000 people were evacuated or fled inland from the coastal region, thus preventing the kind of casualties of 10,000 killed that resulted from the last huge cyclone in 1999. But, there was extensive damage throughout the region and many homes and businesses were devastated. I hope others will visit the temple at Konark, and report back to me that it is still intact.


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