Legacy Of The Amarda (Rasogovindpur) Road Airstrip

Recent News

The Ministry of Defence on Tuesday granted working permission to the state government for development of the airstrip at Rasgovindpur near Amarda Road in Mayurbhanj district. The ministry has conveyed the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Director General Defence Estates for allowing the state government to develop defence land measuring 160.35 acre at Amarda Road on the basis of cash compensation of `26.03 crore.

Setting the terms and conditions for grant of permission, the ministry said a separate board of officers (BOO) will be convened to ascertain exact location, demarcation of land, its cost and modalities of transfer, and security and safety measures, government and private assets and cost of their demolition, relocation or reconstruction before handing over the land to the state government.

Read more : https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2022/nov/23/nod-for-development-of-amarda-road-airstrip-2521248.html


True to its tagline- India’s best kept secret, Odisha, is indeed a land that has stowed away many great true tales and stories that are slowly unravelling. These stories are proof that Odisha is a hidden gem of India. One such incident is from Amarda Road, in Mayurbhanj district. It is hardly known to many people that the benevolent skies of Odisha had witnessed the crash of two aircrafts. They had collided against each other and resulted in the deaths of 14 airmen on board. Renowned historian Anil Dhir, conducted an in-depth research of the Amarda Road airstrip and unraveled many facts. My City Links visited the abandoned airstrip and talked to people to know more about the incident and its current state now. Although short, it has a secret illustrious history which has never been made public.

Amarda Road Airstrip

The Amarda Road airstrip has played a vital role in the defence of India during the second World War. It came into existence during the war as a forward airfield against the Japanese conquest of Burma. Known to be the longest runway in Asia, measuring over 3.5 km, this large strip served its purpose well as a landing ground for planes and also as a training space for special bombing missions. The Amarda Road airstrip spreads across an area of nearly 900 acres.

The Five Formation flight- minutes before the crash

“This airstrip was built in the 1940’s at a cost of ₹3 crore and eventually it was abandoned after the war. Owing to the nearby Amarda Road railway station, it was named as the Amarda Road Airfield. Seven decades after the base was made, the remains of the airfield are still intact,” Anil Dhir pointed out.

Now this airstrip is known as the Rasgovindpur Airstrip. Even today it is the biggest air complex of the continent. The total runways, taxiways, aprons, etc were more than 60 kms. “As an airfield, Amarda Road fell on the supply route for the Nationalist Armies of China in their fight against the Japanese. Aircrafts from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF) would regularly fly from this space to China across the infamous hump route over Arunachal and East Tibet,” shared Dhir.

A localite in his nineties shared his memory of the airfield. “I was barely 9-10 years old when this place was frequented by many people and we saw huge aircrafts. This was way before India got independence. My family and I were evacuated to a distant village from here. We heard stories about secret missions going on for which no one was allowed there. When the crash happened, there was a lot of hullabaloo. Recently people have come enquiring about the place,” he shared.

The Bomber Pilots at the Amarda Road Airfield


During a training exercise on July 26, 1945, two World War II aircrafts- British Royal Air Force B-24 Liberator four-engine bombers EW225 and EW247 collided mid-air at a low altitude of less than 2000 feet. These aircrafts were part of a six-plane contingent from the Air Fighting Training Unit engaged in a formation flying exercise. The collision left 14 airmen dead due to the severity of the collision over the skies of Odisha. The debris fell into paddy fields swollen from the monsoon rains.

Pilot Officer Raymond Maurice Bullen (L) and Flight Officer Peter Ettlinger (R)

Immediately after the crash, search teams were dispatched  to reach the crash site.  “Given the remoteness of the area, the lack of roads and bridges, and the severely limiting monsoon conditions, little could be done with immediate effect back then. Later there was news of some human remains that were reportedly discovered and then buried on site during the initial search efforts, but the evidence of this is vague and does not suffice, ” said Dhir.

Several  weeks  after  the  accident, Squadron Leader Stanley Bennett, the Padre of RAF Amarda Road, made an effort to find the crew. He led a party of twelve men (five RAF members, five or six Indians) on a trek of nearly four days from Amarda Road to the crash site.  By that time weather conditions had improved and the monsoon floods had subsided. “The team succeeded in recovering the bodies and buried them in two graves near the crash site. Since the bodies were not immediately found nor the wreckage located, the families of the dead could not be informed about the crash. They were listed as missing in action (MIA). Few family members came to know about the deaths from unofficial sources, some of them months and years later.

The Airmen buying bananas from a tribal woman at the airbase

The Amarda Road airstrip would have been relegated to deep crevices of history, but unfortunately it has remained just a private affair of a group of people quietly paying tribute and keeping the memory alive.

The deceased

In the Madras War Cemetery in Chennai, there is a set of fourteen graves which were of airmen who had apparently died in a plane crash at Amarda Road. This was discovered by Anil Dhir during his visit there. “There were fourteen individually named headstones arranged side-by-side. But contrary to protocol, the Cemetery Registry had interned them as a Collective Grave. I started a detailed enquiry and also got valuable information and assistance from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at London. I was then informed by them that back in 1953 the British Army Graves Concentration Unit had exhumed the bodies from their original burial site near Amarda Road and relocated the remains to the newly established Madras War Cemetery,” pointed out Dhir.

The 14 deceased airmen were of different nationalities such as British, American, Dutch, New Zealander, Australian and only one among them was an Indian. Dhir further extended his research to war historians and in the course of six months, he got much more details of the crash. From the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s Air Historical Branch, he managed to get more details of the official correspondence along with detailed information on the date and time of the crash and the exact location coordinates. He also made a recce of the area and with the help of an advanced GPS, he could locate the exact site where the aircrafts had fallen.

The Graves of the 14 airmen at the Madras War Cemetery

Most of the relatives of these airmen were very surprised when Dhir contacted them. They had given up hope of knowing anything about the mysterious death/ disappearance of their loved ones. He received heartbreaking letters from them enquiring about more details and information. “One of the deceased airmen, Cyril William Geeson’s brother connected with me and bared his heart out as to how he missed his brother every single day, owing to his mysterious disappearance. He wrote me a personal letter and sent me photographs of his brother (one of the deceased airmen- Flight Sergeant),” he informed.

“Another such response came from Yvonne, the daughter of Peter Ettlinger (one of the deceased airmen- Flight Officer). It was a very emotive surprise when she received my email. Now a retired school teacher aged 77, she was just ten months old when her father was killed in the crash. He had never seen her. She had been researching the crash of her father’s plane for the last 50 years. In fact she had also made three visits to India but could only visit her father’s grave at the Madras War Cemetery as she was unaware of the fact that the Amarda Strip was the actual crash site,” Dhir said.

A memorial was held at the crash spot after the fourteen dead were interred in two graves

The revolution of the internet indeed is a boom in connecting people and becoming an easier and faster mode of communication. The historian has managed to find 10 of the dead.

“Just to trace the relatives of the only Indian, P.V. Mathai, it took me three years. Though very strenuous and time-saving it is satisfying to give the people the closure and the true facts that they deserve,” added the historian.


On July 26, 2011, local school children, Air Commodore Ran Singh, the Air Officer Commanding of Kalaikunda Air Station, activists and Morada MLA Rajkishore Das gathered at the abandoned Amarda Road Airstrip and laid wreaths for each of the dead airmen, and held a memorial service. For the past 10 years now, historian Anil Dhir who is rightly credited for single handedly digging out the details of the incident, has been leading the memorial service.

“From the 26th of July 2011, every year, we hold a memorial service for the fourteen dead  near the abandoned Amarda Road Airstrip. We held the tenth service this year. It is held on the main runway on which locals, including school children, participate and contribute by their presence. Mahatma Gandhi’s all religion prayer along with the Lord’s Prayer is recited along with a few hymns,” shared Dhir.

The annual memorial service held by Anil Dhir along with the locals

Even though the memorial service is purely a private affair conducted by Dhir and his team, it has been widely reported in newspapers and magazines in India and abroad. “Despite repeatedly requesting the governments of Odisha and West Bengal to erect small memorials for these airmen at Amarda Road and the crash site, there had been no response. So, I along with a group of well-wishers, decided to set up  a museum at the spot. Gandhian, Aditya Patnaik, who is the Director of Mahatma Gandhi Eye Hospital & Research Institute adjoining the airstrip, has proposed to give ample space in the Gandhi Gurukul for setting up a small museum which will highlight the importance of the airbase during World War II,” he added.

On hearing of a museum being erected, the relatives of the deceased airmen have donated memorabilia for the museum. Among the items received are a folding camp cot and a chair, photographs, uniforms, etc. “The work for the museum commenced at this year’s memorial service at the airstrip,” informed Dhir.

One of the students attending the memorial service shared his joy on knowing that the place they reside is of historic importance. “I love to read and know more about the history of our country. It is very interesting. Since my father told me about Amarda Road airstrip and its historical importance, I am intrigued to know more and more. I would love to visit the museum once it is completely set up,” shared the excited lad.

The Ground Crew

Government’s intervention

It is disheartening to see that the soil of Amarda Road which holds important bits of history is now all forgotten. No details or information of the activities that happened there between 1943 and 1945 exist, not even in government and military records.

“All the infrastructure- offices, hangars, mechanic sheds and plaster walled barracks with thatched roofs- have been ripped down. The land is barren and is used to dry laundry or the farmers use the warm tarmac to sun their grains. The cattle graze along the runway’s edges,” he said.

Anil Dhir has also requested the government to open up the sealed underground bunker, which may hold relics of the period. “The setting up of a Peace Museum was mooted last year and British, Australian, Dutch and US authorities were contacted for material to be displayed to the museum. The response has been very positive,” said Dhir.

The Crashed Liberators

Morada MLA Rajkishore Das said that the abandoned airbase would soon be made operational under UDAAN scheme for flights or other aviation related ventures. He also promised that all help would be extended for setting up the museum at the base.

Draupadi Murmu

Congratulations to Respected Smt. Draupadi Murmu 🙏 A Dedicated sincere Tribal Women from Mahuldia, Rairangpur Mayurbhanj, Odisha on being announced as the Presidential nominee of #NDA. 2022🤩🥰 Let’s Wish her.🙏🙏🙏🙏 She may become first Women President of India from the state of Odisha ❤️❤️

Once elected, she will be the first tribal President of India & the second ever female President of India

Started as a teacher in Tribal school of Odisha to become president of India.

A journey which can happen only when hardworking people with humble backgrounds are backed by government.

She will be the first person from a tribal community to hold the highest office in our country.

Draupadi Murmu Born in a Santal family in our district.

Amongst the loud noise of social justice , here is our new president nominee #DraupadiMurmu from a tribal community

Her vast experience and extensive knowledge would enrich the office of President.

Big thanks to our Respected PM Shri #narendramodi Ji for taking a momentous . PM #narendramodi ‘s tenures have been golden period for their empowerment.I congratulate her & thank Hon’ble PM & party senior leaders.

In yet another remarkable step towards women empowerment and social justice.

stay tuned for more information …

Dhokra – An art of casting metal on wax


Though not native to Mayurbhanj, Dhokra craft has become integral part of this culture now. Go to any mela or just roam around on the streets of Baripada, you will often see road side dwellers and shops waiting for customers and enthusiasts with their beautiful metal sculptures. These beautiful looking sculptures are often in the shape of animals, decors, household items or more commonly known god and goddesses.

Dhokra sculptures


Lost wax process was practiced in India since the Bronze Age (3000-1800BC). The beautiful dancing girl found in Mahenjodaro is evidence of that metal craft is an integral part of Indian culture.

Dancing girl sculpture found at Mahenjodaro

However as per recorded history of Mayurbhanj, during the time of feudal state, impressed with the crafting skills, the king Purna Chandra Bhanja Deo had invited the Thatari,who were known for their skills of Dhokra. The family moved to the village Kuruma near Karanjia subdivision of Mayurbhanj district which is 120 km away from their village (Fig. 1).

Those days this family used to build utensils for the royal family. According to the district gazette “thatari caste are a class of brazier and brass workers. Their number is rather few in the district.”- (N. Senapati 1967: 115).

Mayurbhanj was also home to several cultural rich communities as well. Among those Rana (the bania) family were in close association with these metal craftsman families to manufacture attractive range of decorative objects using a variety of metal like kanga (brass), Pittal, aluminum etc which they (Rana) used to sell in different parts of country and abroad.

Earlier these families also used to prepare “eight metal amalgam” famously known as astadhatu deities and jewelry for the king. The astadhatu (Eight Metal) consisted of Gold (suna),Silver (rupa), Copper (tomba), Iron (luha), Zinc (dosta), Tin (tino), Lead (sisa) and Mercury (paroda).

Tools & Procedure

This article is written on a research paper which focuses on anthropological study of traditional knowledge on metal craft Artisan of Sarpankha, village of Mayurbhanj district Odisha.

Here I tried to describe the process of manufacturing and technique related to it. Currently in Mayurbhanj the dhokra craftsman are living in the villages like Kuliana, Kamta, Sarpenkha, Paniakuili, Pachesahi, Kuliakhunta, Chitrada, Lehakemi etc.

Materials needed

Dhokra casting artisans use various equipment that can be found easily in nature. Tools are often self made and doesn’t need heavy machines. Few items are often purchased from local market.

The basic materials like Resin, salt, clay, sand, paddy chaff and wood can all be found in the village easily.

Other materials required for the preparation of the dhokra crafts are:

Working board-maham pidha (working wood board),

Modeling stick (kelub kathi),

Beeswax-(Maham) is purchased from the village, where it was collected by the tribal people.

Resin (jhuna),

Grinding slab (the clay paste is groung with this stone) and hand stone (silo putta) iron blade, (Arisi patia) the wax press (Janta),

clay (mati),

lado ( fired clay) the fired shards of the clay forms are finely ground and mixed with the fresh clay to make it stronger against high temperature.

cow dung (gobor),

sickle (daa),

hammer (Hatudi),

Chisel (Chhini),

weight machine (dandi),

brass (pittal) when the brass objects like bowls, water vessels, measuring bowls worn out such items are sold to scrap metal dealer at half rate.


long picher (Bada Sanduasi),

hand blower earlier the villager were using goat skin as a blower, (funka), fire pit cover with broken earthen pot,(kalasi vanga).

Mold preparation

The dhokra technique started with the preparation of mould (chhancha) of different
vessel animal, household object, and figures, all prepared with clay. The clay core defines the hollow space of the brass object. It shows the desired objects in a smaller and simplifier forms. There are two types of core used by the caster, the opened core and the closeded core. In open core casting there is one or more opening forms used to scrape out the clay core after firing the core paste. Gobar mati (cow dung mixed with soil) is used. The soil from the paddy farm which contains isless is collected after the harvesting of crops. Initially the artisans pounder the soil, sieved and soaked in water and mixed with cow dung. They use 3:2 soil and cow dung as per the necessity of proportion. The soil is kneaded untill it reaches the leather hand condition and is then ready for mould building. After the preparation of the mould as per their own requirement, the clay core is dried under the sun. When the clay core is dry the surface is smoothed out with the thumb and rubbed with the green leaves. The leaves juice helps to create a better adhesion of the wax. For the closed core paste (Chitamati) sticky clay with sand is used for preparation. 6:4:1 (Clay:Sand:Jute). These potato jute bags are used as jute after cut in the small pieces. Clay doesn’t need to be removed after casting. When left in the hollow from a solid casting can be feigned and thereby and higher price claimed for the greater weight.

Wax preparation

The wax is purchase from the market at the rate of 300/ kg. The wax from wild bees is
rarely available. To make it more pliable resin (Jhuna) is mixed with wax 1:10 proportion (resin:wax). A clay pot is set on fire. Resin is melted on that clay pot then the wax is added. The mixture is brought to a boil for ten minutes while being constantly stirred with a bamboo stick. Then the wax is filtered through a cloth. The boiled waxes are filtered over a vessel filled with water. The liquid wax which is lighter then water congeals on the surface of the water.

Production of wires

Two wooden press stick (Jhanta badi) of one meter long are needed for the production of wires. One is the (Andiapata) male plank another is female plank (Maipata). The (Janta phungi) socket consists of a self cast brass or an aluminum cylinder which has heirloom with symbols engraved around the rim. Various round sieves are prepared with Indian aluminum. Coins (Chaki) can be inserted into the cylinders bases with holes using various sizes nails. The wax is needed and pressed until it reaches the desire ductility. The wooden plunger (Sulat) is fitted with the brass or aluminum cylinder (phungi). The brass or aluminum cylinder (phungi) with wooden plunger is kept on female plank (Maipata). The wooden plunger is pressed with male plank (Andia pata) on to the wax. Pressure occurs through the use of the whole body with the abdomen pushing to male plank towards. The things in this manner wax threads formed through the sieve coin.

Coiling of wax thread

The craft man covers the surface of the mould with wax thread with a diameter of 0.5 to 1.5mm coil. The thread is laid tightly without flattening it. Different portion of the model like head, arm, leg, neck are separately decorated by wax. If the spiral coils do not join up, then the modeling stick (kalup kolhi) is used. A saddle (Pidha) of 42 X 17 X 8 serves as marking block for handing wax. The semi-rounded hand block (situni) is used for rolling wax into thread or pounding it into sheets on the working block. The spur is either pressed or welded on to the area where it optimally benefits (Fig. 2).

The first clay coat

After the completion of covering the wax threads, a clay coat mixed with cow dung
(palkhania gabarmati) is applied. The clay coat consists of the same materials as for the core paste in the open-core technique, with the mention that the water quantity is higher in this case. The first clay consists of 3:2 (soils: cow dung) and it’s used to produce all the details of the wax surface. The larger is applied to a thickness of 0.4 C.M. However, on the spur a coat of 0.8 C.M. is applied. No inclusions should be allowed to develop; otherwise during casting process metal could be filling it. For smaller item one channel is provided and for the big items more than one channel is provided. Then the embedded form in kept under the blazing sun to dry.

Fixing the closed core

The tin triangles are prepared in a zigzag manner with a hammer and chisel, a piece of iron is place on bottom to chop in properly. These tin triangles are gently trapped all around through the clay and waxes. The core needs to be fixing, otherwise it would move freely in the hollow space created when the wax has melted away. The triangles fly in all direction at intervals of about 4 cm.

The second clay coat

The soil clay is mixed with sand. Initially soil is pounded, sieved and soaked in water.
The soil, sand and jute (proportion is 6:4:1), then the jute is mixed and needed in to a lump of clay with water. The coat is applied about 0.8cm thickness. When working with the clay a bowl of water is always kept nearby because sometimes the first clay coat needs to be moistened with water so that the binds batter with the second one. The lumps of clay are completely covered. According to the caster family the size of the wax model is permits, up to four of them can be combined into casting form. The clay is then laid out to dry overnight.

The form receivers a funnel

The Chunga or channel is developed from a lump of clay (balimati). It is a fix path way
for transformation of molten brass from the funnel like container of molten brass to the wax. The channel is placed over the wax plug in such a manner that the plug remains visible below. The joint reins forced on the outside with a thick layer of clay and make it dry under sun.

The metal and its cover

Brass metals (dhatu) are purchased from the market. Warn out brass objects like bowl, bells, measure pot, are obtained from the market at half rate of the new one RS- 500/- all are broken up in to scrap and prepare for the casting feed. The clay form channel is overfilled according to the size of the wax items. A large pinch of salt is added to the metal for flux. The cap is laid over the metal and the cap and channel are joined by using clay mixture. The clay mixture paste prepare with clay, sand and jute in 2:2:1 proportions. A thick roll of clay spread to the middle of the channel and make it dry.

Melting the metal by firing

The wood is purchased and placed on fire pit (salo – Fig. 3). Two larger or three smaller
forms are placed carefully the metal facing down, when the fire is kindled. The wood pieces catch fire. The flames turn yellow when the wax melts and burn away. The lost wax these leaves a hallow form behind into which the metal can later flow. The hard blower machine is used for increasing heat. Upper portion of clay shared placed on the top of the over to prevent the heat from escaping too quickly. It takes over to one and half hour to complete the burning when a light smoke rises and the flames turns green. It is ready to be cast using long pincher the glowing form is clasped at its upper and pulled from the fire pit and laid down on to the clay ground. Then the crucible end with the pitcher lilted up for the casting. The glowing form is cautiously and calmly laid down on to the clay ground. It is astonishing how the melting metal easily flows through quite a number of corners through the pressure of the casting head. The forms are placed upside down against a wall. After cool down b the casting coat is carefully broken and some extra rough bits retained during casting. It is bough carefully and rubberier with sand to get smooth glace.

Wax goods under semi construction and dhokra metals melted in fire pit


During federal state the Dhokra objects were prepared for local folks, selling in local
market. It has some religions importance in this area so they prepare, Laxmi, Ganesh, Elephant, Laxminarayan which are honored and worship in Odisha in the month of margashira (mid NOV to mid DECEMBER) and purchased by the local people. Caster faces nearly 15 to 20% damage during casting. The dhokra art is a time consuming and linked with weather condition. During bad weather casting cannot be done. Price changes in the dhokra material because of the increasing rate of the materials and available of traditional market. Hard labor with group work and less financial gain make the Craftsmen to seek new job or force them to do other jobs. The dhokra casting is an indigenous craft facing many problems then also producing their craft material for the survival of their traditional act. In spite of institutional intervention; artisan continues to operate with traditional technology, tools, designs and informal training. Wages do not match favorable with the skill and experience of the artisans.

This study was first published in ICJ in 2015 originally written and compiled by Champak Kumar Sahu – Dept of Anthropology and Tribal studies.North Orissa University, Sriramchandra vihar, Baripada, India

Devkund / Debakunda

Debakunda or Devkund waterfall is well known place in Mayurbhanj for its beautiful and serene landscapes, waterfall and divine Maa Tarini temple. Situated at nearly 60 kms away from Baripada, this place is one of best known picnic place too.

This place is reserved under forest protection act because of which you wont find permanent road inside.

A scenic view on the way to temple


Though debatable, the story is often told by localities, that this area used to come under Matsya Raja during old Mahabharata period and Pandavas used to come to this place. The nearby Shami tree, was the place where they had hidden their weapons during their “agyatawasa” of 1 year.

More recent story is during 1940s is when Mayurbhanj King built the temple when it was found by a researcher named Rajkumar Profulla Chandra Bhaja Deo.


To reach devkund, one need to travel towards Udala main town. It is hardly 20 kms away from there. The entrance of Devkunda is 5 kms away from the main temple. The picnic spot and toilet is at the left of the entrance. Bigger vehicles like buses or trucks are not allowed inside from this gate, however cars and Suvs can pass through.

You will also see few shops selling chai and pakoda there. I would advice to quench your hunger and thirst here as you wont find anything to eat inside.

The second gate is 3 kms way where you will often find police or forest rangers guarding, they wont allow to pass any vehicle from there. You need to park your vehicle and start to walk from here.

Walking towards the temple

The beauty of the path is just stunning. The lush greenery of the terrain is rejuvenating for the soul. You can hear occasional chirruping of birds and screaming of monkeys. The ferns were green and the water was blue.

Blue waters on the way to devkunda temple

During this walk, you will often find places to take rest and photographs. After walking for 2 kms we finally managed to reach the base of temple. Lot of people were simply sitting here and taking a breath. The view of temple from this place was mesmerizing.

View of kunda and temple from below

This kund or pond is actually called devkunda which is formed by the waterfall which is almost 100 feet high. There were few accidents in past because of which people are not allowed to go near the kunda.

Once we spent 15 – 20 mins here, we decided to go to the temple which is at the top and to reach there we had to take stairs which looked pretty tiring.

My wife staring the stairway

After a walk of almost 200 steps finally we managed to reach at the Ambika temple. Though photography inside the temple is not allowed, but the view of temple premise itself is very stunning.

Scenic beauty of this place is mesmerizing. Occasional chirruping of birds and cries of monkeys will definitely pull your attention. We did hear trumpet of elephants as well. Forest guards on the gate did warn us about the them earlier.

More to explore

The construction of stairway is for the regular traveller and pilgrims who want to visit the temple. Most of the people just go there and come back. Apart of the temple, there are more jewels to explore like Devikund, Tela kund, Haldi Kund and a banana forest. However there is absolutely no friendly roads to these places but if you like adventures and experienced with jungle and mountain tracking, you can try to explore these places too. However during on season ( i.e. Dec – Jan ), forest rangers and police wont let you do so. So if you wish for the adventure, it is advised to go there during off-season.

Please let us know when you visit there. All the best for your journey.

Pandit Raghunath Murmu – The Creator of Santhali Script

Raghunath Murmu

It is the deeds of a common man that transform him into an extraordinary one. This statement has its best reflection in the personality of “Guru Gomke Pandit Raghunath Murmu”. His noble works and fights for his own language have brought him many identities. Hailed as Guru Gomke, people do regard him as a godly figure. Even today, on the day of Guru Purnima, the Kapiburu locality near Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha gets crowded by people to pay homage to this iconic personality, Pandit Murmu. He is the one who has created the Ol Chiki script of the Santhali language.

santhali culture

he Ol Chiki script of the Santhali language is enriched with the cultural identity of the tribal community. He used to say, “our literature can’t progress without its own script”. The norms and standards set by him have become the traditional rituals for the santal community for which he is awarded with the position of God by the community. The script prescribed by him is still being followed by the Santhal population of Bangladesh, Nepal and India.

On 5th of may in 1905, full moon day of Baisakh, the village of Dohardihi, Dandbus welcomed the third son of village manjhi Shri Nandalal Murmu and his wife Smt. Salomi Tudu. As per the local tradition the new born was bestowed with the name “Chunu” after his grandfather and later it was changed to Raghunath. In the year 1912, the seven-year-old Raghunath started his schooling in Gambharia Primary School situated at a distance of 3 kms form his village. The mediums of teaching at that time were Oriya and English. This fact soon became a matter of concern for him as most of the students in the school were Santali and they were not able to understand the languages through which they were being taught. A different oral language was in use by the Santhalis at that time for the communication purpose. Later an independent script was designed by Pandit Murmu based on same oral language.

In 1914 Raghunath Murmu was admitted to Bahalada Primary school, which was about 7 kms away from his village. As the distance was not in his favour, he along with his friends made a hut near the school on his relative’s land at Baladunguri and started living there. As a child he used to play with sand by drawing figures from which he got the idea of having an independent script. He was sent to Baripada, the capital city of “Mayurbhanj State” for further studies. But deep inside his mind he was stocked with the thoughts of having an independent script. During his holiday visits to the home place at Dandibus he used to spend quality time alone at Kapiburu Jungle, where it is believed, he invented the Ol Chiki script in 1925. The locals had a strong belief that Pandit Murmu used to get vanished inside the Kapiburu forest.

Interested to know more ? Please click on below link to know more about him :



Sabai Grass Handicraft – How old age art became a transnational craft ?

“Sabai grass” when I first time heard the name, I thought it’s something new but soon I realized that is the same “Bobai ghaso” which people in my village used to makes ropes from. In my childhood during my vacations, when I used play on the streets in the village, I have witnessed it many times without realizing its potential and importance.

Mostly, I have witnessed these grasses were being used to build ropes often used for the charpai (cot), machi (small stools) and some small toys as well. But it was mostly “ropes” which were in high demand in local markets. I remember, people talked about paper mills who used to purchase these ropes in very large quantity. Probably they used these to tie bamboos at the time of harvest from forests. With some research, I found that these grasses are pulpable too – so along with bamboo these were also fed to machines to make paper thereby recovering the cost too.

sabai grass handi
Sabai grass baskets

But recently, with change in demand Sabai grasses have been used to build many other products too. From ornamental items like wall hangings, light shade decors to daily use utility items like floor mats, bags and baskets also being built now a days. Because of demand of modern generation, I have witnessed laptop bags made up of Sabai grass too. Those were beautiful and eco friendly.

sabai grass laptop bag
Laptop bag for women – made up of Sabai grass. You can purchase it here

But things were not rosy always. This craft was mainly used by tribals of Mayurbhanj as extra source of income or hobby only. And because there were not much variety of products being produced, the demand was low & due of this the potential boost to economy from this craft was unthinkable. However females from remote areas are responsible for nourishing and keeping this old age craft alive.

I came across a nice video from a group of such strong women who work hard to make their dream come true but got hit by Covid’19. They are planning to start an ecommerce platform to showcase and sell their products.


Their story was published in https://www.thebetterindia.com/233476/woman-entrepreneur-grass-gold-handicrafts-odisha-craftmaking-rural-development-inspiring-india/

Check their website at https://www.mayurshilpacraft.com/.

Another such website is https://kalagharstore.com/ who are working with women in rural sector of Mayurbhanj. They have nice collections too.

Mayurbhanj to export Sabai crafts to international market directly

We have formed nearly 50 clusters of artisans who belong to different villages in four blocks—Baripada, Betnoti, Moroda and Kuliana. The artisans are mostly women who were trained under master designers from the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design (NID) in 2016. Now, they not only earn decently, but also receive huge acclaim for their works displayed at different exhibitions in cities like Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Lucknow,” said B Mal, the assistant director of the Mayurbhanj wing of ORMAS (Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society).

With the help of independent bodies like Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society(ORMAS), Asian Heritage Foundation (AHF), New Delhi and the Rural Active Women’s Handicraft Artisan Association (RAWHAA) at Baliapal in Balasore district, the women in the rural areas of Mayurbhanj not only learnt to build new products from Sabai grasses but also polished their old skills to create better quality products.

In the past, mostly the products were being sold in the local markets only at a very low price. However with penetration of internet and modern times, lot more buyers came across this craft directly. FabIndia is one such example who directly buys these crafts from Mayurbhanj’s sellers and resale them to other markets. This has given a boost to rural economy of this district.

Recently in Nov ‘2020,  Mayurbhanj has become the first district ever to get an international license to export Sabai crafts directly.

Worth mentioning that lately 22 types of Sabai grass products have been exported to Florida by the Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS).

There are further plans of these products to be exported to America, Britain and other developed countries as per demands.

It is noteworthy that the Odisha government has granted funds worth 10 lakh each to 5 production groups to make sabai crafts so that they can be exported in near future.

Many of these products have already made to Amazon thereby open to larger customer base. You can check them out below :

If someone is interested in bulk purchase. Please contact https://www.greencraftindia.co.in/. This exporter is from Baripada only thereby surely authentic.

Local folklore on origin of Sabai grass

While researching on this topic, I came across a very interesting story of six bothers and their sister which tells about the origin of Sabai grasses. Its a local folktale forgotten by modern generations.

It is said that once upon a time there were 6 brothers used to live with their sister near to a forest. Everyday brothers used to go to forest for gathering woods and hunt some animals. And sister used to stay at home and cook for their brothers.

One day when brothers were gone, and sister was getting ready to cook – while chopping the vegetables she mistakenly cut her finger. Few drops of the blood from her finger got mixed with the veggies which she cooked unknowingly.

Late in night when her brothers came, she served them the dinner. Brothers noticed that the food was tasting great that day. It was sweet and very yummy. They asked about it their sister and the scared sister told the truth. That night, the brothers had a discussion that if few drops of blood made the food so tasty how good her meat would be ? With this devilish thought they hatched a plan to murder and eat her.

However the youngest brother “Lita” wasn’t happy about this. He tried to oppose but everything went into vain.

As par the plan, next day brothers brought a very beautiful flower for their sister. It had seven petals having seven different colors. This was the first time when she was witnessing something like that. She got mesmerized by the beauty of the flower and asked her brothers if she could have more. Brothers said – it grows on a tree inside deep forest and next day she could come with them and pluck all the flowers what she needs. Happy with this thought, sister went early to bed to get ready for forest the next day.

Next day, she gladly went with her brothers to the forest and they took her to the tree with that flower. She climbed the tree to pickup the flower, and when she was up in the tree , they started firing arrows on her to kill her. Unfortunately “Lita” was the best hunter their group and they forced Lita to aim for her and kill her, which he did.

When the body fell down, they asked Lita to take it to the pond and clean and cut it into pieces to make it ready to cook. With heavy heart, he took her sister’s body the nearby pond. He was so much filled with sorrow that he sat down near the pond and started weeping. Suddenly a large frog from the pond, shown up and asked Lita – “whats the matter ? ” . And Lita told him all the story – how he was made to kill her sister and how his brothers are getting ready to eat her. Listening to this, that frog Lita a large Rohu fish, which he cut to pieces and wrapped around Sal leaves.

After hiding his sister’s body in nearby bushes, he took the wrapped Rohu fish pieces to his brothers which they cooked and ate. Later they returned to their home. While returning back suddenly Lita told that he has forgotten to pickup his hunting bow which he had kept near the pond. So he needs to go back to get it. Saying so – he went back to the forest and his brothers returned to home.

Lita went to place where he had hidden his sister’s body. He cleaned it up and buried it but decided never to return back home. He built a small hut near the grave and wept on it for days. Suddenly one day, Lita saw that her sister came back alive. Lita was overjoyed and they lived happily in the forest for some time.

One day, a Raja came for hunting in the forest. On passing near the hut he saw the girl and fell in love with her. He decided to marry her and make her queen.

In honor of marriage, Raja decided to build a huge water tank and people came from far to work there. Among all came her five brothers, who had fallen into great poverty. Destiny never forgive those, whose deeds are wicked. On realizing its her brothers, looking at their poverty the sister forgave them.

However they were so ashamed of their deeds that they could only kneel, touching their head on the ground. As they continued to do so, the Earth splattered and swallowed them up. Only their hairs stuck upon the ground, which became “Sabai grass”.

That’s all folks. Tell me in the comment section if you liked the story.

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Mayurbhanj and its famous Red Ants

Mayurbhanj is famous for its dense forests and tribes. Large part of this district is influenced by traditional food and culture. The native tribes play a vital role in cultural aspect of the society. Where the access to technology is seldom, natives still manage to find solution to their problem through their indigenous resources and methods.

A red ant also called as “fire ant”

Out of all the natural goods, recently, red ants chutney of Mayurbhanj got an international attention when an Engineer claimed that it is a cure for covid’19. Read more about his claim below:

An article published in HH Asia

Though I am neither accepting nor debunking their claim, but I came across a nice research on “Traditional Value of Red Weaver Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) as Food and Medicine in Mayurbhanj District of Odisha, India” published in IJRASET (International Journal for Research in Applied Science & Engineering Technology) in their May 2020 Volume 8 Issue V. This research is done by North Orissa University. I am going to share about their findings here.

How & where red ants are found ?

The most preferable plant of the red weaver ant is mango tree besides that they also build their nest in other plants like Sal tree, Kusuma tree, Kendu tree, Sapeta tree and sometimes found on the rock surface in the hilly areas covered with dense forest. The rich flora of Mayurbhanj provides a natural habitat for these ants. The nests of these ants look like small pouches made of leaves.

Pouch of leaves – nest of red ants

Traditional Usages

The native tribes living in the vicinity of the forests have made these ants part of their culture. They are dependent on these ants or their products directly or indirectly from centuries. There are different areas in which Red ants influence them like –

In Diet :

Often called as “Kaii” or “Kurkuti” in the local language, people consume these ants and their eggs in form of chutney. They consider these as very nutritious. Except the adult form of ant (Ant with wings), all other forms are good for this recipe.
Ingredients of red ant chutney : Crushed and mixed with different local herbs like fresh coriander leaves, green chili, ginger, garlic and a bit of salt and sugar – thick orange colored chutney is prepared.
The report says – “The tribal communities of Rairangpur (DU: 83.54%), Baripada (DU: 80.19%), Betanati (DU: 74.12%), Udala (DU: 81.2%), Karanjia (DU: 81.68%) and Similipal periphery (DU: 63.78%) are most preferably using this in their day-to-day life”.

red ants chutney
Red ant chutney

This recipe made it to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s menu, thereby getting an international recognition.

Gordon Ramsay in India – Trying red ant chutney

In Medicines :

The red ants are very useful in different types of diseases.

For example – In common cold, it is used as medicine with a small dose. The whole body of this ant, with the eggs was crushed and makes aqueous form, mixed with required amount of special green chili (Dhanua Lanka) and spoon fed to patient.

The report says – “In Betanati and Rairangpur area the smell of crushed freshly collected red weaver ant is inhaled for several times in a day and remarkable result is obtained within 2-3 days.

The crude extract of this ant also used as an acidizing agent for enteric gas problem.

In vomiting, the brood content is crushed to obtained aqueous extract and then the juice will be given to the patient. It has seen that the vomiting will stop within 5-7 hours.

In case of Whooping cough, the aqueous extract of whole body of worker ants and the juveniles are used and the patient will cure within 2 to 3 days.

It is also useful for Jaundice; the aqueous extract of whole body along with the eggs is used. The aqueous extract is given to take orally to the patient and the extract is smoothly rubbed on the skin to avoid the yellowish color, effective result is found within 1 to 2 weeks.

Particularly in Rairangpur area the jaundice patient can put about 100 and more ants over the skin surface, the vigorous biting of this red weaver ants can cure him. Besides that, it is also used as appetizer to make a person feeling hungry within 15 to 20 minutes.

In Economy :

red ants chutney in flea market
Red ant chutney in a flea market

Ants and its eggs are either sold directly in the market or in the chutney form. Local flea markets like Station-Bazar market of Baripada is often flooded with these on flea bazaar day (Thursday).

Sold for 10rs a packet (approx. 100 gm), these provide an essential support to the natives and their family.

Generally, the harvesting rate goes high because of high demand during winter seasons.

Research on red ants

Data Collection:

Entomological investigation was conducted in selected village arears of Mayurbhanj district located in northern part of Odisha, India. The documentation of traditional entomological practice of red weaver ant were obtained through structured questionnaire survey, local interviews and field studies in Mayurbhanj district during 2017 to 2018.


Field survey the Mayurbhanj district were done in six selected zones. The selected sites were:

  1. Rairangpur which is full of hilly areas located at north direction
  2. Baripada a centre place of Mayurbhanj district located at the north-east region of the district represents the Baripada town and nearby urban areas
  3. Betnoti is one of the most populated area of tribes with a population of 1, 50, 434
  4. Udala  located on south-east direction with most of the ethnic tribal communities having knowledge on plants and animals
  5. Karanjia  is the hilly area located in west direction
  6. Similipal periphery villages is rich in forest and village areas.

Conclusion of the research

The study concluded that consumption of red weaver ant species is remained unchanged over the years among the tribe but the information regarding why it should be consumed are lacking day by day. The prevalence of entomophagy practice of this red weaver ant species is still clearly remarkable among the tribes of Mayurbhanj district, but many practices and importance of use of this red weaver ant among these tribes need furthermore documentation in a wide area. Besides the red weaver ant, these tribes also utilize a wide range of biological resources in diverse ways. So furthermore, insects to be investigated and popularized, which will make efforts to deal with food crises and generation of new medicines in forth coming days. Further systematic scientific exploration on nutritional and medicinal values of this insect and its impacts on human health must be investigated. It has become mandatory to undertake research on traditional rearing, cultivation, sustainable management, while practicing on edible insects to maintain an integrity in insect biodiversity.

If you are hungry for more details, do checkout their research paper ( link given at the source ) and subscribe to our newsletter for free. And please comment if you liked this article. Your support encourages us to do more research and bring articles like this.

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Mudhi Mansa – Identity of Mayurbhanj


Mudhi Mansa

Mudhi Mansa is not just a food but an emotion of the Mayurbhanj people. Mixed with mutton gravy, and served with onion, green chilly and fresh coriander, Mudhi reaches to its zenith of taste. Only imagination of the food itself brings water to the mouth of people.

Mudhi – also known as Murmura or Bhel in some places and termed as “puffed rice” in English. It is the traditional food of Mayurbhanj. The home made mudhi of this region especially Baripada is very famous all over India. Though Murmura is seen and consumed as a snack in the other region of India, for Mayurbhanjias this is a staple food.

Only the curry in the plate is changed based on whether it is consumed as breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Blend it with some namkeen mixtures, onion, a bit of chilli and lemon – and it becomes jhal mudhi ( a very famous street food in West Bengal ) and ready to be consumed as evening snack too.

In modern homes murmura is not prepared now a days. But in villages it is still made/cooked and stored in very large containers.

Learn how to make murmura at home : https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/how-to-make-murmura-puffed-rice-from-plain-rice-2265921

Baripada Mudhi

Mutton gravy – the mutton itself is very famous and loved by everyone here, but they are picky with their taste. It is said that the mountain goats which are bred on Sal leaves and grasses only – have the best meat. For the mutton gravy, the local onions are used which are sweeter and more aromatic compared to other onions which are common in market. The blend of different spices like Cinnamon, Cloves, GG paste with mustard oil gives it a different taste altogether.

In recent years Mudhi Mansa has gone outside of Odisha and has attracted many food bloggers and outsiders too. I think most of the credit behind it goes to ‘Garma Garam’ restaurant in Baripada which is probably one of the oldest restaurant of the town. It is over 35 years old and with time it has modernised itself with modern facilities and cooking styles, without compromising the taste of food. The thali served by Garma garam restaurant has a special chatni accompanied with it. This chatni is hand prepared with Curd base and Greenchilli with sweet mango achar with it.

When I was there, I loved it the most but not able to figure out the base on which it was made of. Later when I talked to restaurant owner and showed my curiosity, he revealed it.

Checkout a vlog from Rohit, where he covered lot of foods of Baripada while he was here.

A vlog by Rohit Srivastava on Mudhi Mansa. Please checkout their channel and subscribe.

Other than famous masha mudhi plate – do try the liver thali and last but not the least my favourite Mutton tadka with roti – where they cook tadka and mutton separately and mix it to serve you. Do try that once.

Mutton tadka with roti at Garma Garam

Chhau Nritya & The Chaitra Parva

Although it is unknown how the word Chhau came to existence. Some say sanskrit word “chaya” ( means stealth or shadow ), is the mother of this word – some say it was “chadma” (disguise).

Equipped with many forms of dances and telling various stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata to traditional folk stories, this dance form has made a mark in the history and present of the world. Mentioned in UNESCO’s List of “Intangible Cultural Heritage“, this dance has already established itself as one the most important gem in the treasures of art & culture of humanity.

Types of Chhau

Although there are 3 types of Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau is different from its siblings (SeraiKella and Purulia Chhau). Unlike other forms of Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau dancers do not wear a mask, thereby exposing their vigor to the audience. Also it can be easily noted that this form has much more advanced movements and chiseled vocabulary, making it more frightening at the same time “captivating” to watch.

Chhau nritya
A still from 2017 Chhau Dance

In the early years, Chhau was completely martial and used to show different form of War. In fact – Maharaja Shriram Chandra and Pratap Chandra Bhanjdeo, the builders of modern Orissa composed the famous “War-Dance” and presented it in 1912 at Kolkata in honor of George V – the British emperor, who got amazed by the beauty and splendor of Mayurbhanj Chhau and appreciated it. Presses and elites also showed their love and it became famous.

The stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata were adopted later to the original form which till then used to cover mostly local folklores. The music accompanying the dance has its own style which invigorates the soul.

Some of the dance numbers are Kirat-Arjun, Makhanchor, Keuta-Keutuni, Abhimanyu Badh, Natraj, Mayashabar etc.

Chaitra Parva

Chaitra Parva is a chhau dance festival observed annually by Chhau Nrutya Pratisthan, Mayurbhanj at Chhau Padia, Baripada. It’s a 3-day festival starting from 11th April to 13th April every year.

There are two main association of dancers participate in this festival namely Uttarsahi Sahi and Dakhsin Sahi.

Shiva & Shakti

Apart from these 2 groups, different selected rural dance group (around 15-20 dance group) across the district also participate in this event. 1st-day rural dance groups dances, later other groups performed dance day by day on 12th and 13th April.

Chaitra Parva is not just a festival. It is an emotional bond as it focuses on the artistic culture of Chhau dance. The dance form is acclaimed for its composition of various elements which have enriched the tradition of Mayurbhanj. This dance form follows the basic principles of Natya Sastra or Bharat Muni and Abhinaya Darpna. Organized by the two associations and Chhau lovers, the festival also aims at promoting tourism and tribal art and dance forms. The festival is dedicated to Shiva and Shakti.

Project Chhauni

In the year 2016, the District Administration Mayurbhanj headed by Sri Rajesh Prabhakar Patil (IAS), Collector, Mayurbhanj considered to initiate a movement to reestablish the lost glory of Mayurbhanj Chhau, bring it back to its pinnacle performing stage and provide the artistes their proper due, so that Mayurbhanj Chhau will not go
into extinction in its own land and the people involved in it will regain their interest to take up this art form professionally.
Coincidentally, A workshop presentation in the same line was delivered by a Mayurbhanj Chhau Artiste Subhasree Mukherjee, on the eve of Chaitra Parba, 2016, the annual Chhau festival of Mayurbhanj. And simultaneously a project was developed by
her named “Project Chhauni” for the development of the art and artistes of Mayurbhanj Chhau.
Project Chhauni was launched on 19th May 2016, at DRDA Conference Hall Baripada

Because of efforts of Project Chhauni, Chhau dance has got international attention and many dancers from outside India, continue to come and learn it. Many notable modern dances where aggressive movements are needed, are often inspired by various form of this dance.

A leading professional female dancer of the tradition today, Carolina Prada performed in the famed Uttar Sahi Chhau troupe of Mayurbhyanj in the 135-year-old prestigious Chaitra Parva hosted in Baripada.

Stills from Chaitra Parva 2021

Picture credits : Bijendra Kumar Giri via UNFORGETTABLE BARIPADA

Baruneswar – Historic Shiva Temple

Baruni Shiva mandir is the one of the major temples in Baripada, Mayurbhanj. Established in 19th century, this temple is a major attraction on Maha Shiva Ratri. The temple is standing on the bank of water stream “Jarali Sarali”, which later meets with main river of town “Budha Balanga”. Town’s major burial ground ( Shamshaan ghat ) is also nearby. Again a very famous Kali temple called as Baruni Kali Mandir is also in the close vicinity of it.

Because of its remote location, this place is feels equally fulfilling and void at a same time.

Architecture & Design

This temple is a punchmukhi mandir that means it has 5 domes. There is fresh water pool which is built like leaf of peepal. Whole temple has many sculptures of animals and birds like lion, pigeon, snake, elephant etc.

5 Domes can’t be seen from any side directly. But it is said that at a certain angle from south it can be viewed.

Timings to visit

Pooja is done only in the mornings. Good time to visit here is 8 – 11 AM. However on Mondays or special pooja days, priests would be available till approximately 2 PM. On very special days of Shiva like Mahashivaratri, it remained open for the entire night.

However if you just want to visit the temple’s vicinity only then you can go anytime during day.


There are no shops in the vicinity of the temple. But sometimes, you can find some “Rehdi wala” selling coconuts, bananas and diyas.

Vegetation & Flora

The temple vicinity is full of many plants and trees. Few of them are for decorations and flowers but other few hold specific importance. The presence of Rudrakshya tree makes it more serene. If you are lucky enough you will find a rudrakshya laying around in the vicinity of tree.

History & Lore

The temple is almost 200 years old and was built by “Dharma Chandra Bhanj Deo“. However the Shiva Lingum was already here, which only maharajas used to worship before going for war.

Before the establishment of the temple, this place was a marshy land where normal people used to avoid going. Story says that once raja Dharma Chandra Bhanj Deo who was brother of then crowned king , was had come to this place on his elephant. Suddenly elephant’s leg got stuck in the marshy land and was not able to move. Being a devotee of Shiva, Dharma Chandra Bhanj Deo, felt strong presence of godly power here.

After trying for long and failing many times, he called for more men to help. Dharma Chandra vowed to build a temple there for God Shiva if he gets a son and miraculously his elephant was able to move out after that. This reinforced his faith of Shiva.

Then came the day when the work related to temple begun. But soon they had to halt the work because of marshy land. It was a difficult engineering problem to solve. The masonries were not able to hold the structure, and entire structure was getting collapsed.

On clearing some more mud, a secondary source of water was discovered, which was continuously flowing with fresh water. Being surprised and horrified at the same time, a separate small pool was built around it.

To hold the mud flow, a huge copper plate was imported from Myanmar and placed. The entire structure was then built over that plate. It is said that temperature of the floor of the temple feels way cooler than the scorching outside temperature because of this plate and the land beneath the plate is still marshy.

How to reach ?

Address : Prafulla Nagar, Sunamuhin, Near Baruni Shamshan, Baripada, Odisha 757001

To reach here you will have to reach Baripada. People coming from outside need to reach Mayurbhanj first. Please check “How to to reach ?” page for more details.

A glimpse of Mahasivaratri 2021


Interesting Event ! During the flood of 2015, the entire area was submerged in water. But the natural fresh water pool about which I talked to you above didn’t get contaminated at all. The continuous stream of fresh water didn’t allow mud water to come in. Note how the pool’s water is still blue.

Activity : Find the tree …

There is a tree in the vicinity where maharaja “Prafulla Chandra Bhanj Deo” used to do his sadhna. Try to find that tree when you visit here. Let me know in the comments if were able to do that.