26-Jan-2009 -- The overnight inter city express from Bhubaneswar reached Bargarh at 2 a.m. in the dead of the night. We had left home at 7 p.m. in the evening, hoping to dine in the train. After boarding we realised that Indian Railways did not have any catering services on board, and I and Kashi had to sleep hungry as the train hardly had any stops. The few wayside stations were nondescript, and no eatables were available. We slept hungry, and reached Bargarh at 2 a.m. Surprisingly there was a coffee vendor at the railway station, and the hot coffee and biscuits were a godsend.
Bargarh is a small one horse town, which is also the headquarters of its namesake district. A short rickshaw ride to the hotel in the chill winter night was invigorating. It took us a good ten minutes to wake up the hotel’s night clerk, who grudgingly got up and handed us the keys of very decent room.
Early next morning we hired a Van to take us to Palsada. It was too early for breakfast, and we decided that we would stop somewhere midway. The taxi driver was initially a little hesitant as we couldn't tell him where we actually wanted to go. Further consultation with our map told us that the town of Padmapur seemed to be closest. We drove out of town and the first impression we got was that this part of Western Orissa was mostly truck-repair garages and roadside tea stalls.
It was the 26th of January, the Republic Day of India, and we saw many celebrations on the way. All the Schools and government buildings had the national tricolor flying proudly from flag posts. Even the trucks and buses that plied on the dusty road had the pennant affixed to their hoods. School children, in their crisp National Cadet Corps uniforms were everywhere. Just after Bargarh, we stopped at a small school where the National Anthem was being played and the children all stood at attention. The road was potholed and dusty, and the small wheeled Maruti van was a wrong choice for such a road. Palsada was a good 80 Kms away from Bargarh and we made slow progress. The road was narrow and weaved its way across the freshly mowed fields.
In a few places the fresh crop was being sown in the flooded fields. There was an abundance of tractors which rumbled and rattled, raising a lot of dust. This area of Western Orissa was prosperous and the farmers well off. The prosperity could be distinctly noticed all around. There were hardly any thatched huts; most of the houses were brick and concrete.
As the Republic Day was a National Holiday, we found no decent eatery on the way. Once again it was biscuits and tea at the wayside bus stops.
We crossed Patrapalli, Sohella and reached Ghess where we stopped and took advice for what route to follow. We were looking for alternative roads which would be better. We kept driving south until we reached Padmapur. We encountered a big crowd near the District Jail which was just beside the road. At first thought we were sure that there had been a Jail break, but on stopping and enquiring we came to know that a few prisoners were getting remissions on their sentences and being released on the Republic Day. Their near and dear ones had come to receive them.
We were confident that this CP would be an easy one, as this part of Orissa consists of flat, unobstructed land. The CP would theoretically be approachable even if we had to walk a bit.
There were big mango trees on both side of the road, all in full bloom, so much so, it was hard to see any leaves at all. Mango trees bloom and bear fruits from January to July. The flowers are tiny, yellowish pink and grow in dense pyramidal clusters. When in bloom, the mango tree can look quite spectacular. We stopped under a huge tree by the roadside, the air was filled with a delightful heavy fragrance.
About six kilometers after Padmapur, we followed the Garmin Navigator and took a right turn . The Nav steadily pointed straight ahead, until we reached a small village crossroad. We took the left turn and went ahead for about three kilometers, but the swing of the Nav indicated that the CP lay 2 kms west.
We had reached a small village, and a few of the folk were having an early afternoon siesta under a huge banyan tree. I thought it would be better to take instructions rather then go on a wild goose chase, as the Van was not the correct vehicle for the village road.
I got my lap top and showed the assembled villagers the Google earth scan of the area. The two big water tanks which were clearly visible were good pointers and we were soon told that the place was Bijadihi village and the tank was the Kantabandha Tank adjoining the Nageswar Mahadeo Temple.
We were given explicit instructions of the waypoints, but as an added measure they sent one of the village boys along with us, on the assurance that we would drop him back.
It was only a ten minutes bumpy ride and we reached the Temple that lay on the outskirts of the village. We parked at the temple and got down to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva. It was a small temple with a lot of murals painted on the inner and outer walls. I interestingly found one of Ardhanariswera, the God who is half woman. In Hindu Mythology, Ardhanariswera, also known as Umamaheshwara, is one of the principal forms of Lord Shiva. This deity is the manifested male-female figure of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati and signifies the inseparability of male and female aspects. In this manifested form, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are regarded as the parents of the
The term 'Ardhanariswera' is a combination of three words- 'ardha', 'nari' and 'ishvara', meaning respectively, 'half', 'woman' and 'Lord' or 'God', that is, Ardhanariswera is the Lord whose half is woman, or who is half woman. Some scholars interpret the term as meaning 'the half male' who is Shiva and 'the half female' who is Parvati. This iconography is rare, and the depiction on the temple was very intricate and beautiful.
After getting the Lord’s blessings, we ventured towards the village on foot and made our way among the huts. We were soon acquiring a good following. First it were a group of curious children, then the crowd gradually swelled and a goatherd who was tending about a dozen goats too joined the group, along with his goats. The village dogs, a few pigs and two stray oxen too followed, the dogs presuming that there must be a feast in the offing. I soon realised that there were around fifty people following us as we made our way into the fields behind the last huts of the village. The villagers where very much interested in our activity, which seemed to be a welcome change in their daily life and the crowd that accompanied our party grew larger and larger as we approached the confluence. For once, it felt like the Pied Pipers, with hordes of village-folk trailing behind us.
We trod on the raised pathways that ran around the dried rice fields. There were many cows nibbling at the dry tufts that remained after the rice had been harvested. Just beyond the fields, about two hundred metres from the last hut of the villager there was a big square tank with a high embankment built all around. There were many people on the bund, drying the clothes that they had washed. They too looked apprehensively at the approaching crowd, and by the time we reached the tank, there was quire a reception committee waiting for us.
Finally one of them screwed up his courage and timidly asked us the purpose of trespassing across the fields. I and Kasi debated if we could explain the real purpose, but decided that it would be too cumbersome. So we fell back on the explanation we had given to our van driver, who too had been very puzzled as we could not tell him where we intended to go. We had told him that we were from the Cellular Phone Company and were scouting for locations to erect the transmission towers. This is the explanation we gave to the villagers who oohed and ahead, though not all of them comprehended what we said. A few of the intelligent among the crowd nodded wisely and eased our task by explaining to the rest.
We tried to locate the area that had earlier been visited by David Coombs and asked for advice on the best path to take, however everyone wanted to know where we were going, and they seemed to have trouble understanding that we didn't know where we were going, just walking in a certain direction.
Kasi went on to perform one of the most incredulous Confluence dances we had ever engaged in. He was a type who liked playing to the galleries, having indulged in serious theatrics in his of village drama group. The big crowd was too much of a chance to miss. So, Garmin in hand he went left, right and centre, the children following him as one body. They were soon imitating him, holding imaginary GPS’s in their extended hands. It was a very funny sight, the rest of the group, from about ten meters distance, was matching his confluence dance step by step, moving back and forth as he moved back and forth, in search of the elusive zeroes! It was a comical sight and reminded me of the nursery rhyme that we used to enact at school.
Put your right foot in, put your right foot out
Put your right foot in
And shake it all about.
Do the boogie, woogie (Chorus repeat)
Put your left foot in, put your left foot out
Put your left foot in
And shake it all about.
Only here the shaking about was for the GPS. Kasi was having problems in getting the zeroes in place as the accuracy was varying between 5 to 8 metres. More so we had been influenced by the earlier visit and went looking for the CP in the fields. The earlier CP had been identified in the field but our bearings indicated it to be much closer to he water tank, in fact just on the base of the embankment. The GPS accuracy was just 6 metres, and I was sure of the correctness as I had synchronized my GPS with the one at the Air Traffic Control at Bhubaneswar Airport before embarking of the Confluence Orissa Mission.
Kasi, partly in his enthusiasm and more to get rid of the children following him, plunged neck deep into the water tank, holding the Garmin high above his head. This created quite a stir and many women who were bathing nearby thought it better to pack up and go home.
Eventually I persuaded Kashi to emerge from the water, and we took fresh bearings. I chose one authoritative looking gent from among the lot and gave him the responsibility to keep the crowds at bay. He was very happy to do the job, and soon got a mean looking bamboo stick which he waived about, yelling at the children and the dogs.
We soon the necessary zeroes in place. We went about the task of photographing but with a dozens of curious faces gawking at the lens, it was a real challenge. The CP was lay centered in a freshly harvested rice field. The exact point was a concrete electricity pole. The description form the point of the four cardinal directions is thus:
East of the CP was the mud road to the village. The road snaked around a few tall trees, and the earth had been compacted by the numerous villagers, cattle and the bullock carts . In fact we could have bought our van right up to the spot.
West of the CP was the embankment of the Tank. There were big tamarind trees scattered on the side of the embankment. There was a small concrete siphon, which diverted the surplus water from the tank to the fields, but today it was high and dry and the water level was pretty low.
North, behind the tall neem and banyan trees lay a cluster of mud huts of the villagers. It was a placid village scene, typical of rural Orissa. The deep green of the trees contrasted with the brown earth of the now uncultivated fields.
South of the CP too was the other embankment of the tank. The thick trees stooped low and their branches touched the water in the tank. There were a few hills in the distant, the only ones that we had noticed in our entire trip to the CP.
After taking the necessary documentation photos and many more with our onlookers, we packed up finally made our way back to the van, the crown still following us. We left behind the villagers, who are probably still guessing, what this strange visit was about.
The return journey too was uneventful, only it was bumpier and dustier. We were ravenously hungry, as we had not had a proper meal in the last twenty four hours. The sun was high, and the dust struck to our sweating bodies. We tried our luck at a few wayside eateries, but every body was on a holiday. We decided that we would go back to our hotel at Bargarh and have a proper meal and some rest.
We reached Bargarh at 3 O’clock. On a hunch, I told Kasi that we should go the Station first and enquire about the available train. The booking clerk at the counter told us that the fast train to Bhubaneswar was scheduled to reach the station within twenty minutes. All our plans for lunch (and Kasi’s for some cold beer) were shelved, and we rushed back to the hotel, settled our bill, and reached the station just as the train was entering the platform. We had just enough time to get the tickets and boarded the nearly empty compartments.
It was a day train, there were no berths, all the coaches were what were termed as “Chair Cars” by Indian railways, and even stretching out was not possible. By now our stomachs were rumbling, and it was tea and biscuits all over again. The two hour journey from Bargarh to Sambalpur was very pleasant. We passed the Hirakud Dam which is visible from the train. There is a big bridge over the rocky river bed which was bone dry, as the water in the reservoir was all dammed up for the summer season.
The train made a long stop at Sambalpur, where we had proper food at the Station Canteen. Before starting from Bhubaneswar, I had premonition that this was going to be a lackluster and dull CP visit, and my hunch came out true.
With this visit we had completed all the land based CP’s of the 21º Latitude. Bidiepur , at 87º was the eastern most, and a good seven kilometers off shore in the Bay of Bengal. Thirteen down, four more to go, and we would have completed all the confluences in Orissa.
CP visit details:
- Distance to a road: 1.25 km
- Distance to a track: 25 metres
- Distance to houses: 70 metres
- Duration: Ninety minutes from start until we were back to base.
- Time (distance) for the hike from Base: 50 minutes
- Time at the CP: 12.00 noon on 26th January 2009
- Measured height: 214 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 6 m
- Topography: the CP is situated in the dry fields that adjoin the village of Bijadihi.
- Vegetation: Big trees by the tank, dried scrub and freshly harvested rice fields.
- Weather: Hut and humid, 32 C (felt temperature)
- Description of the CP: Located on the edge of a harvested field.
- Given Name: The Mango Bloom Confluence
Rating of this hunt :
- Degree of Challenge:
1 – A short walk ( rather a cakewalk) at the end of a village.
(1: very easy drive to the point; to 5: a death march - glad it is
1 – A non descript village. The only high point was the curiosity we
aroused in the villagers. (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take
your breath away)
- Culture-social factors:
2– Met many people and made quite a few friends. The discovery of uncommon religious mural made it all the more interesting, (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating.)