In Search of the Forgotten Fort- Sisupalgarh

Orissa! Odisha! Bhubaneswar! Kalinga! No matter by which name you call the city, all names flash a vivid image of a land steeped in heritage and culture; a land that has played pivotal roles in Indian History;  a land which was the focal point of a battle, which mentally coerced a King to accept the path of Buddhism. Bhubaneswar, ‘The Temple City’ is one of the oldest cities of India and around 8 km from the main city lies the ruins of the once flourishing kingdom of Sisupalgarh.

Scouting for the ruins

It was during my first trip to Bhubaneswar (work not leisure!) that I could visit Sisupalgarh with a colleague and popular travel blogger Indian Vagabond. Just the brief of the place housing ruins of an old kingdom got me interested to visit it. Honestly, at first sight any visitor would be disappointed with a place surrounded by thick foliage, in the middle of nowhere and what seems like a place for merrymaking! The encroachment of modern houses within the land has almost made it impossible to locate the ancient ruins and its structures. But, after scouting the area and asking people, Google Maps, (and a dog!) the ancient ruins were located.

This is where we should rewind to find out about the place which stands so neglected and decadent today!

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The path towards Sisupalgarh
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Once a mighty kingdom . . . . .

Going back in Time

Sisupalgarh is nationally protected under the Archaeological Survey of India. Several excavations have taken place within the space which helped trace its plausible history. In 1948, Archaeologist B.B Lal analyzed that the defensive fort existed around 4th-3rd Century BCE. The most recent excavations by M.L Smith and Prof RK Mohanty date it from 5th Century BCE to well past 4th Century BCE. Apart from excavations, the kingdom might have a reference in the inscriptions of the Hathigumpha Caves in Udaygiri which mentions a certain Kalinganagri; and The Asokan edicts which refer to certain Tosali. It can thus be concluded that Sisupalgarh was a flourishing kingdom even prior to the establishment of the Mauryan Empire.

Maybe Harappa wasn’t the only one. . . .

A must-have chapter in all history books is that of the Harappan Civilisation. But the more I find out about this ancient fortress, the more I realize how much India has to offer to its people outside the pages of the books.

From the multiple excavations conducted in and around the area, several conclusions were drawn. The fortified area was a perfect square surrounded by a defensive water moat complete with earthen and brick walls built a few centuries later. It is suggested that the population would have been around 20000-30000 – more than that of Athens! Further, since temporary settlements were discovered near the gates of the fortress, it could have been that traders and businessmen who were not allowed inside the fortress built themselves a temporary shelter. Due to the lack of disastrous natural/man-made calamity, it has been analyzed that the inhabitants chose to migrate towards ‘The Temple City’; however, the exact reason for the shift is yet not known.

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Counting the steps of time
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Tales hidden under the foliage
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The fields leading to India’s Stonehenge?

Wanderings of the Mind

India is a country rich in history. With the help of analytical minds and technology, the past can be discovered and analyzed. However, these are the only recreation of the past and cannot be predicted to be one hundred percent accurate. In fact, I hope in days to come more would be unearthed about the fort and it would be given its righteous place in the pages of history.

Behind the Scenes

Sisupalgarh is located in the Khurda district on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. It is well connected by Uber and even local transport. Ideally, it is best to visit during the winter as the scorching sun would not peel your skin away. It is always advisable to wear lots of sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes, if possible sneakers, for you might have to do some scouting for the place. The stone pillar of the fort can be reached after meandering your path through a water-filled rice field (Beware of Snakes!). It is suggested you look where you are going because the area is damp, swampy and wet (and no one wants to fall and break some bones right!)

Sisupalgarh is definitely an offbeat place to visit. If you have a knack for heritage and history then this is the place for you to be. For me, this was my first and only sightseeing in the city of Bhubaneswar. I hope to go back soon someday and visit all the places I have missed out on.

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Only time will tell. . . . the stories those pillars hide

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