27th of October 1996 was supposed to be an exiting day when India and Australia meet head to head for a one day international Ciricket tournamet in Cuttack (Odisha). The Cricket match was supposed to take place at Barabati Stadium but the non stop rain had played a spoil sport and the match was called off without a single ball being bowled. During the mid 90’s Cricket in India was it its hights and any Cricket tournament featuring India would bring the entire nation to a stand still. Since T20 had not yet been started thus the number of Cricket matched featuing team India were limited and very popular.
All these years I kept thinking Barabati was some peorson in whose name the stadium had been named. Coming back to present times when I was touring Cuttack as a part of Odisha Cultural and Heritage Tour organised by Times Passion Trails in association with Odisha Tourism I was surprised when the driver informed us that after visiting the Maritime Museum we were going next to Barabati. For a moment I was thinking why on earth are we being taken to a Cricket stadium? I assumed that they must have recently renivated the stadium and wanted us to see it.
As the car approached the statium which can be seen from a distance I could see a Laterite stone wall. It did not look that new yet it was nothing more than a wall and an extreme narrow entrance. At one moment I though our car would get stuck in that narrow entrance.
We had reached “Barabati”, it was right next to the famous Cricket stadium but wehere we had arrived was once the legendary “Barabati Fort”. But where is the fort? I tried looking around but could only see the information plate of Archelogical Survey of India mentioning this as a protected monumnet.
The fort was once there and only few remaining blocks of Laterite stone stand testimony of the grand past. This place was such popular that it even finds a place in Ain-i-Akbari writen by Abu’l Fazl where he mentions this fort as a nine storied asiana (palace).
Extracts from Ain-i-Akbari About Barabati Fort
The city has a stone fort situated at the bifurcation of the two rivers, the Mahanadi, held in high veneration by the Hindus, and the Katajuri. It is the residence of the governor and contains some fine buildings. For five or six kos round the fort during the rains the country is under water. Raja Mukund Deo built a palace here nine stories in height.
The first story was taken up for the elephants and the stables.
The second was occupied by the artillery, the guards and quarters for attendants.
The third by the patrol and gatekeepers.
The fourth by the workshops.
The fifth by the kitchen.
The sixth contained the public reception rooms.
The seventh private apartments.
The eighth the women’s apartment.
The ninth the sleeping chambers of the governor.
To the south is a very ancient temple (Lingaraj Temple). Overlooking thus, in the city if Purushottama (Puri) on the seashore stands the shrine of Jagannath.
By the word “nine”, we must not mix up with modern nine-storied apartment but rather this fort had nine sections and each of these sections were for different groups as mentioned above.
History of Barabati Fort
Rule of Ganga dynasty over Utkal started by the defeat of the Somavamshi Dynasty under Karnakeshari. He was defeated by Chodagangadeb around 1118 – 1134 A.D.
Anangabhimadev III (121 1-1238 A.D.) who was another ruler of Ganga Dynasty decided to build a new city at Barabati (Baranasi Katak).
Ganga Dynasty lasted until 1434 followed by Suryavamsi Gajapatis until 1540.
Bhoi Dynasty ruled this place after this until 1560.
King Mukundadeva (1560 – 68) of Chalukya Dynasty mainly constructed the nine section modern fort.
In the year 1568 Afghan army under Sulaiman Karrani took control over this region due to long-term instability within the kingdom with a new king every now and then.
In 1592 Mughal rule under General Raja Man Singh who was the trusted general of Akbar started the new era of Mughal rule in this region.
1751 saw the dominance of Maratha rule under Raghoji Bhonsle.
The British forces under East India Company took over the fort from Marathas on 14 September 1803.
As per records, the British wanted no sign of the regional rulers thus started breaking down the once glorious fort. It was stripped of its stone and wood. The stones were broken down to create other building and for the construction of roads. Slowly the fort was nowhere to be seen and only the moat around the fort remained with few pieces of unrecognizable structure scattered around the fort complex.
What Remains of Barabati fort Now?
Nothing that can anyway say that here once stood a magnificent citadel. The fort covered around 102 acres of land. Only a gate made of laterite stone and a huge mound at the centre mode of khondalite stone, laterite stone and coarse sandstone. If you take the stairs, you will reach the top of the mound, which has a square stone base. Up ahead on the eastern corner you will see stone pillar like structures. There are thirty-two pillars visible.
During the initial excavation process various objects such as seated Goddess Gandharva, lamp fragment, balls and pot fragments of stone; sling balls, fragments of animal figurines of terracotta and axe and a stylus made of iron. The pottery finds comprised storage jars, spouted vessels, lamp, pot stands, knobbed lids, miniature pots, dishes and bowls, the final portion of a hookah and pieces of Chinese porcelain etc.
The only visible structure is the Sahi Quila Mosque (Fateh Khan Mosque) built around second half of 16th century after the fort was taken over by the Muslim rulers of this region. This mosque is also referred as the Paltan Mosque as it might have been mostly used by the soldiers stationed at the fort. As per some historians Fateh Khan was a military general responsible for protecting the fort.
There also used to a temple inside the fort complex and excavations have been able to find the foundation on the North-Eastern side of the fort complex.
Other Blogs on Odisha
Location of Barabati Fort
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References on Barabati Fort
Ain-i-akbari Of Abul Fazl I Allami Vol. 2
States of Our Union: Orissa by Shreeram Chandra Dash
Aspects of Socio Cultural Life in Orissa under the Mughal by Mohamed Nasr
Orissa Review Sep – Oct 2005