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Pradeep Pattanayak

Cuttack, a city with over thousand years history, is aptly called the Millennium City. Being an ancient city, the buildings and monuments dating back to hundreds of years have so closely interwoven with its history that they have become inseparable parts of its identity.  

The historic Barabati Fort ringed by a moat (Gadakhai in Odia language) is one such historic structure. The irony is that the Fort’s moat is crying for attention. It is in urgent need of restoration. 

The erstwhile Barabati village used to be the capital of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. In order to protect his capital from enemies; king Anangabhimadeva had constructed the fortress on the banks of Mahanadi river in the 13th century. A moat surrounding the citadel was dug up which acted as a shield.  Crocodiles and poisonous snakes were released in the moat to reinforce the Fort’s first life on defence by keeping the enemy at bay. 

The Fort had fallen on several occasions, but only after tough battles; with the Mughals, Marathas and finally the British. A witness to several battles, the ramparts still stand as a proud brave soldier with head high. 

A mute spectator to the glorious past, the Fort’s moat is now struggling for its own safety. Due to lack of proper maintenance, it is in a pathetic condition.  Intellectuals of the Millennium City termed the inertia of the district administration as the biggest enemy of the Fort. 

“Tourists visiting the Millennium City include the Barabati Fort in their itinerary. After doing rounds of the Fort and the moat, they are feeling sorry for the moat being left uncared for. But for the moat’s present pathetic condition, the Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are passing blame on each other,” said Dr Rabiranjan Sahu, an intellectual. 

He said ten years have passed since the conservation authorities are passing buck to on one another.  “It’s time the government should intervene and take steps for its renovation and restoration,” Sahu opined. 

Few social organisations and intellectuals are continuing the fight to save the moat. They alleged that they took up the issue with the ASI on several occasions but to no avail. They have even knocked the doors of the Human Rights Commission. Now they have demanded immediate government intervention for the preservation of the heritage structure. 

“The historical Gadakhai is in a neglected state. If the ASI had shown even slightest of interest to preserve it, it would have certainly added more glory to the Millennium City,” observed Saroj Kumar Sahu, a social worker. 

Investigation reveals that the CMC has already deposited Rs 8 crore with the ASI to carry out the restoration works to protect the frontal of the Fort and the wall of the moat in the backside. 
CMC Commissioner Ananya Das squarely blamed the ASI and its way of executing works for the neglect. 

“We have already deposited money with the ASI to carry out the required restoration works on the east side of the Fort. And for the left side, we have already written to the ASI and they are making an estimate. So, the front side of the Fort will undergo a facelift,” informed Das. 

Regarding the inordinate delay, Das said that the ASI follows a fixed and labyrinth process to carry out any restoration work on heritage structures. “They carry out construction works only after a team from Delhi visits the site and give them a go ahead. However, we have asked them to expedite the process,” she said. 

It is to be seen how long the moat will wait to get a new lease of life.

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