Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

In a bid to protect the ancient sites from vibration stress from vehicular movement and pollution, the road between Khandagiri and Udaygiri hills in bhubaneswar has been sealed. The road will only be open for use by pedestrians.

Boom barriers have now been put up on the approach road towards the cave from Khandagiri square and the road towards Jaydev Vatika. The decision has been welcomed by many quarters.

However, a question mark has been raised over the intention of the Odisha government in ensuring the safety and security of the ancient heritage sites as the implementation of the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) direction to seal the road was delayed for around seven years.

A number of caves were carved by the then King of Kalinga Kharavela for Jain hermits around 2,100 years back. At least 33 caves are still found in both Khandagiri and Udaygiri hills. However, the ancient heritage sites were under threat due to the pollution and vibrations due to constant vehicular movements along the road between both the hills. 

The intricate carvings and beauty of both hills were getting damaged and losing their sheen in the process. The stones in the caves were getting damaged due to severe vibration and pollution. Moreover, several accidents were also reported on the road.

Though ASI had directed for the closure of the road in 2015, it was not carried out then. 

“The decision will help us curb CO2 emission from vehicles and vibration stress to some extent. It’s good for the safety and security of the monuments,” said ASI Conservation Assistant Manas Kumar Sahu.

“It’s better late than never. The decision is wholeheartedly welcome. It will go a long way in the safety, security and conservation of the ancient monuments,” said archeologist Dr Jeeban Kumar Patnaik.

Hundreds of visitors come to Khandagiri and Udaygiri every day. Following the closure of the road, they can park their vehicles at ASI parking place. The local people can commute along the ring road around both hills. A Plan is afoot to provide battery-operated vehicles for visitors soon.

However, local vendors and auto drivers have expressed their resentment over the decision.

“There was only rush along the road during festival times or special occasions. Hence, the closure of the road was not required,” said Abhay Kumar Sahu, an auto driver.

(Reported by Bibartan Panda)