BHUBANESWAR Before becoming the capital of Orissa in 1948, Bhubaneswar had been a temple town. As such it prospered and thrived, becoming an important Hindu cultural center. It has remained an important Hindu center, notwithstanding the influx of Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism—religions that found a home in Bhubaneswar at one time or another, with the changing dynasties of Kalinga (the ancient name of present-day Orissa). It is generally believed that the town probably developed around the Lingaraja temple, erected to Lord Shiva. Thus the name Bhubaneswar derives from the Lord of the Three Worlds, Tribhuneshvara.
The religious character of Bhubaneswar ultimately became responsible for its selection as the new capital of Orissa, although the city had never been the political capital of the region. But the Oriyas, in their search for a city that exemplified Oriya sprit and unity, strongly felt that Bhubaneswar was best suited to be the capital of their new province, the eleventh province of British India, in 1936. Before Orissa was created as a separate province, it had been administered from Calcutta and Bihar, in complete disregard of its ethnic and linguistic imperatives. Overshadowed first by the Bengalis and later by the Biharis, the Oriyas under the banner of the Utkal Union Conference launched a successful struggle to unify the scattered Oriya territories into a single province, Orissa.
Bhubaneswar was selected over the neighboring Cuttack by the Maharastrian Brahman B. K. Gokhale, special adviser to Governor Hawthorne Lewis, who, visiting it on 13 April 1945, strongly felt that the site was best suited for the capital of the new province. He was supported in his choice by the rising young Oriya Congressman Harekrushna Mahtab. Gokhale and Mahtab were attracted to Bhubaneswar because of the presence of the airport, which had been carved out of scrub jungle west of the temple town by the Allies during World War II. Certainly if the Allies could succeed in taming the jungle, they felt, the Orissa government could take the rest of the land which belonged to itself and build a new city. Moreover, Bubaneswar had a mild climate throughout the year, and the main railway line connecting Calcutta and Madras ran past the site. The urban vision that formed in the mind of Gokhale looked to Bhubaneswar becoming an educational and cultural center of the region, with Cuttack retaining the commercial functions, and Chowdwar (a Cuttack suburb) growing into an industrial center.
To implement their urban architectural mission, the Oriyas hired the German-Jewish planner Otto Koenigsberger. From the beginning, Koenigsberger and the Oriyas disagreed on their visions of the capital city. Reared in a tradition of German secularism, Koenigsberger viewed the development of new Bhubaneswar along secular lines, having political autonomy, organized commercial relationships, and brave new architecture that would accommodate the requirements of modern life. The Oriyas, given their tendency to idealize antiquity, harkened back to their glorious religious past.
Also, from the beginning, the temple town and the capital city (which are located adjacent to each other) each sought to establish dominance over the other. The final shape and style of Bhubaneswar bears as much the imprint of religion as that of rational scientific knowledge imported from the West. Governor Asaf Ali clearly instructed the Public Works Department (PWD) that "the architecture of the new capital should conform to the . . . ancient art of Orissa." Koenigsberger, on the other hand, maintained that since the new India was intended to be a secular state, there was no place for temple architecture in the capital city—although he was prepared to included important religious monuments of the old town in his master plan to "form interesting viewpoints at the end of the main road."
Although such divergence of interests created mixed results in Bhubaneswar, the Indians were able to work out their ideas far more freely in Bhubaneswar than in Chandigarh, where Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier retained close control of all architectural developments. Other than the master plan that was provided by Koenigsberger, the architectural developments in Bhubaneswar were carried out by Julius Vaz, a graduate of the J. J. School of Art, Bombay, and his PWD staff.
Panigrahi, Krishna Chandra. Archaeological Remains at Bhubaneswar. Mumbai: Orient Longman, 1961.
Seymour, Susan, ed. The Transformation of a Sacred Town: Bhubaneswar, India. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980.