Three and a half years — that’s how long it took the founding director of the KIIT School of Architecture and Planning, Odisha, Dr Soumyendu Shankar Ray and his research team to conclude their work on Odisha: An Architectural Odyssey. But when the time came to get it published, Dr Soumyendu, who has 30 years of architectural experience, turned to Google just like the rest of us.
The 55-year-old laughs as he admits this. With the aim of depicting the architectural wonders of the state, also known as the Soul of India, he along with Dr Kajri Misra compiled the 201-page visually-arresting book published by Bloomsbury, for which they even travelled to Maoist and Naxal-hit areas.
The book isn’t merely a pictorial representation but also contains the dimensions of these architectural wonders, which the team undertook the task of measuring themselves.
Take, for example, the Jagannath Rath Yatra, one of the oldest festivals observed in Puri, Odisha where the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession in three richly decorated chariots.
The dimension of these iconic chariots “are passed from one master architect to another; it is not really documented anywhere.” In this book, Dr Soumyendu has attempted an authentic documentation of this Rath and several other wonders of Odisha.
Home to the largest number of tribes, a whopping 62, each tribe in Odisha has its own distinct architecture. The Gadaba tribe, which is 67,000 people strong, alone has three kinds of houses. A distressing fact is that these beautiful houses, which they build and paint themselves, are being abandoned for modern concrete and brick structures. “If you travel to Odisha even five years from now, all of this will be gone,” he says.
These abodes too feature prominently in the book alongside modern structures like the Fortune Towers, Trident Hotel and more, but he opines that the modern structures need to carry forward the taste of our culture instead of simply aping “what is happening in other countries.”