Friday, 11 December 2015

Sambalpur: The little known sleeping town of Western Odisha

My association with Sambalpur can be stretched back to the mid 1970s when I used to be a school going teen-ager. The town derives its name from its presiding deity Maa Samaleswari enshrined in a temple called Samalai Gudi on the banks of Mahanadi, erected by the Chauhans in the mid 16th century. The town finds reference in  Ptolemy's text as Sambakala, a diamond trading centre in 2nd century AD. The history of Sambalpur is enriched with the reigns of several famous dynasties like the Guptas, Sarbhapuriyas, Marathas and the Chauhans. The British occupied the region in the beginning of the 19th century. The area has witnessed many uprisings against the Europeans during the British rule. A district head quarter town and an important commercial centre, it is famous for its textiles, particularly its handloom silk Sambalpuri sarees. Due to its unique pattern, design and texture, the Sambalpuri sarees are internationally famed. 


Deity of Samaleswari
This small town popularly known as the capital of Western Odisha had produced some great revolutionaries like Veer Surendra Sai during the British Regime but  somehow  failed to produce good politicians after independence. The result is obvious- the town saw negligible infrastructural development. The longest earth dam(4.8Km) was constructed over river Mahanadi in the late 1950s and two tiny satellite townships developed on either end of the dam, namely, Hirakud and Burla. The dam created a huge reservoir which looks like a ocean and is a feast for the eyes of the tourists. But lack of governmental initiative and drive has resulted in many people not even being aware of this panoramic  spot let alone visiting it.

Around Sambalpur the following attactions are of prime importance.
  • Hirakud Dam - world's longest dam is situated over River Mahanadi. The Gandhi Minar and Jawahar Minar at both ends of the dam with well maintained gardens are also lovely places to visit.
    Hirakud Dam
  • Huma - the leaning temple of Shiva is the main attraction in this scenic village.(32 KM).  
  • Cattle Island - one of the exciting tourism sites of the district. The place is very popular with nature lovers and is situated in the reservoir of the Hirakud Dam.
  • Ghanteshwari - a temple well known for the presence thousands of hanging bells situated on the banks of river Mahanadi in the village called Chiplima ( 25 KM)
  • Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary at Badarma (50 KM east of Sambalpur on NH6) is a densely forested area providing habitat to a wide variety of wildlife.
  • Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary adjoining Hirakud Reservoire is also a great picnic spot.

Market Place in the Town
Burla is known as the education hub of western Odisha with three great institutions namely Veer Surendra Sai Medical College, Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology and Sambalpur University situated within a radius of 2 Kilometres. The advent of the Head Quarters of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited in 1992 has added to the intellectual glamour of Burla and Sambalpur. Hirakud on the opposite side of the dam is home for HINDALCO, the alluminium plant of the Birlas taken over from INDAL.

Sambalpur University
Sambalpur retains its classic sleepy charm, even in the face of rapid, albeit unplanned expansion and a deluge of retail establishments particularly during last decade. Some of the houses along the old part of Sambalpur are still maintained, and used, like they were, a century ago. Sambalpur has several tourist attractions both in and around the town. Inside the town there are several temples of worship. Prominent among them are the Samaleswari Temple, Pataneswari Temple, Budharaja Temple on a hill top in the heart of the town etc. The Samaleswari temple represents the finest Chauhan style of circumvallation round the sanctum. The image of Samalei is a unique sculpture and appears to be a primitive deity worshipped by the local people.

Sambalpur is well connected with major cities of India and has a well networked transport facility for commercial and public transportation. Sambalpur is connected with Cuttack by NH42 and 288 km from Cuttack. NH6 runs through Sambalpur and is now a six lane highway. The State Highway No. 10 connecting Rourkela to Sambalpur is now a four lane highway covering the distance of 150 Kms. Sambalpur has five railway stations, viz. Sambalpur Junction, Sambalpur Road, Sambalpur City, Hirakud and Maneswar. The Sambalpur Divisional Office of East Coast Railways is situated in the town. The town has direct rail services to Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Vizag, Mumbai, Delhi Chennai, Bengaluru, Allepey etc.  The nearest airports are at Bhubaneswar (312 Km) and Raipur (260Km). A new airport has been planned in Jharsuguda (50KM) and once it is constructed Sambalpur can be reached easily by air also.

The roads inside the town are also broad and with pavements. One enjoys driving in this town though there are limited parking spaces available. Rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available for local transport. A few town buses also ply in the town for convenience of the public. There are several budget and good hotels in the town as well.

I would like to appeal to all my readers who might be planning a trip to Odisha not to restrict themselves to the golden triangle of Bhubaneswar-Puri-Konark but to make Sambalpur a part of their itinerary.  I can assure you that you will relish the scenic beauty and the sambalpuri silk sarees and of course the rich cultural heritage of western Odisha.

PS: The images of this post have been taken from the following sources:

This post is specifically written for Tata Motors and their #madeofgreat Zonal war campaign.

Friday, 20 November 2015

He Taught me the Values of Honesty and Perfectionism #madeofgreat

“I am not a very good boss to work with”, he asserted, “I may refuse even the facilities otherwise legitimately due to you. So think twice before you decide to come to this department”. No he was not trying to threaten or puzzle me. He was speaking the truth, the naked truth. I did not take even a second to respond, “Sir, I am not interested in anything but my self-respect. I cannot do things my conscience does not permit me to do. If you just allow me to be guided by the voice of my conscience then I don’t care what other things you give me or not. I don’t need to think. I have already decided to come here. I will be highly obliged if you accept me as your sub-ordinate.”

This was my first encounter with the man way back in 1994 who ultimately became a role model for me and with whom I share a “guru-sishya” relationship even today. I can describe him as a dead honest straight forward man who has the guts to call a spade a spade and a perfectionist who believes in giving his 100 percent to the job in his hand. To put it in his own words, “If you take up a task complete it with such precision that the onlooker is mesmerized by the quality of the job done. If you are unsure about quality of delivery it is better never to take up the task”.   

In an organization where manipulating financial and other resources used to be a common affair with almost everybody occupying a seat of authority my down to earth boss was the only person who strictly avoided using official resources for any kind of personal gain. And this was the reason why most people in the organization looked upon him with awe. The financial papers which he signed were never scrutinized by anybody, whatsoever. His proposals were never rejected by the company. This was something I enjoyed the most. Gradually my colleagues and seniors in other departments began to regard me with the same respect as they used to do to my boss. Some even wondered how I was able to adjust with such a strict awe-inspiring personality. I do not know even to his day whether I could come up to his expectations or not. But for me he was certainly the most adoring person to work with. He never compelled me to do any unethical thing as most of my previous bosses had done. He never gave me an unlawful order. He was always ready to advise and guide me whenever I faced any problem either professional or personal.

He was a voracious reader and read anything and everything. What is more fascinating is that he remembered a lot of what he read and reproduced it whenever the need arose. He had the ability to talk on any subject almost extempore. He was the perfect man to head the training and development department. He was known for his vast knowledge in every field and even the CEO of the company often took his advice in certain critical issues. My department was considered as the knowledge centre of the organization only because of his wide spread knowledge. He was a great mentor as well. Seeing my academic interest in training activities he started mentoring me to become a good trainer and probably to head the training function in due course. If I have developed myself as a management faculty today the entire credit of this goes to my boss. He created opportunities for me to attend training conducted by renowned management consultants and subsequently encouraged me to facilitate training sessions for our employees. 

In a nutshell he was my work place guru who taught me the following life lessons by exhibiting them in his own day to day activities. I learnt the following great lessons from him.

1. Truth is something which can never be hidden. If you are truthful you need not fear anybody.
2. Honesty is the best policy. If you are honest in the true sense nobody can exert unnecessary pressure on you. 
3.  Punctuality is something which gives you the ability to hold your head high. If you are in time no one can point a finger towards you.
4. Be a perfectionist in whatever you do. Perfection demands your 100 percent. If you give your 100 percent you need not have to worry about anything. Success will run after you.
I learnt these life lessos when I was 32 and today after 21 years I can assertively announce that had I not worked with him at that time I would have either become corrupt like many others in the organization or I would have commited suicide under the pressure of unethical practices.

The person to whom I have dedicated this post is no celebrity but an ordinary human being who was branded by many as a very difficult person to deal with. But I found in him the most ideal human being devoid of common vices and frailties and practicing ethical values in life. I do not know if he reads this post today what will be his reaction. But for me he was and is an ideal personality committed to ethical human values. He is my teacher, my mentor, my trainer, my tormentor all rolled into one. I take this opportunity to salute you Dikshit Sir (Mr. Hari Sharan Dikshit) for teaching me great life lessons and making me rough and tough from within.

P.S. 1. This post is specifically written for Tata Motors and their made of great campaign. For more details follow the link :

P.S. 2. If you are here please answer the question below in the comment section of this post and the best answer will win a Amazon Gift voucher of Rs.750/-.
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Thursday, 12 November 2015


The dusty evening sky stimulates in me

The incandescent desire of the pleasant past
And the ecstasy of the bygone days
Remind me of the drastic detriment.

A cool enchanting breeze slithers over
The sprawling paddy fields, with
A rhythmic melody of serene calm
Soothing my heart of bereaved agony.

As tears of darkness flood the earth
I hobble beyond the far-stretching meadows
My sub-conscious mind revolts against
The stultifying laws of nature
And a foible in my inmost being
Awakes, and hurts my conscience with
A strong remorse and excruciating grief.

My quest has not been fructuous so far
And it never ends, even
After sleep creeps into my eyes.

I dream of your rapturous features
And think of your speculating views
While lying morbidly, waiting for the dawn
To begin yet another vigorous search for you.