Thursday, September 8, 2011

Scars of the Kalinga War!

A few days back, I had visited the eastern state of Orissa. About 2000 years back, the state was known as Kalinga. It was a progressive democracy, surrounded by a sea of monarchies.
We landed at Bhubaneshwar early in the morning, at about 9 AM. As we were landing, the sea of greenery below the glide slope and till the eye could see was absolutely enthralling. The varying hues and shades of green were soothing for the soul. But the weather put me off instantly. The heat was intolerable, actually made worse by the near 100% humidity.
We then drove for work through the interior of the state for about 3 hours, or nearly 150 kilometers out of Bhubaneshwar city. We passed through areas with bright orange soil - undoubtedly the state has unparalleled mineral wealth.
Every few kilometers we passed through dense forests and occasionally paddy fields. The soil is extremely fertile. Given the amount of rainfall the area has, little wonder that lush vegetation thrives.
Typically the buzz on the highways, the visible economic activity (or the highway economy) is a barometer for the health of the economy. Alas, the highway was bereft of that buzz. And that is tragic for a state blessed with such immense wealth. As if that was not enough, the interior is plagued with abject poverty.
So then, when we have anti-industry outfits who vociferously oppose any kind of economic activity, under the guise of "protecting" the interests of locals, it is but obvious what the real game is, and what agenda is being played out.
But then over 2000 years back, this region, Kalinga, was fiercely independent, progressive and forward looking. Kalinga was a pioneering democracy, it elected its leaders. And then Ashoka's invasion happened - did it change the course of the Kalingan civilization and push them to fringes of Indian history?
Ashoka got away, he had a change of heart after the war, but it seems Orissa is still suffering from a wounded psyche! Ashoka embraced Buddha's teachings, became a messenger of peace, became "Ashoka the Great", but the Kalinga of today still shows the scars.
Perhaps this a manifestation of the duality in nature, the endless cycle - there is good and evil in every being (as was with Ashoka) and what rises must fall, and the reverse (the fall of Kalinga and a possible rise(?) of Orissa in the future).

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