Two states: Bengaluru-based scientist-turned-author explores the relationship between Odisha and Karnataka

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Nov 02, 2023 | 3:37 PM Updated Nov 02, 2023 | 3:44 PM

The official launch of Beyond Obvious was held on November 1 at BIC. (Supplied)

Mechanical engineer and scientist Subhransu Mohapatra moved to Bengaluru from Odisha 27 years back, to pursue a degree in IISc. Like many who come to the city for education, he never left. Thanks to the many perks of Bengaluru, a city he now calls his home.

“Bengaluru is as much my home as Odisha is. I have always been interested to know the relationship between the two states,” says Mohapatra, who chronicles the history and relationship of Odisha and Karnataka in his new book Beyond Obvious: Odisha-Karnataka Relationship.

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Relations beyond obvious

“I’m not a historian, I’m just a history enthusiast,” Mohapatra stressed during his speech at the book launch held on 1 November, at the Bangalore International Centre.

An author with five books to his credit, Mohapatra’s works have mostly been fiction and poetry. This is his first attempt at non-fiction, which he says, wasn’t an easy undertaking.

From the book reading held as part of the launch at BIC. (Supplied)

The book reading was held as part of the launch at BIC. (Supplied)

The topics, he tells South First, had been brewing in his mind for a while. Especially when he travels within Karnataka. He looks for similarities between his janmabhoomi (birthplace) and karmabhoomi (workplace), he shares.

“When you travel from Bengaluru to Mysuru, you see the Channapatna village just like when you go from Bhubaneswar to Puri, you find handicrafts villages. Similarly, when you go to Belur and see the temples there, people will tell you that the only other temple that is so beautiful is in Konark. When you visit the Badami caves, it makes you think of the Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar,” Mohapatra shares instances which  prompted him to dig deeper.

He went on to find similarities in food, culture as well as languages of the two states — details of which was difficult to access on the Internet or popular history books.

“They say there are over 10 lakh Odia people who have moved to Bengaluru. Just like me, I’m sure there are many who are curious to know more about the two states. I found that nobody has written specifically on this relationship. So I decided to take it up,” he adds.

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Pandemic research

For over three years, Mohapatra has been reading history books and browsing through websites looking for connections. During the pandemic the research and reading got more intense.

“I found some rare books of Karnataka and Odisha history at some old book stores in Cuttack, my hometown. Besides, I also interviewed several Odia people who have been settled in Bengaluru for decades. I thought it would be nice to document it all in a book. So I started writing and found some really interesting things in the process,” he tells South First.

There are six chapters in Beyond Borders, covering six areas of interest. The historical connection between the two states, the economic relationship over the years, political ties, cultural and spiritual aspects, educational as well as literary ties.

“A lot of Indians are settled across the globe and that’s always a talking point. But there is a significant number of inter-state migration happening in India. Yet, we don’t discuss it as much even though it’s significant. This book will be relevant for those who are curious about this topic, who want to know more about history and the connections,” he notes, adding that he did not apply for the copyrights of the book.

“I believe Beyond Obvious is a compilation. There’s nothing in here that’s my own. I have compiled this information from hundreds of different sources,” he shares, urging readers to look up the references for a deeper understanding.

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Connections aplenty

It never occurred to Mohapatra that he would find so many fascinating connections.

“We read history but we don’t see this mentioned anywhere. Odisha and Karnataka are not even neighbouring states. So people don’t look for commonalities. But there’s a lot of them which have been built over the years.”

For instance, the Konark temple and a few other monuments in Odisha were built by kings whose lineage could be traced back to Karnataka. The book also sheds light on how the Karnataka coast had played a key role in trade connections between Kalinga and the Roman Empire, and the political support HD Deve Gowda received from Odisha during his stint as Prime Minister of India.

“We many not be part of the south, but I think we are very much connected to the south,” he adds.

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Never going back

Even though Mohapatra nurtures strong feelings for his homeland, he doesn’t plan to leave Karnataka.

“I’m happy that the place I come from and the place I call home are both so similar. Bengaluru has been so warm. We have built some genuine connections here. Even though it’s still a struggle to pick up the language, I love everything about the city — the history, architecture, and diversity. Karnataka is one state and many worlds. I’m not going to go back even after I’m retired. I feel at home here,” he laughs.

As for his next book, Mohapatra doesn’t know what it would be about but is sure that it won’t be non-fiction.

“All of my previous books have been stories and poetry. Writing non-fiction is a daunting task because you have to be very careful about what you are writing. You don’t want to make any mistakes. I have written this one because the topic is really close to my heart and that will be it,” he signs off.

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