What’s in a name? Apparently, everything. Shakespeare’s famous “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” holds more meaning than just the nomenclature when it comes to the Millenium city of Cuttack.
Interestingly, Cuttack, most famously known for its 52 bazaars and 53 galis, could be the biggest digression to Shakespeare’s thought-provoking line above. The congested yet colourful lanes and its people is what sets Cuttack apart from the others. It, therefore, becomes imperative to delve into the etymology of some unique names associated with the bazaars of Cuttack.
Badambadi and Sankarpur
The first place in Cuttack that any outsider has a tete-e-tete with is Badambadi. This is where the bus terminus is located and is one of the busiest places in the city. But Badambadi was not always this way. There was a point of time when residents used to refrain from crossing the said area because it was secluded. When asked how Badambadi got its name, Krushna Chandra Barik, a senior citizen of the area, said, “My grandparents used to tell me that Badambadi was called so due to the presence of a badam bagicha (farmlands of groundnut) in the vicinity. And Sankarpur got its name from the existence of a very famous Shiva or Lord Shankar’s Temple. Most of the places in Cuttack get their names in such manner. There is history associated with them all.” Badambadi and Sankarpur have a single puja committee that is known to host one of the grandest Dussehra celebrations every year. It also boasts of being one of the first committees to set up a puja gate.
Now in the limelight for housing the world-famous Balijatra, Gadagadia Ghaat has an interesting anecdote associated with its name. It is believed that in the period from 1512 to 1517, Lord Chaitanya, on his return from Vrindavan, paid a visit to Cuttack, the capital of the Gajapati Empire of Odisha. The King received him at the Gadagadia Ghaat situated near the bank of river Mahanadi. Gadagadia Ghaat was very close to the King's palace, which is popularly known as the Barabati Fort. It is common belief that Lord Chaitanya was so enthralled to visit the land of Lord Jagannath that he started rolling on the ghaat. And rolling in Odia is called gadiba and hence the name Gadagadia. To commemorate this, the King installed Lord Chaitanya’s footprints in a small temple here known as the Gadagadia Mandir. One of the legends behind the celebration of Balijatra is also believed to mark Lord Chaitanya’s historic visit to Odisha some 500 years back. He took a bath in Mahanadi on the full moon day of Kartika and then rested on the sands of the river bed. Since sand is called Bali in the local language Odia, the festival or fair came to be known as Balijatra.
This locality comes next in line to Gadagadia Ghaat with a connection to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. According to folklore, it is here that Lord Chaitanya stayed after moving from the Ghaat. He and his disciples who migrated here set up a matha known as Gouranga Matha. Since they were from the then Bengal, they started one of the oldest Bangiya Durga Puja in the Matha in true Bengali style. After Binod Bihari, Bangali Sahi is the second place where Sarbajanina Durga Puja took place in Cuttack. With the existence of Bengali people and the popularity of Durga Puja, this place was identified as the area where Bengalis stayed and hence, with time, came to be known as Bangali Sahi.
Puri Ghaat & Debi Gada
A Puri in Cuttack might sound odd to many who are aware that Cuttack and Puri are two different cities altogether. An interesting piece of history explains the reason behind the name. Previously, Cuttack was an island surrounded by the rivers Mahanadi and Kathjodi. There was no bridge connecting to the city. Since Cuttack was the old capital of the state, Bhubaneswar had also not come into complete existence. The only place that Cuttackias thronged often was Puri, the land of Lord Jagannath. People believe that the place from where Lord Chaitanya started his journey to Puri by boat came to be known as Puri Ghaat. It is also here that idol immersions take place after Dussehra celebrations in the city, most commonly known as bhasani. The exact location where this happens year after year is a slope along the Puri Ghat. Since a slope in Odia is known as Gada and the immersion of the idols of the Devis happens right here, this place is named Debi Gada.
Silpi Kumbhar Sahi
Kumbhar in Odia means potter. Cuttack is home to many potters and one will find the existence of more than one Kumbhar Sahi. What sets Silpi Kumbhar Sahi apart from the others is the fact that this is where the kumbhars set up their base when they came to the city. These kumbhars are artisans as well and the most famous example of their craftsmanship can be seen in the form of the Balijatra Gate at Gadagadia Ghaat. They are also responsible for setting up many beautiful landmarks in the city including the Netaji Memorial Gate and the upcoming Millenium City Gate.