Demolition Of 135-Yr-Old Parcel Godown In Odisha’s Gajapati Raises Concern Among Heritage Lovers

Berhampur: The demolition of 135-year-old Parcel Godown building in Paralakhemundi railway station complex of Odisha’s Gajapati district marked the end of a railway infrastructure of heritage value.

The demolition of the structure by the Waltair Division of Indian Railways has not only shocked the local people but also evoked sharp criticism from heritage lovers. “It is a tragic loss for the people of Paralakhemundi, who had hoped to safeguard it by establishing a museum to showcase the parcel house and other artifacts. The Railway authorities’ decision to proceed with the demolition without considering the citizens’ pleas is highly insensitive and disregards the community’s attachment to their shared history,” they said.

Amiya Bhushan Tripathy, convenor of INTACH Odisha Chapter, had requested Railway Minister Aswini Vaishnav earlier to open the Parlakimidi Light Railway (PLR)-based Heritage Railway Museum in any one of the old vintage structures like Old Station Master building or the Old Parcel Godown situated inside the Paralakhemundi railway station.

But the Old Station Master building was demolished four months ago and the Old Parcel Godown structure went down on May 16. These two buildings were two important parts of Odisha’s first dedicated railway infrastructure and held immense cultural and heritage value for the local community.

The Old Parcel Godown building was built with stone slabs, Ghumsur teak wood, Sal wood from Mahendragiri Eastern Ghat and Basel Mission pattern tiles manufactured in a factory at Naupada Yard. The Commonwealth Trust Ltd or locally referred to as Basel Mission tile factory run by the German missionary with an unnamed Indian master-potter was the first tile manufacturing factory to be set up at Mangalore in India in 1860. However, the Naupada unit manufactured the tiles of this pattern a few decades later.

“It is important for each of us to highlight the significance of preserving the cultural heritage of Paralakhemundi, especially the Old Parcel Godown built by Maharaja Goura Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deo, the main architect of Paralakhemundi Railway infrastructure,” said Sanjaya Jena, Manoj Kumar Mahakud and others of Paralakhemundi.

“This historic building, adorned with contemporary design tiles, stands as a testament to the rich legacy of Paralakhemundi’s railway infrastructure. Preserving such heritage is vital as it connects us to our past, shaping our identity and fostering community pride, tangible and intangible assets inherited from the past, offering invaluable insights into our history and culture,” they opined.

“It is crucial that the government and the Indian Railways prioritise the preservation of such heritage sites, which serve as tangible links to our past and shape our collective identity. The demolition of the Parcel House is a stark reminder of the urgent need for stronger heritage conservation policies and greater public participation in decision-making processes,” they added.

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