By Srikant Mohanty: While the world has become a festering wound in communal tension, there are certain places tucked away in the zigzag of old places in India, which are completely secular from ancient times. Such places tell the stories of peaceful co-existence that represent the true secular fabric of India.
A small village in the old city of Bhubaneswar, which is situated in the proximity of Kapileswar Temple, is an ideal instance of unity and religious amity. The village is also called Sundarapada, which has a sizeable Muslim population from time immemorial. Years back, His Holiness Dalai Lama surprised everyone that this was originally the birthplace of Buddha.
“Surprisingly, this place has no record of communal violence. Moreover, inhabitants of this place are very much averse to any communal idea that the politicians and touts try to cast on them. If a Muslim is beaten here that invites the wrath of scores of Hindus”-says Priyabrata Das- a renowned writer of Odia literature. Although a Bramhin shares the boundary wall with a Muslim inside the Sundarapada village, there is no trace of animosity between them. There is unique tolerance and friendship between the communities.
Come January, when the winter casts its spell and the first Sankranti as per the Hindu almanac is known as Makara Sankranti. Hindus and Muslims at this place begin the celebration of “Gokhi Baba Mela”, which is a fair that lasts for a period of time in the remembrance of a Saint, who lived in this place before a long time. Members of both the communities pay their respect by participating in various worships and fanfare of festivities. Although, the old town of Bhubaneswar is dotted with the presence of numerous temples and monasteries, the mosques inside the area have remained intact from the communal frenzy that erupted in the aftermath of Babri mosque demolition.
Though the village has an educated populace, it has many criminal elements inside the villages. Theft, robbery and killings are regular features in its day-to-day life but the village’s population has completely denied accepting a communal divide. Even the rusticity in the nature of the village people does not accept any kind of communal feeling, which is spread as rumor or political propaganda.
Being a tribal state, Odisha has always stayed at the forefront of communal harmony. Bhakta Salabega- a renowned figure among the devotees of Lord Jagganath- was a Muslim. The village Sundarapada inside Kapila Prasad is a true example of Odisha’s secular fabric of the society.
“The culture of Lord Sri Jagganath has forever remained secular, espousing an extremely liberal stance towards the Muslims. There are such small villages inside the nook and corner of Odisha, which are really liberal towards religious unity. And remember, those were not formed in the post-independence period but are there from time immemorial, reminding us about our true identity”-confirms Ali Aslam Beg-an eminent Muslim scholar.