Ekamra Kshetra’s Oldest Shop Razed to the Ground

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By Anil Dhir, Bhubaneswar: With its old-time look, charm and values, the Baidya Store was a landmark in the Old Town’s market for the past 120 years. It was just one among the many small shops that lined the main road near the Lingaraj Temple. The antique-looking store, with a board proclaiming it to be the ‘Baidya Store’ had been in place since the last part of the 1800’s. The little shop was a window into the traditional past of Bhubaneswar. Last week, the place was demolished in the ongoing modernisation drive as part of the Lingaraj Entry Plaza.

But more than just a shop, this tiny place was more about upholding traditions. From ever since the store started, it had been selling Ayurvedic medicines and puja samagri for ceremonies and functions like house warming, marriages, Yagnas etc. While the original old thatched and tin roofs gave way to modern constructions, this old shop was still a small single storied one, with wooden roof beams. It lay snuggled between two double storied buildings before they brought it down.

Dasarathi Mohapatro, the fourth-generation owner of this store says that the shop was started by great grandfather who had handed it over to his grandfather Kailash Mohapatro. It was later run by his father Ghanshyam. ‘I had been here since 1975’, he states, adding that he has seen the transformation of the Old Town from a sleepy laid back village to a crowded market. He remembers hearing stories about the olden times from his grandfather. Pilgrims would come by bullock carts from the railway station and many would stop here for their puja requirements. The double storied sanatorium at the far end of the Bindusagar too had patients from Bengal who would stay here for weeks, imbibing the medicinal mineral waters from the Kedar Gouri spring, and many of them would buy medicine from the Baidya store.

Sitting in his shop, emanating a peculiar aroma of spices and herbs, with walls lined with numerous drawers that held various powders and dry herbs, Dasarathi stated that the coming of bigger brands dealing in Ayurvedic items only provided a thrust to the market. Many people are moving back to consumption and use of Ayurvedic products.

‘We had a range of usual and unusual products, and procured everything from different parts of the country’ he said. He also added that his customers came from different walks of life, diverse age groups and some come from different places in the state. His knowledge was generational; he learnt it from his forefathers. Customers came for various items, ranging from bath ingredients for babies to treatments for various health conditions. The shop had ayurvedic herbs, roots, oils besides all the paraphernalia used in religious ceremonies. I had even seen old tins and boxes of products made in France and England.

Talking of future plans, Dasarathi told me that the shop would now be relocated at the Sanatorium Chhak, near the Kedarnath Gabesana Kendra. It will be run in the same way as it has been, nothing will change. Most importantly, he says, that like his forefathers, he too would maintain the quality and variety, making this a shop that stands the test of time in this old city. Many of the old timers will miss the close friendly contact with the owner. They will always remember the Baidya store with gratitude.

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