For decades, it has stood at the heart of Bhubaneswar as the city’s most identifiable symbol. The majestic 18ftx15ft ‘warrior horse’ statue, a replica of the Odisha state emblem, was made by sculptor extraordinaire Padma Vibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra and installed at the Master Canteen square at the centre of the city in 1988. Facing the Bhubaneswar railway station on one side and the state assembly on the other, the magnificent work of art on Mahatma Gandhi Road is hard to miss for anyone passing by this busiest thoroughfare in the capital city. The sculpture is now at the centre of a raging row over its proposed shifting to the Raj Bhavan square to facilitate ongoing work on the Smart City project.
Conservationists, heritage lovers and other citizens have opposed the move tooth and nail, saying it would be an act of sacrilege. “Already there are signs of decay, with algae growing all over the sculpture due to years of neglect and lack of maintenance. Shifting it at this stage may cause irreparable damage,” says eminent sculptor Sudarshan Sahu. Manoranjan Das, a resident of the city for the past 50 years, believes there must be a way to go ahead with development work related to the Smart City project without shifting it. “Why can’t they just leave it alone? It is to Bhubaneswar what the Gateway of India is to Mumbai,” he says.