Welcome to Scotlandpur!
by Aditya Negi
This short conversation happened many years ago, but the name got stuck in my mind, so I looked up on the internet. It’s quite amusing you know, finding a place named after Scotland in Odisha. I mean, why on earth would anyone think of naming a place, Scotlandpur. So one fine day I set out on a trip to unravel the Scotlandpur mystery, with my Dutch friend Roan, who was working on a research in Odisha..I called up a friend to ask him for directions to Scotlandpur, which he said was also his uncle’s home. His directions were pretty simple. Head to Talcher, find Talcher Palace near river Brahmani. It’s about 15 minutes from the palace, which is right across the railway station. We did find later, that the railway station is in fact an NTPC Thermal railway siding called ‘Scotlandpur Station’ and we were like, “what!!!, Scotlandpur Station??” Dear reader, if you do not believe me, please check out the photograph in this article. So the very next day, me and my Dutch friend Roan, left for Talcher to find Scotland err.. Scotlandpur. My first stop was at Talcher, a coal mining town, where coal has been extracted since the British times. Roughly 140 kms from Bhubaneswar, it’s a good 3 hour drive on the National Highway. The roads are great and there are some very good Dhabas enroute, for a curiously hungry traveller which my Oriya speaking Dutch friend is. We stopped by at Talcher and asked around for Scotlandpur.In his rusty Oriya, Roan enquired “Bhaina Scotlandpur jibu kemiti.” I have no words to describe the jaw dropping expression of those men who were completely caught off guard by this white man speaking Oriya. Nevertheless, they soon recovered and told us that we were pretty close to our destination, in fact, almost there. Our first sight of Scotlandpur was really beautiful. It was a slightly humid but overcast day and this quaint but beautiful early 20th century mansion stood beautifully perched atop a small hillock. It looked quite a sight. With its yellow and white colours, it stood out from the lush greenery all around it. As we enter the building, we were greeted by a very energetic and cheerful Mr. Akhil Chandra Deb. “Please come in, welcome to Scotlandpur. Tea would be served in a bit. Hope you had a good drive and not too many cows and dogs on the road hopefully. This is my younger brother Sarat.” My friend and I were wide-eyed when we saw the building. None more than Roan, who exclaimed, “This palace won’t look out of place in Europe.” “So what brings you to our palace?” Asked the younger brother, sitting on an old recliner, in a stern voice. “You see we like to protect our privacy a lot these days, people come in unannounced and it causes a lot of inconvenience to us,” says Sarat affectionately called Sarat Mamu by my friend Ranvir, whom I had asked for directions. We shared our purpose behind visiting Scotlandpur and only then did Sarat, loosen up a bit and finally said, “Bhaiya aap hi batao inko story”, with a wily smile. Scotlandpur has a unique history. The story begins with Raja Kishor Chandra Dev who was crowned on December 18th 1891. During those days, Raja Kishor Chandra Dev took charge of developing his entire kingdom and was instrumental in bringing Talcher to the forefront. He took up massive building and development projects, in and around the Talcher city. Everything, from schools, bridges, roads, hospitals, even a beautiful little zoo called Rani Park, was also built during that time. Raja Kishor.Chandra Dev was also one of the first rulers in Orissa if not in the country, to look beyond the curve and implement Municipal and Panchayat systems for governance. The interesting story behind the name Scotlandpur as narrated by Akhil & Sarat Deb, the brothers who are the inheritors of Scotlandpur estate & its legacy, is as follows. Apparently in the early 20th century, Pramod Chandra Deb (Akhil & Sarat’s grandfather) had been to Scotland after being awarded the title of ‘Dewan Bahadur’ by Lord Wavell, who was the Commander in Chief of the British Indian Army. By the time he came back, Dewan Bahadur Pramod Chandra Deb had fallen in love with Scotland and he truly started missing it. Having inherited the status of Feudal chief of the area, he changed the name of his homeland to Scotlandpur. Since the name Scotland denotes ‘land surrounded by hills’, it gave birth to the christening of the place as the ‘Scotlandpur of Orissa’.
.The Palace is in quite a good condition and the residents who stay there say that it earlier was also used as a hunting lodge when ‘Shikar’ was legal in India (in the late 60’s and early 70’s). Nowadays the palace is home to just, both the brothers and their families. The building’s architecture makes it pretty much a photographer’s paradise. Roan & I were given a guided tour of the palace by Sarat Mamu: “You see we have tried and preserved as much as we can of the villa, but some parts have been replaced with modern masonry, while retaining the same style of finishing,” said Sarat. The building was built between 1932-35 and has played host to many important and distinguished people from all over the world. By late afternoon, we were almost done, when Akhil, the elder of the two brothers said in an excited voice, “You see the dragonflies there, near the fountain? It seems it will rain and there could be a storm too.” Sometime later the clouds started gathering around and thunder could be heard in the distance. Suddenly the sky became darker. “You see, the weather here is just like Scotland and changes without warning,” said Sarat Mamu. As we prepared to leave, he came up to the car and said, “You guys seem to be genuinely interested in the name. Well, I will tell you a secret about the actual story behind Scotlandpur. Back in the British times, development in our area for the people was scant regardless of the hue & cry that the Rajas raised. The British kept heavily taxing the people and also coaxed people to join the army to fight the the World War II which was raging since the British at that time had already lost Singapore to the Japanese. This heavy taxation caused many troubles for the common folk. My grandfather, who luckily shared a good rapport with the political agent, thanks to his several trips to Scotland took a chance and renamed the place as Scotlandpur to impress the political agent. And impressed he was, since he took a liking to the area and its people thus granting them some waivers in the taxation policy!” Call it a clever ploy or just an individual’s craving for a land known for its hills and natural beauty, this exotically named place in Odisha continues to impress and amuse its visitors. Have you been there yet? ❏