How Hockey World Cup rejuvenated Bhubaneshwar’s cultural fest

The dot fest as it is called is on till December 16 and has a segment showcasing the city’s rich storytelling heritage.

State government on December 1 launched the city’s first ever multi-disciplinary festival—.Fest

Hockey is the flavour of the month, and there could not have been a better city to host the ongoing Hockey World Cup 2018 than Bhubaneswar, a city that considers the sport not just a way of life, but life in itself. Ask the locals and they will tell you how ardently the country’s national sport is followed in the state.

(From top) Street walls covered with murals and graffiti are a common sight in the city today; dalma, an Odiya dish part of the food festival; and a dancer performs Assam’s Bihu folk dance at .Fest

And amid this buzz of the Hockey World Cup, the state government on December 1 launched the city’s first ever multi-disciplinary festival—.Fest (an acronym for food, entertainment, storytelling and trails)—showcasing music and dance performances, cuisines of the state and other countries, and varied forms of Odiya art and crafts. The dot fest as it is called is on till December 16 and has a segment showcasing the city’s rich storytelling heritage. “We wanted to have the festival as a kind of a finale of all the celebrations that are underway in the city due to the World Cup, and that’s how we came up with .Fest,” says Krishan Kumar, vice-chairman, Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA), which helped organise it.

As part of the preparations, Bhubaneswar underwent a massive facelift. “My first memory of Bhubaneswar is that of it being dirty… this is when I visited the city as a kid. Now, the city looks beautiful. There are wide roads, street walls are covered with art and three-dimensional murals, and yet it still has an old-world charm,” says 27-year-old Bengaluru-based travel blogger Keertana Iyer. That’s not all. Infrastructure-wise, too, a lot has been achieved—the government has constructed numerous footover bridges, for one. Bibhuti Bhusan, an auto driver, in fact, claims that these were built in just two months’ time. Additionally, renowned artists from across the globe were roped in to give the city’s walls an artistic makeover. A click in front of a regular Bhubaneswar wall is sure to give you an Instagram-worthy shot.

In short, the roads that lead to IDCO Exhibition Ground, the venue of .Fest and the accompanying International Street Food Festival, are a sight to behold now. Streets are lined with varied colour lamps, while fairylights adorn trees all over. “We planned the fest to make it a 15-day city festival, where everything that has happened in Bhubaneswar over time in terms of street art, illumination, etc, could be showcased,” says Kumar. “We also wanted to connect with the youth. We have around 75,000 students studying in our universities. So there’s a vibrancy and youth component in the city. We wanted something that people could connect to,” Kumar adds. Going ahead, the BDA plans to make the fest an annual event.

Melting pot of gastronomy
The International Street Food Festival has 24 stalls showcasing food from over 16 countries, as well as from across the country. These stalls have been set up by different hotel groups in the city. Each was asked to prepare three dishes—one pertaining to Odiya cuisine, second of any other Indian state and the third displaying flavours of an international cuisine. The result is an amalgamation of Odiya dishes like egg chop, baked rasgulla, dahi vada, patra poda with global dishes like Mexican grilled chicken, England’s fish & chips, Middle-East’s chicken shawarma and Spanish chicken pinchitos. Then there are the regulars like pani puri, fish fry, prawn curry, kathi rolls, chicken 65, etc, making visitors salivate. “We are getting to experience food from all over the world…we tried French fries, kathi rolls and sweets from the Mayfair stall and everything tasted good,” says Bhubaneswar-based Naresh Moolchandani, a visitor at the fair.

Power-packed performances
Mega stars from Bollywood have been roped in to perform and enthrall audiences. As part of the curtain-raiser on the first day, music composer duo Vishal-Shekhar gave the crowd an adrenaline rush with their high-energy performance. The third day saw Sona Mohapatra, a native of Odisha, stunning the audience with her 2.5-hour-long act, in which she sang local melodies, as well as Bollywood numbers. Shaan, Noorani Sisters, Farhan Akhtar, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, among others, are the other performers.
Storytelling trail

“Traditionally, the city has a very rich history and culture… and we wanted people coming for the World Cup to experience Bhubaneswar holistically,” says Vishal Dev, commissioner-cum-secretary for sports and tourism, Odisha. The BDA devised the perfect way to do that by starting the Ekamra Walks two years ago. Curated by the startup Detour Odisha, the walk, whose frequency was increased for .Fest, takes visitors on a tour of the city on foot, exploring temples, caves, museums, etc, with the help of a guide. “The walks are all about reinventing the way we connect to a city… heritage is there for everyone to explore, but how you experience it is what counts. There needs to be a way to experience the old-world charm of any place… and that’s exactly what we offer,” says 32-year-old Bhubaneswar-based Sophia Simon, who co-founded the startup with her husband Kartik Aruda.

The walks are an enriching experience for anyone who wishes to dwell deep into the glorious history of the temple city. From exploring temples that date back to the 7th and 8th centuries to admiring the glorious display of street art and museums, the walk guarantees a wholesome experience of Odisha’s rich culture.

The same could be said of. Fest as well.

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