Iconic wheel sculpture graces ICRISAT grounds again
Grand structure created by renowned artist Raghunath Mohapatra.
Once again, the majestic ‘Konark Wheel’ stands proudly at ICRISAT’s Hyderabad campus. It replaces the earlier wheel that stood in place for 20 years. The new wheel was unveiled by Prof Prabhu Pingali, Governing Board Chair, and Dr Jacqueline Hughes on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day 15 August 2021.
The Konark Wheel is a replica of one of the 24 great stone wheels of the ‘sun chariot’ at the Sun Temple at Konark, Odisha, on the east coast of India. The Konark Sun Temple has 24 such massive wheels carved along the walls of its base, each wheel being 9 ft 9 in in diameter and having eight spokes.
The Konark Wheel at ICRISAT is not just any sculpture. It is an emblem of the sun – the supreme source of energy. For an agricultural research organization such as ICRISAT, the significance of the sun is enormous: Without the sun, there is no agriculture.
Almost since the time of inception of ICRISAT in Hyderabad, the Konark Wheel occupied a prime spot on the campus. The previous Konark Wheel was inaugurated by Dr C Rangarajan, then Governor of Andhra Pradesh, on 29 January 2002. In October 2020, a spell of torrential rain damaged the previous wheel, necessitating replacement.
Given its iconic significance to the spirit of ICRISAT, it was decided that a new one would be commissioned. After much deliberation, it was decided that Dr Raghunath Mohapatra, a master sculptor from Odisha, would be helming the sculpting of the new wheel. Dr Arvind Padhee, Director, Country Relations, ICRISAT, played a key role in commissioning Dr Mohapatra, a recipient of the Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2001) and Padma Vibhushan (2013), to recreate an exact replica of the wheel.
The height of the wheel is 10 ft 6 in, and along with a grand base with elephant carvings, it stands tall at 12 ft 6 in. Like the previous wheel, this too is carved out of red sandstone. There are intricately engraved details on the axel, the spokes and the rim of the Konark Wheel at ICRISAT. The carving was done in Bhubaneshwar and the wheel was assembled at ICRISAT, under the guidance of Dr Mohapatra’s eldest son Mr Jashobant Mohapatra and a team of artisans.
Tragically, Dr Mohapatra and his two sons, Jashobant and Prashant, passed away in May this year. Talking about the exemplary artistic skill of the master sculptor, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, said, “This glorious wheel is probably one of the last sculptures of Dr Mohapatra. We pay tribute to him today and remember him as someone who created an emblem that will guide us towards progress and prosperity.”
To mark the occasion of Independence Day, after the unveiling of the Konark Wheel, the Indian tricolor was unfurled by Prof Pingali and Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General, ICRISAT. “We should be proud of the progress made by India, especially in agriculture, food production and food self-sufficiency,” said Prof Pingali. “We should celebrate the enormous gains that agricultural research from ICRISAT and the national programs, with the support of our partners and donors, has yielded in recent decades.” He said he was sure that existing challenges of hidden hunger, undernutrition and overnutrition could also be tackled if we continued to work with the same sense of commitment and enthusiasm as in the past.
Dr C Rangarajan, who inaugurated the Konark Wheel at ICRISAT in 2002, also signed the series of Rs 10 notes, as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. These 10-rupee notes carried the image of the original Konark Wheel at Odisha.
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