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Potagada Fort

Potagada or the Potagadh Fort is an archaeological wonder. Its name stems from the word Potagarh, which translates in Odia as the ‘buried fort’. The fort was built two hundred and fifty years ago in the present-day Ganjam district, whose name derives from the word Ganj–i–am meaning the ‘granary of the world’. The Potagada Fort was constructed under the European rule as the administrative centre of the Circars on the coast of Odissa and Andhra Pradesh. The star-shaped stronghold is surrounded by a deep wide moat. Its solid earthen rampart is over 4.5 meters high, 92 meters long, and 19 meters wide. Since the keep was built underground, it is not visible from a distance. It is located on the confluence of river Rushikulya and the Bay of Bengal.

History of the Potagada Fort

The Potagarh Fort is not a single structure but rather a cluster of forts built over time by their successive rulers, which throws light on the history of Muslim and French rulers and their administrative procedures. It is believed that the Muslim authorities erected the original stronghold at the site. In 1753, Ganjam was taken over by French commander Charles De Bussy who operated from Potagarh. In 1765, the French rule ended and Potagarh was transferred to the British.

Potagadh (Potagada) was the first collectorate of Ganjam until 1818, when it was shifted to Berhampur and finally to Chatrapur in 1836. The history of Potagada is aligned with the history of the Ganjam collectorate that involved Ganjam, Northern Circars, the French government, Madras presidency, Bengal presidency and the history of the East India Company as a whole. Many different authorities used Potagada as their administrative headquarters to rule over the region. The remnants of the fort tell stories of their administrative proceedings. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see it today

The construction of Potagada fort began under Edward Costford, the first resident of Ganjam in 1768. Located close to the river, the star-shaped stronghold spreads over a vast area. Inside, there are three residential buildings with different architectural design, most likely assigned to the Muslims, the French and the British. The fort also has two mezzanine houses and two passages on the eastern side of the compound wall that opens to the river. One was probably used as a secret passage to escape into the sea, while the other was likely used by the queen to allow her access to the river, where she bathed. The compound wall is impressively thick, encircled by a moat.

Since it is a state-protected monument, the state archaeology department has conserved some of the fallen parts of the fort in the campus. Wild bushes were cleared and the moat was desilted. The state archaeology department provided power supply to the complex and laid a 2-km long access road from the National Highway 16. Nonetheless, there has been no perceptible development of the fort which can now serve as an architectural wonder showing three distinct historical styles and as a major tourist attraction. A construction plan for the Panthanivas hotel mooted a decade ago, while a plan for building a restaurant and a reading room with other basic facilities is progressing at a snail’s pace. According to historians, artifacts from medieval Orissa can be found within the fort, which would throw more light on the political, cultural, and social life at that time. However, this has not discouraged students, scholars, and history lovers attracted by its architecture and the ambience on the confluence of river Rushikulya and Bay of Bengal from visiting the fort from time to time.

Tourist Information

The fort complex is open all days of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest railway station can be found in Chhatarpur, whereas the nearest airport is in Bhubhneshwar.

Text by Sammik C Basuu